Jerry Vlasak, MD, former spokesman for the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is closely tied toPeTA), he who finds assassination morally acceptable and he who openly advocated on TV(!) that some scientists be killed to save a greater number of animal lives, has created a schism in the violent arm of Animal Extremists. Thus, Dr. Vlasak - and Professor Steven Best - have been dissed by the ALF. Dr. Vlasak has also been criticized by Skipper Paul Watson, head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Dr. Vlasak's former friend, for his (Dr. Vlasak's) testimony before a Senate Committee in which he, Dr. Vlasak, reaffirmed his belief that murder was a useful tool to advance the AR cause (op cit). Former allies are now publicly at each each other's throats, all because of Dr. Vlasak's public statements.
In short, Dr. Vlasak drove a wedge into the violent wing of the Animal Rights movement, separating them into one group - a kinder, gentler group - one that confines its "direct actions" to arson, threats, tire slashing, posting personal information (addresses, phone numbers, childrens' names, childrens' schools) on the internet, using paint stripper on cars and other techniques to terrorize targets into compliance on the one hand, and a second arm, a new one, one that would take their cues from Dr. Vlasak who professes his interest in upping the ante to include murder.
The sick soap opera that is coming more and more to define Animal Rights in general and the violent wing of it in particular continues, with this bizarre note, presumably authored by Dr. Vlasak's wife Pamelyn Ferdin, who herself is the new President of SHAC-USA.
The below is my personal opinion, only. I feel it necessary to post this, because only selected individuals chosen by certain people have been privy to some of this information--and I believe that if our movement is going to continue to get stronger, we must allow everyone in the animal liberation community to understand what a selected few are putting out there.
A Press Release was sent out to the media a week ago by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and Paul Watson, denouncing Dr. Vlasak's support of violence such as that used in other sociopolitical struggles--from the fight against Apartheid to that against slavery.
The SSCS press release talks about Watson's "crew," who went out on the ice floes to confront the seal killers-- but never once mentioned that is was Dr. Vlasak who took one of the blows to his face to preserve the footage of the hunt thugs clubbing seals to death.
Nor did the press release mention that it was Dr. Vlasak who acted as the defense attorney for the five SSCS crew members who appeared before the Magistrate and convinced the latter to allow the crew to be released from custody. But it did discuss how Dr. Vlasak was removed as a board director by SSCS for his views..
This is a non-sequitur - the fact that Dr. Vlasak received blows to his face or spoke in defense of the SSCS crew is irrelevant to his support of murder. Not to put too fine a point of it, but Adolph Hitler built some very good roadways . . .
This is a feeble attempt to present Dr. Vlasak as a victim . . .
I understand the SSCS and Paul Watson's desire to distance themselves as much as possible from the views of Dr. Vlasak, but to do so in such a public way by sending out a press release to the media plays right into the hands of those in government who have destroyed other movements by "divide and conquer" tactics.
And yet . . . Dr. Vlasak was the very one whose outspoken ideas about murder forced a debate within the violent wing of the Animal Rights movement that they had long been able to avoid, and, I'd wager, near panic in AR/Eco industry giants like PeTA and the SSCS because of their close ties with Dr. Vlasak.
Dr. Vlasak's logic is just fine, if you accept the AR premise that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value. If you buy into this, what is the argument against killing a small number of scientists in order to intimidate other scientists into abandoning animal-based research?
All Dr. Vlasak did was to confront the violent AR people with the fact that their failure to consider assassination was an arbitrary decision, one that could easily be logic-ed around.
Dr. Vlasak has spent his adult life saving the lives of humans involved in horrific auto accidents; immigrants severely injured by farm equipment; and those involved in shootings and stabbings, most having no medical insurance. He simply believes that not only the ALF, but also other more militant underground animal groups are needed to win animal liberation. These more "militant tactics" are the same tactics espoused by Nelson Mandela, Emily Davison, Malcolm X, Caesar Chavez, and others--but it seems that SSCS and Paul Watson can't distance themselves fast enough from someone who states his support of the same tactics on behalf of animals!
The parallel to champions of human rights presumes that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value. It also ignores the fact that virtually every tyrant history has spawned has justified his actions in terms of one lofty ideology or another. My point is simply this: tactics that might be acceptable for one cause may not be for another. And it certainly seems to be a case of getting the cart before the horse to claim that because I, like (enter name of virtuous model) use violence, my cause is as worthy as his . . .
