Paul Watson Attempts Takeover of the Sierra Club

Paul Watson’s announcement last summer at AR 2003 that he was just three seats away from controlling the board of the Sierra Club suddenly started getting a lot of media attention in early 2004 as the Sierra Club’s April election deadline comes closer.

The Sierra Club, of course, has a $95 million budget which Watson wants to control in order to push his agenda. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, Watson said at that time,

One of the reasons that I’m on the, um, the Sierra Club board of directors right now is to try and change it Â… we’re only three directors away from controlling that board. We control one-third of it right now. And, uh, once we get three more directors elected, the Sierra Club will not, no longer be pro-hunting and pro-trapping and we can use the resources of the $95-million-a-year budget to address some of these issues. And the heartening thing about it is that, in the last election, of the 750,000 members of the Sierra Club, only 8 percent of them voted. So, you know, a few hundred, or a few thousand people from the animal rights movement joining the Sierra Club — and making it a point to vote — will change the entire agenda of that organization.

According to Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, about 18 percent of Sierra Club members fish or hunt, and Pope worries that those individuals would be driven from the organization and that it would end up marginal,

It’s important to have hunters and fisherman in the Sierra Club. We are a big-tent organization. We want the Sierra Club to be a big-tent organization. We want the Sierra Club to be a comfortable place for Americans who want clean air, clean water, and to protect America’s open spaces.

The most amusing commentary on the controversy came from FARM USA’s Alex Hershaft who distributed a letter charging that it was, in fact, the hunters and fisherman who were trying to take over the Sierra Club rather than vice versa. According to Hershaft,

The Sierra Club, with 750,000 members and a $95 million annual budget, is being hijacked by the hunting, trapping, and fishing cadres in the forthcoming Board election. Their leaders have been urging members to join the Sierra Club in droves. We can not do any less.

Hershaft parted ways with reality long ago, so this claim should not surprise anyone.

According to Hershaft the three candidates the animal rights activists want to win are activists Kim McCoy and Robert Roy van de Hoek as well as Cornell University Professor David Pimentel.

Pimentel is part of the other group that is trying to hijack the Sierra Club — an organized effort by right wingers and extreme environmentalists to turn the Sierra Club into an anti-immigration organization. A few years ago this coalition managed to put up to a vote by the members a proposed anti-immigration stance that they wanted the Sierra Club would take, but that failed. Along with Dick Lamm and Frank Morris and promoted by racist web sites like VDARE.Org, the anti-immigration effort has also seen the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Morris Dees enter his name as a candidate for the board in order to protest and highlight the anti-immigration effort.


Keep the Sierra Club Out of Hunters’ Clutches! Letter, Alex Hershaft, January 23, 2004.

Sierra Club: Ever More Radical. Center for Consumer Freedom, September 4, 2003.

20th Annual World Farm Animals Day

Farm USA’s Alex Hershaft recently distributed a press release announcing the 20th annual celebration of World Farm Animals Day. The release had an odd title, “Activists bring the slaughterhouse to America’s streets.” Is that some sort of commentary on the movement’s penchant for terrorism and destruction? Hershaft has, after all, made it clear that activists who espouse violence are more than welcome at his annual animal rights convention, and no sort of criticism of such activists will be permitted therein.

The press release was filled with several dubious claims, but smartly avoided publishing any statistics on the number of farm animals killed in 1983, when the event began, to 20 years later

When World Farm Animals Day began in 1983, Americans ate a total of 180.9 pounds of meat per capita every year. For 2003, the USDA projects Americans will eat 193.6 pounds of meat per capita. But, of course, for farm animals the situation is (from Farm USA’s perspective) far worse.

Beef consumption during those 20 years declined from 74.2 pounds in 1983 to an estimated 62.0 pounds in 2003. The problem, of course, is that this means total chicken consumption skyrocketed from 34.5 pounds in 1983 to an estimated 53.3 pounds in 2003 — and it takes a lot more chickens to provide that additional 18.8 pounds of meat than it does cattle. The total number of farm animals has exploded just in the United States.

