It turns out that if you're convicted of a crime and ordered to pay restitution, you can't just declare bankruptcy and avoid your debt. This undoubtedly came as bad news to Jason Derek Troff, who was convicted of torching a McDonald's restaurant in 1997, served a year in the slammer, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $240,000.
A federal judge has ruled that an animal rights activist convicted of setting fire to a McDonald's restaurant in 1997 cannot get out from under a $240,000 restitution order by filing for bankruptcy.
In his opinion published Monday, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins ruled that Jason Derek Troff's restitution is not considered just any debt but punishment for a criminal act.
"Some obligations are forgivable. Federal forgiveness is simply unavailable, nor is it appropriate in this instance, for a state-imposed penal action," Jenkins wrote.
Troff and two other men were convicted in 1997 for setting fire to a McDonald's in West Jordan as part of a protest against the eating of meat. Police also found "One billion served, one billion killed," scrawled on one of the restaurant walls.
As part of sentencing, a state judge ordered Troff and the two others to pay $240,000 in restitution. While on probation, Troff made payments of $7,949 and continued to make monthly payments of $100 to $200 a month until March 2003. After Troff completed his probation, the state rolled the restitution judgment over into a civil judgment, and in February 2003 Troff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, asking the court for relief from his restitution obligation. He was granted that request, but the state of Utah continued to try to collect.
In February 2004, Troff asked the bankruptcy court to clarify that his restitution was discharged and asked the court to find the state in contempt for trying to collect.
Troff's attorney, Michael Thomson, said his client has argued that under federal definitions excluding fines and penalties from being forgiven, the restitution does not fall under that definition because it was turned into a civil judgment.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Glen Clark agreed in part. In an order filed last March, Clark ruled that restitution must go to benefit the government. In this case, Clark pointed out that the restitution was being collected by the state on behalf of McDonald's and therefore could be forgiven.
However, Monday's ruling overturns that decision. Jenkins said U.S. Supreme Court rulings make it clear that restitution is part of criminal punishment. Also, in 1990 Congress passed the Criminal Victims Protection Act, which excludes "restitution included in a sentence on the debtor's conviction of a crime," from some bankruptcy proceedings.
Jenkins wrote Clark's ruling offered no explanation how bankruptcy court can "simply ignore" a state court's criminal sentence.
Thomson said at this time, his client is still considering whether to appeal.
I suspect that the $240,000 restitution order came as something of a surprise to Mr. Troff when it was initially ordered. Either that, or it seemed so remote as to be inconsequential next to being sentenced to hard time. But time has a way of changing one's perspective, and Mr. Troff now finds himself saddled with a debt that in all likelihood will haunt him for the rest of his life.
There are many ways to screw up your life, and being an ex-con with a felony conviction for second degree arson, who has this kind of a debt, is as good as any. Not only are his job prospects exceedingly limited, but whatever he earns will not be entirely his until his debt is repaid.
Still, all may be not lost for him . . .
I think he should apply to PeTA for a grant:
[ . . . ]
PETA’s connections to ALF and ELF are indisputable. “We did it, we did it. We gave $1,500 to the ELF for a specific program,” PETA’s Lisa Lange admitted on the Fox News Channel. [ . . . ]
PETA also has given $2,000 to David Wilson, then a national ALF “spokesperson.” The group paid $27,000 for the legal defense of Roger Troen, who was arrested for taking part in an October 1986 burglary and arson at the University of Oregon. It gave $7,500 to Fran Stephanie Trutt, who tried to murder the president of a medical laboratory. It gave $5,000 to Josh Harper, who attacked Native Americans on a whale hunt by throwing smoke bombs, shooting flares, and spraying their faces with chemical fire extinguishers.
[ . . . ]
Shortly after [Rodney] Coronado’s arrest, PETA gave $45,200 to his “support committee” and “loaned” $25,000 to his father (the loan was never repaid and PETA hasn’t complained). Now free from jail, with an expired parole, and with the benefit of an expired Statute of Limitations on his many earlier arsons (to which he readily confesses in his standard stump speech), Coronado stood before a crowd of hundreds of young people at American University in January 2003 and demonstrated how to turn a milk jug into a bomb. A few days later, ALF criminals tried to burn down a McDonald’s restaurant in Chico, California, using a firebomb that matched Coronado’s recipe. [Coronado served about 4 years in jail for having torched labs at Michigan State University . . . ed]
Sounds to me like Mr. Troff is no less deserving of PeTA's largesse than was Mr. Coronado, and I bet if he, Mr. Troff, were to submit a grant proposal to PeTA, they'd find a way to fund it ($240,000 is pocket change for PeTA, with its $25 — $29 million annual budget).
AN AMERICAN doctor and animal rights activist who openly supports illegal extremist action against a controversial guinea pig farm has been banned from coming to Burton to take part in a massive demonstration.
Dr Steven Best, a philosophy professor who believes that violence is morally right if the cause is 'just', has been informed by the Home Office that he will not be allowed to enter the country to speak in Burton to campaigners against Darley Oaks Farm, in Newchurch, which breeds guinea pigs for medical research.
The reporter or his editor is clearly not impressed by Professor Best's assertion that violence is morally right if the cause is 'just' — hence the quotes around the word "just."
It's certainly true enough that violence can be used justly, but Professor Best leaves unaddressed why anyone should consider the AR cause to be "just," one for which violence is morally right. It is not self evident that the AR cause is at all "just", much less that violence in its furtherance is morally right.
For those new to AC, the premise that Professor Best is operating on is that the life of a human and that of an animal are of equal worth. If you accept that, then his case makes sense, at least on a theoretical level: it is morally justifiable to undertake any number of violent actions to save the lives of animals, just as it would be morally justifiable to use violence to save the lives of humans.
But if you buy this premise, you will also agree that the life of any one of your loved ones or friends is of equal value to the life of a sewer rat; you will see nothing amiss with Professor Best saving his dog from a burning building before he'd save a human stranger (his "Me First!" ethic), because his dog is more important TO HIM than the human stranger is TO HIM. After all, both lives are of equal value — tough peanuts if the stranger happens to be someone you care about. And you would agree with Dr. Jerry Vlasak, who feels it's morally acceptable to kill a few scientists for the purpose of intimidating others into abandoning animal-based research, and you will applaud him for openly advocating the practice of assassination. (Dr. Vlasak, also an ALF "Press Officer" and also banned from entering the UK some time ago — and I'd wager Dr. Best as well — have reduced morality to simple arithmetic: if you can save N+1 animals by killing N humans, it's worth doing. After all, the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value.)
