“There are people here who I don’t know and who I’m sure the police don’t know who could do what they want: get away with murder.” So said long-time British Animal Liberation Front (ALF) leader Robin Webb at a Sunday gathering of UK animal-rights militants. “The Animal Terror Camp,” as Britain’s Western Daily Press called it, attracted several hundred hard-core activists, mostly from the violent SHAC movement. Webb’s veiled reference to future homicides made up for the absence of American terrorist sympathizer Jerry Vlasak, who was barred from entering Great Britain after that country’s Home Secretary (analogous to our own Homeland Security chief) learned that Vlasak himself endorsed animal-rights-related assassinations during a 2003 speech. Vlasak delivered the comments as a spokesman for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
Vlasak made his UK appearance anyway, via videotape, declaring that scientists who use lab rats to hunt for cancer or AIDS cures are “like the mafia,” and (as is all too common) invoking the name of Nelson Mandela to justify violence in the name of “animal liberation.” Just two weeks ago, during a BBC radio interview, Vlasak called such brutality “a morally acceptable tactic.”
Vlasak’s hateful message has been heard, loudly and clearly, by most of the UK’s major media outlets. The influential Guardian newspaper quoted us in a lead editorial saying that “he’s not making bombs, but is making bombers.” The London Times described in detail the sort of fallout Vlasak’s vile rhetoric has generated, printing the startling news that activists at the recent UK gathering “were taught how to kill as extremists urged them to break the law.” The Times continued:
Despite pledges from the organizers that they were there only to exchange ideas and discuss tactics, activists were schooled in eye-gouging and how to deliver fatal jabs … [A] woman instructor urged: “Start with the head. You can punch the eyes, you can eye-gouge. To damage the optic nerves push into the eyes and press down.” [subscription required]
On Sunday, reports surfaced that British animal-rights leaders were planning at least “10 attacks a night” across the UK. The Observer quoted an unnamed Animal Liberation Front source saying: “Ten attacks a night would be an absolute minimum. Think of the number of butcher shops: at least a couple of windows are already being broken every night.” The Irish Examiner reports that the planned attacks may include assaults against celebrities who model fur.
While these threats were issued by alleged members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the weekend event was clearly a SHAC affair. This makes SHAC’s impending U.S. prosecutions all the more interesting, since PCRM and its larger sister-group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have clear ties to several of SHAC’s indicted leaders. Their federal trials on terror-related charges are expected to begin in the next two months.
PETA awarded SHAC defendant Josh Harper a $5,000 grant in 2001. SHAC defendant and prison veteran Andy Stepanian brags about receiving “liturature [sic], phone lists, and other resources” directly from PETA. And SHAC USA president Kevin Jonas has co-signed a series of subtly threatening letters (on PCRM letterhead) with PCRM president Neal Barnard, who doubles as president of The PETA Foundation.
And then there’s Jerry Vlasak himself, who acknowledged at last month’s “Animal Rights 2004” convention that he is “heavily involved in the SHAC campaign.” On one of its many websites, SHAC now declares that it has “teamed up with” PCRM.
In the animal-rights world, the line between violent underground attackers and above-ground animal activists is blurring fast. Yet as Guardian columnist Catherine Bennett observes in this morning’s edition, amid a global war on terrorism, “animal rights thuggery seems to enjoy protected status.” She goes on to say:
In the past year, livelier sections of the animal rights community have energetically used violence to put several, carefully targeted sections of the public in fear. So much so, that numerous members of the public have capitulated to their demands. And yet, these strikingly successful terrorists are rarely identified by their proper name. [emphasis added]