"Should there be a worldwide ban on hunting?" Such was the question facing Mr. Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA and Andrew Butler in their debate of October 18, a debate whose announcement I discussed here, entitled "The NRA Declares War on PeTA."
At the time, I was mightily impressed that Mr. LaPierre seemed to have picked out a great number of PeTA's vulnerabilities and was prepared to exploit them. As I wrote then:
[ . . . ]
I find several things interesting about the letter: first, he's [Mr. LaPierre] done his homework — and his take on PeTA is very much my own, and judging by the revelations they've made about PeTA, that of the people at the Center for Consumer Freedom as well.
In short, Mr. LaPierre is going on the attack, and from the sounds of things, he's going well armed.
Second, while Mr. LaPierre certainly emphasizes issues that are directly of interest to his constituency, viz., PeTA's threat to hunting and fishing, his letter goes far beyond championing those activities: he views as threats Animal Rights attacks on medical research; he is alarmed about PeTA's successful efforts to recruit kids to the AR cause by infiltrating schools and through their (PeTA's) websites and printed materials; he is concerned about PeTA's assaults on the food industry; he notes PeTA's hypocrisy at killing of animals in their shelter; he points to the arrests of two PeTA employees for illegally killing and dumping animals in dumpsters; and he stresses, particularly, PeTA's financial support of ALF and ELF.
Third, Mr. LaPierre notes that most people don't have a clue about what PeTA's agenda is. And he's right — how many people know of PeTA's financial connections to ALF and ELF?
Fourth, Mr. LaPierre wants the debate widely publicized, and he wants the results of the debate (audio and video recordings will be available) and transcripts (I believe) to be as widely distributed as possible.
[ . . . ]
I was unable to view the debate as it happened, and (to my discredit) am only now following through on my good intentions to obtain a copy of it, so I can't give my first-hand impressions of what actually transpired. Be that as it may, I've transcribed an article that appears in the December issue of the NRA magazine "America's 1st Freedom" in which the NRA claims victory.
On the one hand, the story cannot be considered to have been written by a "disinterested third party," so the reader is forewarned about nuance and to keep in mind that the NRA will present Mr. LaPierra's case in its best light, and Butler's in a less-than-best light.
But having said that, there are two points I wish to make: first, Mr. LaPierre went on the attack, and did not limit his comments to defending hunting.
Second, I've been unable to find any mention of Mr. LaPierre or the debate on PeTA's website —searching PeTA using "NRA" I got 8 hits, several for the same article, none of which was related to the debate; searching PeTA using "LaPierre" returned only 4 hits, none for Wayne LaPierre. Nor can I find any reference to the debate on the NRA site.
In any event, here's my transcription of the article (any typos are mine):
[ . . . ]
The event was held as a pay-per-view special, with each side making an 8-minute opening statement and a 6-minute closing statement, with the interim given to a debate over questions from moderator Paul Lavers as well as several questions from audience members.
As head of the largest hunting representation group in America, LaPierre has led the National Rifle Association to prominence as the voice of America's hunters and gun owners; as spokesman for one of the largest anti-hunting groups in the world, Butler came prepared to regurgitate PETA's litany of animal "rights" ephemera based solely on emotion, while lacking any hint of scientific profundity.
Most are familiar with PETA's infamous publicity stunts—as was to be expected there were moments of sublime audacity on PETA's part that will be discussed later—but a funny thing happened during the debate that night: LaPierre deftly shifted the course of the proceedings from a debate on hunting to a debate on the true character of PETA.
. . . in his opening statement LaPierre quickly dispensed with any argument that hunting is detrimental to the wild world while PETA is somehow its savior:
"It is an undisputed fact that nobody invests more money in wildlife conservation than hunters; close to $30 billion to date," LaPierre said. In contrast, PETA has spent virtually nothing to buy land for wildlife, to sponsor wildlife restoration or wildlife research, habitat conservation, species protection, game law enforcement or anything else, he noted.
"But you can't discuss how PETA is bad for animals without disclosing how PETA is worse for mankind." Everywhere in the world PETA wants to shut down hunting seasons on animals, and shut down institutions that serve and protect humanity.
This is a good transition — Mr. LaPierre does, indeed, broaden the debate beyond hunting . . . and then proceeds to open PeTA's record up for examination, an examination that apparently followed the script Mr. LaPierre had outlined in the NRA letter announcing the debate (op cit).
LaPierre then stepped up pressure on the lunacy at the heart of PETA's agenda, which the group is forcing on the world's impressionable youth. He described how PETA wants much more than to take a fishing pole from every child's hand, take away cats and dogs, ban milk from breakfast, and shut down all circuses, zoos and aquariums.
PeTA isn't "forcing" their agenda on the world's impressionable youth. They are selling their agenda to the world's impressionable youth, using tried-and-true propaganda techniques.
