Jerry Vlasak, an American trauma surgeon and virulent Animal Rights activist who has been described as “one of the most dangerous animal rights zealots on the planet”, may be banned from the UK, where he's been invited to speak to the International Animal Rights Conference 2004. Predictably, the AR people mounted a spirited defense of Dr. Vlasak:
Animal rights activists today criticised the Home Secretary’s threat to ban one of its controversial figureheads as a “rash, knee-jerk reaction”.
Los Angeles-based Dr Jerry Vlasak remains a keynote speaker at an international conference in Tonbridge, Kent, in September, despite controversy stoked by reports that he backs the murder of scientists.
David Blunkett will be on “dubious ground” if, as promised, he tries to treat Dr Vlasak as a criminal or potential terrorist, according to Speak, the animal rights group and conference organisers.
Robert Cogswell, of Speak, said: “He would be on dubious ground to try and ban someone on hearsay.
Apparently, these are the comments that landed the good Dr. in the proverbial doghouse:
A top adviser to Britain's two most powerful animal rights protest groups caused outrage last night by claiming that the assassination of scientists working in biomedical research would save millions of animals' lives.
To the fury of groups working with animals, Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon and prominent figure in the anti-vivisection movement, told The Observer: 'I think violence is part of the struggle against oppression. If something bad happens to these people [animal researchers], it will discourage others. It is inevitable that violence will be used in the struggle and that it will be effective.'
Vlasak, who likens animal experimentation to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews, said he stood by his claim that: 'I don't think you'd have to kill too many [researchers]. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives. . . .
In the past, Dr. Vlasak is reported as having said similar things, and these quotations are from a search of ConsumerFreedom.com files, the search term being Vlasak:
“You can justify, from a political standpoint, any type of violence you want to use.” — "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t!" (Showtime cable network) 4/1/04
“I don’t think you’d have to kill -- assassinate -- too many [doctors involved with animal testing] ... I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives.” — Animal Rights 2003 convention 8/3/03
“I think that violence and nonviolence are not moral principles, they’re tactics.” — "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t!" (Showtime cable network) 4/1/04
“If someone is killing, on a regular basis, thousands of animals, and if that person can only be stopped in one way by the use of violence, then it is certainly a morally justifiable solution.” — "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t!" (Showtime cable network) 4/1/04
“I think we do need to embrace direct action and violent tactics as part of our movement … I don’t think we ought to be criticizing someone, whether we’re criticizing [them] because they’re writing letters, or whether we criticize them because they’re burning down fur stores or vivisection labs. I think we need to include everybody in that circle.” — Animal Rights 2002 convention 6/27/02
“[The police] are protecting the circus, they are protecting the meat and dairy industry, they are protecting the vivisection industry and I equate them in my own mind on a moral and ethical level with the -- no different than say guards in a Nazi concentration camp.” — at a panel called “Coping with Law Enforcement” at the Animal Rights 2003 LA convention 8/2/03
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that there will come a time when we will see violence against animal rights abusers.” — "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t!" (Showtime cable network) 4/1/04
We can squabble over whether or not Vlasak's words violate UK law, but they are examples of absolutely classic AR rhetoric: you can easily divine what Dr. Vlasak feels is justifiable, but his words are sufficiently abstract that a halfway decent attorney can plausibly deny that the good Dr. was advocating violence. After all, there's a world of difference between talking in the abstract about actions that might be justifiable to redress a wrong perpetrated by someone, and actually putting out a contract to have someone offed.
So, in the US, everything he's said would be protected by the first amendment, though in the UK there is reason to suspect that one might not be so free to speak one's mind, or advocate for unpopular causes:
The home secretary warned that Mr Vlasak could be treated in the same way as someone advocating the murder of people because of their colour or religion.
"I am asking that we examine the authenticity of the claims in those quotes, the attitude of this individual and whether his presence would be non-conducive to the public good, and it is," Mr Blunkett told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost programme. "If we have to [kick him out], that is what we will do."
Dr. Vlasak and his brethren fully understand what they're doing with their incendiary rhetoric: they're inflaming passions and implanting ideas. They know - or should know - that some anonymous hothead may well act out some violent scenario they can later say they didn't advocate. In an earlier post about an act of eco-sabotage, I described how the system works:
. . . there is still the incendiary mix: an ideology, a set of specific targets (named persons or corporations) or global targets (unnamed persons or corporations) who are demonized for interfering with nature's naturalness. There is a way to communicate the ideology and targets instantaneously to the world at large (by the internet), and a way to teach people how to construct simple tools of destruction like incendiary devices (again, accomplished by way of the internet and by underground publicatitons).
And there is a computer somewhere, I suppose, manned by people who neither engage in terrorist acts themselves nor abet terrorists known to them. All they have to do is maintain a website or two and disseminate information - information that everyone can read and anyone may act upon, and that can inflame easily impressionable or sick minds.
The system is so successful at protecting its terrorist disciples that the ELF spokesman himself didn't even know whether or not these arson attacks were committed by ELF operatives. All ELF can say is that the acts were "most likely that of individual members."
ELF's carefully-cultivated ability to recruit anonymous, free-lancing terrorists - without ever having contact with them - makes it tough for law enforcement to prevent ELF-inspired attacks, or to bring the perps to justice.
None of these elements is, by itself, very worthy of concern. But when you combine all the rather innocuous parts, you end up with an explosive mixture, and the question becomes not "if" a specific someone will act out against a specific, targeted individual, but "when" an anonymous someone will intimidate, harass or injure a randomly-selected person of a targeted group.
Some might dismiss Dr. Vlasak's rhetoric as being so far over the top as to be self-discrediting, if not counterproductive. And to rational people, it is.
But that may be the kicker - perhaps Dr. Vlasak and his kindred rhetoricians aren't trying to appeal to rational minds with their incandescent rhetoric...