Alex Hershaft: No Room for Feminist Protesters, But Open Arms for Terrorists

Alex Hershaft had a problem — the discussion board set up on VegSource.Com to serve as a place for activists to talk about their memories of Animal Rights 2002 was being dominated by a debate by remarks made by Howard Lyman and the appropriateness of campaigns by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals which use sex to sell the animal rights message.

So Hershaft did what most people in groups try to do when faced with internal dissent — try to focus that anger back at a common foe. So on Monday, July 15, Hershaft posted the text of an op-ed by David Martosko, who is director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom. But that article and Hershaft’s ensuing comments raised more problems and questions than they answered.

That was an odd choice because Martosko’s main point was that animal rights violence and terrorism is a mainstream part of the movement, and there was no better example of the truth of this than that advocates of violence were given prominent platforms at AR 2002. Martosko wrote, for example,

One such miscreant is actually a fugitive from justice. Paul Watson, who runs the misleadingly-named Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, made over a half-dozen speeches at AR2002, despite his continued defiance of a warrant for his arrest in Costa Rica. Watson, whose own ship has a bow filled with cement (for ramming and sinking other boats), openly advocated the baseball-bat approach to conflict resolution, telling the audience: “The fact is that we live in an extremely violent culture, and we all justify violence if itÂ’s for what we believe in.” In another session, ominously titled “Direct Tactics,” Watson advised the assembled activists that “ThereÂ’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win.”

Other memorable moments from AR2002 included former Animal Liberation Front (ALF) “spokesperson” Kevin Jonas embracing the T-word (“TodayÂ’s terrorist is tomorrowÂ’s freedom fighter”) and encouraging more activists to cross the line into lawbreaking: “Why should any one of us feel that ‘it shouldn’t be me taking that brick and chucking it through that window?Â’” he implored. “Why shouldnÂ’t I be going to that fur farm down the road and opening up those cages? ItÂ’s not hard; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. You don’t need a 4-year degree to call in a bomb hoax.” Jonas (sometimes spelled “Kjonaas”) was profiled in yesterdayÂ’s Philadelphia Inquirer, defending his group and its violent actions. “I don’t feel any sympathy for people in England or America who have had their cars tipped or torched,” he offered, “because those cars were paid for out of blood money.”

To Hershaft, apparently, Martosko’s highlighting of the advocates of violence at AR2002 is representative of the real adversaries the animal rights movement faces.

This post by Hershaft brought a quick response by animal rights activist Dean Smith who was also one of the speakers at AR 2002. In a post titled, “Our “adversary” has a point”, Smith wrote,

Like it or not, the comments at AR2002 encouraging the use of violence as a means for achieving animal liberation could very well have been the impetus for the actions referenced in this article. The main point of the panel was to encourage this type of action, violent and otherwise. Why do we run away when violent acts occur and act as if they weren’t encouraged by movement leaders (tacitly and otherwise).

. . .

Both Dan Murphy in his recent column and the columnist referenced here are right to criticize our movement for violent actions. I personally wish that more leaders in this movement would have the fortitude to do so as well.

A couple others chimed in with agreement, and one, identified only as “Ali M”, put the question about terrorism and animal rights to Hershaft directly,

Alex, I’m confused about the message behind your post. What are you saying about animal rights activists who break the law? What are you saying about animal rights terrorists? There is a very clear distinction between breaking the law & being a terrorist. I hope you are not suggesting otherwise. Who are you saying is “our real adversaries?” Please respond.

Hershaft replied with a curt, chilling message,

From: AlexH. (pool-138-88-95-208.res.east.verizon.net)

Subject: Our real adversaries are consumerfreedom.com …

Date: July 15, 2002 at 3:26 pm PST

In Reply to: Re: Lest we forget our real adversaries posted by Ali M on July 15, 2002 at 2:26 pm:

… and their fellow shills for the meat, dairy, research, and animal oppressing industries. Since the people attacked in the editorial were my plenary speakers, I didn’t realize my post required clarification.

For Hershaft, then, the real adversaries of the animal rights movement are those outside of it who dare criticize activists like Paul Watson and Kevin Jonas for their endorsement of violence. To Hershaft, people like Jonas are not dangerous advocates of violence but rather “my plenary speakers.”

In Hershaft’s vision of the animal rights movement, feminists who go up on stage to read a statement in protest of an award given to a beauty pageant winner are divisive and may be banned from future animal rights conferences. Those who openly advocate violence, however, are not only welcome, but the real adversaries to the movement are those, like Martosko, who simply report about how the animal rights movement tolerates and encourages violent extremism.

This is the same Hershaft who earlier this year complained that people ignored instructions at Animal Rights 2001 and brought their dogs, complaining that the Hilton was angry about this and he needed to keep the event at the Hilton because “we are trying to project a middle class image.” It’s hard to tell where he thinks bomb hoaxes, property discussion and arson fit into a “middle class image.”

Sources:

Animal-rights fanatics: Doctor Dolittle gone bad. David Martosko, Seattle Times, July 15, 2002.

Lest we forget our real adversaries. Alex Hershaft, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Our “adversary” has a point. Dean Smith, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Yes. “Sydney”, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Re: Lest we forget our real adversaries. “Ali M.”, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Our real adversaries are consumerfreedom.com …. Alex Hershaft, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

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