Animal Rights: The History and Nature of the Beast

Animal Rights: The History and Nature of the Beast

By: Patti Strand  Date: 02/16/1993 Category: | Animal Rights Extremism | Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare |

Animal Rights: The History and Nature of the Beast

The “humane movement” has been hijacked, radicalized and rerouted! Started more than a hundred years ago, this movement was traditionally concerned with the humane treatment of animals. In the last 20 years, however, it has been taken over by animal rights extremists whose priority is neither the humane care of animals nor the prevention of cruelty to animals, but instead, the promotion of a revolutionary value system which redefined man’s relationship with animals. Animal rightists want to end man’s use of animals altogether.

For those who are not involved with animals, the concept of danger from the humane movement’s organized lunatic fringe may still seem remote, but to people who are daily involved with animals through professional, scientific, sporting, livestock or other pursuits, the tactics used by these radicals to push their views and raise money are no longer dismissed lightly. These tactics include firebombings, burglary and attempted murder. They include the covert infiltration and takeover of organizations with differing views - redirecting their agendas and treasuries, corporate raider style, in the process.

Tactics also include prospecting for likely fundraising targets: institutions, individuals or newsworthy issues which can be exploited and sold to the public as representing cruelty to animals or damaging to the environment. Once the target is located, tactics such as sensational media exposes’ and/or ad campaigns, which include systematic defamation or gross misrepresentation may be used to create public outrage and bring in the money. And bring in the money it does! The most visible and active 26 animal protection, welfare and rights groups had budgets totaling a whopping $577 million in 1989 according to their 1990 IRS tax forms.

Animal rights tactics are specifically designed to give the animal rightists the opportunity and freedom to express lies, while preventing others from speaking the truth. They are designed to intimidate non-believers into fear-based tolerance of the cult of animal rights, thereby enabling the movement to amass ever-greater political and financial clout.

The movement now claims a record 10 million followers in the United States who have been recruited over decades of reworking and refining old ideas. Some of these ideas were strongly represented in Nazi Germany. Both Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering were openly pro-animal, anti-vivisectionist, and vegetarian. Nazism, like animal rightist philosophy, was also based in moral, intellectual and political elitism. Today’s animal rightist cult is clearly a stepchild of Nazism, but is a close relative, too, of the modern Green Movement which first emerged in West Germany as a political force in the 70’s. It is also a direct descendant and export of the animal rights version perfected and field-tested in England in the mid-70’s and early 80’s.

The Greens included a number of veteran Nazis and Hitler Youth, as well as a broad-based coalition featuring other politically frustrated factions. These disparate groups included Marxists, ecologists, anti-nuclear activists, feminists and others who believed that current social and political institutions needed to be replaced. The historical thread shared with today’s movement is anti-democratic and downright anarchist sentiments, combined with moral elitism. The important difference today is that the movement is driven by a high-tech strategy.

In order to understand the modern animal rights movement as it functions in North America, it’s helpful to focus on two British groups who mushroomed in the 70’s. These groups, the ”Hunt Saboteurs Association” and “Band of Mercy”  generated a new and extreme animal liberation philosophy that used terrorism and violence as a means to achieving their end. Through their actions, the English landscape suddenly became a war zone where animal zealots routinely torched medical laboratories, firebombed fur-selling department stores, and initiated attacks against fur and butcher shops. The groups targeted animals used in entertainment, too, and one long-dead statesman was dug up because, in the zealots view, his reputation needed “public reassessment” in light of his history as a hunter. By the mid-70’s, the Hunt Saboteurs were operating as the Animal Liberation Front (or as it signs its work in the United States, the “A.L.F.”). It is the terrorist wing of the animal rights movement.

Animal welfare, antivivisection and animal rights philosophies are all American imports from England. After they arrived, these concepts gathered followers slowly in the typical American “you have a right to your own belief” melting-pot style. As distinguished from animal welfare, and to lesser extent antivivisection, animal rights has a philosophy which is absolutist: it recruits members in a style that is a blend of “electronic church” and “Madison Avenue” and has a militant arm to enforce its dogma.  It received an unexpected, tailor-made jump start on American soil.