The decision has been made following the Government’s announcement that it will tighten measures to prevent foreign extremists who support criminal and violent acts from entering Britain. Although Dr Best claims not to be a terrorist, he openly supports the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a group which is listed as a terrorist organisation in the United States and has previously said that its members could be behind the theft of the remains of Gladys Hammond — a relative of the Hall family which owns the farm — from her grave in Yoxall.
In a recent rally for campaigners in Kent, held prior to Dr Best being banned from entering the country, he reportedly told the crowd: "We are not terrorists, but we are a threat. We are a threat both economically and philosophically.
Professor Best is partially right — the AR fanatics are an economic threat. But their "philosophy" is only a threat as long as people don't understand what it is: a "philosophy" whose cornerstone is the belief that "speciesism" (discrimination on the basis species) is as immoral and as unethical as is descrimination on the basis of race (racism).
Well, okay . . . now we look for consistency, or at least defensible inconsistency. And what we find in the AR community is AR group after AR group acting in ways that should make us wonder. For example, PeTA, the flagship AR group, kills animals it takes into its "shelter" when, according to PeTA president Ingrid Newkirk, it could become a no-kill shelter in a heartbeat (PeTA, with an annual budget between $25 — $29 million, kills roughly 80% of the animals it accepts, a far higher percentage than far poorer shelters in its vicinity, and has killed roughly 12,500 animals in the past 5.5 years). PeTA also harangues the world with constant calls for dogs and cats to be spayed and neutered.
The ease with which the AR community kills dogs and cats, or apologizes for it, and their enthusiasm for spaying and neutering, raises an obvious question: are the AR people who kill and sterilize violating their core principle of "anti-speciesism" and treating animals differently than they would humans, or would they advocate implementing the "PeTA Plan" for humans, and kill and sterilize people for the same reasons, and with the same ease and flourish, as they do animals?
Professor Best's assurance that the AR "philosophy" is somehow a threat seems particularly hollow in the absence of an answer to this simple dilemma, and we can only wonder at his silence. Indeed, I'm unaware of any AR luminary who has acknowledged that this issue even exists, much less addressed it.
Of course, if Professor Best and Dr. Jerry Vlasak believe that killing animals in shelters is as wrong as killing humans (except when murder might be undertaken to intimidate scientists into abandoning animal research), you have to wonder why they don't raise as great a hue and cry about PeTA as they do about others who deprive animals of their "rights."
By their inactivity and their silence, Professor Best and Dr. Vlasak are enabling PeTA to continue their killing, sterilizing ways.
Where, pray, is the threat from a "philosophy" when even its staunchest proponents won't make even a pretense of abiding by its core principle, granting immunity from criticism selectively to some, but not to others?
What Professor Best champions is neither a philosophy nor an ideology: it is an attitude, to be selectively applied according to whim.
"Our power is not in the right to vote, but the power to stop production. We will break the law and destroy property until we win." Dr Best, a lecturer at the University of Texas in El Paso, has written to the Government in a bid to overturn the ban.
His letter says: "We and other concerned animal advocates are not the cause of social disorder in England, we are only effects of it, as we are compassionate, non–violent people who are responding to the torture and suffering of innocent animals."
Translation: Professor Best and his ilk are the inevitable products of the evil, exploitive and oppressive power structure of the ruling classes. Winning at the ballot box by persuading voters to their cause isn't going to happen, so they have anointed themselves with the moral authority by which they call the troops to violence.
But it all makes sense — if you begin with the idea that every life is of equal value, human and animal alike. Then, you are justified in taking fewer lives to save many more.
Except in the case of scientists, who take fewer animal lives to save many more human and animal lives . . . go figure.
Oh — and the bit about destroying property, being compassionate and non-violent is a cute touch. Violence is defined downward, such that vandalism and arson don't count.
And if nobody's yet been killed by the AR fanatics, it certainly isn't Dr. Vlasak's fault! He's justified the morality of assassination and believes it necessary (op cit) for the AR cause to prevail, and he's openly advocated its practice (op cit).
Hundreds of animal rights campaigners are expected to descend on the town centre on Saturday, September 3, with them vowing to 'bring the roof off Burton'.
However, Staffordshire police have reassured the public that their officers will be out in force to ensure the protest, the first mass demonstration against the farm since October’s grave desecration, remains peaceful.
A campaign against the farm, which breeds guinea pigs for scientific research, has been running for six years.
And quite a campaign it's been. Not content to harass, threaten and intimidate the owners of the farm, and desecrate a grave (op cits), they've made every person in Staffordshire a target (link, link). It is precisely in support of this campaign that Professor Best wishes to insert himself.
If you believe that the life of a human and a guinea pig are of equal moral value, Professor Best and his merry band of AR fanatics are fighting the good fight, and everything they've done has been "morally acceptable" (in Dr. Vlasak's words), including terrorizing an entire village. In fact, if you buy the human/guinea pig moral equivalence, then the extremists have done way too little: Dr. Vlasak would be right when he finds killing people to "morally acceptable" to advance the AR cause; and Professor Best would be making a perfectly moral decision were he chooses to rescue his dog from a burning building before saving your child, your parent, your sib, your spouse or your friend, because his dog is more important TO HIM than the person you care about is TO HIM . . . they can fry, for all he cares.
But their silence (Professor Best and Dr. Vlasak) on the issue (for example) of PeTA's killing and sterilizing and whether or not PeTA is "speciesist" or human beings should be treated according to the PeTA model is either a fatal philosophical flaw, of a failure of courage on the part of Professor Best (and other AR luminaries) to grapple with a fundamental issue.
I don't buy Professor Best's case, not the least reason being that it is fatally incomplete, and yet that doesn't stop him from endorsing violence in the furtherance of AR ideology. When you couple that with the highly violent AR movement that already exists in Great Britain, the British government is showing good judgement in keeping him out.
After all, they're just trying to connect dots . . .
