Here's a nice little synopsis on Peter Daniel Young, complete with apologies by both Steven Best (he of the "Me First" ethic [and link]), and Jerry Vlasak, MD, (he who finds assassinating scientists and seal hunters to be morally acceptable, and who openly advocates the practice of assassination). Both Professor Best and Dr. Vlasak are self-appointed "Press Officers" for ALPO (Animal Liberation Press Office), and in that capacity are rationalizers of and apologizers for the terrorist ALF (Animal Liberation Front).
In 1997, two figures clad in black slipped through the northern Wisconsin pines and let hundreds of minks out of their cages. Nearly eight years later, a man identified by authorities as one of those figures, Peter Daniel Young, is about to be brought to Wisconsin for trial on federal charges.
The case could open a window on the radical animal-rights movement, which federal authorities regard as a growing terrorist threat.
While his alleged accomplice was captured six years ago, Young was on the run for more than seven years before a San Jose, Calif., beat cop caught him in March for stealing CDs from a coffee shop. He pleaded no contest in the shoplifting case earlier this month, and is expected to be brought here by the end of the month.
According to investigators, Young, 27, is part of the Animal Liberation Front, a shadowy extremist group whose goal is to shut down animal research labs and other animal-related industries. ALF members have set fires and committed other acts of vandlalism.
The case against Young "will put anyone else on notice if they engage in terrrorism, we will investigate it and we don't care how long it takes. We're not going to stop," said Mike Johnson, supervisory agent in the FBI's Milwaukee office.
Authorities say Young and an accomplice set out on an odyssey in 1997 to cripple fur farms in three states and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Alex Ott's ranch, in Tomahawk, Wis., was their last stop, investigators say.
Vandals went to Ott's back gate, lifted the latch and crept inside. Before them stretched row after row of sheds, each one home to dozens of minks. Ott woke up the next morning to find 300 animals worth upward of $350,000 gone.
What, you might well ask, did our ALF heros do with the animals? Why, they evidently released them into the wild. I've pointed out before that releasing caged animals into the wild is not necessarily in the best interests of the freed animals (there are some particularly cruel and painful ways to die out there — starvation and exposure being but two) and the sudden influx of 300 odd mink into any habitat is bound to have devastating ecological consequences.
But such things are of little importance to our ALF heros, for whom, like their ELF breathern in their parallel quest, symbolism trumps more mundane factors like what will happen to the released animals and what impact releasing them will have on the environment . . .
(I'm still wondering if they filed an environmental impact statement, and if not, why not? Surely they're concerned about the environment, right?)
Ott said he nearly lost everything "because of some psychotic ideal."
Young's story elevated him to cult-hero status among some animal rights activists. Some supporters claim they mounted a raid on an Illinois fur farm in his honor, and an anonymous Web site seeks donations for his defense.
"He's a compassionate person. He doesn't want to take lives," said Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a Los Angeles doctor who serves as spokesman for ALF. "This is another way to save animals."
You see, it's all about how you define compassion and what your assumptions are.
If you begin where Dr. Vlasak starts — with the assumption that a human life is no more valuable than than the life of a non-human — you end up where he does, with the assassination of a few human lives being morally acceptable to save (he hopes . . .) the lives of many animals.
Since all lives — human and non-human — are of equal value, compassion becomes reduced to a matter of numbers: if killing "a few" scientists saves "a few plus one" animals, then assassinating "a few" scientists is the compassionate thing to do . . .
And then there's Professor Best: since your dog and a stranger's child are both individuals, neither being of greater value than the other, you save your dog from a burning house rather than the stranger's child.
Professor Best's assumption is of that humans and non-humans are of equal value, so you are equally compassionate, no matter which you save. That being the case, you can make your decision based on personal preference ("Me First"), whim or a flip of the coin. All are equally moral.
