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How long before all animal rights groups go from extremist, to being classified as Terrorist groups?
January 15, 2002 1:28 PM   Subscribe

How long before all animal rights groups go from extremist, to being classified as Terrorist groups? Are they acting on behalf of animals, or just acting like animals? And how long before their methods and actions become downright un-American? One of PeTA's favourite punching bags, Ringling Bros., has started hitting back. Coming after a win in the recent court case involving trainer Mark Gebel, Kenneth Feld, Chairman and Producer of Ringling Bros., issues an open letter to animal rights groups in an attempt to appeal to them to stop attacking what he says are responsible animal care providers. In it, he alledges some of PeTA's own cruelty, as well as making the connection to the Animal Liberation Front, which is classifed as a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI (see opening link). PeTA isn't backing down and has just launched their latest campaign against Ringling Bros. which cites cruelties no more recent than 1999. I was also surprised to hear about companies finding it easier to buy off activists by donating money, which just continues to allow them to flourish. Is it time to start ignoring the good intentions of these groups and really scrutinizing their actions? Should animal rights groups which engage in and support extremist/terrorist activities be shut down and broken up by governments? How far is too far when it comes to activism?
posted by mikhail (45 comments total)

 
great
posted by NortonDC at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2002


aaaahhhh!

ok, i'm now going to try and read all those links.

BRB.
posted by th3ph17 at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2002


How about a little from Column A and a little from Column B. We need circuses and zoos for people who would otherwise have no way to see wild animals. And, we need groups like PETA to make sure they don't behave cruelly.

This is not a black and white subject and it's not a black and white world. We live in the grey.
posted by ColdChef at 1:33 PM on January 15, 2002


How far is too far when it comes to protecting those who can't protect themselves?
posted by tcobretti at 1:34 PM on January 15, 2002


Exactly ColdChef, but do groups like PeTA go too far? And though I don't mind them policing circuses and the like, who is policing them?
posted by mikhail at 1:36 PM on January 15, 2002


...and when we protect ourselves from those who can't protect us against them protecting themselves, which they can't do, hmmm?
posted by nagchampa at 1:38 PM on January 15, 2002


PETA and ALF are pretty greatly different...

PETA has this amusing (if, IMO, ineffective) habit of making controversials statements to get press, that's about it. They are right on about Ringling Bros tho -- every time an elephant trainer gets trampled, I think to myself "good for the elephant".

ALF, on the other hand, commits a whole slew of distruction of property and breaking and entering crimes. I don't think there are any cases of PETA doing anything like this. ALF is a criminal organization, no doubt.

How far is too far when it comes to protecting those who can't protect themselves?

Exactly the arguement pro-lifers use, and it doesn't work for them either. Want to change the law? Lobby, educate, try to convince voters your view is write. Violent and/or semi-violent crime is a really lousy way to go about it, AND its effective only in making the perpetrator feel good about themselves in a martyr kinda way.
posted by malphigian at 1:40 PM on January 15, 2002


Ugh, sorry about those typos (write/right), I promise to read more carefully on preview next time :(
posted by malphigian at 1:41 PM on January 15, 2002


Good point about the pro-lifers; that stung.
posted by tcobretti at 1:42 PM on January 15, 2002


mefi and peta: two great tastes that go great together!
posted by rebeccablood at 1:42 PM on January 15, 2002


malphigian: evidence about ringling bros' abuse of elephants?
posted by rebeccablood at 1:42 PM on January 15, 2002


malphigian: evidence about ringling bros' abuse of elephants?

Highly social and intelligent migratory herd animals kept isolated and transported in train cars. I don't need any other evidence, though there might well be plenty.
posted by malphigian at 1:45 PM on January 15, 2002


malphigian, my connection between PeTA and ALF stems from the open letter by Kenneth Feld. In it he makes the connection between the two by way of claiming that PeTA financially supports ALF. Is this not the same as supporting their criminal activities? Doesn't that make PeTA just as accountable under the logic of their alleged supporting of criminal activities?
posted by mikhail at 1:46 PM on January 15, 2002


There are good points to be made out there, but when they are made through violence and destruction of property, the value of the points is diminished.
posted by Mack Twain at 1:47 PM on January 15, 2002


Eleven years ago, a “problem” elephant named Dunda was severely beaten by staff of the Wild Animal Park in San Deigo. As with the beating in El Paso, the zoo community claimed that this brutal discipline was normal, an accepted part of elephant management administered in accordance with professional standards.