Several elements worked together to legitimize and popularize the movement. First, with the Viet Nam War over, young people were ripe for new causes. Next, the environmental movement linked animal protection with other already popular ecological causes. Last, and perhaps most important, the Australian philosopher, Peter Singer, introduced a book which is now considered to be the fountainhead of animal rights philosophy, Animal Liberation. It gave the activists a simple argument to support their beliefs and it gave intellectuals a basis from which civilized debate could proceed. Singer, though a late-comer to the group, is one of the so-called “Oxford ethical vegetarians,” credited collectively with founding the modern “animal rights movement.” Of special significance is Singer’s popularization of the term “speciesism,” which animal rightists used to indicate “racism” against species other than one’s own and which Singer claims is immoral and indefensible! Simply put, the main tenet of Animal Liberation is, “If you wouldn’t do it to a human, you shouldn’t do it to an animal.” Non-human animals deserve equal rights in terms of consideration of their interests. Biblical dominion and stewardship be damned, animals have the right not to be used or bothered by humans in any way. In the second edition of Animal Liberation, Singer argues - against the historical backdrop of the intervening 15 years of ongoing and increasing animal rights violence - that a person’s obligation to obey the law is not absolute. Interestingly, Singer is also the author of a book titled Democracy and Disobedience.

Linking the 70’s and 80’s, and environmental causes with animal rights extremism, and England with the North American continent, Alex Pacheco (founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - PETA) boarded the Sea Shepherd, a ship previously owned by Greenpeace, piloted by Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson, and set sail for adventure harassing whaling vessels. On this voyage, Fund for Animals, Cleveland Armory’s group, the group for which Kim Sturla is now Western Director, was the host; Fund for Animals was the owner of the Sea Shepherd at the time. The possibility of creating a media event loomed large on the horizon, and predictably the Sea Shepherd became newsworthy when it rammed and nearly sank a whaler on the high seas. After the ramming, many of the crew wound up in jail and Alex went to England where he spent time with animalist, Kim Stallwood.

The English anarchist, Ronnie Lee, is considered the founder of the Animal Liberation Front, but for American students of the movement, Lee’s rival, Kim Stallwood (who is now PETA’s Executive Director) is the better known of the two. Immediately following Pacheco’s return from England, Alex and Ingrid Newkirk found and incorporated PETA. Within a few years, Stallwood was brought to America to train them in English techniques and serve as PETA’s Executive director. In England, Kim Stallwood led the radical takeover of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. Under his leadership, the Union became a radical organization that encouraged mass civil disobedience, created public fanfare and attracted continuous media attention. Clearly, the animal rights “business profile” was taking shape.

Stallwood’s influence in North America could be felt when PETA slates began systematically gobbling up humane organizations. The Toronto Humane Society takeover came complete with a treasury of $14 million. A few years after it takeover, the “Globe and Mail” reported that The Toronto Humane Society had changed membership criteria. The new guidelines discriminated against “professions” it deemed to be cruel to animals: pet breeders, trappers and hunters! The infiltration and takeover tactics continued: the New England Anti-vivisection Society followed suit with a $8 million treasury balance. Today, antivivisection organizations with close bonds to PETA include the National Anti-Vivisection Society, the American Anti-Vivisection Society and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Other organizations, such as Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and Friends of Animals have variously played cooperative or supportive roles.

The influence-gaining tactics systematically continue today on a much larger scale. But it’s not just humane societies they’re infiltrating. It’s every institution where propaganda has the potential of reaching a large, “open” audience. A document titled Becoming an Activist: PETA’s Guide to Animal Rights Organizing offers specific instructions on how to infiltrate target organizations. All across the country, animal rights messages are finding their way into schools through text books and zealotized teachers. The Encyclopedia Brittanica contains entries on dogs from the Humane Society of the United States executive, Dr. Michael Fox. PETA and Earth Share have been added as charitable recipients to the Combined Federal Campaign’s roster of eligible charities. Evidence of new in-roads pop up practically every day.

