As I've said on countless other occasions, we in the US really need to pay attention to what's currently going on in the UK. There, AR extremists have developed novel techniques (link, link) of coercion and intimidation that are proving remarkably effective in achieving their goals, and are likely to prove very difficult to counter (I say "likely to prove very difficult to counter" because, to their discredit, the UK's government hasn't made much of an effort so far ...). In a nutshell, left virtually unchecked (as has been Labor's policy until now ...), the extremists will wreak unimaginable damage on the British economy (their errorts have already cost industry roughly £1b, driven Huntingdon Life Sciences to delist from the London Stock Exchange, scuttled construction of a major primate research center in Cambridge, are presently threatening the completion of an £18m animal research facility at Oxford, and have prompted the National Association of Pension Funds - which controls 20% of the British stockmarket - to earmark £25m in rewards for those who provide information leading to the conviction of AR terrorists).
The success of the AR campaign proves the effectiveness of their tactics. That success insures that the tactics will expand centripetally, and other AR extremists, following the lead of their UK brethren, will adopt them. Worse, the tactics can be readily adapted by any other two-bit extremist group with an agenda, and I suspect that's just what will happen as just one more step in the falling of dominos: the unthinkable becomes thinkable, the thinkable is experimented with, the experiments work, and the unthinkable becomes commonplace.
My concerns that these tactics will spread are shared by others, and those concerns are now entering the mainstream media. Not surprisingly, PeTA is involved up to its neck:
Kevin Jonas understands the media. As well he should. Over the years the president of Shac USA, the American wing of the militant group campaigning to close down Britain's Huntingdon Life Sciences, has had a good tutor.
As Jonas, 26, himself pointed out at an animal rights conference in Washington recently: 'I come from the school of thought and from essentially the school of training of Peta - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.'
Although he is not a member of the pressure group, which is endorsed by celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney and is known for its publicity stunts featuring scantily clad models, Jonas's admiration for Peta's work knows no bounds: 'They, more than any other organisation, seem to understand that the media is immature, they are stupid, they are corrupt, they are horny, and they run by a policy that if it bleeds, it leads.'
I've long been intrigued by how AR extremists combine a loopy, faith-based, incoherent, fundamentalist ideology with a coldly expedient and pragmatic view of the world and its actors. Jonas's "read" on the media strikes me as being more true than not.
. . . [B]y publicly acknowledging the debt he owes Peta and his support for the ALF, Jonas also drew attention to the network of relationships between seemingly unconnected animal rights groups on both sides of the Atlantic.
'Dangerous activists are moving freely between these groups, money is changing hands and the threat is escalating,' said David Martosko, spokesman for the Centre for Consumer Freedom, a new pressure group formed by fast food chains and pharmaceutical companies, designed to combat the rise of militant activists.
Yes indeed. It's worth noting that PeTA isn't at all shy about their support for terrorists and terrorist organizations (like the Earth Liberation Front).
The 'escalating threat' alarms the government, which fears its impact on investment in Britain's biotech industry. Coordinated campaigns by Shac and Speak, its splinter organisation which is campaigning against the construction of a new primate research laboratory in Oxford, last week prompted the government to announce tough new measures preventing activists from targeting individuals' homes and stalking company directors. But such moves will do nothing to unpick the web which links hardline activists and their supporters in Britain and the US. It is a network that has been beneficial for all involved, allowing them to trade ideas and personnel. [emphasis added . . . ed.]
And here we have the key: the problem is a web, and it consists of terrorists and their supporters. The terrorists, of course benefit directly from the financial support of groups like PeTA (see links above), and they also benefit by having a well know legitimate organization "understand their motives," even if they don't themselves "advocate violence" (but, of course, neither do they condemn violence ...).