For those of you who don't know, the NCAA, now headed by Myles Brand, the former President of Indiana University (my former school, I'm ashamed to say) has decreed that institutions that have Native American nicknames, mascots or images will be banned from post season championship games. President Brand and his NCAA believe that such symbols are "hostile and abusive." No, I'm not kidding.
PeTA has seen an opening, and is following the NCAA's logic . . .
You really need to read this.
Question: if the NCAA does accede to PeTA's demands, what message will that send PeTA about the NCAA, and what will their (PeTA's) next steps be — objections to other college mascots? High School mascots? Middle School mascots and symols?
Rodney Coronado faces more problems.
For those of you who don't know who he is, Mr. Coronado was once described on ABC News by PeTA's Ingrid Newkirk as a "fine young man and a schoolteacher." That would be the same Rodney Coronado who: served several years hard time for torching a lab at Michigan State University while an Animal Liberation Operative; who sent packages to Newkirk and another to PeTA's Maria Blanton immediately before and after the arson; who evidently was planning more such "direct actions;" who received some $45,000 from PeTA for his defense; and who apparently continues to teach the intricacies involved in constructing incendiary devices.
I could write a book on Mr. Coronado, but suffice it to say, you now know enough about him to grasp this:
If the U.S. Attorney decides to indict animal-rights activist Rod Coronado, he’ll be at home in Tucson, Ariz., waiting. A grand jury investigation of an early-morning Aug. 1, 2003, arson fire that destroyed an unfinished La Jolla apartment complex is focusing, too, on whether Coronado violated federal law when, at a public talk he gave the evening after the fire, he told an audience of roughly 100 that something as basic as a juice container could be used to build a crude incendiary device.
I suspect that he did more than tell the audience that such a container "could" be used . . .
Under a post-Sept. 11 federal law, it’s illegal to “teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device or a weapon of mass destruction… with the intent that the teaching, demonstration or information be used for… an activity that constitutes a federal crime of violence.”
Coronado doesn’t deny that near the end of his talk at the LGBT Center in Hillcrest, where he spoke mostly about his history as an animal-rights activist, he picked up a container of apple juice from a nearby food table to “show that weapons [animal-rights activists] use are very simple devices.” It’s something he’s discussed in other public forums, he told CityBeat, to explain to his audience not only the “why” behind actions he’s carried out, but also the “how.”
“It’s always been in the sense that this is the most aggressive and extreme our movement gets,” he said. “It’s for people to understand that as much as the FBI says we’re a highly organized group, we aren’t.”
As to whether he encouraged others in the audience to construct similar devices, Coronado said that wasn’t his intent.
“I know there could be one or two people out there who might be taking this into consideration as something that they might want to do themselves,” he said, “just as much as somebody who watches Law and Order might see the perfect murder and choose to use it against someone. There’s no controlling that; it’s just freedom of information.”
That's the argument — freedom of information, freedom of speech. And the law does state ". . . with the intent . . .". I guess if you can prove intent, that's game, set and match.
Speculation alert. I'm not an attorney, so I can't speak with any authority at all. But it seems to me that the issue may be a bit more complex than Mr. Coronado represents it. If witnesses at his lecture make a persuasive case that Mr. Coronado did more than just breezily toss out a technique, then he may have a difficult time avoiding indictment, and if indicted, convincing a jury that he's not guilty.
Speculation alert continues. I'm wondering if there's a case to be made that Mr. Coronado knew, or should have known, that the information he provided his audience would be taken and used by someone present to act out violently. If so, he may have run afoul of the "True Threat" doctrine, a doctrine that arose mainly to limit information posted on the internet in response to the violent anti-abortion fanatics of the 90's.
The "True Threat" idea is that someone who posts all the information needed to incite anonymous others to illegal action, and who provides information useful for targeting people, vilifies those people, teaches techniques for vandalism and ways to avoid capture during and after a violent action, is himself indictable, even if he doesn't know who the actual perpetrator is or any of the specifics of the attack itself. (There's an excellent and very readable discussion of the True Threat as it applies to AR and Anti-abortion Web sites here.)
So I guess the questions are these: Would the True Threat doctrine apply to situations other than the Web? Did what Mr. Coronado do rise to the level of posing a True Threat? I don't have a clue.
Coronado spent nearly four years in federal prison for his role in a 1992 fire at a Michigan State University lab that he said was conducting research to aid mink farmers. He’s currently under indictment in Arizona for dismantling a mountain lion trap set by state Fish and Game agents.
[ . . . ]
So far at least seven San Diego activists have been subpoenaed by the grand jury. Two of them—David Agranoff and Danae Kelley—refused to testify and were jailed on July 12 for contempt. Last Friday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the two released on a $1,000 bond until the court has the chance to rule on whether prosecutors’ questions about who attended Coronado’s lecture violated the pair’s First Amendment right to free association.
Jeremy Warren, attorney for Agranoff, said he believes Coronado’s indictment is imminent but worries that the grand jury investigation won’t end there. . . . “They’re on a fishing expedition—they’re just [hoping] they’ll stumble into some information by putting people who are known activists in front of the grand jury and asking them who [they] know and what [they] know.”
Former assistant U.S. attorney John Kirby said prosecutors have “the right to fish” as long as their focus is on suspected criminal activity. He also explained that although Coronado has freely admitted to demonstrating how to make an incendiary device, prosecutors will want to get from witnesses specifics of what Coronado said as opposed to his version, “to determine whether or not it was a crime.
“It sounds like a relatively simple question,” Kirby said, “but given the facts, it might turn on small points.”
Yes indeed. If, in addition to providing instructions on how to make an incendiary device, Coronado included specific targets in his talk who he wouldn't cry over if attacked, and talked about ways in which a purely hypothetical arsonist/vandal could escape detection after having done a purely hypothetical deed, Mr. Coronado might be dangerously close to having made a "True Threat." (Assuming that precedent applies here — it may not.)
In the two years since it happened, there have been no arrests related to the La Jolla fire. Agranoff and Kelley, as well as other subpoenaed activists, have denied any connection to the fire. Nik Hensey, who’s acted as an informal spokesperson for Coronado and other subpoenaed activists, said an indictment of Coronado would be a smokescreen meant to obscure the fact that no progress has been made in the arson case.