Yet, according to Farm USA,

Growing awareness of the adverse health consequences of meat consumption, including the largest recall of ground beef contaminated with E. coli, is driving consumers to meat alternatives offered by mainstream producers in local supermarkets.

Certainly there is a rise in the popularity of vegan and vegetarian products, but Farm USA makes the mistake of associating that with a total rejection of meat, which is simply not happening (my family, I suspect, is typical — we buy plenty of meat substitutes along with our chicken and turkey).

Moreover current estimates put the total number of farm animals worldwide as likely doubling this century as the per capita incomes in the underdeveloped world increase to developed world levels.

Farm USA also makes this odd warning about foot and mouth disease,

The foot-and-mouth and mad cow epidemics have devastated the European meat industry and threaten to have a similar effect in the U.S.

But, of course, the foot-and-mouth and mad cow epidemics have been a boon for American animal agriculture which has been exporting meat to make up for the problems in Europe. Neither Mad Cow nor foot-and-mouth have yet to rear their heads in the United States despite the wishful thinking of some animal rights activists.

It won’t be too long before Hershaft is issuing the press release for the 30th and then the 40th and so on observances of World Farm Animals Day.


Activists bring the slaughterhouse to America’s street. Farm USA, August 25, 2002.

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. (

Subject: Our real adversaries are …

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.”


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 …. Alex Hershaft, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Problems at AR 2002

This year, as he did last year, Alex Hershaft moderated an AR 2002 “memory board” on VegSource.Com to allow activists to reminisce about the event. The main topic of discussion, however, centered around a group of women at the event who were offended by comments that Howard Lyman made prior to the July 2 keynote.

As Hershaft relates the story,

On the evening of Tuesday, July 2, the MC was in a jocular mood. He talked about my being willing to dye my hair purple and to put rings through my nose if that’s what it took to attract young people. Later, in introducing Natasha Allas, Miss World USA 2000, he said: “There have been a number of speakers at this conference who have alluded to the shape of the movement … I would like to introduce to you, as the ideal shape of the movement, Natasha Allas, Miss World USA, the shape of the movement.” Later, as Actress Charlotte Ross was leaving the stage, he added “Is there a bit of a doubt in your mind about the shape of the movement. To show you that there is room for improvement, I stand in front of you.”

These comments caused several activists to leave the room and apparently angrily denounced Lyman’s comments as sexist. Apparently while the keynote speech was still going on, seven of the individual walked on stage and read a statement attacking Lyman and sexism in the animal rights movement. They then started a petition among AR 2002 attendees which gathered about 200 signatures.

Hershaft writes that,

At the closing plenary the next day, I made a statement that expressed my sincere regret, as organizer of the conference, that the remarks offended some people and noted that sexism has no place at the AR2002 conference. I also stated that the subsequent disruption was self-indulgent, and deeply disrespectful and offensive to the MC, to me, to the Conference, and to the other participants.

On the AR2002 memory board, Hershaft announced that one of the women who was involved in this, Barbara Chang, was banned from attending AR2003 for her disruptive actions. For her part, Chang says she is working on a “Boycott AR2003” web site.

The best comment about the controversy, however, noted that it was a bit telling that the assembled activists were apparently more offended by Lyman’s “shape of the movement” comments than they were by Peter Singer’s comments about killing human infants.


AR 2002 Memory Board. VegSource.Com, July 2002.

Should Animal Rights Advocates Start Promoting Beef?

Earlier this week I mentioned that I though the veggie burger being offered by Burger King was doomed to failure — despite claims by some overenthusiastic vegans and vegetarians, there is no great movement among the general population to foreswear meat. This is confirmed, ironically, by statistics from animal rights activists themselves.

Alex Hershaft, who had posted to an animal rights e-mail list about the importance of Burger King veggie burger, also recently posted statistics to the same e-mail list demonstrating why the veggie burger will fail.