Instead of simply refraining from commenting, like other leaders of the animal rights movement have done, SSCS has chosen to imply to the media that they are the "good guys" and Dr. Vlasak is the "bad guy." Well, it doesn't change what Dr. Vlasak believes or supports. What it does do, however, is feed into the opposition's lust for division in our movement--which hurts no one more than ourselves and the animals we are fighting to liberate.
Moving on to Alex Hershaft's denunciation of Dr. Vlasak and requesting that 60 Minutes print a retraction regarding Dr. Vlasak's comments, I would like to state that in both Senate hearings and the 60 Minutes piece, Dr.Vlasak was not representing the ALF. In these two unique circumstances, they wanted to speak to Dr. Vlasak directly regarding beliefs held by many in our movement today. These people believe that non-human animals have the same moral standing as humans. The Senators and the 60 Minutes producers simply couldn't believe that Dr. Vlasak--not just a physician, but also a surgeon--supports the same methods used in other struggles to fight against human genocide. Such strategies are indeed deemed morally justified when fighting against human torture and genocide. Neither could they believe that such a point of view was not coming from a young activist with piercings who works at Virgin Records, but rather an older professional. (Alex Hershaft is head of the International Vegetarian Union . . . ed)
Dr. Vlasak is a self-appointed Press Officer of the ALF. If he doesn't speak for them, who does he speak for, absent any disclaimer such as: "I don't speak for the ALF. This is my personal opinion only"?
The fact is that Dr. Vlasak wouldn't have been invited to testify before the Senate or to be interviewed by 60 Minutes had he not placed himself in the position of being a self-appointed ALF spokesman.
Beyond this, Dr. Vlasak may well not be speaking for ALF for one to discern what he's up to: He's interested in recruiting useful idiots to his brand of "direct action," one that includes murder. So one might regard Dr. Vlasak to have launched a competetive venture, one designed to pressure the ALF to become even more radical than it presently is.
First assassination, then bombs to take out train stations or pizza parlors! Hey - if everyone's a target ("There are no innocent lives"), and it works, and it's done for the animals . . .
When Dr. Vlasak agreed to speak before the Senate, some in the movement criticized him for doing so. Dr. Steven Best had the opportunity to speak in front of the same Senate committee three months earlier regarding the ALF, but he declined to do so. No one criticized Dr. Best's decision NOT to speak to the Senate about the animals and the ALF; yet some are quick to criticize Dr. Vlasak's decision to do so. Dr. Vlasak felt that an opportunity to get the message out about the horrors going on in laboratories was worth being put on the "hot seat" and ridiculed for his beliefs and opinions. It took courage to do so and, whether or not others agreed with this decision or what he said, he did this with the best of intentions and answered their questions honestly.
No one questioned Prof. Best's good judgement not to testify because it was good judgement: he couldn't have answered the questions posed to Dr. Vlasak without either abandoing his hard-line position or bringing the wrath of the AR community down upon his philosophical shoulders by being as explicit as Dr. Vlasak was.
Prof. Best saw the trap. Dr. Vlasak did not, or did and was prepared to force the issue. I suspect he wanted to force a debate, force people to take sides, force people who said one thing in private and another in public to "put up or shut up". He succeeded.
In passing, nobody is ridiculing Dr. Vlasak for his words . . . most of us are recoiling in horror at their implications. And that includes the AR people who are now faced with having to defend their associations with the expressive Dr. Vlasak and his murderous bent of mind, and those of us who find the basic AR premise - that the life of an animal and that of a human are equally valuable - to be repugnant, and the thought of people who hold such beliefs openly advocating murder to be terrifying.
It was truly a momentous occasion to have someone in this country speak in front of the Senate EPW committee, with HLS executives in the audience and right next to Dr. Vlasak; to listen to him describe some of the most vile and horrific animal experiments; and to hear him tell them that animal experimentation does nothing to solve human health problems. This was groundbreaking!
Unfortunately, because of Dr. Vlasak's statements to the Senate and then on 60 Minutes, a few (not many, thank goodness) inside the movement began to criticize him. A couple of people even began to launch personal attacks against him and the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (www.animalliberationpressoffice.org).
Groundbreaking it was - it accomplished its purpose, too! It drove that wedge into the violent wing of the AR movement, and it set Dr. Vlasak up as the spiritual leader of the "murder wing."
This has led Dr. Best to resign from the Press Office, leaving him free to concentrate on things like CALA and writing books, at which he is so talented. We must all endeavor to do what we are best at and feel most comfortable with, and I wish Dr. Best luck with all his future endeavors.
Now, this is big news! Even Professor Best has abandoned Dr. Vlasak, and Ms Ferdin is quite happy with his departure.
