Unveiling New Design for AnimalRights.net

Back in January I decided that most of my web sites needed a serious re-design, and I decided to start with my most heavily visited site, AnimalRights.net. In April, I contacted Yanisar Enterprises about doing such a redesign, and seven months later you can see the fruits of that collaboration here.

I initially chose Yanisar because I was impressed with some of the other projects they’d done and they had experience with Conversant, the content management system that drives this site. The project started out being largely a cosmetic makeover of the site. But as it progressed, it became clear that bigger changes were needed and pretty much every major part of the site was both re-designed and re-configured. The end result is a site that highlight just how flexible Conversant is as a CMS.

One of the things I’m most pleased about, for example, is being able to provide context-sensitive information and links for popular search terms. Look, for example, at what the user sees if they search for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. That is something that never occurred to me but the folks at Yanisar suggested and after a couple of fits and starts trying to figure out how to get it to work, it works like a charm.

The site’s home page is an excellent mix that combines a weblog-centric view of the site with all sorts of links to related stories, recent discussion group threads, etc. One of the challenges we faced in redesigning this site is that there are more than 2,000 articles there about the animal rights movement, and an additional 1,100 or so topical pages along with the discussion group that has something like 75,000 posts. The home page design that Yanisar came up with slices through all that and gives a quick web-site-at-a-glance view at the underlying foundations of the site.

The Discussion Forum also received a much-needed overhaul. It is now much easier and friendly to use than before.

There are a couple of features still to be implemented, including a system for doing user profiles, but as it is now the final results far exceeded my initial expectations. When I started out, the goal was simply to give the site a cosmetic facelift, but as the project actually got underway it resulted in a lot of structural changes that have really improved the site’s usability dramatically over what it had been like.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend Yanisar Enterprises for someone wanting to do a redesign, and I personally plan to keep them busy redesigning my other websites.

PCRM Is an Animal Rights Group

The news stories about Robert Atkins being obese when he died were appalling for a number of reasons, not the least of which that much of the coverage deceived people like John Robb into believing that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a run-of-the-mill nonprofit run by doctors.

It’s not — it’s a front group for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The groups use a third nonprofit front group, The Foundation to Support Animal Protection to hide the fact that PCRM is little more than a PETA branch office.

Why? Because PETA knows that the press and public are increasingly skeptical of claims coming from animal rights groups. But if you make the exact same information appear to be coming from a nonprofit doctors group, the media and the public will sit up and take note.

When Losing an Argument, Try Harassing the Speaker

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.

Respecting the Dignity of Those You Fundamentally Disagree With

Something that continues to amaze and annoy me is how wrapped up some people can get in their ideological wars that they completley jettison any sort of common decency and dignity toward others. Yes, I can enjoy (or start) a flamewar as much as the next guy or gal, but some people seem unable to take even a step back even in the most extreme positions.

What I’m talking about is Pamela Anderson. Now I am not a big fan of Anderson’s — to put it bluntly, aside from everything else I’ve just never thought she was that attractive. Add in the lack of acting ability, extraodinarily poor choice in boyfriends/husbands, etc. and I’m just not sure how this woman ever became a household name of sorts (and no, I don’t think the obvious answer that everyone’s going to suggest explains it either).

Anyway, I normally wouldn’t write anything about Anderson except that she is an animal rights activist and an occasional spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I, to say the least, have a fundamental disagreement with animal rights ideologies, and the few times I’ve ever written anything about Anderson has been about her animal rights activism.

Anderson is also afflicted with Hepatitis-C and fears that the disease may killer her within a decade. Anderson is an idiot for following some herbal regimen instead of interferon treatment, and it’s annoying that she fronts for a group that is opposed to ongoing research with mice and chimpanzees that may one day lead to more effective treatments or even a cure for the 175 million Hepatitis-C sufferers worldwide.

But it’s bizarre to see some folks on mailing lists I subscribe to practically gloat over the news that she may die within ten years. (Actually, it’s rather sickening.)

If Anderson dies from Hepatitis-C that would be a tragedy, just as the 8,000-10,000 annual deaths from the disease in the United States alone is a tragedy (and, sadly, that number is likely to triple over the next 20 years if a better treatment isn’t discovered).

I just don’t understand the sort of person who could gloat over Anderson’s potentially fatal medical problems.

All Your Bonsai Kittens Are Belong To Us

One of the things that fascinates me — largely because I don’t understand the process at all — is how some hoaxes and memes spread like wildfire throughout the Internet, while others just crash and burn.

I cannot understand, for example, why BonsaiKitten.Com still attracts such outrage among people almost three years after it first appeared on the web.

The first time I saw it I thought it was somewhat clever, but assumed that it is so obviously a hoax that the furor over it would soon die down. Apparently I vastly overestimated the general level of knowledge about mammalian physiology.

So as maintainer of a site about the animal rights movement I receive about 6 or 7 emails a week asking me to spread the word about this horrible site. Several times a week, people forward me one of a number of petitions against the site. For the most part I ignore these e-mails because of the odd responses I would get from people after I told them the site was a hoax — many of my correspondents simply refused to believe the site was a hoax. Look, you can see the pictures there for yourself, they would write back.

I’ve come to have a grudging admiration for whomever is actually behind the BonsaiKitten.Com site for their ability to really strike a nerve. Connie Bloom, a writer for Ohio’s The Beacon Journal, recently devoted a long column to what she calls this “disgusting work of a former student at [MIT].”

And like a lot of people, Bloom on the one hand understands why the site exists, but on the other hand, can’t help but herself in giving the author of the site what he or she was looking for. Early in her column, Bloom notes that back in 2000 BonsaiKitten.Com had to jump from provider to provider after getting kicked off various ISPs, but “the student was encouraged by all the negative attention and has continued to promote it on a series of Web hosts, one after another, citing his right to free speech.”

But she ends her column with a flourish noting that even the Humane Society of the United States recognizes that BonsaiKitten.Com is protected speech but, Bloom adds, “That doesn’t make it any less offensive or infuriating.”

Infuriating and offensive enough to devote 900 words to it in a newspaper column three years after it was obvious the site was a hoax? Again, I’ve got some grudging admiration whose rather tame satire is so successful at getting underneath people’s skin.

Source:

‘Bonsai Kittens’ in jars cause stir with pet lovers. Connie Bloom, Beacon Journal (Ohio), Feb. 15, 2003.