Young himself remains a mystery. He graduated from high school in 1995 in Mercer Island, Wash., a well-to-do Seattle suburb. Young, 19-year-old Justin Clayton Samuel and a Seattle woman, Allison Porter, were arrested in Mercer Island in 1997 for trespassing, authorities said. They carried bolt cutters, ALF literature, a vial of animal tranquilizer and a book titled "Free the Animals."
According to a court papers, Young and Samuel set out that October in Porter's red Geo Metro to disrupt mink farms. Working off an ALF list of addresses code-named The Final Nail, they allegedly freed about 7,000 minks in Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Word spread among Wisconsin fur farmers they were under attack. Several farmers told police they had seen a red car casing their ranches. On Oct. 28, a fur farmer saw a red Geo with two men in it coming down the road and followed it, dialing police on her cell phone. She followed the men into a parking lot, where they rummaged through Dumpsters, removing apples, she testified.
Police arrived and seized the car, but released two men identified as Young and Samuel because there was not enough evidence to hold them while authorities waited for a search warrant for the Geo. Investigators soon found maps, black clothes, binoculars and bolt cutters in the car. But by then, Young and Samuel were gone.
They were indicted in 1998 on federal charges that included interfering with interstate commerce by threat or violence. Federal authorities call it an animal terrorism charge.
Sympathizers scoff at the charges, the most serious of which carry up to 20 years behind bars.
"It's a funny terrorist who doesn't harm a single human being," said Steven Best, author of "Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals."
Heh . . . Professor Best is being obtuse, and should reacquaint himself with a dictionary. Terror is the product of a threat, a threat to harm. Terror is not necessarily harm itself, and terrorism works because of the fear of one being harmed himself, or his fear of another being harmed.
One person doesn't need to actually inflict harm on another in order to terrorize that person. The whole point of terror is to force compliance through fear and intimidation! Terror is a state of mind, a credible worry about what might transpire.
Which, by the way, points to a kind of suffering that is unique to humans: if Professor Best's ALF heros post the name and address of someone's pet dog on the internet, and claim the dog is a pedophile and deserves to die, I doubt the dog will lose any sleep.
But if Professor Best's ALF heros post the same information and accusations about a human on the internet, the chances are that person is going to lose quite a bit of sleep. Humans can suffer differently than animals: they have the capacity to become fearful — indeed to become terrorized — based on a threat delivered by symbolic communication.
Is that uniquely human capacity of no moral relevance?
Samuel was captured in 1999 in Belgium. He traded information about ALF for a two-year prison sentence. But Young stayed underground, and as recently as March 8, a federal judge in Wisconsin sent a letter to prosecutors asking if they wanted to drop the case.
Thankfully, they did not want to drop the case . . . can you imagine?
Then, on March 21, a police officer stopped at a San Jose Starbucks and saw a man lift eight music CDs from a counter and tuck them in his coat. A fingerprint check identified him as Young. During a pat-down, the officer discovered a handcuff key taped to Young's belt, apparently so that he could escape, authorities said.
As I said before:
Hey! A man's gotta have his tunes, right? And what's day without coffee at Starbucks?
How very . . . decadent . . . to indulge one's passions for the material things so symbolic of corporate middle class American life!
How very much a non-sequitor such indulgences seem for a person of Mr. Young's heroic ideological proclivities . . .
And how blindingly stupid to be busted for boosting a few CDs . . .
Those are my reactions — I stand by them . . .
Back to the synopsis:
As for where Young's whereabouts while he was underground, Portland State University professor Gary Perlstein, who studies eco-terrorism, said ALF cells probably hid him, with rich members helping him find jobs.
"He got moved like the Underground Railroad moved slaves," Perlstein said. "They would do it because he saved the animals."
Heh —helped by ALF cells . . . well, I'm betting there are some pretty anxious "cellular" people right now . . .
They can't know if he'll flip . . .
And yes — if I were the prosecutor and it were up to me, I'd cut a deal with Mr. Young in a heartbeat if he'd give up his protectors . . .