Des Moines Register
August 12, 2013
State Fair butter cow doused in red paint; animal rights group takes credit
Animal rights group spokesman: 'We certainly applaud their efforts'
The Iowa State Fair’s beloved butter cow sculpture looks as good as new after
vandals covered the icon in red paint early Sunday. The cow, a fair tradition
since 1911, cleaned up well after the dousing. Vandals from the group Iowans for
Animal Liberation attempted to churn controversy over factory farms by scrawling
"Freedom For All" on a glass window in the display.
"It's sad, because the butter cow is iconic of the Iowa State Fair," said Lori
Chappell, Iowa State Fair marketing director, who added: "No one was hurt; no
one was injured. The butter cow is fine." Security has increased at the building
since the incident, and better locks have been installed, Chappell said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said he had just seen the butter
cow Monday morning, which he said is "emblematic of the greatness of the fair."
He said he wanted to deliver a message to the vandals. "I think to the people
who did the distressing of the whole fun at the fair, two words: Get real,"
Animal Liberation Front supporter Jerry Vlasak, however, praised the vandalism
of the butter cow as a "reminder that there are people opposed to the eating of
meat and dairy and that the meat and dairy industry is inordinately cruel."
Vlasak is a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Press Office, which is not
directly affiliated with the Animal Liberation Front, but makes available four
spokesman who publicly discuss Animal Liberation Front’s views and actions with
the news media.
No arrests have been made in the weekend incident. Police are reviewing
camera footage of the building’s exterior as part of the investigation, Iowa
State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright said. Sculptor Sarah Pratt received a call around
4 a.m. Sunday, shortly after the vandalism was discovered. Pratt was putting the
finishing touches on the cow by the time the Agriculture Building opened at 9
a.m., Chappell said. "We didn't miss a beat," she said.
Officials can't recall the butter cow ever being defaced, though someone made a
failed attempt to place a note on the cow a few years ago. The note slipped off
the the slick surface. "That didn't work so well," Chappell said.
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A group that calls itself Iowans for Animal Liberation claimed responsibility
for the vandalism in an email to the Des Moines Register. The email stated group
members hid in the Agriculture Building until it closed.
"After dismantling the lock to the refrigerated case housing the Butter Cow with
a screwdriver, we doused the entire butter sculpture in red paint," the email
said. "The paint represents the blood of 11 billion animals murdered each year
in slaughterhouses, egg farms, and dairies."
It is unclear if Iowans for Animal Liberation is the same group or related to
The Animal Liberation Front, which has taken credit for previous acts of
vandalism related to animal rights. The Animal Liberation Front has been active
in Iowa before. The group, which has ties to larger organizations in Canada and
the United Kingdom, claimed responsibility for vandalism at a University of Iowa
psychology laboratory in November 2004.
The group removed more than 400 animals, mostly laboratory rats and mice, from
Spence Laboratories. They poured acid on research documents and destroyed
computers. The group later released an email which contained the names of
researchers, their home addresses, telephone numbers and names of their spouses.
No arrests were made. University of Iowa officials at the time estimated damage
of about $400,000.
In September 2000, the Canadian wing of the Animal Liberation Front released
14,000 mink from a fur farm in Chickasaw County. Though the group claimed credit
for the release, authorities were not able to find individuals responsible for
the release. No arrests were made in that incident.
In October 2001, the group claimed responsibility for release of mink in
Ellsworth, Sioux City and New Hampton. The Ellsworth farm of Metta Nelson was
hit twice in that month and said at the loss of animals would like run the farm
out of business.
Vlasak, the Animal Liberation spokesman, said he does not know who committed the
vandalism at the Iowa State Fair or any other protest action, but is willing to
explain the reasons behind the actions. "We certainly applaud their efforts,"
Vlasak said. Extreme protests are necessary because the meat and dairy
industries have more money than animal rights activists and often use that money
to influence lawmakers to stifle efforts to expose animal conditions at
livestock operations, Vlasak said.
"We now have laws in this country that make it illegal to video tape the
cruelties and horrors of animal rendering or take pictures of the things that
are being done to animals - legal or illegal," Vlasak said.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a law that prohibited people from using false
pretenses to gain access to agriculture facilities. Early versions of the bill
would have banned creation, possession and distribution of recordings inside
agriculture facilities. The final law, Iowa Code 717A.3A, only makes it illegal
to lie to get into a farm operation.
Vlasak compared the actions of the butter cow vandals to former South African
President Nelson Mandela and U.S. civil rights advocates of the 1950s and 1960s.
"If you look at apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was a respected lawyer
and worked in the system for years, but realized he wasn’t getting anywhere and
went to an underground revolutionary group to make real change and spent decades
in prison," Vlasak said. "There is always a need for different strategies when
fighting injustice. We have people who are willing to risk their freedom to
damage those who are abusing animals."
Tom Colvin, executive director of the Animal Rescue League in Des Moines,
condemned vandalizing the butter cow. Such extreme actions hurt the overall
effort to protect animals in society, he said.
"There are processes to go through to make your point known," he said. "Quite
frankly, it’s situations like this -- attacking beloved Iowa traditions like the
butter cow -- are not going to get the general public on your side. They have a
reverse effect." Colvin said such protest actions often hurt the Animal Rescue
League as well as other animal rights organizations who work within the law.
"Hopefully, people recognize extremism when they see it, but we all get lumped
in together sometimes," Colvin said. "When you see that mentality most often is
when we are working with the Iowa Legislature and we tend to get seen as
extremists. It’s unfortunate."
Colvin added that officials from the Animal Rescue League and the Iowa
Federation of Humane Societies walk the Iowa State Fair Grounds daily and report
any incidents of concern to the barn supervisors. The patrol is a partnership
between the animal rights groups and fair officials, Colvin said. "It doesn’t
have to be an incident of cruelty -- just something that’s objectionable,"
Colvin said. "This is something we worked on with the Fair Board and it was
something they wanted. It’s one of the ways we make the event safer and more
comfortable for animals."
Contact: (213) 640-5048
Animal Liberation Press Office
3371 Glendale Blvd #107
Los Angeles, CA 90039
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