A couple weeks ago I noted that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ staff members had been telling mutually contradictory stories about why exactly they donated $1,500 to the Earth Liberation Front (see Surprise — Someone at PETA Is Lying about That ELF Donation). The Center for Consumer Freedom not only beat me to the punch, but they also found several additional incidents which show a twisting, turning pattern of PETA apparently trying to figure out exactly how best to sell the donation in the media.
On March 22, 2002, the Center for Consumer Freedom sent a long letter to the House subcommittee investigating ecoterrorism. Here is an excerpt from that letter detailing PETA’s constantly evolving position about its ELF donation,
Understandably, PETA was (and still is) subjected to increased public scrutiny following my February 12, 2002, revelation of this donation. In the weeks that followed, however, PETAÂ’s various spokespersons have told at least seven different stories about that grant:
- “[Ingrid Newkirk] said she did not remember the check to ELF, which was reported on the organization’s 2000 tax return.” (ABC News, February 26)
- “She [Newkirk] also said the money PETA gave to the North American Earth Liberation Front was in response to a request for funds for educational materials.” (Associated Press, March 4)
- “Newkirk also confirms that it donated money to the ELF for, Â‘habitat protection.Â’” (KOMO television, Seattle, March 5)
- “PETA [said they] contributed $1,500 during the 2000 fiscal year to ELF for education and habitat protection.” (The Denver Post, March 6)
- “The only reason we did it is because it was a program that we supported. And it was about vegetarianism.” (PETA director of policy and communications Lisa Lange, on “The OÂ’Reilly Factor,” Fox News Channel, March 7)
- “When we gave $1,500 to the Earth Liberation Front press office, it was for help with legal bills for one good animal protectionist who we felt was being harassed.” (“Open letter” e-mail to animal-rights activists, written by PETA correspondent Bridgett Cherry, March 13)
- “In April 2001, PETA sent a check in the amount of $1,500.00 to the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office to assist Craig Rosebraugh with legal expenses related to free speech issues regarding animal protection issues.” (PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr, letter of March 14)
While PETA may now claim to have earmarked the grant in question for any number of lawful purposes (depending on what day you ask them), I urge you to recognize that such grants are “fungible.” If PETA had used its tax-exempt donations from the public to make a sizable gift to Al Quaeda, Hamas, or the Irish Republican Army, we would not be having a discussion about whether or not it is technically possible to make a donation to terrorists without intending that the funds be used to conduct terrorism. The Earth Liberation Front should be treated no differently, especially considering its status with the FBI.
Of course PETA’s main reply to the Center for Consumer Freedom has been ad hominem attacks on the CCF.
One interesting thing that seems apparent reading between the lines of PETA’s evolving story as well as discussions I’ve had with reporters and others who have looked into this story is that it appears almost no one at PETA was aware of the ELF donation other than Newkirk. One person told me flat out that Lisa Lange seemed to be completely out of the loop on this. The clear implication of this is that donating to ELF was something deemed sufficiently controversial even within PETA that Newkirk didn’t bother to discuss it or inform other PETA staffers about the donation.
Well, what did they expect? That an organization that hides its activities from donors (I’ve never seen an donation pitch from PETA mentioning their donations to animal rights terrorists) would necessarily share them with staffers? Ha.
Letter to House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. Center for Consumer Freedom, March 22, 2002.