The animal rights movement continuously spawns niche groups and spinoffs which share the philosophy but carry on specific, supporting activities. Take, for example, a group called the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Dr. Neal Barnard, president of PCRM, has also served as a cross-over board member for the New England Anti-Vivisection Society mentioned earlier, and he acts as chief medical advisor to PETA. In this capacity he serves as the movement’s medical “legitimizer.” As an example, the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine “legitimizes’ itself to the public by the common interpretation of the language used in it title,  but does not actively publicize that only about 3% of its members are actually physicians.

A group of special interest to veterinarians and dog and cat breeders is the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, AVAR, which is headed by Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci. Neither the percentage nor the total number of veterinarians belonging to AVAR is easy to verify. AVAR is listed in PETA’s book, SAVE THE ANIMALS! 101 Easy Things You Can Do. Dr. Ned (as he is commonly known) is married to Kim Sturla, promoter of the famous San Mateo spay/neuter proposal. In 1989, Dr. Buyukmihci filed a lawsuit against University of California of Davis. In part, the suit alleged that the University threatened to fire him because he exercised his right to free speech.

Throughout the movement lawsuits are initiated by animal rightists to ensure their basic First Amendment rights. It is curious that members of a movement so full of anti-democratic sentiment and so willing to declare others guilty without due process, would so easily use “their own” democratic rights as both sword and shield in the battle. PETA was found guilty by unanimous verdict of defamation of character in the Las Vegas trial brought buy entertainer, Bobby Berosini ( a verdict which required the jury to find that they had knowingly, willfully and maliciously made false statements). On appeal, PETA argues first amendment rights!

Another well-known animal rights group is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Its budget last year was nearly $19 million - more than the American Civil Liberties Union! The word “humane” leads people to confuse this institution’s goals with traditional animal welfare, but HSUS vice president, Dr. Michael Fox, told “Newsweek” in 1988 that “Humane care is simply sentimental, sympathetic patronage.” As a sign of the times, the 1991 Encyclopedia Brittanica includes comments on dogs from Dr. Fox. Some of these comments fall into the category of propaganda rather than unbiased information. Another HSUS celebrity is “ethical vegetarian,” John McArdle, PhD. According to an article in the August, 1986 “Washingtonian,” he proposed the substitution of brain-dead humans for animals in surgical research: “It may take people awhile to get used to the idea,” he admits, “but once they do, the savings in animal lives will be substantial.” The Humane Society of the United States, despite its claims to the contrary, is a radical animal rights organization.

A group of special interest to anyone who happens to disagree with animal rights philosophy is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The media portrays them as the true lunatic fringe of the animal rights movement, and for good reason: ALF claims credit for theft, criminal acts, property destruction and is listed as a terrorist organization by the FBI: The ALF is believed to be responsible for over 100 criminal acts, some classified as terrorist, totaling $10 million. When ALF members appear to act on their own, as a separate group, it limits the liability of the whole movement to an “invisible underground” segment.

Upon examination, however, many students of the movement note that this “separate underground” picture tends to blur. Where do these terrorists come from? If they are truly separate, and the animal rights leadership is truly unaccountable for their actions, how is it that “The Animals’ Agenda” magazine (May 1988) chose to print the following ALF communiqué in which others were invited to join: “…There are few of us, but we know there are many more waiting for the call. This is that call. We have liberated thousands of animals and destroyed their torture chambers - with your help we can further slow the human cancer.” (The name of practically every major animal rights’ leader has appeared in an advisory or board member capacity for “The Animals’ Agenda” magazine sometime during the last several years.)