"Whenever elephants are kept in a system of free contact with their handlers, there will be such physical abuse. It is the only way that a person can keep a position of dominance over the elephant, supposedly ensuring his or her control."
posted by tcobretti at 1:49 PM on January 15, 2002


malphigian: evidence about ringling bros' abuse of elephants?

I'll give it to you myself. Check out Circuses.com.

I'm not against PeTA, but I am of the opinion that activist groups like these get a little overzealous from time to time.
posted by mikhail at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2002


How about making a clear distinction between groups and people? So if a few activists engage in "terrorist" activity, prosecute those people, not the group.

It is far too easy to take the idiotic McCarthy-esque path and target the group. But that dances too close to constitutional protections.

We cannot and should not outlaw or ban any animal rights group from forming, holding meetings, engaging in non-violent protests, and so forth. And when illegalities occur, we must prosecute the people, not the group. Even the most radical groups don't have a completely homogenous membership.

Basically I am saying that phrasing the questions in terms of "what should we allow groups to do" is the wrong approach.

Focusing on the group rather than the actual people who commit acts of violence, while a useful technique if you're interested in expedient mass-market media appeal, is really just intellectual laziness.
posted by yesster at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2002


In it he makes the connection between the two by way of claiming that PeTA financially supports ALF. Is this not the same as supporting their criminal activities?

Yes, if PETA gave $ to ALF then PETA should be held accountable as ALF.

While I have next to no faith in the accuracy of PETAs statements, I have even less faith in the accuracy of statements from Feld Entertainment. Get this verified by a source that doesnt have a huge bias, and I'll listen, as is, its a worthless connection.
posted by malphigian at 1:53 PM on January 15, 2002


Focusing on the group rather than the actual people who commit acts of violence, while a useful technique if you're interested in expedient mass-market media appeal, is really just intellectual laziness.

Really? What if the group advocates the use of violence by it's members. Are you saying we should just prosecute the individuals one by one and let the group continue?
posted by mikhail at 1:54 PM on January 15, 2002


Here's an interesting view of Ringling Bros. from Salon that mikhail forgot to link in all his zeal. Oh, here's part two of that same report.

A worthy read before you get too high an opinion of Ringling Bros or Ken Feld.
posted by hincandenza at 1:56 PM on January 15, 2002


How about making a clear distinction between groups and people? So if a few activists engage in "terrorist" activity, prosecute those people, not the
group.


This argument didn't work for the mob. I am not up on my RICO law, but if a "few" members of a group repeated "act on their own", you could hold the group responsible. Any MeFi's out there know the RICO law better?
posted by McBain at 1:56 PM on January 15, 2002


I'll give it to you myself. Check out Circuses.com.

How about evidence from someone other than PETA or Ringling Brothers? Is there some third party offering an investigation? Surely, as sweeps month appropaches, some television entity will jump on this?
posted by dwivian at 1:58 PM on January 15, 2002


Sorry. I didn't mean to p in the approach.
posted by dwivian at 1:59 PM on January 15, 2002


---"Are you saying we should just prosecute the individuals one by one and let the group continue?"

You can't (or you shouldn't be able to) prohibit people from associating with each other. Even if you banned certain groups, they would just come up with a new name every few years. But banning a group like the ALF would give them a legitimacy they don't deserve.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2002


Well, I just got an email from Brian Carnell who wrote an article for animalrights.net which makes some points about PeTA's view on violence.

Something from Brian's email: "PETA doesn't engage in violence, but they sure have a long history of supporting such violence (the real question IMO is not whether they have a right to do this, which I think they do, but rather whether they have a right to do it as a tax exempt organization)
posted by mikhail at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2002


Your organizations publicly claim thousands of members and tens of millions of dollars raised on behalf of animals. Yet The Associated Press* reported that in 1999, PeTA confiscated 2,103 pets and killed 1,325 of them.

HELLO? Why does PETA have the right to confiscate animals just to put them down? Why can't these PEOPLE find an ETHICAL way to TREAT these ANIMALS with a budget of tens of millions of dollars?
posted by David Dark at 2:08 PM on January 15, 2002


How about evidence from someone other than PETA or Ringling Brothers?