There is no need for this sort of hyperbole when a more accurate description, one no less onerous, exists.
"PETA wants to stop all medical advancements that use animal research in any way. That would eliminate almost every major medical achievement in the 20th century," he said.
"If a loved one needs treatment for diabetes, heart disease, infection or chronic pain; if a loved one needs dialysis, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, a pacemaker, bypass surgery, or a corneal implant; if you or your children ever need a heart, liver, lung or kidney transplant; PETA says 'tough.'
This is not exactly true . . . PeTA says "tough" for improving whatever treatments and diagnostic tools we have for those maladies, if it means using animals. The intention of PeTA, and other AR groups, is to freeze therapeutic and diagnostic tools in place — but the effect would be for the effectiveness of at least some of those tools to errode slowly (for example, bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, which means that we constantly need to find new ones if we are to maintain current levels of protection, much less discover newer and more effective antibiotics).
"If PETA had their way, there'd be no vaccine for polio, rabies, smallpox or a dozen other diseases. And if PETA has their way now, there may never be a cure for AIDS, Alzheimer's, cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis or any other human suffering.
Agreed. SHAC's Mr. Josh Harper and Ms Janet Tomlinson can each thank their luck stars that PeTA et al were not successful for stopping the research that they benefit from. (Mr. Harper's "Support Committee" did benefit from a $5,000 contribution from PeTA, however.)
"Just a couple of months ago the World Health Organization, for the first time in history, had a chance to avert a worldwide pandemic. The deadly H5N1 bird flu was about to bust out of Southeast Asia. If it did, they prredicted up to 50 million people would die. But just in time, modern science moved in to distribute powerful antiviral drugs and destroy countless flu-carrying birds. If PETA had their way, there would be no drug, those infected birds would've spread the disease and millions of people would be dead. Maybe some of us here tonight. This isn't theoretical stuff."
If the world operated the way PeTA says it should, the chickens wouldn't have been killed: let's not forget PeTA's Holocaust on Your Plate campaign. On the other hand, if PeTA were faced with millions of infected chickens, they might have killed them as easily as, and with similarly clear consciences as, they do dogs and cats at their Norfolk "shelter."
LaPierre then set Butler backpedaling by revealing the shadowy ties PETA has to two violent groups, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). He noted that PETA tax filings reveal contributions to violent extremists who have reportedly committed firebomb attacks and caused $100 million in destruction.
"The eco-terrorism movement is so dangerous, the FBI has declared it America's No. 1 domestic terrorist threat. Eco-terrorists have upstaged al-Qaeda as the greatest terrorist threat on American soil.
"The tragedy is: it's working. Medical research didn't budget for security against terrorists. Our most promising labs shut down. Studies on the verge of medical breakthrough screech to a halt. We are losing our best minds to their madness.
I do wish Mr. LaPierre and the NRA would either specify which promising labs are shutting down, and which research is grinding to a halt, or quit with the hyperbole. It's not necessary. There are profoundly disturbing examples showing how radical AR groups do business, and how effective they are, without resorting to unsubstantiated exaggerations. The recent New York Stock Exchange fiasco is one such example, the attacks on University of Iowa researchers and their labs a second example, and the attacks on fox and mink farms yet two more. Other examples abound . . .
"And that madness is being carefully packaged and pitched to our kids." LaPierre then showed the audience several handouts PETA distributes to kids at elementary schols, telling children their mommy is an animal killer, encouraging kids to pet rats, and showing them ways that they themselves can be an "animal rights rebel."
Asked by moderator Paul Lavers, "If PETA funds terrorism and permits terrorism to support its ends, how can you stand here today and say you're not terrorists?" Butler attempted to deflect the question by responding, "PETA has never made a donation to either of the groups that Mr. LaPierre accuses us of. What we have done in the past is made a select few donations to individuals for their legal defense, and this was in cases where those individuals were being prevented from speaking up on behalf of animals." (Emphasis added.)
Mr. Butler made a tactical error, though I get the impression it wouldn't have mattered what he'd said — Mr. LaPierre had his evidentiary ducks well ordered, and he was going to parade them before the audience, come hell or high water.
And that is precisely the way you counter Animal Rights activists.
So Mr. LaPierre gets full marks plus extra credit for his relentless pursuit of PeTA's indiscretions:
La Pierre, however, had evidence—nothing short of IRS records—proving PETA had in fact made donations to the violent groups ALF and ELF, as well as their agents, and not just for legal defense.
"Just follow the money," LaPierre said.
"IRS records show PETA gave money to (ELF) just a month before it set a $5 million fire at the University of Washington's Urban Horticulture Center in 2001," LaPierre said. "That same year, ELF also firebombed a Vail, Colo., ski resprt, causing $12 million in damage. When reporters made the connection in 2002, Andrew Butler said that the funds were 'used for legal defense as support for caring individals who are entitled to their day in court.'"