Why, if ALF is truly separate, does PETA act as their public relations firm, distributing “stolen” film footage to the media after criminal raids? Why is it that so many in the animal rights leadership refuse to publicly condemn violence? Why does PETA produce pamphlets which point out that laws once obeyed may not be consistent with “higher law,” and offer “education” on the effectiveness of the police and legal systems prior to the commission of a crime? And why is it that in the newsletter of a local animal rights club, the only ALF member ever caught and convicted for criminal ALF activities, is listed as a volunteer?

This “seamless web” of animal activism suggests that PCRM’s Dr. Barnard is not the only person working in crossover membership capacity with other groups. “Full-Time Fanatic” is a term which has found apt usage in describing an advocate-by-day and possible criminal at night. Twenty-four hour duty and mutual interests between animal activist groups seems to work well. If the ALF succeeds in reducing the number of grant applications for laboratory animal testing, the whole movement benefits (and is not liable). If the ALF succeeds in discouraging fur farming, the movement inches forward.

By contrast, the other end of the spectrum is occupied by an estimated 90-95% of the people who identify with animal rights causes and do so because they truly love animals. They are sincerely motivated to alleviate animal cruelty and are likely to have joined the movement due to their heart-felt response to graphic portrayals of animal suffering (The September 7, 1991 issue of the “National Journal” states that PETA raised $9 million off of direct mail pitches last year). These supporters don’t realize that their $5 or $10 donation disappears into a minimally accountable fund raising abyss, or that the organization is using its tax-exempt status to rake in every possible form of monetary advantage - or that the movement is connected to a terrorist arm.

The vast majority of people who support animal rights, a recent study suggests, do so inadvertently because the animal rightists have conveniently not explained the chasm that lies between rights and welfare philosophies. That is, they identify compassionately with a single issue or perhaps a couple of issues, but aside from recognizing the jargon of the movement, they have little idea of the extreme and often violent agenda tacitly approved by their leadership. The money rolls in when a compassionate person accepts any portion of the program. Membership applications and fund raising questionnaires contain questions which clearly separate “be-kind-to-animal” types from “eco-kamikaze warrior” types. Through pre-screening, this cult-like organization is able to show each new “member” an agenda that best suits his or her specific capacity for support, zealotry or violence.

Regardless of the beliefs and feelings a person holds about the humane care of animals, medical testing, cosmetic testing, hunting, leg-hold traps, etc., unless he also believes in “the ends justifies the means,” mode of behavior, he should reassess his animal rights affiliations. There is nothing ethical or legal that can be done on behalf of animals on the “animal rights side of the issue that can’t be done on the “animal welfare” side as well. To support animal rights while its most visible leaders are unwilling to unequivocally condemn violence, is to support a way of life and a mode of operation that is in direct opposition to all the hard-earned progress made over thousands of years on behalf of human rights. This is a trade-off we cannot tolerate. In the long run, it does nothing to help animals and everything to oppress people.

To those who perceive the threat of animal extremism as ridiculous, please recall the rise of the other movement this century which preached the giving of rights to animals: German Nazism. When you do this you will see in the American version, too, a decidedly anti-human element. You will find that here, also, it is impossible to give an animal rights without first taking them away from humans. You will recognize a band of moral elitists who know exactly which groups should be deprived of rights and in what order. You will see an enforcement arm that is willing to forcibly deprive these selected and prejudged individuals and groups of their rights through acts of terrorism. And you will learn that their cause has much less to do with the elimination of animal suffering than it has to do with the coercion and elimination of opposing attitudes. Instead of a commitment to animals, you will find that the animal rights cause is led by politically savvy individuals who have created a self-perpetuating money-making and power-mongering machine: one which is accountable to no one and which benefits from the intimidation and terrorist tactics of a group of criminals that its leadership does not condemn or denounce.

This article originally appeared in the September 1992 issue of Kennel Review.

About The Author

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Patti Strand - NAIA President
Patti is a recognized expert and consultant on contemporary animal issues, most notably responsible dog ownership and the animal rights movement. She often appears on radio and television and her articles on canine issues, animal welfare, public policy and animal rights have appeared in major US news publications and in trade, professional and scientific journals. Patti and her…

All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |
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