TERRORISM TAKES MANY FORMS. Recently, animal-rights terrorists have unleashed an organized campaign of violence and intimidation against animal industries and their service companies--such as banks, auditing companies, and insurance brokers.
A pattern has developed: Websites identify people to be terrorized because of their involvement with animal-using industries; these sites list their personal information, including home addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, even the names, ages, and schools of their children. Militants use this information to send anonymous death threats to the children of targets, backed by mailed video tapes of their family members. They steal mail, shatter windows while the family is home, burn cars, make false bomb threats, cover homes with graffiti, take out subscriptions to pornographic magazines in the name of the target, steal identities, and otherwise ruin their victims' lives.
One of the most active of these groups is Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which is dedicated to driving Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) out of business because it tests drugs on animals. As William Trundley, the vice president for Corporate Security & Investigations at GlaxoSmithKline, recently testified, SHAC members distribute a "SHAC Terror Card" to potential victims, which reads:
Do you do business with Huntingdon Life Sciences? . . . If you do, there's something you should know . . . Radical animal rights activists have been targeting executives and employees of companies that work with HLS, with criminal activity including: smashed windows; spray painted houses; glued locks; vandalized cars; stolen credit card numbers; ID theft; fraud; and continuous acts of harassment and intimidation against employees, their children and spouses.
The card states that "the only way to end or prevent such attacks . . . is to stop doing business with Huntingdon."
SHAC has grown so brazen that it demands that when targeted companies capitulate to its demands, they do so publicly. The SHAC website instructs:
TO ALL SUPPLIERS: If you have severed your links with Huntingdon Life Sciences, please let the campaign know. You can send a simple email to email@example.com stating the following: " . . . . . . (name of your company) have severed their links with HLS and terminated their contract, and will not be dealing with them now or in the future, directly or indirectly." This will enable supporters to be kept up to date with which companies are still involved with Huntingdon Life Sciences.
This is terrorism, pure and simple--and unfortunately, it's working. SHAC and its allies, such as the Animal Liberation Front, have scared a number of businesses into cutting ties with Huntingdon Life Sciences, including the huge auditing firm of Deloitte & Touche. At present, SHAC's website lists 113 companies that have complied with its demands, including Johnson & Johnson, Washington Mutual, UBS Global Capital, Nucryst Pharmaceutical, and Chubb.
The site also crows about its most recent triumph: the submission of the New York Stock Exchange to animal liberationist demands. In 2005, the NYSE unexpectedly reversed a decision to list Huntingdon Life Sciences, on the morning the listing was to commence. Big Board executives refused to either explain or justify their decision--even to a United States Senate committee. The rescission came immediately after liberationists vandalized an executive's yacht club and threatened to target Exchange employees.
NOW THE TELEGRAPH reports that U.K. animal liberationists plan to hold a "training camp" to "export terror" throughout Europe this June. "The AR 2006 camp," will "feature classes in potentially lethal physical techniques . . . that could be used against security guards at pharmaceutical companies and huntsmen."
Law enforcement is on heightened alert to protect against animal-rights terrorism, and legislation (H.R. 4239) is wending its way through the House of Representatives to make such lawlessness more easily prosecuted. These are necessary steps. But given the ideological zealotry of these extremists, the best chance we have of stopping the violence is for fellow believers to convince the terrorists among them to stay within the law.
But so far, the "mainstream" leadership of the animal-rights movement has generally failed to do so. They have been mostly silent, at times ambivalent, and in a few cases, even supportive. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for example, refuses to condemn arson and vandalism in the name of animal liberation and likens such crimes to the French Resistance and the Underground Railroad. PETA's second in command, Bruce Friedrich, sure seemed to support violence when he told an animal liberation conference in 2001:
Of course, we're going to be as a movement blowing stuff up and smashing windows. For the record, I don't do this stuff, but I do advocate it. I think it is a great way to bring about animal liberation. And considering the level of the atrocity and the level of the suffering, I think it would be a great thing if all of these fast food outlets and slaughter houses and laboratories--and the banks that fund them--exploded tomorrow.
FROM TIME TO TIME, an animal-rights activist will speak up. Princeton's Peter Singer, the godfather of animal liberation, occasionally takes a mild line against using violence and threats in the name of animal rights, as he did, for example, in "Humans are Sentient Too." But even here, Singer mostly punted, asserting that beyond expressing their genuine disapproval, "There is little more that the non-violent majority of the animal movement can do. The next step is really up to the government and the research community."
Surely there is more to be done than the wagging of fingers. If animal-rights terror continues to be ratcheted up, someone is going to be killed. If that happens, those who winked at violence in the name of saving the animals will wish they had instead insisted to the terrorists among them: "Not in our name."
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His website is www.wesleyjsmith.com.