Animal Protection > ALF Foes

May 25, 2005
Taking out the trash post 9/11
By Leana Stormont

Last week, a top FBI official cited violence by environmental and animal rights extremists as "one of today's most serious domestic terrorism threats." Down the road from Capitol Hill, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released the results of an 11-month undercover investigation into a primate laboratory in Vienna, Va., run by Covance, Inc. Between the Covance employees who strike, choke, slam and curse at terrified monkeys and the people who illegally liberate similarly situated animals, who is more violent (watch the footage at www.covancecruelty.com and decide for yourself)?

This week the government of Brazil released disturbing figures showing that the Amazon rain forest is being destroyed at the rate of nine football fields every minute. The plants and animals that comprise more than 30 percent of the Earth's total biodiversity are being evicted to make room for ranchers and herds of cattle. How will we explain to our grandchildren that we traded environmental diversity for bacon double cheeseburgers and Big Macs?

Closer to home, George W. Bush opened up 58.5 million acres of pristine national forest land to vested interests who want to transect those forests with roads so they can drive around in search of oil. In addition, House Republicans are preparing to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act.

Covance, loggers, factory farmers and members of our own government are terrorizing the Earth and its nonhuman animal inhabitants. If these people did a better job of safeguarding our world, groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front would be less inclined to take the law into their own hands. Vested interests and the politicians who represent them have no one but themselves to blame for desperate activists taking desperate measures.

Fomenting violence

The fact that activists are resorting to criminal behavior does not surprise me. John F. Kennedy said it best -- "Those who make nonviolent revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable." For years, animal and environmental organizations have begged, pleaded, sued and attempted to reason with industries that exploit the Earth and its inhabitants. These struggles have proven one thing: Capitalism does not have a functioning conscience. Apparently neither do some politicians. Reason and compassion are no match for greed and free trade. Activists that inflict serious financial damage are communicating with vested interests in the only language they understand: the bottom line.

It is a sad statement that criminal activity is needed to get these people's attention. No one wants to fight like that. These people are only doing what any observer of history could have predicted: They are adopting lawless behavior because they feel they have no other choice. I suspect that groups like ALF and ELF would love nothing more than to refrain from engaging in illegal activity. They reluctantly embrace these tactics as a last resort because "traditional" avenues of social change have failed.

It is also regrettable that activists who do not engage in illegal activities have become targets of domestic terrorism investigations. Several months ago I learned that law enforcement officers were stealing my garbage. I have been photographed and videotaped by law enforcement officials at legitimate educational events. This landfill subterfuge and video surveillance is due to my vocal opposition to animal research following the break-in at Spence Labs. Such are the consequences of exercising my First Amendment rights in post-Sept. 11 America. My opinions may be unpopular, but as an American I have every right to express them. The wide net that federal law enforcement officials have cast following the break-in at Spence should frighten anyone who values the civil liberties that this country was founded upon.

Feeling safer?

Frankly, the notion that animal rights activists are "violent terrorists" would be laughable if the magnitude and ubiquity of animal suffering today was not so heartbreaking. More than 1 million animals are killed in the United States every hour for food. That comes to 10 billion animals per year. The animals' lives are marked by abject misery, and they are slaughtered in unspeakably profane ways. Millions more are killed in hideous experiments, hunted and slaughtered for their fur. It is sublimely perverse that by openly sharing my ethic of compassion, I could be considered a suspect of terrorism. My work with animal rights and other social justice movements aims to save life, not to indiscriminately destroy it -- which is what real terrorists do.

I only can assume that the FBI now knows my dirty, and for that matter, smelly secret. My garbage has undoubtedly provided law enforcement with prima facie evidence that I consume my fair share of veggie burgers and soy milk, and I have several cats that make dutiful and regular deposits to their litter boxes.

Do you feel safer knowing that federal law enforcement resources are being spent sorting through my discarded soy-milk containers and cat litter? I know I don't.

Reach Leanna Stormont, a recent University of Iowa law graduate and former president of the Iowa Law Student Animal League Defense Fund, at leana stormont@aol.com.