When militant animal-rights icons Jerry Vlasak and Steven Best opened a new "Animal Liberation Press Office" (ALPO) to pass on "anonymous" claims of terrorism, they weren’t exactly innovating. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) already had a long history of proffering "spokespersons" — like David Barbarash and Craig Rosebraugh — to put a positive spin on arson and other violent crimes. Well-known animal-rights charities like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Farm Sanctuary have also filled this role, holding press conferences to praise animal-rights felons just hours after their crimes — often against restaurants and food companies — were committed.
The Village Voice helpfully explained this week that these eco- and animal-rights Baghdad Bobs traditionally decide whether the terrorist groups sanction a particular crime after the dust settles. "Ultimately," the paper writes, "the spokesperson decides if those acts are claimed" by the ELF or ALF. And the groups have a magical built-in escape clause, spelled out in the ELF’s "Frequently Asked Questions" document: If anyone gets hurt or killed in a massive construction-site arson, for instance, "this would not be considered an ELF action." So calling ALPO the "Animal Liberation Propaganda Office" is a fair assessment of what’s to come.
Since Best and Vlasak (along with three other activist leaders) now claim to speak on behalf of "animal liberation" lunatics everywhere, it seems prudent to take a look at the ringleaders who will soon decide whether a firebomb or a death threat is a "legitimate" act of ALF terrorism. Let’s meet the terrorist press.
Banned from entering Great Britain for six years for endorsing the murder of doctors who use animals in their research to cure diseases like AIDS and cancer: "I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many … I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives." [click here to listen]
A long-time "spokesperson" for the PETA-funded Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which publicly thanked Vlasak for his work in its most recent newsletter.
Married to former child actress Pamelyn Ferdin, who carries a PCRM business card and was recently made president of the violent SHAC organization — a special-interest subset of the ALF that has worked with PCRM in the past.
Reiterated his endorsement of murder this year on Australian television, telling the newsmagazine "Insight" host Jennie Brockie: "Would I advocate taking five guilty vivisector’s lives to save hundreds of millions of innocent animal lives? Yes, I would." [click here for video]
Steven Best (pictured with PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich)
Uses his teaching post as Philosophy Chair at the University of Texas-El Paso to wage what he calls "a guerilla war." Openly describes his college classroom as a place to raise "an army of activists" who will "support the struggles of organizations such as the ALF and SHAC."
Told the Animal Rights 2003 convention that "Home demonstrations" in which activists terrorize targeted Americans and their families at their homes in the middle of the night "will always cause psychological trauma to their targets, and if that’s what it takes to shut down HLS, let’s have more of it. Excuse me if I shed no tears." [click here for video]. HLS stands for Huntingdon Life Sciences, a biomedical research firm engaged in the hunt for cancer and AIDS therapies with the use of laboratory animals.
Told the Showtime television network show "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t" that "animal liberation" is on a par with the Jewish struggle under Nazi oppression, saying: "It’s the same thing with the ALF. We are breaking down doors, breaking into buildings, rescuing animals, and smashing property."
Chief organizer for "Win Animal Rights" (W.A.R.), a New York City subgroup of SHAC that regularly holds intimidating late-night protests at targeted Americans’ homes. [click here for video of a typical SHAC protest, and click here to watch Camille in action]
Convicted of animal cruelty in 1995 after PETA employees found over 80 cats and dogs living in her North Carolina home.
This week incited activists via e-mail to send pornographic magazine subscriptions to a targeted businessman’s family.
President of the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance (NJ-ARA), a group that largely exists to oppose bear hunting; this year the group began acting as a "fiscal sponsor" for seven SHAC defendants’ legal defense funds. They are awaiting trial on federal charges including terrorism-related felonies.
Former Vice President of the now-defunct Animal Rights America, another New Jersey group that served as a fiscal sponsor for SHAC since at least 2001, when British reporters funneled $1,300 to British SHAC leaders in a highly publicized sting operation. Animal-rights power couple Leslie and Nanci Alexander (acknowledged as PETA’s largest individual donors) used Animal Rights America in 2001 to funnel another $1,000 to SHAC. Leslie Alexander owns the Houston Rockets.
Locked herself inside a bear trap earlier this year to protest attempts to capture a bear that had terrified several New Jersey families by breaking into their homes. Also arrested for disrupting annual pigeon hunts in Pennsylvania.
Not announced as one of the "official" press officers, but included in early drafts of the ALPO website (see our archive here).
Told a San Francisco television reporter in 2003 that the bombing of two biotech companies by alleged animal-rights pipe bomber and federal fugitive Daniel Andreas San Diego was "fantastic," and added that chefs who serve foie gras "don’t have any right to go home and feel comfortable."
Described by the Associated Press as a "SHAC spokeswoman" following the terrorism-related arrests of seven prominent SHAC leaders.
Described in an FBI affidavit as a resident of a house where Daniel Andreas San Diego was last seen by law enforcement officers. Has been arrested at least 13 times on animal-rights related charges.
One of four protesters arrested at a 1999 Beverly Hills anti-fur protest, the others being Jerry Vlasak, wife Pamelyn Ferdin, and No Compromise magazine publisher (and long-time Sea Shepherd crewmember) Nik Hensey.
Sued the city of San Francisco in 2001, claiming a firefighter "inflicted emotional distress" when he tried to coax her down from a billboard where she’d chained herself with a bicycle lock as part of an animal-rights protest.