Or, that progress has been made. That is one option . . .
Coronado, too, denies any knowledge of the fire and said he wasn’t aware of it until local media showed up at his talk and began asking him questions. The FBI has never contacted him regarding the fire, he said, and even if they did, he has no information.
“If they were to torture me right now, there’s nothing I can tell them,” he said. “If there’s anybody that’s involved in the fire who I was associated with, they’ve done a pretty good job of not letting on. I have no idea who carried out these actions.” [My emphasis . . . ed]
Mr. Coronado is probably being truthful: he almost certainly doesn't know who carried out the actions. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's off the hook.
In fact, part of the extremist strategy is for the "information providers" to insulate themselves with a wall of ignorance from the "anonymous useful idiots" who actually do the deed, the goal of the former being to be able to truthfully say that they know nothing about any illegal activity on the part of the latter.
After all, all the "information providers" will argue that all they did was to exercise their right of free speech, and can't be held responsible for the actions of others.
We'll see. Regardless, Mr. Coronado appears about to face another indictment. If he does, will PeTA again pick up some of his legal expenses?
Thanks to Tom P. for the heads up.
UPDATE: 8/16/05. 9:00 PM PDT. And I now notice that the ever alert Brian Carnell has already posted on this.
So the trial of Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, the two PeTA employees who each is charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty and 8 misdemeanor counts of illegally disposing of dead animals, has been continued until September 13.
I haven't a clue as to what prompted the continuance, or what effect it might have on the kind or amount of evidence that might be introduced, or the arguments in favor of a verdict either of gulity or not guilty.
But what I can tell you is this: on the PR front, the continuance will work strongly in PeTA's favor. Those living in the area can expect to see in their local papers letters to the editor written to present PeTA in the best possible light, with sympathetic "attaboy" letters following one after another. The letter writers may or may not identify themselves as being Animal Rights people (as opposed to Animal Welfare people — if you don't know the difference, you jolly well should read this). But some will identify themselves as being affiliated with PeTA, and such letters will be testimonies as to how fine an organization PeTA is — you have their word on it.
I've seen this first-hand. In a case I'm personally familiar with, a local issue prompted a letter from Daniel Paden at PeTA's Norfolk headquarters 3000 miles away to our local paper. . . and then letters from instate people far away from my insular community, as well as from people residing in other states.
Which is remarkable when you consider that the local paper is not on line. Somebody had contacted PeTA in Norfolk (hence Mr. Paden's letter), and by hook or by crook a fair number of PeTA supporters got the word to write letters in support of PeTA's position (some identified themselves as PeTA members, others did not).
I believe we're already seeing this phenomenon in North Carolina.
For example, we see this from one B.B. Knowles in a local paper:
To the editor:
I am beginning to wonder what ax someone has to grind with animal welfare groups.
You don't have to agree with PETA on all points to support their good work to help North Carolina's homeless animals. Too bad the media aren't as devoted to educating the public about stopping overpopulation and preventing the need to euthanize animals in the first place as they are to criticizing those who give unwanted animals a painless death.
Aside from occasionally finding a loving home, PETA puts animals out of their misery, saving them from being killed in a gassing box or shot with a .22. Why vilify those working to end the tragedies of overpopulation? Why don't we instead see headlines decrying those responsible for overpopulation - people who don't spay or neuter their animals, breeders, and pet shops? I, for one, am very curious.
Of course, PeTA isn't an animal welfare group at all — PeTA is an Animal Rights group, and the difference is profound (op cit).
This could simply be a case of B.B. Knowles being naïve . . . but when you Google B.B. Knowles (BB Knowles) you find that s/he's affiliated with something called the North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare, which has the feel of an AR site to it.
When you check out the links on the NCVAW's page, you find that there aren't very many of them, but the two I've looked at closely — the HSUS and the Animal Legal Defense Fund — are obviously Animal Rights groups.
(If you download the ALDF financial statement, you'll find on the 15th page of the pdf file that ALDF boasts of co-sponsoring with Yale University a conference on Animal Rights Law, which included HSUS president Wayne Pacelle (and here) and Harvard's Steven Wise, both strongly committed Animal Rights advocates. And if you search PeTA using the term ALDF, you'll get lots of hits.)
In the same paper, after Knowles's letter, there was a PeTA approval letter from a PeTA employee, whose effort is a naked appeal to the reader's emotions — PeTA is good because cruelty is bad, and she's anti-cruelty:
To the editor:
People have asked lately about the duties of PETA's field staffers. I am one, and would like to share some "highlights" from work last week, during which my colleagues and I touched the lives of 143 local animals.
A North Carolina woman intent on keeping 22 feral cats-some who had been shot, hit by cars, or killed by other animals-hung up on me as I tried to persuade her to sterilize them or give them up.
After dozens of attempts, I finally received permission to take a permanently kept backyard dog, a hairy chow suffering in the heat, to be shaved and spayed at the vet. The dog was so terrified of being touched that I had to use a box trap to catch her.
On Sunday, my day off, I used bolt cutters to remove a tight padlocked chain from around an abandoned puppy's neck. The original owner had left the country and left the dog.
A Portsmouth resident gave PETA an unneutered dog who was not eating properly, was vomiting, and had diarrhea and other signs of parvo virus, a contagious disease. I found him chained in the boiling sun, exhausted, his skin rubbed bare where he had been chained.
Please, spay and neuter, don't acquire animals you can't care for properly, and adopt animals from shelters instead of from pet shops or breeders. To learn more, visit HelpingAnimals.com.
Jessica Cochran, CAP field assistant,
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Then, there is this, again, from the same local paper:
To the editor:
Many people know PETA for its attention-grabbing campaigns to end animal abuse. Often, they don't know about the part of PETA I coordinate, the SNIP (Spay and Neuter Immediately, Please) clinic. SNIP provides low-cost or free sterilization surgeries to local residents' animal companions, but often does much more.
Last Tuesday, we helped four animals in desperate need. Among other animals, we saw a dog whose uterus was wracked with pyometra - an accumulation of pus. An epileptic dog came in, in need of spaying. Our veterinarian agreed to perform the risky - but crucial - surgery and the dog recovered well.
