Earlier this year, Jerry Vlasak was denied entry to Great Britain where he planned to attend an animal rights convention. The UK was concerned that Vlasak might incite violence based on his history of advocating the murder of medical researchers.
The specific context of that concern was a statement Vlasak made at Animal Rights 2003 in Los Angeles. Numerous newspapers reported that Vlasak had said at that event,
I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many … I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives.
This was a straightforward advocacy on Vlasak’s part, but instead of coming clean Vlasak decided to play word games. He wasn’t advocating murder, he claimed, he was simply making a factual statement about the likely effect of such a campaign of murder against medical researchers. Vlasak even put out a press release denouncing UK paper The Observer for suggesting otherwise. In that press release, Vlasak said,
I was outraged by Jamie Doward’s article in the Observer stating that I, a medical doctor who spends my entire life SAVING lives, is calling for or encouraging the assassination or killing of any being, human or non human. Mr Doward has libeled me and I am going to meet with an attorney to discuss my options. This just proves that in order for the government and the biomedical industry to continue making billions of dollars off the tax payers, they will go to any lengths (even smearing a doctor) in order to continue their needless and scientifically fraudulent experiments causing the horrific suffering, abuse, neglect, exploitation and death to millions of primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and other animals.
Did Vlasak advocate murder? This is where things get a bit odd. In early October both myself and Brian O’Connor, who writes the excellent anti-animal rights blog Animal Crackers, received the same anonymous package in the mail. The package consisted of an audio CD along with a letter. The letter explained that the person sending the package had been in attendance at AR 2003 and was shocked at the things Vlasak said. So shocked, in fact, that it changed his/her mind to some extent about the animal rights movement. Moreover, the letter claimed that the quote from AR 2003 being widely circulated was simply the tip of the iceberg and that the rest of Vlasak’s comments — included on the audio CD — were far more damaging and needed to be more widely distributed.
To be honest, my first reaction was that this was likely a hoax. A bit of online research, however, turned up the fact that the audio recordings of the AR 2003 convention was made by a company that specializes in recording such conventions at hotels. Moreover, the voice on the audio sounded fairly similar to other recordings of Vlasak’s voice available on the Internet. Finally, the audio includes crowd reaction and questions and answers, so if it was fake, it was a pretty elaborate one. I figure I’m pretty small potatoes to go to such lengths. If Vlasak or anyone connected with him would like to dispute the authenticity of the recording, they are free to do so and I will certainly make such objections public. The recording, however, appears to be genuine.
You can listen to it here in MP3 format (you might want to right click on that link and save to your desktop and play from there).
A number of other sites have re-published the partial transcript of the 5 minute CD that the person who sent it included, but here’s a full transcript of the excerpt,
Vlasak: Well, just a brief comment about that. There’s a woman here in the United States who is serving, I think, a 20 year prison sentence for basically doing the same thing here in the United States. I think she took a ballpeen hammer and beat on the radar antenna of some fighter jet somewhere in some base. And she didn’t get exonerated and she is serving a very long sentence.
But what I was going to say is I think… First of all, for those of you who don’t know me, I am a former vivisector and I speak out against vivisection now. But that said, I think there is a use for violence in our movement. And I think it can be an effective strategy. Not only is it morally acceptable, I think that there are places where it could be used quite effectively from a pragmatic standpoint.
For instance, if vivisectors were routinely being killed, I think it would give other vivisectors pause in what they were doing in their work – and if these vivisectors were being targeted for assassination, and call it political assassination or what have you, I think if — and I wouldn’t pick some guy way down the totem pole, but if there were prominent vivisectors being assassinated, I think that there would be a trickle-down effect and many, many people who are lower on that totem pole would say, ‘I’m not going to get into this business because it’s a very dangerous business and there’s other things I can do with my life that don’t involve getting into a dangerous business.’ And I think that the — strictly from a fear and intimidation factor, that would be an effective tactic.
And I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many vivisectors before you would see a marked decrease in the amount of vivisection going on. And I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human animals.
And I — you know – people get all excited about, “Oh what’s going to happen when – the ALF accidentally kills somebody in an arson?” Well, you know I mean — I think we need to get used to this idea. It’s going to happen, okay? It’s going to happen.
Female speaker 1: That’s just like the pro-life movement killing abortion doctors.
Vlasak: Absolutely. I think they had a great strategy going.
Female speaker 1: That ruined their movement, though.
Vlasak: It didn’t ruin their movement. Their movement is still out there.
Female speaker 2: I just have a question for you, and its not a judgment on what you just said. I’m just curious, do you think that you deserved to be murdered when you were vivisecting?
Vlasak: I think I was fair game. I was doing . . . What I was doing was wrong, and if I was murdered . . . I don’t have a problem with that. I mean, I was lucky because I educated myself. I became educated. Someone came up to me one day and told me about this. But I told many other people about it, and they haven’t been able – willing – to change.
And I, unlike Andrew who I like and respect, I don’t have a lot of faith in the human race and in people in general in our society. I think, in my experience, somewhere around 85 percent of all the people in our society will never ever change no matter what you do to them, no matter what you show them, no matter what you tell them. The only reason they will ever change is because they are afraid to keep doing what they’re doing.
My sister-in-law is a classic example. My sister-in-law wears fur, okay. She has a fur coat. My wife and I had spoken to her over and over and over again about the whole issue. Shown her the videos. We’ve shown her the pictures of the animals suffering. She doesn’t care. The only reason she does not wear her fur coat, and the only reason she does not go out and buy more fur coats over the years, is that she’s afraid somebody from PETA is going to throw red paint on her fur coat. She is afraid of that.
She told us. She goes, “The only reason I don’t wear my fur coat, the only reason I keep it in storage. . .”, and she won’t even take it out of storage, is because she’s afraid.
Female speaker 3: How do you make the decision about who you’re going to target, because . . .
Vlasak: Oh, I don’t know. I mean . . . I’m not going to do it, but I’m saying whoever would do that would very tactically select the people they think . . .
After reading the transcript and listening to the audio, I think it’s pretty clear why Vlasak apparently hasn’t pursued any action on his libel suit. If anything, Doward’s article failed to go far enough in detailing the Vlasak’s pathology.
In October, Vlasak appeared on an Australian debate program in which he reaffirmed these views, showing that he hasn’t changed his mind since AR 2003,
JENNY BROCKIE: So would you take a human life to save an animal life, is this what you are saying?
JERRY VLASAK: I am not saying that’s never going to happen.
JENNY BROCKIE: That’s pretty close to what you said in the quote.
JERRY VLASAK: Would I advocate taking five guilty vivisector’s lives to save hundreds of millions of innocent animal lives? Yes, I would.
Hmmm. So Vlasak said the that the Observer libeled him when it claimed he advocated murder. Then Vlasak reaffirms that he does indeed advocate murder. So Vlasak was lying earlier when he tried to whitewash his comments.
Wow, Jerry Vlasak lying — must be a weekday.
Kill scientists, says animal rights chief. Jamie Doward, The Observer (UK), July 25, 2004.
Dr Jerry Vlasak replies to media libel. Press release, SPEAK, July 25, 2004.