Animal Rights/Vegan Activists' Strategies Articles

Five Reasons Activists Should Never Talk to Police

From CAFT Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade
July 2023

In two decades of activism, none of us at CAFT know of a single time when talking to police has helped activists or the animals we defend. But we know from personal experience how seemingly benign police interactions can end in cuffs, civil court, and even terrorism convictions.

Forget your politics on this issue—this is simply a basic tenet of staying safe and smart as we fight some of the largest corporations on the planet. Any lawyer, no matter their opinions about animals, activism, or police, would advise the same: Never talk to police.

This is part of a series: Security Culture is a set of customs shared by activists to protect ourselves from interference by governments and the industries we campaign against.

#1. Police are not there to help us

The police do not exist to help activists—they exist to uphold the laws we oppose. There is a natural tension

Police officer job description: Minimize disturbance and keep order

Our goal: Disturb the fur industry’s orderly functioning

Police officer job description: Enforce property rights and legal limits on protest

Our goal: Limit their exercise of property rights over animals by force of protest

Police officer job description: Gather information useful for these jobs

Our goal: Ensure a safe, secure, free atmosphere to achieve these goals

#2. Your innocence means nothing

Police do not gather information about us for no reason. They do it in case they want to use it against us.

Anything you say, you can never take back. If you slip up and tell a white lie, you’ve suddenly committed a crime. And you run the risk of unknowingly giving them information about other activists.

#3 Police are trained to trick you

Police are allowed—and trained—to lie to you. They are experts of manipulation and control, and will prey upon your trust. They have one job: to get you to divulge information.

We’ll let them do the talking:

“Officers often use deception during the course of their investigations.” (US Federal Law Enforcement Training Center)

“[T]he principle of generating pressure inside the source […] is accomplished by manipulating him psychologically until his resistance is sapped and his urge to yield is fortified.” (2012 FBI interrogation manual, citing gold standard Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual)

#4. Civil Injunctions

The industries that abuse animals work with law enforcement to shut down effective campaigns and silence activists any way they can, in civil or criminal court. Even if police do not arrest you, they can and will share anything you say with corporations to help them sue you.

#5. Time is on your side // By Law, A Lawyer Is There to Help You

If you have something to say about an incident, you don’t have to tell the police right now. You are much better off running it through a lawyer later on. This sounds simple in theory, but in practice often requires strong will and forethought.


Snitches not welcome!

It’s straightforward: If you cooperate with the police, you are not welcome in the animal rights movement. You never will be. You put everyone at risk.

There are only four things one should ever say to a law enforcement officer:

  • “Am I free to leave?”
  • “I’d like to remain silent.”
  • “I want an attorney.”
  • “I do not consent to a search” (even/especially if a search is already in progress).

Inform other activists if you are approached by a law enforcement officer. At demonstrations and other actions, politely direct any law enforcement to the designated police liaison or legal observer. If a police liaison has not been designated prior to an action, speak up to the group. This person should be informed, agreeable, and firm.

Further information can be found at the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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