The Virginian-Pilot ran an article in June about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ apparent growing concern about accusation that it funds and/or supports animal rights terrorism.
Reporter Bill Burke notes that for once Ingrid Newkirk has been keeping a low profile on this topic and letting PETA’s general counsel, Jeffrey S. Kerr, field all press inquiries about the allegations. Kerr tells Burke,
The whole notion that PETA supports terrorism is false and defamatory. When you use the word ‘terror,’ look at the terror inflicted on billions of animals in this country every year. That’s real terror.
. . .
They’re [PETA's opponents] trying to smear us any way they can.
In a letter to a House subcommittee investigating ecoterror, Kerr wrote that it “is an insult to the victims of Sept. 11th” to suggest that PETA fosters terrorism. “It is reprehensible for PETA’s opponents to equate peaceful and lawful animal protection with al-Quaida or any other type of terrorism, and to exploit that tragedy for expedient political gain.”
In other words, when PETA’s point man on fur, Dan Matthews, said he admired serial killer Andrew Cunanan “because he got Versace to stop doing fur” — that must have been some other Dan Matthews working for some other animal rights group.
And when Bruce Friedrich told an audience at Animal Rights 2001 that while he doesn’t personally advocate animal rights terrorism, “I do advocate it, and I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation” — well, he was probably a victim of some mind control scheme by those evil folks over at The Center for Consumer Freedom.
At the very least, when Ingrid Newkirk was quoted in 1997 as saying, “I wish we all would get up and go into the labs and take the animals out or burn them down,” that was probably a case of mistaken identity. That was really Ingrid Bergman back from the dead saying such vicious things, because everyone knows Ingrid Newkirk would never even think such a thing.
PETA’s press blackout on the terrorism allegations included refusing an interview request with Gary Yourofsky. Yourofsky has an Animal Liberation Front tattoo on his arm and said just over a year ago that animal activists should “not be afraid to condone arsons at places of animal torture” and said that if an animal researcher were killed in such a raid “I would unequivocally support that too.”
That sort of resume makes him perfect material for PETA which hired Yourofsky on as a “humane education presenter” after Yourofsky sent out an e-mail whining that he was broke and leaving the animal rights movement temporarily.
The bottom line is that the widespread support for terrorism within the animal rights movement harms groups and individuals associated with it far more than it poses any credible threat to bringing medical research or animal agriculture to a halt. Fortunately it is not that difficult to make the link since so many prominent animal rights activists apparently see the need to endorse or condone criminal acts in order to appease the extremists who seem to set the agenda within the animal rights movement.
For this reason, The Center for Consumer Freedom’s print ad featuring a Bruce Friedrich quote is easily the most powerful anti-animal rights ad I’ve seen. Hopefully there will be a follow-up with some choice quotes from Yourofsky.
The animal rights movement is intellectually bankrupt on a number of issues, but its willingness to endorse violence and criminal acts makes discrediting the movement to all but the true believers relatively simple. Personally, I’m glad that PETA hired Yourofksy and that Newkirk and Friedrich decided to wax on about their support of terrorism. It certainly makes it much easier to illustrate just how extreme even the most nominally mainstream animal rights organizations are.
Terrorism accusations raise hackles at PETA. Bill Burke, The Virginian-Pilot, June 22, 2002.