Last month I wrote about my disgust with people who, like me, are opposed to the animal rights movement but said some rather noxious things about Pamela Anderson’s fears that she may die within a decade from Hepatitis-C.
An even bigger problem, however, are those in the animal rights movement who believe that it is okay to promote widespread harassment and terrorist acts against anyone who dares to disagree with them.
For example, an e-mail today alerted me that an animal rights activist named Will Peavy had posted my home address and phone number on an animal rights extremist Live Journal blog along with the following suggestion,
If anyone happens to pass through Kalamazoo, or wants to make a phone call – please do so and cordially show Mr. Carnell what animal-rights means to you.
I contacted LiveJournal since the posting violates their TOS, and they were very helpful in promptly requiring that the post be removed.
This sort of tactic is fairly typical of animal rights extremists and highlights an interesting (and significant) difference between them and their opponents. It would be fairly easy, for example, for me to post all sorts of personal information about Mr. Peavy here on this web site. With Google and other tools these days, it’s amazing just how little information can be kept private from people willing to take the time to dig around and find it.
In fact, I or others like me could easily compile lists of activists complete with their home phone numbers, addresses, where they work, etc. But in the last 6-7 years I’ve been following the animal rights movement closely, I’ve never seen anyone in the medical research, animal agriculture or other animal-related industries post the personal information about a single activist. In fact I go to great lengths to preserve the privacy of everyone who visits or posts to my animal rights web site.
Animal rights activists, on the other hand, routinely publish and/or link to web sites that publish detailed information about medical researchers, company officials and others along with messages urging that people harass and threaten these individuals. Occasionally, the same web sites publish detailed information on how best to go about such harassment, up to and including arson.
This is both vexing and gratifying. It is vexing, of course, because no one wants to be the subject of such harassment, especially when the goal is usually to terrorize the target into complying with the demands of these extremists. If you’re a company who sells cleaning supplies to a research lab and all of a sudden you’ve got dozens of employees complaining that they’re receiving threatening phone calls, you’re often not in a position to just take the high road and ignore it or wait for the legal system to deal with such harassment.
It is also a bit gratifying, in some sense, because people only resort to these tactics when they are in a position of weakness. The reason activists choose these tactics is precisely because the animal rights movement has about as much chance of succeeding as Dennis Kucinich has of being elected president.
It’s not that things haven’t changed, and usually for the better, over the years as far as animal welfare is concerned. But the animal rights argument has clearly been rejected by the public and, ironically, the successes the movement has enjoyed are often double-edged swords. People want to ensure that animals raised for food or for medical research are cared for properly — and there is often a severe backlash when there is evidence that animals are mistreated — but the idea that animals should not be used for food or medical research has gained almost no traction in the United States.
Sometimes, in fact, successes tend to backfire. For example, people eat less beef now than they did 20 or 30 years ago. But people who ate less beef didn’t become vegetarians. Instead they simply began eating more turkey and chicken, and since farmers have to kill a lot more chickens than cattle for the same amount of meat, the perverse upshot is that the decline in popularity of beef has led to far more animals being killed for food rather than fewer.
So activists turn to acts of desperation — harassment, vandalism, terrorism. This tends to be a vicious cycle, however, as these acts themselves tend to further isolate the activists moving their goals even further away and thereby pushing more activists to engage in such acts.
The animal rights movement is in largely the same spot that the anti-abortion movement was 20 years ago. With no legal hope in sight to eliminate abortion, extremists in the movement turned to civil disobedience that often degenerated into harassment and occasionally into violence directed at both property and individuals. The main effect of such tactics was to alienate many of the people who would have supported a more moderate movement.
The anti-abortion movement changed, for a variety of reasons, largely abandoning such tactics. Mainstream groups regularly repudiated such extremist acts, and in many areas the anti-abortion movement appears to have outflanked the pro-abortion movement at the moment.
Unlike the anti-abortion movement, though, the animal rights movement doesn’t have much of a significant built-in constituency it can appeal to, so the extremists tend to drive the movement which then simply attracts more extremists. Unlike the abortion movement, for example, only a handful of mainstream groups will condemn extremism in the animal rights movement. Most, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are happy to endorse both violence to property and to people (PETA representatives, in fact, have gone as far as to express admiration for murder if it achieves the desired result).
Which makes it extremely annoying when you are the subject of such harassment, but on the other hand is also a good barometer that this is still a political movement with almost no support for its agenda.