Another Kind of Terrorism
(This column was first published in the July 22, 2002 Buffalo News.)
Do you support terrorism?
In my wildest flights of imagination I cannot bring myself to believe that any readers of these natural history columns would willfully support such actions nor would they condone them. Quite the contrary, I believe that those of us who care for nature and the out-of-doors are almost without exception law-abiding people.
But my question is still pertinent.
Consider the definition of one kind of terrorism that was spelled out in detail by FBI Domestic Terrorism Section Chief James Jaboe before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee: "Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." In his testimony Jaboe went on to provide a litany of acts of violence, every example carried out by people who have come to be known as eco-terrorists, that is, people who justify their actions as somehow in defense of nature. (Domestic terrorism is not, of course, limited to these ecological extremists. The murder of the Amherst physician who performed abortions clearly falls within this category.)
Jaboe's list of terrorist acts includes some that uninformed readers might consider minor. Among these is what he calls "'tree spiking' (insertion of metal or ceramic spikes in trees in an effort to damage saws)." Anyone familiar with chainsaws knows, however, that the saw is not the only target threatened: the sawyer can also be seriously injured. What has come to be the favorite act of sabotage by eco-terrorists, however, is arson, a dangerous crime that no reasonable person would condone. Terrorism activists can even download free from the web a scary 37-page document, Setting Fires With Electrical Timers - An Earth Liberation Front Guide. During 2001, twenty major fires were set. Just one of them at the University of Washington's Horticultural Center caused $5.6 million in damage.
We have come to think of this kind of activity as occurring largely in the American West, but last year over a quarter of these eco-terrorist acts were committed in the Northeast with three considered "major" by the perpetrators having taken place in New York State.
Of even greater concern in these threatening times than the millions of dollars of damage done is the fact that a very substantial fraction of FBI resources has had to be committed to counterterrorism related to these acts of domestic violence. Jaboe tells us that a remarkable 1669 agents -- a sixth of the FBI's total forces! -- have had to be assigned to this defense, this at a time when our country is seriously threatened by outside forces.
Some readers (but certainly not I) will align themselves with these people in their opposition to the main groups attacked: fur companies, mink farms, restaurants, animal and genetic research laboratories. But few would support the means encouraged by these extremists.
I suspect that animal rights proponents reading this wonder what all this has to do with them. They surely don't support such organizations or individuals. But are you sure of that?
It turns out that at least one mainstream animal rights organization has been caught funneling funds to these very eco-terrorists. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gave $45,200 to defend Rod Coronado, who firebombed a research facility. (Despite this, Coronado was found guilty and is now in prison.*)
Those of you who support national animal rights organizations should look into where your dollars are going.
You may indeed be supporting terrorism.-- Gerry Rising
* Shortly after this column was published I learned that arsonist Rod Coronado has already competed his brief time in prison. Interestingly, he played on the sympathy of the court at the time of his sentencing by renouncing his affiliation with Animal Rights extremists. Then, of course, as soon as he got to prison he renounced his renuncation. It will be interesting to see if the next AR terrorist -- possibly Coronado himself -- gets away with the same kind of dissembling, especially in light of our changed attitude since September 11, 2001.
I add here a few paragraphs that represent the attitude of many of those involved today in activities related to animal research. The writer is Dr. Gina Solomon, MD, MPH, a physician and senior scientist in the Health and Environment program of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
"NRDC would prefer not to subject any animals to testing. But the alternatives - continued ignorance or human testing - are unacceptable. There is simply no non-animal alternative for tests searching for birth defects, neurological impairment, and reproductive problems. Even where non-animal tests exist, it is often impossible to extrapolate the results to humans.
"Animal testing should be minimized or eliminated when scientifically appropriate, and the welfare of test animals must be a central concern of any testing program. NRDC recently negotiated a legal settlement with EPA in which the agency agreed to reduce the number of animals used in the endocrine disruptor program, refine procedures to make the tests less painful or stressful, and replace animals with non-animal systems when scientifically appropriate.
"If PETA succeeds in paralyzing EPA toxicology programs, the winners will be the major chemical and pesticide companies. The industry would love to manufacture and profit from chemicals without worrying that the public will find out its products may cause serious health effects. The chemical manufacturers would love not to worry about EPA using scientific information to tighten regulations or even to ban their products.
"We need all the information and all the tools that we can muster in order to prevent harm from the thousands of chemicals that are used in our workplaces, schools, and consumer products, and that are being released into our air and water and spread on our food. While we would prefer not to sacrifice a single laboratory rat, we believe that the sacrifice is warranted to protect our children and future generations."
Several readers have asked me to identify national AR groups that I consider suspect. With those I consider worst listed first, here are the organizations about which I have serious concerns:
Those I consider the most serious offenders. Most of the following organizations seem to promote non-violent activities but they have rarely if ever spoken out against those who commit the violence associated with their goals.