I continue to believe that one of the most significant events of the year, if not the decade, occurred when Catherine Kinney, President of the New York Stock Exchange, precipitously withdrew the NYSE's offer to list Life Sciences on the exchange because of pressure from Animal Rights activists. (She announced her decision to stunned company leaders at a breakfast to celebrate the listing on the day the listing was to occur, without explanation, and later failed to respond to a query from a Senate Committee as to why she acted as she did.)
The implications of Kinney's cowardly act — buckling to intimidation, trying to appease extremists who can't be appeased — are profound, and have received scant attention in the mainstream media. (There have been notable exceptions: Christopher Byron of The New York Post wrote a blistering editorial defining the issues and the importance of what happened. Then, I pointed to a superb article by nationally-syndicated columnist Debra Saunders and an article in the Wall Street journal. For her part, Ms Saunders noted that the mainstream media in general, and the New York Times in particular, had failed to pick up on the story, and speculated why that might be.)
Now, Wesley Smith has picked up the ball in an equally excellent article:
THE FURY OF RADICAL ANIMAL liberationists is growing, leading them to acts of brazen lawlessness and flagrant vigilantism. In the United Kingdom, a farm family that raised guinea pigs for medical testing was subjected to years of personal threats and property vandalism by animal liberationists. The family had courageously refused to be intimidated, but when the liberationists robbed the grave of a beloved relative and refused to give the body back, they had finally had enough. Seeing no relief in sight, and desperately wanting to be left alone, the family gave in.
It is understandable that a single family would capitulate in the face of such extreme intimidation. One would, however, expect the leaders of powerful institutions, such as the New York Stock Exchange, to stand firm against such brown-shirt tactics. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Big Board actually showed less courage than the British farm family--they capitulated before even being protested. In a shocking act of appeasement, the NYSE reversed its decision to list the medical testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences (renamed Life Sciences Research) after being threatened by animal liberationists.
Animal Rights activists had launched a massive letter writing campaign against HLS being listed, and Ms Saunders suggested (op cit) how the Animal Rights people might have made the point that they're prepared to use violence if the NYSE didn't buckle: "The London Times reported how these tactics may have worked on the New York Stock Exchange as the extremists boasted that they got to a market maker -- a business that facilitates exchange trades -- by vandalizing the market maker's yacht club. I called Carr Securities to ask if the story was true. Carr Securities Chairman Walter Carucci told me he was "tired of this issue" and hung up on me."
The NYSE fiasco is merely the latest triumph for a small radical cadre of vegan thugs called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which has vowed to drive Life Sciences Research out of business because it tests drugs on animals. Toward this end, SHAC activists hit upon a vicious and brutally effective tactic known as "tertiary targeting." SHAC harasses and intimidates executives and other employees (and their families) of any company merely doing business with Life Sciences.
The SHAC website identifies targets, providing their home addresses, phone numbers, and the names and ages of their children and even where they attend school. Even after the NYSE put off Life Sciences' listing, for instance, the SHAC website, according to Forbes, listed "names, numbers and email addresses of 100 NYSE staff members." Targeted people may receive anonymous death threats or mailed videotapes of their family members taken by SHAC activists. Companies have been bombed. Homes have been invaded and vandalized. In one recent case, animal rights activists broke into a lawyer's house and flooded it with a garden hose because his company once did business with Life Sciences and wouldn't be cowed into agreeing to never do so again. In a more recent case in the United Kingdom, a nursery school rescinded vouchers to Life Sciences employees in the face of violent threats.
SHAC and their allies have intimidated scores of businesses . . . And now, the New York Stock Exchange has added to the company's misery and the liberationists' power by allowing these extremists to dictate its business decisions. [My emphasis . . . ed]
Indeed . . . that's exactly what has happened.
