Monday, May 12, 2008

The Animal Rights Terrorism Myth

The Society of Toxicology hired Information Network Associates Inc. (INA) to prepare a “pre-event threat assessment and intelligence briefing” on possible animal rights activity at the Society of Toxicology’s upcoming convention in Seattle. In their 12-page report, INA concluded that, “The threat level associated with this event is MODERATE.” [emphasis in the original]

This report contains various statements purported to convey accurate information. The INA website assures their clients that: “Information Network Associates Inc. guarantees the quality and timeliness of our work…”.

INA’s report includes a good example of the erroneous and overblown accounts that find their way into and become part of the myth of animal rights terrorism. In the case of INA, their presentation of the facts can be compared to the actual incident, since it was caught on video. More about that in a minute.

As I have observed before, much of the vivisectors’ fear of animal rights activists is a direct result of retelling secondhand stories with embellishments, to the point that the main characters takes on larger than life abilities and are attributed with having performed various and sundry feats and crimes. A good example of this was a posting to a public discussion list that purported to describe me and my behavior, written, apparently by someone from the Wisconsin primate center who calls herself “Lilly”:

When you first came to Madison I sighted your badly hidden van with tinted windows with your pals filming staff entering the buildings. You were parked directly under a NO PARKING sign, wearing dark sunglasses and a ball cap pulled down low on a cloudy day. But I still recognized you.

And how about the time you tried to sneak into the Primate Center by wearing medical scrubs? And how about those dumpster diving expeditions?
Assuming that “Lilly” wasn’t making up all of this out of the blue, since none of it is true, it must mean that she had heard these things before, and perhaps embellished them when writing anonymously. Me and Paul Bunyan'

It isn’t unlikely that someone will repeat these claims, embellish them, and that my legend will grow, even as I sit here typing away.

This is what INA reported to the Society of Toxicology:

The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science held it annual conference in Salt lake City, Utah from October 15 to 19, 2006. Activists from Utah distributed email via list servers calling for activists from across the nation to attend counter protests and other outreach events during the conference.
[Isn’t a “counter protest” a protest held in support of something that is being protested? An example would be a protest against homosexuality during a protest against discrimination of gays.]

Jeremy Beckham of the Primate Freedom Project was involved in a hostile verbal and near physical altercation with a citizen who came to the defense of a conference attendee who was being verbally harassed by Beckham outside of the venue.
That’s either INA’s spin or a retelling of something they were told. Their retelling is much different and much more fear-inducing than the real event.

What actually happened is that activists were protesting in front of the venue and Beckham was offering and handing out DVDs of laboratory conditions and experiments to anyone who would take one. He approached and offered a video to a woman (who turned out to be a conference attendee) standing at the curb. She replied that the video was “all lies,” or something to that effect.

They were having a discussion – security guards were nearby and watching – when, about 30 seconds later, car pulled up at the curb. The driver (the “citizen” in the INA account) immediately jumped out of the car and threatened Beckham. “I’m about to fuck you up!”

His license plate was videotaped. The vehicle was owned by Utah State University (notice the EXEMPT license plate). USU cooperated and furnished the driver’s name to police. The videotape led to “the citizen” (not Beckham) being charged with assault.

If Beckham had been harassing her, the security guards would have intervened.


Like all myths, there is a germ of truth that has led to the vivisectors’ overblown fear. There are people who find their work just as immoral and hideous as harmful and lethal experiments on non-consenting humans. Strong emotions and opinions are expressed regularly, and there are occasional but rare incidents of vadalism. There must be some guilt at play in the vivisectors’ irrational fabrications and their hyper-reactions to animal activists’ efforts, criticisms, and occasional vandalism.

The vivisectors’ only hope, and their apparent plan, is to curtail freedom of expression and assembly, to ban access to public records, to create a special class of people who cannot be named in public or specifically criticized. They seem to understand that the only hope for the survival of their industry and livelihoods (and them staying out of jail) is secrecy, a criminalization of criticism, an ability to tell the public only what they want the public to hear, anonymity, exemption from anti-cruelty laws, exemptions from rules of ethics, and to achieve all this, they must falsely report “incidents” of illegal activity, nurture fear among their colleagues, and repeat their late night scary stories to each other ad infinitum. This is how the myth is made.

3 comments:

Will said...

Great post-- do you happen to have that 12-page doc? If so, I'd love to see it and put something up on GreenIsTheNewRed.com. Thanks! Will Potter

Anonymous said...

When people find real incendiary devices under their cars or in front of their homes (as UCLA scientists targeted by UCLA Primate Freedom have), it seems perfectly reasonable to call these acts of terrorism. But I guess these are only "pranks" to you, are they not?

Anonymous said...

An excellent and accurate article. All we ever hear about these days is 'Animal Rights terrorism', and yet this is despite the fact that no animal abuser has been killed (by shooting or bombing (the usual terrorist methods) or indeed, by any other means). Clearly, this is a very strange form of terrorism...
In reality, Animal Rights terrorism only exists in the mind of the media and the military and drug industries in a last-minute and feeble attempt to defend something which is seen by an increasing number of people to be wholly indefensible: that is, the practice of animal experimentation, driven by profit and a supposed need to produce unreliable drugs (most of which are for the Western world and would be unnecessary if its population adopted a healthier and sensible lifestyle).

Dr David Mitchell