LaPierre went on. "Rodney Coronado of (ALF) got almost 5 years in prison for a multi-million dollar firebombing at Michigan State University. But not before PETA gave $45,000 to his 'support committee' and another $25,000 to Coronado's father.
PeTA's Lisa Lange admitted to Fox News in 2003 that PETA gave money to ELF in 2003, the same year ELF set fire to condominiums under construction near San Diego," Lapierre said. "$50 million in damages.
"PETA gave $5,000 to defend an ALF activist convicted of assaulting a police officer in 2004." After reading off a litany of other ALF and ELF offenses, LaPierre then turned up the heat on PETA's top brass.
And this is masterful — going from "what PeTA did and who they support" to "what the PeTA leaders say and have said."
What Mr. LaPierre does here is to link words with actions — or rather, actions with words.
I think the sequence is important: the shock-value of the deeds themselves captures the audience's attention. Once they are attentive, then Mr. LaPierre links the deeds to the words of PeTA's Friedrich and Newkirk. It is impossible for the objective reader not to see effect-from-cause here, or something close to it:
"Let me quote PETA campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich," LaPierre said. "Blowing stuff up and smashing windows' is 'a great way to bring about animal liberation. I think it would be great if all the fast food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it's perfectly appropriate to take bricks and toss them through the windows. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.'
"PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said, "I don't condemn them as long as no one gets hurt; I understand their frustration.' And she went on to say, 'You can't legally deface someone's property, but if you're somewhere and no one's looking, go ahead.' Newkirk told PETA members not to cooperative with FBI investigations."
Revealed as a group that funds radicals and is opposed to animal research that has found, and continues to find, cures for the most devastating diseases humanity has known, PETA spokesman Butler could muster only a few facile arguments as to why hunting should be outlawed.
Butler tried to argue that one, hunters only kill the largest and most healthy animals and put animal populations in peril; two, hunters use hollow-point ammo so they can make prey suffer; three, hunting is a throwback to Stone Age life and humans as a species would be more evolved; and four, animals deserve the same right that humans have.
LaPierre quickly proved PETA's total misunderstanding of the fundamentals of hunting. "Trophy hunting encourages taking only mature animals who've been through several breeding cycles," LaPierre responded to Butler's first assumption. "By defnintion that's the biggest, oldest most dominant male."
As to the use of hollow-point ammo, LaPierre noted that hunters use bullets—including hollow-points—that expand on impact, to help insure that they take game swiftly and with the least amount of suffering.
If Butler really said that hunters use expanding bullets "so they can make prey suffer" he's either deliberately lying, or so ignorant that he shouldn't be speaking on the topic.
If you check around on chat rooms for hunters, there can be no question that they are constantly fretting about the best bullet to make a quick kill. Flame wars get started over whether one bullet brand or type kills more quickly and humanely than another. This is not a well well-cloaked secret.
During the debate, PETA's Butler attempted to compare the act of hunting with the acts of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer—through such vitriolic language as "slaughtering," "dismembering," and "keeping mementos"—and called it irresponsible for NRA to promote the teaching of hunting to children because, Butler said, "Every school shooting in recent years has been perpetrated by children who have been taken hunting."
The use of incendiary rhetoric is standard fare, designed to achieve by emotional response what cannot be achieved by reason (it is an appeal to emotion).
By likening hunters to human serial killers and cannibals, Mr. Butler assumes as correct the very premise that is in dispute: that humans and animals are morally equivalent, that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value.
And even if it is true that every recent school shooting has been perpetrated by kids who hunted, so what?
There are countless kids who hunt and don't kill humans, just as there are countless kids who drive without killing humans through carelessness or while deliberately driving drunk.
In response to Butler's attempts to equate hunting with deviant behavior, LaPierre said, "The idea that hunting is sadistic and tyrannical is preposterous. Hunting has ben a natural and normal activity for humans for eons."
Yet, in Butler's world, humanity has evolved far beyond the days when man had to hunt for subsistence (which occurs throughout much of the world today). "Wayne seems to think we still live in a Stone Age wilderness where it is still survival of the fittest in the most basic sense...It's time for us to evolve as a species. We have over the years come up with many laws to curb unsavory practices ..."
Mr. Butler's "humanity has evolved" assertion is a variation on the bogus "need" argument: we don't "need" to hunt, so we shouldn't. Well, we don't "need" to do anything, except die, if we're prepared to accept the consequences for not doing it. And the whole point of recreation is that it's done not because it's needed, but because it's enjoyed. In the case of hunting, enjoyment and habitat preservation happen to coincide. Why is that necessarily a bad thing?
