From time to time, we are told that the good folks who take "direct action" are not terrorists. Here's a "communiqué" that appeared on the web page of an ALF support group (I'm intentionally omitting the URL). It's date is 26 September 2005. (UPDATE: 9:53 PM PDT: I have confirmed that the attack took place. Fortunately, there was little damage.)
On the night of Weds 7th Sept we Brigade G of the Animal Liberation Front detonated a bomb on the doorstep of GlaxoSmithKline director Paul Blakburn, Beaconsfield, Bucks **** ***.
This contained 2 litres of fuel and 4 pounds of explosives. We did this because GSK is a customer of Huntingdon Life Sciences and GSK we realise that this may not be enough to make you stop using HLS, but GSK this is just the beginning.
We have identified and tracked down many of your senior executives and also junior staff, as well as those from other HLS customers.
Drop HLS or you will face the consequences. For all the animals inside HLS, we will be back.
The defenders of ALF's "direct actions" try hard to represent them as "not terror," but it's hard to imagine such going's on being anything other than an attempt to terrorize a person into compliance.
Such episodes are by their very nature contradictions of a fundamental precept of Animal Rights faith: that animals and humans are morally equivalent, because they have an equal capacity to suffer.
Clearly, that is not the case, for reasons I wrote here:
But then, there is an implied, but not so subtle, message behind the ALF's announcement of its acts — the messasge behind the message, if you will: "We know where you live. Next time, we may do worse. We can come at any time, and there's no guarantee we'll stop with a mere smoke grenade, or vandalism. We may target your family. So comply, or risk the consequences."
The gloating words of the obligatory ALF after-action report are stereotypically chilling, a carefully calculated and important component of the terrorist's script.
This kind of subliminal message is intended to create a chronic fear, a fear that is crushing and inescapable. (Whether it works or not depends on the individual — in the case of Catherine Kinney, the cowardly president of the NYSE who slammed the door on Life Sciences' bid to list on the NYSE at the very last moment, words alone were apparently enough to intimidate her into compliance. The courageous Hall family, they of the Darley Oaks guinea pig farm, proved a far tougher nut than Kinney.)
What is interesting about the fear created by the ALF recipe of harassment-followed-by-threatening-communiqué is how unique the human capacity to suffer is, relative to other animals.
Humans can be threatened by symbols of violence, be they spoken words, written words, video-clips, drawings or any combination thereof, and can be made to fear some hypothetical future event, an event constructed psychologically by the target — who fears not only for his own future, but also for the future of other people — family, friends, etc. — in addition to mere property.
The human mind, unlike the mind of any other animal, translates such symbols as ALF presents into real fear, and the fear causes suffering that can manifest itself in the form of varying degrees of worry, sleepless nights, loss of appetite, distraction, ulcers, and conceivably, mental breakdown.
Which, of course, is the entire point.
But there's irony here — and it is profound. Animal Rights activists justify their entire enterprise on the basis that "suffering is suffering" and that humans and animals deserve the same moral consideration and legal protections because they suffer alike.
"Likeness of suffering" is the conceptual underpinning of the Animal Rights ideology, the one that that leads Animal Rights activists to regard the life of an animal and that of a human to be of equal value: they suffer alike, animals and humans, so they must be treated alike both morally and legally.
But AR "likeness of suffering" is palpably not true, a figment of the AR imagination, a fantasy.
Humans and animals may share some kinds of suffering — like pain when burned — but humans have in addition a unique capacity to suffer not present in any animal that lacks the ability to communicate abstract thoughts using symbolic communication.
The irony deepens and thickens to a quagmire when you appreciate that the ALF, ELF, SHAC and other terrorist groups prey on the single kind of suffering that separates humans from animals, even as justify their actions on the grounds that all animals suffer in the same ways!
In other words, even if you accept that "suffering" is a moral trump card (I do not, for a great many reasons), the capacity of humans to suffer psychologically from symbolic threats in ways that animals cannot must logically place them (humans) in a "moral category" separate and above that of animals.
The AR logic itself dictates this to be the case.