In 1980, per capita consumption of meat in the United Stats was 196 pounds. By 1990, that had risen to 201 pounds, and in 2001 hit 209 pounds, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.

Consumption in beef and pork products are expected to decline somewhat over the next 10 years, but largely because people are expected to eat more chicken and turkey.

Hershaft tries to spin the change as also being due to increased vegetarian/vegan options,

Consumption is now leveling off, reflecting market saturation and increase consumer interest in meat alternatives like veggie burgers, soy dogs, and soy lunch ‘meats.’

The reality is, however, that after 20 years of trying to convince Americans to adopt vegetarian lifestyles, the animal rights movement hasn’t even made a small dent in meat consumption, with the biggest consumer change being eating more chicken and turkey rather than beef and pork.

Ironically, the switch to chicken and turkey will mean a massive increase in the total number of animals killed. Assuming the USDA is correct in its estimates here is how the numbers would change over the next ten years (these are very rough estimates intended only to show the magnitude of change):

Cows killed: -4.2 million
Pigs killed: -4.7 million
Chickens killed: +639 million
Turkeys killed: +31 million
Net: +661.1 million animals

If the animal rights movement really wants to minimize the total number of animals killed for meat, it should start with a campaign addressed to American consumers to the effect that if they are going to eat meat, the most humane option is beef. Just don’t hold your breath waiting.


2002 Death Statistics (PDF). Farm USA, Winter/Spring 2002.

More than 10 billion animals killed for food in the U.S. Alex Hershaft e-mail, accessed April 24, 2002.

US animal flesh consumption at 209 lbs. Alex Hershaft, e-mail, Accessed April 24, 2002.

Vegan Dreams vs. Burger King Reality

Burger King recently announced that it will offer a veggie burger at all of its 8,000+ outlets across the country. For animal rights activists, that is a double edged sword.

Alex Hershaft wrote an e-mail letter to an animal rights newsletter highlighting the possibilities and perils of Burger King’s decision. Of course Hershaft couldn’t just discuss the issue without first giving a rundown of what many in the animal rights movement really long for,

Once up on a time, in our wildest dreams, we may have picture victory as an array of slaughterhouses and fast food chains lying in smoldering ruins, or at the very least, undergoing bankruptcy proceedings . . .

Smoldering ruins? And people in the animal rights movement wonder why the press tends to depict them as a bunch of nutbags.

But, moving on, Hershaft argues that,

As a welcome reality check, Burger King, the evil transnational corporate giant, has handed us a beautiful present for this year’s Meatout observance: a real veggie burger. Not just in a dozen avant-garde outlets in Greenwich Village, but in all 8,300 outlets throughout America.

Not that this will make much of a difference to the true vegan fanatics, since as Hershaft notes the vegan patty will be grilled along side burgers, the mayonnaise Burger King uses is not vegan, and there is “butter flavor” in the bun (and, lets not forget, “Moreover, BK is still the evil transnational corporate giant.”)

But, still, here is big opportunity for the animal rights movement. Just get everyone in America to buy veggie burgers at Burger King rather than burgers, and save the lives of many farm animals. “One of the nicest things that we can do for these wretched animals,” Hershaft wrote, “is to promote this product to all our friends and supporters.”

This is especially important because, as Hershaft notes,

You can be sure that all the other fast food chains are waiting to see how this product does. If it succeeds, it will prevent the suffering and death of millions. But, if it fails, it will set us back substantially. We absolutely can not afford to let that happen.

So, allow me to go out on a limb here for a moment — this veggie burger is going to fail. In fact, I hope that Burger King at some point releases figures on just how many veggie burgers they sell, because I doubt Burger King’s target market overlaps very much with people who are vegetarians/vegans.

If Hershaft and others are counting on the success of Burger King’s veggie burger to save animals, they’re in for a rude awakening.


Dreams, Reality, and Burger King. Alex Hershaft, E-mail, April 17, 2002.