On top of all this, a dog carrying four dead puppies in her womb was referred to us by an emergency center. Our staff accepted this dog - who would have been dead within 48 hours or less - when no one else could, fitting her lifesaving surgery in to their already-jam-packed day.
But it's not only on days like this that SNIP's staffers are heroes. Every day, they perform around 30 sterilizations, saving thousands of unwanted animals from being born. To learn more about spaying and neutering, visit HelpingAnimals.com.
SNIP Program Coordinator
People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals
This all is classic AR strategy.
All three letters are distractions — nothing is said at all about Hinkle and Cook, nor is anything said about the fact that PeTA kills almost 80% of the animals they accept into their facility when they have the resources to operate a "no-kill" shelter many times over. The letters seem deliberately designed to take the readers attention away from PeTA's involvement in the alleged Hinkle/Cook felonies, and redirect it towards PeTA's wonderfulness. The letters are also a contrived attempt to blur the distinction between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare — nothing is said about PeTA being an Animal Rights organization, and PeTA is explicitly (and incorrectly) represented as an Animal Welfare group by BB Knowles.
So expect to see Animal Rights activists try to build public sympathy for PeTA in the interval between now and the beginning of the trial by writing lots of letters in PeTA's behalf. The campaign will be an obvious attempt to manipulate public sentiment, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will fail.
Then watch for PeTA to defend Cook and Hinkle as being well-meaning if overly enthusiastic people who were just trying to solve this huge problem of dog and cat overpopulation that is the fault of an uncaring society, a problem that PeTA has long struggled with, a problem that PeTA has been calling to the attention of the world with less than perfect success, a problem that PeTA really hopes this trial will highlight . . .
UPDATE: 8/15/05, 3:15 PM PDT. Reader Tom P. wonders if the trial's continuance might be something the prosecution asked for to work out a deal with Hinkle and Cook in order to nail some PeTA higher-ups. Heh. I salivate at the prospect.
UPDATE: 8/15/05, 4:05 PM PDT. It turns out that our B.B. Knowles has been a busy little beaver — yes — busy indeed. Not only did she publish the letter I reproduced above in the Henderson Daily Dispatch, but also in the Suffolk News-Herald. And then there's a revised and longer version of much the same PeTA support letter in the Jamestown News. Heh. A sharp-eyed reader caught this.
I've just learned that the trial of Andrew Cook and Adria Hinkle, the two PeTA employees who are each charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty and 8 misdemeanor counts of illegally disposing of dead animals, has been continued.
The new schedule anticipates the trial to open on September 13.
(UPDATE: 11/15/05. 1:40 PDT. The Hinkle Cook PeTA trial won't begin before January).
The trial of PeTA employees Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, each charged with 31 counts of felony animal cruelty and 8 misdemeanor counts of illegally disposing of dead bodies, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Protesters are expected, and the police are preparing themselves:
[ . . . ]
Meanwhile, the Winton Police Department and the Hertford County Sheriff's Office are preparing for potential protestors as well as a small army of media representatives.
"We have heard there may be protestors," said Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan when asked about security measures for Tuesday's trial. "Winton Police Chief David Griffith will handle this situation and we will assist him. I will handle what goes on in the courtroom," Vaughan added.
The Sheriff said that while the town of Winton does not have any regulations prohibiting picketers, he will abide by a county law dealing with protesters.
"By statute, any protestor is required to stay 300 feet from the courthouse and we will enforce that."
"David and I met with the Murfreesboro Police Department, the Ahoskie Police Department and the North Carolina Highway Patrol," Vaughan continued. "We will call for assistance from these departments if needed."
On Friday, the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald received an unsolicited phone call from one organization planning to travel to Winton for the trial.
"The Companion Species Coalition is a group of concerned animal owners who want to offer positive alternatives to extremist groups like PETA," Coalition member S. Spears said.
He continued, "We support the police of Ahoskie on this horrible case of animal cruelty and hypocrisy. If PETA put forth one tenth of the money trying to find homes for animals that they spend soliciting funds, they could find homes for a lot more of these animals."
Spears claims PETA supports terrorist organizations and convicted arsonists.
"There is no moderation with PETA," Spears added.
Spears is, of course, perfectly correct — PeTA does have terrorist connections, and has supported ALF arsonist Rodney Coronado with big bucks.
I am impressed with the political astuteness of the Companion Species Coalition. This trial will be a high-profile one, and any anti-PeTA protesters will, I suspect, receive considerable media attention. If the CSC play their cards right — and I suspect they will — they'll be able to reveal a lot more about PeTA to a much larger audience than PeTA would like.
Assuming that the CSC mounts a reasonable effort (I think they will — they appear to be well aware of the strength of their hand), and that the media decides to take an interest in what they have to say (that is the big "if"), their demonstration could seriously undermine PeTA's credibility with its donor base. And that would cut into PeTA's revenues (PeTA, by the way, is tax-exempt . . .).
PeTA is accustomed to controlling the message, but the trial itself has made that impossible, and in one sense created a vacuum — a space in which "not-PeTA" can have its voice heard — and CSC may well be able to offer it's own message to the large, wealthy and generous (but naïve) citizenry who contribute to PeTA but who don't understand the fundamental difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare.
My fingers are crossed. I am optimistic.
The trial was originally scheduled for July 19, but attorneys on both sides agreed to a continuance. Hertford County District Court Judge Rob Lewis set the new date for Aug. 16.
The trial had been postponed pending completion of a test to determine if Ketamine and Sodium Pentobarbital, both highly regulated Schedule III drugs, were present in the tissues of one of the dead animals. Both drugs had been found a tackle box in the PeTA-registered van Hinkle and Cook were driving, and neither of them could legally purchase the drugs; nor were Hinkle and Cook legally able to administer them in North Carolina.
The test results are now known, but will not be revealed until the trial begins on Tuesday.
Cook and Hinkle were arrested late in the afternoon of June 15 after law enforcement officials, on a stake-out, observed a white van in which the two were operating stop at a dumpster located behind Piggly Wiggly in Newmarket Shopping Center and toss several black bags in a commercial dumpster.
At that time, a traffic stop was initiated on the van - a vehicle registered to PETA.