The stakes in the war against Life Sciences are greater than the survival of one company. If SHAC and its co-conspirators succeed, they will validate terrorism as an effective means of accomplishing "animal liberation." And if Life Sciences succumbs, what animal testing enterprise will be safe? And what about other animal-using industries? Today, it is medical testing. Tomorrow it could be the fast food industry, zoos, the salmon fleet. The list is potentially endless. So is the list of potential imitators. Why wouldn't antiwar radicals, having noted SHAC's success, apply tertiary targeting against businesses that contract with the Defense Department? [My emphasis . . . ed]
That's the problem in a nutshell.
For her part, Kinney has boxed herself into a corner from which there is no escape. By capitulating so easily, she either will have to stand with a decision that parades her cowardice and penchant for appeasement before the world, which would make her a prime target for other thugs, as Mr. Smith notes, or she will have to reverse herself.
But if she reverses herself, it would only prove the point, if proof is needed, that she can be pressured into compliance irrespective of the merits of a case, and that realization would be blood in the water to all the sharks, AR and non-AR alike. Then, she'd find herself, her family, her friends and her associates actual targets of extremists, not potential ones, as Ms Kinney's worst nightmare came to life.
Kinney is damaged goods, and that funny noise you here is the tick-tick-ticking of time running out for her tenure as the NYSE's president. Or so I predict.
Stopping SHAC and its ilk should be a high priority of law enforcement. Indeed, the FBI has listed animal rights extremist groups on its domestic terrorists list, leading to arrests and prosecutions. Six members of SHAC, including its former president Kevin Kjonaas, will soon be tried on federal charges in New Jersey for violating the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. Kjonaas is accused of trying to destroy Life Sciences in a systematic campaign that involved stalking, destruction of property, harassment, intimidation, threats, incitement, and more.
Current laws may be inadequate to the threat posed by tertiary targeting. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is expected to investigate the question in hearings later this month. The New York Stock Exchange has been invited to attend. But don't be surprised if their officers fail to show up. Once you begin down Craven Road, it is hard to turn back. [My emphasis . . . ed]
I agree that current laws must be strengthened, but corporate leaders make the big bucks for leading, and at some point, they have to muster the spine to dig in their heels and not capitulate to shakedown artists, thugs and extremists.
But beyond just resisting (playing defense), corporations should mount a public relations campaign (go on offense), to reveal the AR ideology for the incoherent mess it is, and to reveal the ties of the more prominent Animal Rights groups (especially PeTA and HSUS) to terrorists and terrorist organizations. It shouldn't cost that much money to do, and it would be highly effective.
The model for doing so is in place.
And don't expect "mainstream" animal rights leaders--if that is the proper word--to be of any help. Most have stood mutely by as their movement's fringe has grown increasingly ruthless. PETA has explicitly refused to condemn tertiary targeting and has even compared lawlessness in the name of animal rights to the efforts of the Underground Railroad and the French Resistance. Nor have the rank and file made an audible fuss about terrorism committed in furtherance of their cause. This general silence is beginning to sound an awful lot like cheering--calling into question the peaceable nature of the entire animal-rights movement.
PeTA's history leads me to suspect that failing to condemn violence in behalf of the AR cause isn't their worst sin by any stretch, and hardly an ambivalent act: After all, PeTA does have ties to terrorists, and they are every bit as inclined to target and relentlessly pursue individuals as is SHAC: recently, for example, PeTA targeted the CEO of Wet Seal and his wife, providing their address and phone number on-line and inviting children to send him and his wife messages that Wet Seal should stop selling cloths containing fur.
Once PeTA fingers a target, the target has reason to fear receiving more than black balloons and polite messages encouraging him to toe PeTA's line . . . there's a large pool of anonymous useful idiots out there, any one of whom might get the idea to extend PeTA's call for action beyond mail and phone harassment to violence — a possibility the target can't rule out — and therein lies PeTA's ability to intimidate and coerce, while retaining plausible deniability.
In any event, I continue to think President Kinney's precipitous decision for the NYSE not to list Life Sciences to be a watershed moment. The country cannot afford to have Animal Rights extremists — or extremists of any persuasion, for that matter — be able to manipulate the stock market through the use of violence, intimidation and coercion.