Animal Rights Militants Like Mandela?

“The Vlasaks of today are the Mandelas of yesterday.” That’s how animal rights nut Jerry Vlasak described himself after British Home Secretary David Blunkett summarily banned him and his activist wife from entering the UK. Vlasak’s attempt to remake his image by evoking Nelson Mandela is nothing new for animal rights radicals, whose standard-bearers regularly compare themselves to the likes of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and even Jesus Christ.

At the Animal Rights 2003 convention, Vlasak insisted: “I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many [researchers whose work requires the use of animals] … I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives.” Nelson Mandela? We think not. Neither did Home Secretary Blunkett.

Vlasak is hardly the only animal rights crusader happy to pervert historic struggles. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s (PETA) “humane lecturer” Gary Yourofsky (a convicted Animal Liberation Front felon) insists that he’s just like Gandhi and Jesus — and, in the same breath, condones violence and even arson. In an attempt to justify millions of dollars of property damage by the ALF, PETA itself argues that such actions are comparable to the Underground Railroad or the French Revolution.

To justify bombing buildings and smashing windows, the ALF appeals to the turning point of American Independence, arguing that although its violent activism “harasses people, destroys property, and threatens humans with injury or death?… [T]he Boston Tea Party raiders did not consider themselves terrorists.”

In a 1999 issue of the underground magazine No Compromise, PETA campaign director Bruce Friedrich worked the names of his nonviolent heroes into an impassioned defense of the ALF’s violent tactics:

I have heard that some who adhere to Strategic Nonviolence claim that A.L.F. activities are counterproductive or even the moral equivalent of vivisection. This is completely antithetical to the philosophies of King and Gandhi, who understood that “We are all in this struggle together.”

And Friedrich doesn’t mind preaching to Christians, either. Consider what Friedrich said in an essay on PETA’s website:

There is so much violence and suffering in our world. One way in which every person can make a difference each day is by choosing to walk gently on the Earth and by being kind to all the creatures with whom we share the planet. We can “pray ceaselessly,” to borrow from St. Paul, through our actions and through our example to others.

Compare that to what Friedrich said at the Animal Rights 2001 conference:

Of course we’re going to be, as a movement, blowing stuff up and smashing windows … I think it would be a great thing if all of these fast-food outlets, and these slaughterhouses, and these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow … Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.

In the future, perhaps animal liberationists who invoke Gandhi may instead follow the lead of tenured animal-rights zealot Steven Best, who chairs the University of Texas-El Paso’s Philosophy department. Best describes:

…a new breed of freedom fighters [that] has ditched Gandhi for Machiavelli and switched principled nonviolence with the amoral (not to be confused with immoral) pragmatism that embraces animal liberation “by any means necessary.”

And he’s happy to cut to the chase: “You can keep Gandhi: give me Machiavelli. This is not a conversation — it is a war and it is time to start acting like it is.”

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