The bags located in the dumpster contained 18 dead dogs, including one bag containing seven puppies. An additional 13 dead animals, including a mother cat and her two kittens, were found in the van.
Dr. Patrick Proctor, an Ahoskie veterinarian, said PETA had picked up the cat and kittens from his office earlier on June 15. He claimed the cats and kittens were in good health and were adoptable.
Hinkle and Cook were each charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts each of illegal disposal of dead animals. An additional charge of illegal trespassing was later filed against both individuals.
The case reached beyond Hertford County as Bertie and Northampton officials suspended their agreements with PETA to collect stray and unwanted pets at their respective animal shelters.
With the exception of Dr. Proctor's cats, all of the animals in the van on June 15 had been collected from the Bertie County Animal Shelter. PETA reportedly made a collection stop at the Northampton County Animal Shelter one day earlier.
Meanwhile, a woman in Gates County claimed PETA stole her dog. [My emphasis . . . ed]
What a curious anecdote to include in this story . . .
David Harrell - the owner of D&E Properties, a local business that manages Newmarket Shopping Center and Ahoskie Commons Shopping Center - claims there are similarities in several incidents concerning the discovery of dead animals in Ahoskie dumpsters prior to June 15.
Harrell told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald he remembers approximately nine instances over an 18-month period where dead animals have been found in commercial dumpsters located on the properties his company manages. In each case, Harrell alleges the same type of garbage bags were found with the dead animals inside. He also pointed to the day of the week (Wednesday) in which these dead animals were allegedly dumped.
"All of the animals we removed from the dumpsters were in black, commercial-strength garbage bags," Harrell said. "They were the real, heavy-duty bags, the type that a person can't tear open with their hands. You have to use a knife to open these bags."
He continued, "Wednesdays seemed to be the popular day for the dumping to occur. We would check the dumpsters first thing on Thursday mornings and, sure enough, there were the black bags containing the dead animals."
Yes — we've heard some soft reports of this before, but I don't recall anything that sounded so firmly-based.
Detective Sgt. Jeremy Roberts of the Ahoskie Police Department headed the investigation. He was able to collect evidence from the van, including a tackle box containing vials of medication n later determined to be Ketamine and Pentobarbital, highly controlled drugs used in the euthanization of animals n as well as syringes. A digital camera was also found in the van. The Ahoskie Police Department obtained a warrant to retrieve the digital images on the camera.
Hmmm. Images. I wonder what they might show? Someone's expertise at hitting a vein, in a van? Wouldn't that be interesting!
One of the dead dogs was sent to Raleigh for an autopsy. The laboratory report deemed the dog healthy prior to its death. It also revealed a puncture wound on the dog's front right paw. It is not known if that wound is consistent with a mark left by the insertion of a needle.
It's hard to know what to make of the puncture wound's location ("paw"). I suspect that's inaccurate. The vein you typically aim for is located on the forearm. If the puncture wound is indeed on the paw, it probably wasn't created by an injection.
Prior to the June 15 arrests, the Ahoskie Police were actively investigating the dumping of dead animals in a commercial dumpster in town during each of the three previous weeks. Since the arrests, no dead animals have been discovered in Ahoskie dumpsters.
Well . . . this is certainly getting interesting, isn't it? As I reported a couple of days ago, there is at least one credible report that the investigation may lead to indictments of other people associated with PeTA, in addition to Hinkle and Cook.
Let's keep our eye on how the media reports this, and our fingers crossed that they pay rapt attention to CSC and their message.
So PeTA's disgusting "Are Animals the New Slaves" campaign (you can view the on line display here) has prompted quite a backlash from the black community. So much so, that PeTA has suspended its tour, and is "evaluating":
RICHMOND, Va. - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals _ known as much for staging shocking protests as for championing animal rights _ is reconsidering a campaign comparing slavery to animal abuse after complaints from civil rights groups and others.
"Animal Liberation," which includes 12 panels juxtaposing pictures of black people in chains with shackled elephants and other provocative images, had visited 17 cities before the Norfolk-based group put the tour on hold. The decision came within the last week.
PETA wrapped up the first leg of the tour in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
"We're not continuing right now while we evaluate," said Dawn Carr, a PETA spokeswoman. "We're reviewing feedback we've received _ most of it overwhelmingly positive and some of it quite negative." [My emphasis . . . ed]
This is almost certainly a bald-faced lie. They've taken one hit after another on this campaign, as well they should. And the media is focussing on the racial slur and the outrage its provoked, not on PeTA's sick animal/human equivalence.
Stops had included Columbia, S.C., Birmingham, Ala., and Baton Rouge, La. _ cities in the heart of Dixie where, ironically, Carr said the images were most well received.
Suspended from a metal trellis, one cloth panel shows a black civil rights protester being beaten at a lunch counter beside a photo of a seal being bludgeoned. Another panel, titled "Hanging," shows a graphic photo of a white mob surrounding two lynched blacks, their bodies hanging from tree limbs; a nearby picture shows a cow hanging in a slaughterhouse.
But controversy erupted Aug. 8, when the display stopped in New Haven, Conn.
"There was one man who began shouting that the exhibit was racist," Carr said. "Then, there was a lot of shouting."
Carr said officials are using the shocking images to prove a point: Whether it's humans harming animals or each other, all point to an oppressive mind-set.
"They all stem from the notion that might makes right," Carr explained.
Is it just me, or are others, too, sick and tired of hearing the word "oppression" used to justify — well — just about everything these days?
But officials with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People aren't buying it.
"PETA operates by getting publicity any way they can," said John White, an NAACP spokesman. "They're comparing chickens to black people?"
It marks the second time in recent months PETA has come under fire for comparing a group of people's suffering to the plight of animals.
Officials with the group apologized earlier this year after a campaign comparing the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust with that of factory animals. [My emphasis . . . ed]
Ingrid Newkirk's was a non-apology apology. She apologized for any hurt the campaign might have caused, while justifying the moral parallel PeTA conjured up of holocaust victims to chickens. Wesley Smith wrote a devastating article on it, and I added my 2 cents here.
That campaign ran from February 2003 to October 2004.
"These people (PETA) seem to be in the very slow learners category," said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project with the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Ala., where the exhibit stopped in July.