The Humane Society?
posted by snarkout at 2:10 PM on January 15, 2002


...that mikhail forgot to link in all his zeal.

hehe. My zeal has more to do with the ridiculous activities on both sides, the kind of publicity it draws, the polarization it tends to cause, as well as what, in the current climate, this could means for activist groups who could wind up classified as domestic terrorists.
posted by mikhail at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2002


I think 8 links was plenty. Along with 6 questions. And two uses of "terrorist." With bonus "un-American" thrown in free of charge. In a post about PETA.
posted by NortonDC at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2002


feelingresponsible
posted by feelinglistless at 2:29 PM on January 15, 2002


So should shareholders be held accountable for the actions of corporations they invest in?
posted by srboisvert at 2:38 PM on January 15, 2002


"Yes, if PETA gave $ to ALF then PETA should be held accountable as ALF."

By that logic the US government is responsible for some pretty nasty acts of terrorism committed by the IRA on English soil.
Re: Gerry Adams' fundraising trips to the USA during the Clinton administration.
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 2:39 PM on January 15, 2002


This is not a black and white subject and it's not a black and white world. We live in the grey.

how about gray? you know, as in "in the gray"?

okay, that was bad.

Yes, if PETA gave $ to ALF then PETA should be held accountable as ALF

you're just reaching, there.
posted by lotsofno at 2:56 PM on January 15, 2002


"We need circuses and zoos for people who would otherwise have no way to see wild animals."

I agree with the rest of your comment but I don't agree that the experience of seeing animals in a circus is akin to that of seeing "wild" animals. To view them balancing hoops on their noses and shuffling around a ring with a clown suit on is an experience far removed from seeing animals free and in their natural habitat.
posted by lucien at 3:17 PM on January 15, 2002


Actually, a number of years ago I was a member of PeTA and most of their literature at the time all but said that they supported ALF.

ALF:PeTA as IRA:Sinn Fein

Only PeTA is funnier.
posted by silusGROK at 3:20 PM on January 15, 2002


Yes, if PETA gave $ to ALF then PETA should be held accountable as ALF

you're just reaching, there.

Why is that reaching? You mean to say PeTA doesn't know that they support a group that's classified as criminal and terrorist, or that even if they do know, it wouldn't be right to hold them accountable for another groups actions?
posted by mikhail at 3:42 PM on January 15, 2002


Those articles in Salon posted by Hincandenza are very good. If even 10% of the allegations reported in those are true, I would take anything that Ringling Bros say with a pinch of salt (Since Salong doesn't appear to have been sued, they are probably some truth in those). I also dont like the idea of elephants abuse.Any way you look at it, one has to kick around an elephant - in order to train it.

But, as malphigian pointed out, PETA does make highly controversial statements. Many people who dont read beyond the headlines, will make up their mind from the advertisements. They also seem to support extremist/terrorist organization. To my mind, there isn't much difference between a fund raiser for a terrorist activity and the person actually committed the act of terror. The person doing the fund raising probably possesses a more sophisticated mind and therefore should be held more responsible.

The organizations cited in the example seem to belong to two different extremes. Unless, one can give more examples, I would like to believe that most animal rights organizations are not as extremist as the two cited in the FPP. The moral ambiguity is probably more here because of the representative examples cited there.

The example of 'companies finding it easier to buy off activists by donating money' came from WSJ Opinion journal which did not seem to quote any examples.

I think animal rights activism is a good thing. There is too much money arrayed against it which would usually keep it in check (hopefully!)
posted by justlooking at 4:01 PM on January 15, 2002


Oops, sorry about the typos etc. :(. I'll preview carefully before I post next time ....
posted by justlooking at 4:09 PM on January 15, 2002


You know, I haven't actually had a chance to see children from some various cultures in Africa and the South Pacific, and I wonder if Ringling Bros could get a few for display purposes. I'm sure they would be treated well.

Oh, and then there are the "Bearded Women", the hermaphrodites, the "Elephant Men", etc etc. I think those people are just fascinating. And all those kids with birth defects. Can they be displayed as well? With suitable care, of course.

Hoorah for Ringling Bros...an organization devoted to caring for life...not about profit at the expense of life. Right?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:16 PM on January 15, 2002


There is something wrong about staring at a creature, whether animal or human, which has been forcibly removed from its natural environment and made a spectacle of.