Notice the disconnect . . . "a few, (not many, thank goodness)" "personal attacks". . . were sufficient to drive Professor Best from his position as a self-appointed ALF Press Officer . . .
The proverbial rats are abandoning the ship, on the transparently flimsy excuse that they were driven out by a few personal attacks . . .
As NAALPO Press Officers, Dr. Vlasak, Camille Hankins, and Angie Metler speak to the media about ALF actions--as well as more militant underground animal liberation actions. I believe they do so with professionalism and dignity. Each and every time the Press Officers are interviewed, they educate journalists about the ALF and its guidelines (if it concerns an ALF action) and answer questions about other groups' actions (i.e.. the bombing at Chiron and the stave attack on Brian Cass). Because the Press Officers are older and certainly don't fit the image of animal rights activists held by many in this country, the Press Office has been able to fill an important niche that is very necessary for a movement such as ours.
Since the new North American Animal Liberation Press Office was formed almost exactly a year ago, the Press Officers have done hundreds of interviews with a mainstream media thirsty to get the other side of the story regarding the philosophy and history behind underground animal liberation actions. We ought to be thankful that Dr. Vlasak, Camille Hankins, and Angi Metler are willing to take the heat and give their time and energy serving as such acritical "spoke" in the animal liberation "wheel.".
". . . take the heat . . ." unlike Professor Best . . .
This is an extremely important time in our movement; the bench mark has been moved once again, just as it was moved when the first arson took place on behalf of animal liberation in this country. When Rod Coronado had the courage to move an earlier "bench mark" by engaging in arson on behalf of our animal brothers and sisters, many in the movement--including some leaders at the time--said that he was hurting the movement and denounced the actions. With Dr. Vlasak stating publicly what many in the animal rights movement have said privately (even those who are now critical of Dr. Vlasak) that political violence would be morally justified on behalf of animal liberation, the "bench mark" has been moved again. This makes not only the opposition, but apparently also a few so-called "leaders" within our movement quite nervous.
And here we have it verified: Dr. Vlasak says in public what many in the cause have said privately.
How very revealing!
And you bet your life that the leaders of the AR movement are now quite nervous about Dr. Vlasak and his mouth. PeTA, for example, received $29 million in contributions in 2004, and Dr. Vlasak is closely tied to them through the PCRM (op cit).
How ready would animal lovers be to contribute to PeTA's ever increasing wealth and influence were they to learn that, in addition to killing animals they take into their shelter willy-nilly, they also are closely tied to the likes of Dr. Vlasak, as well as to other nefarious characters? (And lets not forget that Dr. Vlasak's wife, the author of the present open letter and president of SHAC-USA, carries PCRM business cards . . .).
Ooooops . . .
In closing, I believe that at this time our movement should be especially vigilant and not allow anyone within or outside to use "divide and conquer" techniques, which will simply end up hurting our struggle for animal liberation. Our forefathers fought and died for us to be able to have freedom of speech, and the biggest slap in the face to those who are free speech advocates is to denounce or criticize Dr. Vlasak's right to state his own opinion when asked directly by those interviewing him. I believe that those critics are frantically trying to protect their own interests--i.e., donor dollars.
Of course, by saying publicly what was common discourse within the AR community, Dr. Vlasak is the one who forced the issue. If there is anyone who is divisive, it is he.
And I would argue that he did so intentionally, to bring things to a head.
I would agree with Ms Ferdin that much of the hue and cry against Dr. Vlasak from within the AR community is directly related to the threat of losing contributions. After all, Animal Rights is an industry, quite a profitable one at that, in addition to a loopy philosophy . . .
And the industry, in the form of PeTA and HSUS, for example, wields tremendous coercive power.
Whether or not you agree with the views held by Dr. Vlasak (as well as many others in this movement who are simply too afraid to state them publicly), it's important NOT to resort to publicly denouncing others who are fighting in their own way for animal liberation. I will always remember reading about how, during the fight for women's suffrage, it was other WOMEN who spit in the faces of protesting suffragettes. It's enough for the opposition to be beating up on us--let's not beat up on each other! This is especially salient with resepct to the mainstream media.
Right - don't criticize poor Dr. Vlasak publicly, even when what he does threatens your multimillion dollar industry and your power.
Heh . . .
Thanks for listening...Pamelyn
You're welcome, Pamelyn! Thanks for sharing!
And a happy Thanksgiving to all!
UPDATE: Corrected for clarity 11/25/05. Edited for style 11/27/05