Still, I'm not sure PeTA had any reason to believe they'd provoke the firestorm that ensued. After all, as I recently pointed out:
In fact, this is hardly the first time PeTA has exploited massive human tragedy and injustice for their loopy ideology. Just off the top, I can think of 3 other times: when they exploited the deaths of Canadian girls, whose remains authorities believe were disposed of in meat products made by their alleged killer, a pig farmer; when PeTA compared meat farmers to cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer; and when PeTA ran their Holocaust on Your Plate campaign, in which they comparing domestic animal farming to the Holocaust.
Up until now, and for reasons that are a mystery to me, they've been able to get away with such shenanigans. But I think things are different this time: the black community doesn't appear willing to accept their history being made a prop to showcase PeTA's world of moral equivalence.
Mr. Potok continued:
"Black people in America have had quite enough of being compared to animals without PETA joining in," Potok said. "This is disgusting."
And likely ineffective, said Paul Farris, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia. He pointed to anti-smoking campaigns that often rely on frank pictures of nicotine-blackened lungs.
After a while, he said, smokers just don't pay attention.
"If it's going to be so shocking and so disrupting, then they just turn it off," he said.
First of all, look for PeTA to "evaluate" the situation for awhile, say, several weeks. Then, look for them once again to issue a statement, most likely from Ingrid Newkirk herself, that apologizes for "any hurt" their campaign "may" have caused; to announce the termination of the tour (I'd be willing to bet the web version remains — but even if it doesn't, I've captured it); to justify the campaign on the basis that oppression is oppression, and regardless of whether the oppressed group consists of blacks, women or animals, all are victims of The Powerful, and so, PeTA will claim, the parallel they've drawn holds true. Our disgust with it, one can infer, reflects our insensitivity to the plight of oppressed animals.
That justification will be accepted by Animal Rights people, who view speciesism — discriminating on the basis of species differences — every bit as immoral and unethical as discriminating on the basis of race, age, sex or sexual preference. After all, the life of a human and that of an animal are equally worthy.
Finally, I resent and take issue with the assessment of Paul Farris. The smoking analogy is poorly chosen — people smoke because they choose to, they find it satisfying, if not pleasurable, are willing to accept that its a risky business, and the main damage done is to the smokers themselves. Pictures showing black lung disease just aren't going to wash with this demographic, because the pictures are just ugly pictures.
Being a black person or a Jew (let's not forget PeTA's Holocaust on a Plate campaign) is entirely different. For these people, it's not a matter of choice but of birth, and each group has a history of being victimized, in horrible ways.
In both the "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign and "Are Animals the New Slaves?" campaign PeTA sought to profit from the historical and painful tragedy that, regrettably, seems largely to define them.
No, Mr. Farris. People wouldn't just come to ignore PeTA's campaigns . . . nor should they . . . the pictures PeTA wished to profit off of in their "Are Animals the New Slaves?" tour were every bit as symbolic as cross burning, and outrage against them would only gather strength.
In short, PeTA isn't backing off because the pictures they were showing were ineffective or likely to be ignored. Quite the opposite — PeTA's backing off because the negative reaction to the pictures was increasing exponentially.
Al Sharpton, a current or former PeTA spokesman, must be thanking his lucky stars that he doesn't have to make a choice here . . .
Thanks to Lisa A and Joe W for the heads up.
PeTA seems to be swimming in a sea of trouble. We now have a report that Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook may not be the only ones indicted after they were caught in North Carolina after having allegedly killed animals illegally and discarded their bodies in dumpsters. But what's really interesting to me is that PeTA's taking some serious public heat from the AR community.
Here's a nice review plus some new information, and if you can tear yourself away from it, you're a stronger person than I (Merritt Clifton, the author, is an Animal Rights advocate who has not been shy in criticizing either AR luminaries or AR organizations):
The scheduled first court appearance of PETA staffers Adria Joy Hinkle and Andrew Benjamin Cook on multiple cruelty charges was on July 19, 2005 postponed until August 16.
Hinkle, 27, and Cook, 24, are charged with a combined 62 counts of felony cruelty to animals and 16 counts of illegal disposal of animal remains.
Police sources have indicated that other persons associated with PETA may be charged as result of ongoing investigation. [My emphasis . . . ed]
Isn't this interesting . . . it suggests that PeTA people were more than just blind.
[ . . . ]
[ Reporter Darren] Freeman and Seth Seymour of the Virginian-Pilot reported that PETA president Ingrid Newkirk called Hinkle “The Mother Teresa of animals,” but suspended her for 90 days. PETA said Cook was not suspended.
Newkirk and domestic animal rescue chief Daphna Nachminovitch told news media and concerned animal advocates in a flurry of statements during the next several days that dumping the dead animals in garbage bins violated PETA policy and was done without their knowledge, but insisted that PETA had never concealed that most of the animals it took from the North Carolina shelters would be killed.
The "not concealed" part is a bit dodgy — others claim that they specifically asked PeTA employees what happened to the animals they (PeTA) took from shelters when they (those relinquishing the animals to PeTA) became suspicious, and that the PeTA employees reassured them that PeTA was making every effort to adopt the animals out (see below).
Newkirk and Nachminovitch claimed that PETA killed North Carolina animals by lethal injection so that they would not be “drowned in floods,” shot, or gassed, detailing in one statement a decade-long dispute with Yadkin County over use of a locally made carbon monoxide chamber.
But the animals involved in the case against Hinkle and Cook came from other counties––and were not all from pounds.
Wrote Freeman and Seymour, “Among the dead animals authorities found a female cat and her two ‘very adoptable’ kittens taken from Ahoskie Animal Hospital, veterinarian Patrick Proctor said.” Stated Proctor, “These were just kittens we were trying to find homes for. PETA said they would do that.” . . .
What — PeTA lie? Who would ever have thunk it.
ANIMAL PEOPLE in mid-2004 received detailed complaints from several North Carolina no-kill shelter volunteers and one ex-PETA employee who charged that PETA was taking animals from them who had been sterilized and vaccinated in preparation for adoption, promising to place them in homes, and then refused to account for them. The volunteers believed the animals were being killed. The ex-PETA employee affirmed their suspicions, but the complainants had no physical evidence to support their case. [My emphasis . . . ed]
“The arrests have left local animal rescuers with more questions than answers,” summarized Luci Weldon of The Warren Record.