In Butler's world, animals as well have evolved to the point to where they have rights just like humans. Asked one audience member, "Over and over I hear PETA's main theme of "We believe in the rights and complete liberation of all animals.' If that happens, will we have animals running rampant, committing nimal crimes? Would animals be fighting or raping or killing each other, or even us? Would we need animal police, animal courtrooms, with animal juries, animal lawyers and animal prisons?"
"I'm very glad we can dispense with the ridiculous tonight," Butler mused. "When we talk about animal rights, we're talking about extending basic consideration for their needs." he said. "Animals don't need the right to vote, nor is it useful for them."
Mr. Butler's lateral arabesque is noted: the issue isn't whether or not animals should have a "right to vote" (there is no such right . . .), but whether or not they have some right to the same sort of protections that we, in western society, generally accord human beings. If you believe that the life of an animal and that of a human are equally valuable, they you will agree with Mr. Butler. But that takes you into some very dark places.
For example, the logic flowing from the premise can be used to justify killing some few human beings to save a greater number of animals. This is why Dr. Vlasak believes it's morally acceptable (reaffirmed in testimony before the Senate's EPW Committee) to kill a small number of scientists to save a larger number of animals — each life is of equal value, and if you can kill "n" humans and save "n + 1" animals, you tip the moral scales towards virtue.
We see the same problem emerging when Professor Steven Best says he would save his dog from a burning house before he'd save a human stranger because his dog is more important to him than the human stranger is to him.
Professor Best is merely following the logic of his premise: since his dog's life and the human's life are equally valuable, the important thing is to save a life, not a particular one. And if his dog pleasures him, well, that's just tough nuts for the human — perhaps your child, spouse, parent, sib or friend! Dr. Best will have fulfilled his moral obligation by saving the life that makes his life more enjoyable. (That's Professor Best's "Me First!" ethic [op cit] in practice.)
This rhetorical question wasn't the only moment of levity that evening, as when an audience member and obvious PETA supporter mentioned a web site that features a study that links hunting with a bogus disorder known as "diminutive male genitalia disorder."
The quip brought laughter to the room, even from LaPierre himself, who pointed out the study was an April Fool's prank perpetrated by PETA. He then warned, "Don't be distracted by the bathroom jokes. PETA is a very real organization whose agenda spells dire consequences for humankind."
Several times throughout the debate, PETA's Butler attempted to malign hunting by comparing it to acts such as slavery that humanity has evolved past. And Wayne LaPierre pointed out a PETA ad campaign that equates eating meat with the Holocaust, during which Nazi Germany slaughtered over 6 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other human beings.
"I've been called a 'radical' here today," Butler told the crowd gathered. "Well, I think the suffragettes were called radical. The abolitionists were called radicals. I think that animal 'rights' is an idea ahead of its time. But I don't mind standing here and being called a radical in that context."
Like most words in our language, however, "radical" can be defined several ways, and while undoubtedly Butler would like to align himself with such luminary figures as Susan B. Anthony and Abraham Lincoln, LaPierre was quick to note the sort of "radical" with which the majority of right-headed people place those who support criminal violence.
Indeed. Proclaiming one's pride in being a radical misses the point entirely: there have been good radicals and bad ones. Mr. Butler cannot claim virtue simply because his ideology is radical, and it's silly of him to try.
Is he so contemptuous of his followers that he expects them not to see his rhetorical ploy for what it is, and are his followers so shallow, so unskeptical, that they live down to his expectations?
In his closing argument, over a brief outburst by several PETA supporters, LaPierre drove home the future of a group of "radicals" who resort to violence in an attempt to reach their goals.
"In poll after poll, people rreject the bizarre beliefs you want to impose upon us. Andevery time a bomb goes off or a business burns or a scientists gets mugged, you lose even more," LaPierre said. "That's why I came here. To expose PETA for what it truly represents. If people learn the truth about this movement, they will never, ever carry the day."
I think Mr. LaPierre is almost entirely correct — the trick is to educate the public about exactly what the AR people believe, and to expose the ties of organizations like PeTA to ALF, ELF and SHAC. And the best way to do this is to play a little offense: if your company is threatened by PeTA, launch a counter campaign, complete with counter demonstrators.
Picket PeTA! Reveal PeTA for who they are, what they stand for, and what they do with their money. Use handbills, signs, radio and TV spots — hells bells — hand out t-shirts, coffee mugs and bumper stickers!
Give (especially) PeTA the publicity they crave!
UPDATE — 12/5/05: I've looked at a few AR chat rooms, and those AR supporters who saw the debate are disappointed in how ill-prepared Mr. Butler appeared to be. The fact is that Mr. Butler was helpless when confronted by the facts. Mr. LaPierre nailed him, and with him, PeTA.