Sunday, August 21, 2005

International terrorism, exemplified by the September 11 attacks and most recently in London, may pose the greatest security threat facing America. But domestic terrorists also lurk among us, mostly in the guise of animal-rights and environmental activists.

They “see themselves in a war against the entire government and industrial democracy itself,” explains Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, notes: “These are unbelievably mean-spirited people” who “operate in a classic terrorist organization mode.”

Over the last decade, the Animal Liberation Front has committed 700 criminal acts, according to the FBI. ALF activists recently broke into a car belonging to a pharmaceutical executive’s wife, stole her credit cards and charged $20,000 in charitable “donations.” At the University of Iowa, ALF members destroyed laboratory equipment, removed animals, ruined research papers and threatened school employees.

Slightly less extreme is Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which focuses only on the one company. Last month six SHAC members went on trial for allegedly vandalizing autos and homes and attacking computer and fax systems. The judge sealed the jurors’ names to prevent any harassment of them.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has begun to mimic SHAC’s tactics. For instance, PETA has accosted Kentucky Fried Chicken executives, intimidated company advertising pitchmen and breached KFC events.

More recently, the group has targeted Covance, a contract laboratory. PETA illegally infiltrated an employee into Covance to videotape firm research, claiming that the company abused research monkeys.

Still,PETAGeneral Counsel Jeffrey Kerr proclaims: “PETA has no involvement with alleged ALF or ELF [Environmental Liberation Front] actions. PETA does not support terrorism. PETA does not support violence.”

Yet PETA President Ingrid Newkirk complained three years ago that nonviolence isn’t effective. In contrast, she noted, “someone makes a threat, and it works.” PETA’s number three official, Bruce Friedrich, told a 2001 animal-rights conference that “blowing stuff up and smashing windows” is “a great way to bring about animal liberation.”

Wishing it so doesn’t make it so, of course. But Miss Newkirk seems to speak for ALF when she disseminates documents purloined in ALF break-ins.

She bluntly declared: “I will be the last person to condemn ALF.” Moreover, observed Miss Newkirk: “More power to SHAC if they can get someone’s attention.”

PETA itself asserts: “The Underground Railroad and the French Resistance are both examples of people breaking the law in order to answer to a higher morality.” The group has given money to ELF and supported several violent animal-rights activists.

Most significantly, PETA provided $71,000 to Rodney Coronado, an ALF member who was convicted of arson. At Coronado’s sentencing the judge “implicated Miss Newkirk in the crime,” reports Michael Fumento of the Hudson Institute.

In May the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on ecoterrorism. FBI officials cited more than 1,200 attacks since 1990 causing roughly $112 million in damage.

“There is nothing else going on in this country over the last several years that is racking up the high number of violent crimes and terrorist actions,” argued John E. Lewis, bureau deputy assistant director. The fact that no one has been killed is just “dumb luck,” in his view.

Moreover, worries Mark Potok: “… the fringes of the animal welfare and environmental rights movements have become increasingly radicalized.” Similarly, Frankie Trull allows: “Regrettably, I think this is actually a growing industry.” Obviously, animals should be treated humanely. Curiously, PETA, which presents itself as a defender of animals, killed 12,400 animals between 1998 and 2004, in some years euthanizing as many as 86 percent of the animals that it took in. The charges against Covance, if true, warrant action.

But that really isn’t PETA’s first priority. Rather, the organization is advancing these charges as part of a broader agenda. Ingrid Newkirk admits that “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.” And PETA just might stop such a cure from being developed.

Frankie Trull worries: “My fear is that in this climate they have managed to drive away really brilliant minds.” PETA doesn’t look much like al Qaeda, and the groups are very different. But the danger of animal-rights and environmental terrorism is exacerbated by the enabling role of supposedly more mainstream groups such as PETA. We shouldn’t wait until people die to combat this threat.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Reagan.

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