But terror-supporting, non-violent (I use the term advisedly) groups like PeTA also benefit. PeTA and its breathern can deceptively present themselves as a moderate voice of reasoned, disciplined outrage opposed to animal cruelty - in contrast to the strident voice embodied by the "perhaps over-enthusiastic" acts of the terrorists. By creating a false comparison, PeTA (in particular) appears to be something of a compromise between two ends of a continuum - a continuum PeTA defines, it should be noted with scientists on one end, and violent AR extremists on the other.
Thus, PeTA spokesmen "don't advocate" the violence of the terrorist (though they sympathize with his motives), but they condemn the scientist for "torturing, abusing, exploiting and neglecting" their experimental animals. (When time permits, I'll write about the tactic of "moving the center of debate," which is well presented in The Hijacking of the Humane Movement: Animal Extremism by Patti and Rod Strand.)
'We'll sweep the police aside. We'll sweep the government aside. We'll sweep Huntingdon Life Sciences aside, and we'll raze this evil place right to the ground,' [UK ALF spokesman Robin] Webb told an audience in America last year.
FBI agent Phil Celestini said: 'It is fair to say that tactics originating from the UK or Europe make their way over to the States.'
There is also a suspicion that Shac activists in the UK are being bankrolled by groups and wealthy individuals in the US.
And then there is this:
For Martosko (of ConsumerFreedom.com ... ed), getting tough on the radical activists in the animal rights movement means getting tough on Peta. 'To understand how Shac works and why it's such a threat, you would do well to examine Peta and its sprawling empire,' Martosko told The Observer .
Peta says that it does not support Shac. The media-savvy group is well aware that any link with advocates of violence would damage its standing with the American public who last year gave it more than $16 million (£9m).
Perhaps not SHAC, but certainly Rodney Coronado, Josh Harper and ELF (see links above, text to follow).
Latest accounts show the charity has more than $6.5m in assets, while its Peta Foundation, a separate entity, has assets of more than $15m.
With such deep pockets Peta is able to disburse millions of dollars every year across a global network of interest groups . . . Over the years Peta has given more than $1.3m to the organisation (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine - PCRM ... ed) whose research is regularly cited by Shac supporters as scientific proof that animal testing does not work. In 2001 Neil Barnard, the group's (PCRM . . . ed) president, joined Shac's Jonas to co-sign hundreds of letters sent to the bosses of companies involved with Huntingdon, urging them to break their links with the firm.
[ . . .]
Hardline activists to have benefited from Peta's cash include Shac member Joshua Harper who, along with six others, was arrested earlier this year in a dawn raid on his home. The seven face charges of violating laws banning terrorism against firms that experiment on animals. Several have also been accused of vandalising the homes and cars of Huntingdon employees as well as posting their addresses on the Shac website. All seven deny the charges.
Three years ago Peta gave Harper, an open advocate of arson, a $5,000 grant. . . . Although Peta is keen to distance itself from Shac, its links with other hardliners in the animal rights movement are undeniable . . . Earth Liberation Front which has claimed responsibility for a string of arson attacks.
In addition, Peta also gave more than $70,000 to fund the legal campaign of Rodney Coronado,a one-time ALF member, who was jailed for setting fire to a Michigan State University research lab.
In 1992 Coronado, who has attended several Shac conferences and demonstrations in the past couple of years, filmed himself setting fire to the research laboratory and then posted the results to Ingrid Newkirk, Peta's founder.
There's a ton (or should I say tonne?) more to this article - it provides an exceptionally good overview of the links between PeTA and violent extremists, a wealth of information all in one place.
Having myself been watching events in the UK reasonably closely for the past several months, I'm struck by a sudden sense of optimism - not by anything the government has done, but by the news reports that are coming from the UK, which have been consistently of one tone.
News stories and opinion pieces alike are revealing the AR people for what they are: very savvy, if loopy, extremists who will stop at nothing to get their way. The reporting and analyses are crystal clear on this point, and that has to be bad news for the AR people.
It's not often I feel inclined to compliment the press, but this time they're getting it right.