Dignity, identity, group membership are all sacrificed. For what?

You could argue that with human beings there's free will involved - though I would debate that - but certainly not with animals.

Zoos and circuses are all the more unnacceptable given that you now have a zillion ways of reading about animals - or watching them on TV via films which don't bother their way of life very much.

Anyway, who wants to go to a circus that has "performing animals"? It's sick, IMO.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:26 PM on January 15, 2002


I don't think PETA should be given much consideration as a legitimate humanitarian organization in light of their statements and association with the ALF. They are everything that's wrong with activism and animal rights. Being indistinguishable from any other hate group is just a plain stupid tactic.

“We cannot condemn the Animal Liberation Front . . . they act courageously, risking their freedom and their careers to stop the terror inflicted every day on animals in the labs. [ALF's activities] comprise an important part of today's animal protection movement.” – PETA statement in response to Animal Liberation Front violence in the Pacific Northwest, June 19, 1991)

"I wish we all would get up and go into the labs and take the animals out or burn them down." -Ingrid Newkirk, President, PETA, National Animal Rights Convention '97, June 27, 1997
posted by skallas at 5:03 PM on January 15, 2002


Hoorah for Ringling Bros...an organization devoted to caring for life...not about profit at the expense of life. Right?

Not to mention all that breeding and domesticating of animals for our own pleasure and as work animals, eh?

Zoos and circuses are all the more unnacceptable given that you now have a zillion ways of reading about animals - or watching them on TV via films which don't bother their way of life very much.

You up for banning animal use in film too, Miguel? Should our only contact with animals be in the wild? Is a picture of a tiger or elephant on the internet and television, enough for you? I absolutely appreciate the rights of animals to coexist on this planet of ours, and I would love to see a little more reverence for the animals of the world. Now I agree circuses don't give us that, and neither do current zoo designs, but I don't consider either unnacceptable. What I would like to see is a revamping of how these systems operate as well as the conditions the animals are subjected to. Zoo's and circuses, although not ideal, and perhaps not in the best interest of the animals, have allowed us to be in the presence of animals we might never have had the luxury to meet. Where would people's respect for animals be if their only contact or understanding was through television?

Anyway, who wants to go to a circus that has "performing animals"? It's sick, IMO.

What about horse racing and other equestrian events such as dressage? Performing Animals? Sick? Maybe we should let all the horses loose into the wild. After all, we have the television.
posted by mikhail at 5:35 PM on January 15, 2002


Yeah, maybe we should, mikhail. Horse racing sucks.
posted by kv at 7:03 PM on January 15, 2002


whereas dressage and equestrian mounts are usually treated as if they were worth their weight in gold [which sometimes they can be], there are countless cases, which I'm sure someone else can pull out of a hat, of abuse at racetracks.
why the variance? I assume it's because while a dressage horse must look perfect in order to win, and a jumper must be in perfect balance in order to perform credibly, a racehorse can and will run while injured or sick.
as well, almost anyone can grab a throughbred and sit on its back for three minutes at their local track [no offense to professional jockeys, as professional races also require some experience]; dressage and equestrian events usually require years and years of practicing, working your way up the trials, all usually with the same horse - which means that you are perhaps less likely to throw said horse away at the end of it all.

note my usage of 'usually' and 'perhaps' - there are some mean mf's out there working the dressage arenas, but in my experience, horses in the 'higher' events are treated very well, physically and mentally, and seem to enjoy working the challenging events.
posted by Nyx at 7:45 PM on January 15, 2002


Well on the other hand, before Sept. 11 the U.S. government was already quite liberal in its use of the label "terrorism" to apply to civil disobedience actions such as tree sits and human barricades. I am not a big fan of the Animal Liberation Front or the Earth Liberation Front for their use of arson. But it seems that government agencies have become increasingly hostile of nonviolent political protest to the point of using terms like eco- terrorism. (This is in contrast to the Gulf War when an act of nonviolent civil disobedience was simply handled by marching the protesters down to the police station, booking them, and dropping the charges an hour later.) it seems like things of change quite a bit in the last five years. Police and protesters have become increasingly reluctant to cooperate with each other.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:21 AM on January 16, 2002


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