PETA's Sensitivity to Terrorism Accusations

The Virginian-Pilot ran an article in June about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ apparent growing concern about accusation that it funds and/or supports animal rights terrorism.

Reporter Bill Burke notes that for once Ingrid Newkirk has been keeping a low profile on this topic and letting PETA’s general counsel, Jeffrey S. Kerr, field all press inquiries about the allegations. Kerr tells Burke,

The whole notion that PETA supports terrorism is false and defamatory. When you use the word ‘terror,’ look at the terror inflicted on billions of animals in this country every year. That’s real terror.

. . .

They’re [PETA’s opponents] trying to smear us any way they can.

In a letter to a House subcommittee investigating ecoterror, Kerr wrote that it “is an insult to the victims of Sept. 11th” to suggest that PETA fosters terrorism. “It is reprehensible for PETA’s opponents to equate peaceful and lawful animal protection with al-Quaida or any other type of terrorism, and to exploit that tragedy for expedient political gain.”

In other words, when PETA’s point man on fur, Dan Matthews, said he admired serial killer Andrew Cunanan “because he got Versace to stop doing fur” — that must have been some other Dan Matthews working for some other animal rights group.

And when Bruce Friedrich told an audience at Animal Rights 2001 that while he doesn’t personally advocate animal rights terrorism, “I do advocate it, and I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation” — well, he was probably a victim of some mind control scheme by those evil folks over at The Center for Consumer Freedom.

At the very least, when Ingrid Newkirk was quoted in 1997 as saying, “I wish we all would get up and go into the labs and take the animals out or burn them down,” that was probably a case of mistaken identity. That was really Ingrid Bergman back from the dead saying such vicious things, because everyone knows Ingrid Newkirk would never even think such a thing.

PETA’s press blackout on the terrorism allegations included refusing an interview request with Gary Yourofsky. Yourofsky has an Animal Liberation Front tattoo on his arm and said just over a year ago that animal activists should “not be afraid to condone arsons at places of animal torture” and said that if an animal researcher were killed in such a raid “I would unequivocally support that too.”

That sort of resume makes him perfect material for PETA which hired Yourofsky on as a “humane education presenter” after Yourofsky sent out an e-mail whining that he was broke and leaving the animal rights movement temporarily.

The bottom line is that the widespread support for terrorism within the animal rights movement harms groups and individuals associated with it far more than it poses any credible threat to bringing medical research or animal agriculture to a halt. Fortunately it is not that difficult to make the link since so many prominent animal rights activists apparently see the need to endorse or condone criminal acts in order to appease the extremists who seem to set the agenda within the animal rights movement.

For this reason, The Center for Consumer Freedom’s print ad featuring a Bruce Friedrich quote is easily the most powerful anti-animal rights ad I’ve seen. Hopefully there will be a follow-up with some choice quotes from Yourofsky.

The animal rights movement is intellectually bankrupt on a number of issues, but its willingness to endorse violence and criminal acts makes discrediting the movement to all but the true believers relatively simple. Personally, I’m glad that PETA hired Yourofksy and that Newkirk and Friedrich decided to wax on about their support of terrorism. It certainly makes it much easier to illustrate just how extreme even the most nominally mainstream animal rights organizations are.


Terrorism accusations raise hackles at PETA. Bill Burke, The Virginian-Pilot, June 22, 2002.

Center for Consumer Freedom on PETA's Evolving Explanation for ELF Donation

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, ‘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.

Center for Consumer Freedom Highlights PETA's Financial Support for Eco- and Animal Rights Terrorism

The Center for Consumer Freedom continues its excellent investigative look at the animal rights movement with a press release outlining People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals‘ extensive financial support from 1995-2000 for individuals and groups who are connected with and advocates of animal rights and environmental terrorism. The entire press release is reproduced below, but the most damaging items are that PETA donated $1,500 to the Earth Liberation Front in April 2001 as well as a $1,500 donation in 1999 to then-ALF spokesman David Wilson.

Here’s the full press release:

Arsonist “Support Committees” Funded By PETA

Washington, DC – In the wake of this weekÂ’s congressional hearings on eco-terrorism,
new evidence shows a close relationship between the animal rights group People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the violent Earth Liberation
Front (ELF). The FBI has labeled ELF as “the largest and most active U.S.-based
terrorist group.”

Richard Berman, Executive Director for the Center for Consumer Freedom, said
the financial links between PETA and ELF are very disturbing. “An investigation
of IRS documents shows that over the past 6 years PETA has given significant
money to the legal support funds of criminals with close affiliations to both
ELF and Animal Liberation Front (ALF),” Berman said. “More shocking is our most
recent discovery of a direct donation to Earth Liberation Front from PETA in
April 2001.”

PETAÂ’s 1995-2000 IRS tax filings show the following:

  • In FY2000, PETA gave a direct contribution of $1500 to the Earth Liberation
    Front (ELF) to “support their program activities.”

  • In FY2000, PETA gave $5000 to the “Josh Harper Support Committee.” Josh
    Harper is an ALF-affiliated criminal arrested numerous times and convicted
    for assaulting a police officer. In 1998, Harper told Eugene Weekly newspaper
    “weÂ’re going to continue to be confrontational, weÂ’re going to continue to
    be militant. If people see that as extreme, then so be it.”

  • In FY1999, PETA gave $2,000 to David Wilson, a Utah-based animal-rights
    extremist who was then a national “spokesperson” for the ALF. In March of
    that year, Wilson bragged to Mother Jones magazine: “We started with animal
    rights, but we’ve expanded to wildlife actions like the [October 1998 ski
    resort arson] one in Vail. We’re the ones bridging the environmental gap.”

