THE FURY OF RADICAL ANIMAL liberationists is growing, leading them to acts of brazen lawlessness and flagrant vigilantism. In the United Kingdom, a farm family that raised guinea pigs for medical testing was subjected to years of personal threats and property vandalism by animal liberationists. The family had courageously refused to be intimidated, but when the liberationists robbed the grave of a beloved relative and refused to give the body back, they had finally had enough. Seeing no relief in sight, and desperately wanting to be left alone, the family gave in.
It is understandable that a single family would capitulate in the face of such extreme intimidation. One would, however, expect the leaders of powerful institutions, such as the New York Stock Exchange, to stand firm against such brown-shirt tactics. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Big Board actually showed less courage than the British farm family--they capitulated before even being protested. In a shocking act of appeasement, the NYSE reversed its decision to list the medical testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences (renamed Life Sciences Research) after being threatened by animal liberationists.
The NYSE fiasco is merely the latest triumph for a small radical cadre of vegan thugs called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which has vowed to drive Life Sciences Research out of business because it tests drugs on animals. Toward this end, SHAC activists hit upon a vicious and brutally effective tactic known as "tertiary targeting." SHAC harasses and intimidates executives and other employees (and their families) of any company merely doing business with Life Sciences.
The SHAC website identifies targets, providing their home addresses, phone numbers, and the names and ages of their children and even where they attend school. Even after the NYSE put off Life Sciences' listing, for instance, the SHAC website, according to Forbes, listed "names, numbers and email addresses of 100 NYSE staff members." Targeted people may receive anonymous death threats or mailed videotapes of their family members taken by SHAC activists. Companies have been bombed. Homes have been invaded and vandalized. In one recent case, animal rights activists broke into a lawyer's house and flooded it with a garden hose because his company once did business with Life Sciences and wouldn't be cowed into agreeing to never do so again. In a more recent case in the United Kingdom, a nursery school rescinded vouchers to Life Sciences employees in the face of violent threats.
SHAC and their allies have intimidated scores of businesses, including the auditing firm Deloitte & Touche, into cutting ties with Life Sciences. In the United Kingdom, so many banks have been intimidated from doing business with Life Sciences that the company has had to turn to the Bank of England for a commercial account. And now, the New York Stock Exchange has added to the company's misery and the liberationists' power by allowing these extremists to dictate its business decisions.
The stakes in the war against Life Sciences are greater than the survival of one company. If SHAC and its co-conspirators succeed, they will validate terrorism as an effective means of accomplishing "animal liberation." And if Life Sciences succumbs, what animal testing enterprise will be safe? And what about other animal-using industries? Today, it is medical testing. Tomorrow it could be the fast food industry, zoos, the salmon fleet. The list is potentially endless. So is the list of potential imitators. Why wouldn't antiwar radicals, having noted SHAC's success, apply tertiary targeting against businesses that contract with the Defense Department?
Stopping SHAC and its ilk should be a high priority of law enforcement. Indeed, the FBI has listed animal rights extremist groups on its domestic terrorists list, leading to arrests and prosecutions. Six members of SHAC, including its former president Kevin Kjonaas, will soon be tried on federal charges in New Jersey for violating the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. Kjonaas is accused of trying to destroy Life Sciences in a systematic campaign that involved stalking, destruction of property, harassment, intimidation, threats, incitement, and more.
Current laws may be inadequate to the threat posed by tertiary targeting. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is expected to investigate the question in hearings later this month. The New York Stock Exchange has been invited to attend. But don't be surprised if their officers fail to show up. Once you begin down Craven Road, it is hard to turn back.
And don't expect "mainstream" animal rights leaders--if that is the proper word--to be of any help. Most have stood mutely by as their movement's fringe has grown increasingly ruthless. PETA has explicitly refused to condemn tertiary targeting and has even compared lawlessness in the name of animal rights to the efforts of the Underground Railroad and the French Resistance. Nor have the rank and file made an audible fuss about terrorism committed in furtherance of their cause. This general silence is beginning to sound an awful lot like cheering--calling into question the peaceable nature of the entire animal-rights movement.
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.