- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Eco-terrorists are in the news once again. This time Earth Liberation Front (ELF) operatives have been implicated in a recent vandalism spree in central Virginia the targets of which included SUVs parked outside residents' homes, fast-food restaurants, a housing development, a shopping mall and road construction equipment.

For far too long, the ELF has sabotaged, vandalized, firebombed and harassed with impunity. They have instilled genuine fear in a number of communities nationwide. The evidence that the ELF and other eco-terror groups are turning more and more to violent criminal activity is indisputable. The case in Virginia is but one example more troubling is the threat the ELF publicly made in September that some of its followers "will no longer hesitate to pick up the gun to implement justice."

It is time we put a stop to this dangerous criminal activity. The social and economic costs of eco-terrorism are considerable. According to the FBI, the ELF and its cohort the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) alone have caused about $43 million in damage through more than 600 attacks since 1996. The risk that someone is going to be "accidentally" injured (or worse) is unacceptable, and now it would seem that whatever "protection" so-called eco-terror guidelines once gave individual people have gone out the window.

It is ironic, though not surprising, that one of the most infamous inciters of eco-terrorism would be outraged that tactics "similar" to those he advocates waging against law-abiding citizens farmers, university researchers and retailers included had been used against him.

In July, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided the home of ALF spokesperson David Barbarash. The RCMP executed a search warrant, seeking evidence in connection with attacks on a hunting club and on a United States government building in Maine. The RCMP carted off files, computers and documents that could shed light on ALF's dangerous criminal activities.

According to a communique from Mr. Barbarash, the ALF spokesman is appalled that the RCMP would target a law-abiding citizen (presumably Mr. Barbarash), destroy his property (they kicked in his door to gain entry), make his home address and phone number public (for fear that someone might do him harm) and gasp release animals into the wild (Mr. Barbarash apparently laments the horror of "our indoor cats" being "let outside to fend for themselves" never mind that the ALF is notorious for abandoning domesticated animals in the wild).

Mr. Barbarash's self-righteous protestations are nothing short of hypocrisy given that he advocates using the very same tactics though illegal and most certainly dangerous against law-abiding citizens every day. The communique is a very telling insight into the mind of the man at the forefront of ALF's lawless campaign. To him, the ALF actions in Maine for which the RCMP was executing the search warrant, were "relatively minor" and therefore did not merit prosecution.

By Mr. Barbarash's own estimate, the ALF attacks in Maine "total no more than $8,700" and "essentially boil down to break and enter, spray painted walls, broken windows and doors, and stolen stuffed animal heads, which were returned to their natural environment to rest in peace." Somehow, in Mr. Barbarash's mind, this was excusable, but the execution of a warrant in which a door was broken and cats released was an injustice. Why? Perhaps it's because he was the target.

Mr. Barbarash goes on to criticize the RCMP for publicly releasing his name and address. He states in his communique, "One of my biggest fears then, and now, and which I made very clear in my complaint, was that [ALF victims] would discover my home address."

Two of ALF's close allies, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) and the Boston Citizens for Animal Liberation (BCAL), routinely publish people's names, addresses and home phone numbers and encourage supporter activists "go get them." In June of this year, ALF claimed its activists damaged the home of one individual (while his family slept in their beds), who was previously on the SHAC/BCAL "Employee of the Week" hit list.

An ALF communique issued over the summer (presumably by Mr. Barbarash) about an attack on small Iowa farm warned that activists will continue to terrorize local farms and research facilities "until every animal confinement operation is empty and every slaughterhouse is burned to the ground," noting that, "In the fight for the freedom of these animals, all is justified."

All is justified? One must question to what end ALF activists will go to force their agenda forward. Will they feel it necessary to "pick up the gun" for the cause as their sister organization threatens? To think that the destruction ALF activists have left in their wake the very indignities Mr. Barbarash claims to have suffered at the hands of the RCMP is not only "justified" in their minds but isn't enough is chilling.

Efforts to get tough on eco-terrorism, including the RCMP seizure of possible evidence from Mr. Barbarash's residence, are not only merited but needed. Regardless of the motive, the methods employed by the eco-terror movement are criminal, inherently dangerous and only obstruct us from effectively addressing complex environmental and social issues.

Violence begets violence until it is stopped, and is hence why eco-terrorist "direct actions" only continue to escalate in intensity. How far will we let it go?

Kelly A. Stoner is executive director of Stop Eco-Violence.

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