Macon animal rescuer Ruth Brown told Weldon that “In December 2003, while she was working with Rainbow Rescue, a no-kill organization in Roanoke Rapids, she conducted e-mail correspondence with an individual who described herself as being active in animal rescue and who used the Community Animal Project, run by PETA, to provide foster care for the rescued animals.
“I thought it was the answer from heaven,” Brown recounted.
Wrote Weldon, “Brown said that she was told that local animals transferred to PETA would be prepared for potential adoption. As animals were given to PETA, Brown said she had contact with a representative of CAP in Norfolk, where PETA is headquartered, as well as contact with Adria Hinkle.”
Said Brown, “We asked them about the animals and they said they only had to put one to sleep because of congenital heart failure,” Brown said. “We questioned them on several occasions. They reassured us that the animals were adopted.”
If this story seems familiar, I wrote similarly about PeTA's ever-evolving PR trainwreck here, a post I was able to write only because of a very helpful reader.
Continued Weldon, “Brown said that Warren County animal rescuers held fundraising events to pay for spaying and neutering and other needs related to the care of the animals transferred to PETA.”
Brown became suspicious in late spring 2004 “after her original contact arrived in a large truck which contained over 80 animals,” Weldon added.
A fellow volunteer followed the truck to Ahoskie, Brown told Weldon, but “was not allowed inside a building in Ahoskie where the animals were taken,” Weldon summarized.
The volunteer did enter the building later and found syringe caps and blood.
“In June of 2004, several local animal rescuers decided to cut ties with PETA, Brown said, and a Rainbow Rescue representative said last week that her organization “will definitely not have anything to do with PETA,” Weldon wrote.
[ . . . ]
While claiming to oppose cruel methods of killing animals, PETA is the last major animal advocacy group in the U.S. that overtly opposes neuter/return feral cat control and no-kill sheltering.
In September 2003, for example, PETA tried to block a neuter/return program proposed to the city of Newport News by Cat Rescue Inc., the Animal Resource Foundation, and Meower Power Feral Cat Coalition.
PETA and Meower Power had clashed before. ANIMAL PEOPLE in March 1998 published the allegation of Norfolk-area cat rescuer John Newton that a hit squad led initially by Ingrid Newkirk herself had for three years trapped cats from neuter/return colonies supervised by Meower Power and took many to their deaths at animal control shelters.
Newkirk did not respond to ANIMAL PEOPLE questions on that occasion, but confirmed to Michael Barakat of Associated Press in July 2000 that her staff killed 1,325 of the 2,103 dogs and cats they received in 1999––63%, above the regional animal control norm of 58%.
Then, according to Virginia state records, PETA in 2003 killed 1,911 of 2,225 animals received: 86%.
Although PETA is not a shelter organization, it killed more animals each year than 75% of the animal control shelters in Virginia.
[ . . . ]
“Other staffers at PETA said that they routinely kill the animals that they pick up,” Mountain continued. “We have received unsolicited reports from former PETA staff, describing how they joined because they wanted to help animals, only to find that they were sent out to kill them. We have also heard from numerous sources who were visited by people calling themselves PETA volunteers,” Mountain said, “offering to ‘find a good home’ for homeless pets, and saying that the animals would be taken to a ‘PETA shelter.’
“These people discovered too late that there is no PETA shelter and that no one at PETA would even tell them what had become of the animals. Local rescue groups reported that PETA basically competes with them, trying in many cases to kill the animals before they can be rescued,” Mountain charged.
[ . . ]
“We do not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals,” Newkirk handwrote on a post card to neuter/return and no-kill sheltering proponent Nathan Winograd, who then directed the Law & Advocacy Department for the San Francisco SPCA and now does shelter consulting from San Diego.
You have to wonder — PeTA argues that animals aren't ours to do with as we wish, yet they do with animals exactly as they wish: they kill them for convenience and in great numbers, when they need not.
How, one wonders, can they reconcile the notion that animals have "rights," except they don't have the most important two — the right to life, and the right to reproduction? Of what trivial value might any other putative rights be if you lack the top two?
The obvious question is this: who at PeTA decides, or by what process is it decided, what is and is not an "animal right"? At PeTA, are rights defined by Ingrid Newkirk alone? Does she convene a committee? Is she devinely inspired? Do owls deliver them to her, written neatly on parchment, while she's enjoying fried tomatoes for breakfast in the Great Hall?
Lord Acton's words of 1887 never seemed more true: "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely." Of course, PeTA's Ingrid Newkirk is very powerful indeed.
Finally, there's the issue of consistency between PeTA's propagandistic rhetoric and their actual deeds. At present, they are heavily into publicizing their horrid "Are Animals the New Slaves?" campaign, whose message is this: if it's immoral or unethical to do something to a human, it is equally immoral or unethical to do it to an animal.
So — if it isn't immoral or unethical to kill and sterilize animals according to The PeTA Plan, why would it be immoral or unethical to kill and sterilize humans, if done according to that same PeTA Plan?
That's a fair question.
[ . . . ]
Wrote Friends of Animals legal director Lee Hall, “FoA would like to state that the Ahoskie killings are not euthanasia, and are a serious affront to animal rights. Animal advocates have no business killing healthy sheltered animals. People who engage in such conduct––regardless of killing or disposal methods––convey the message that they and their supporters have accepted a reprehensible practice.
“Alternatives to the cycle of breeding and killing do exist,” Hall added, pointing out that FoA has subsidized sterilization of more than two million animals since 1957.
Wrote Kanak Roy, M.D. of the Animal Aid Alliance in Virginia Beach, in a commentary typical of many that ANIMAL PEOPLE received from activists around the world, “I have had disagreements with Newkirk in the past, but regardless of her troubling philosophy, I have continued to defend her publicly. I have lobbied several local news commentators on her behalf. However, the belief that PETA’s unconscionable actions are in support of animal welfare, and the idea that they are any way reducing suffering, is pathological.”
There's no question about it — PeTA's taking public heat from the AR community, and lots of it. That's a good thing. And I must admit that I'm most curious to learn if, in fact, other PeTA employees will be charged, in addition to Hinkle and Cook.
Most interesting . . .