  • In FY1995, PETA gave a $45,200 contribution to the “support committee” of
    Rodney Coronado, a convicted arsonist who firebombed a research facility at
    Michigan State University. PETA also gave an unreturned $25,000 “loan” to
    Rodney CoronadoÂ’s father.

  • PETA has used their closely controlled Foundation to Support Animal Protection
    to launder over $500,000 in contributions to the Physicians Committee for
    Responsible Medicine, an organization whose president collaborates with a
    violent animal rights group known as Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC).
    SHAC is a special-interest subset of ALF responsible for firebombings, property
    destruction, grand theft and assault.

“People are being deceived by PETAÂ’s self-portrayal as a warm and cuddly animal
rights organization,” Berman said. “PETA should explain to their contributors
why their money is being used to help finance domestic terrorism.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a coalition of more than 30,000 restaurants
and tavern operators working together to protect the public’s right to a full
menu of dining and entertainment choices, through education, training and public
outreach. To learn more, visit


Written Testimony of Richard Berman

Below is the full text of the written testimony that Richard Berman submitted to the U.S. House’s hearing on ecoterrorism on Feb. 12. Berman is the executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom:


Before the U. S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Resources,
Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health

February 12, 2002


Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, my name is Richard Berman. I am the Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. The Center does not accept and has never received government funds.

On behalf of American restaurant operators and food producers, I would like to thank you for holding this hearing today. Eco-terrorism is indeed alive and well in the United States of America, and it shares a common heritage with violent animal-rights extremism. These radical movements have been responsible for well over 1,000 documented criminal acts in the U.S., most of which would be prosecuted as felonies if the perpetrators could be brought to justice.

I am not talking about peaceful protest, pickets, sign waving, slogan chanting, or forms of civil disobedience that are protected by the First Amendment. Rather, America’s present environmental and animal-rights terrorists have committed arsons, assaults, vandalism on a massive scale, and a host of other property crimes that cripple food producers and resource providers, and occasionally lay waste to entire restaurants.

On September 11th of last year, on the very day America mourned the loss of thousands of lives to foreign terrorists, our own home-grown version (the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, known as “ELF” and “ALF”) took joint credit for firebombing a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson, Arizona.

There is no doubt now, and the FBI concurs, that the Earth Liberation Front is associated with the Animal Liberation Front. Special Agent David Szady (now the U.S. counterintelligence executive) has told CNN that “by any sense or any definition, this is a true domestic terrorism group, that uses criminal activity to further their political agenda.”

During the past three years alone, ELF and ALF have claimed responsibility for smashing bank windows, torching a chicken feed truck, burning a horse corral at a Bureau of Land Management facility, firebombing dealer lots full of sport utility vehicles, destroying valuable scientific laboratory equipment and many years worth of irreplaceable research documents, “spiking” trees in the Pacific Northwest, and even setting bombs under meat delivery trucks.

There should be no sympathy for intentionally committed felonies of this magnitude. Eco-terror and animal-rights crimes have become everyday events in America, yet they are among our most under-reported and least-punished offenses.

Members of the Subcommittee, on rare occasions the criminals responsible for these violent and unlawful acts are captured. Just two weeks ago a pair of animal-rights terrorists were sentenced to prison terms for attempting to blow up a dairy truck near San Jose, California. They were caught red-handed, with home-made bombs just as deadly as those being exploded by other terrorists in the Middle East. But the vast majority of crimes like these go unpunished. The underground ELF and ALF even have the gall to brag publicly about their felonies. ALF actually released a report in January, claiming responsibility for 137 crimes in 2001, and causing an estimated $17.3 million in damage.

ALF and ELF won’t stop with damage to people and businesses with whom they disagree. Rather, they are aggressively recruiting new criminals to their vicious gang. Incredibly, the group’s leaders have begun to distribute “how-to” manuals on the Internet, describing how to build bombs and incendiary devices, how to destroy fields of genetically-engineered food crops, and how to commit “arson,” “thievery,” and other felonies without leaving clues at the crime scene. There is even a volume on the easiest way to sink a ship.

Any 10-year-old with a computer can download much of this reading material. For a few dollars and the cost of postage, ALF “spokesperson” David Barbarash will mail the rest of the materials to anyone who asks. Mr. Chairman, I have submitted a copy of Mr. Barbarash’s disturbing catalog for the record.

Equally troubling is the extent to which some eco-terrorists and animal-rights criminals have managed to garner support, both philosophical and financial, from above-ground activist organizations, including those that enjoy the same tax benefits as our nation’s churches and universities.

Between 1994 and 1995, for instance, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gave over $70,000 to an Animal Liberation Front criminal named Rodney Coronado, who was convicted of arson, a felony, in connection with the $1.7 million firebombing of a Michigan State University research facility. This amount, by the way, is more than ten times the total that the same organization (PETA) devoted to animal shelters during those two years. In addition, both PETA and its president, Ingrid Newkirk, are acknowledged financial supporters of an organization called No Compromise, which operates on behalf of, and for the “underground” supporters of the Animal Liberation Front.

PETA raised over $15 million last year from the general public, all of it tax-exempt. When will PETA be held accountable?

Another eco-criminal, Dave Foreman, pled guilty in 1991 to felony conspiracy in a plot to blow up the power lines of three nuclear power generating stations. Mr. Foreman was a co-founder of the radical “Earth First!” organization, the group from which the Earth Liberation Front split during a 1992 meeting in the United Kingdom. Among its other claims to fame, Earth First! actually published the newsletter articles (in the Earth First! Journal) from which “Unabomber” Ted Kaczinsky chose his last two victims.

An organization called the Ruckus Society was started by another Earth First! co-founder named Mike Roselle. This group was largely responsible for the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle, which ended in mass rioting and the destruction of Starbucks and McDonald’s restaurants. The Ruckus Society trains young activists in the techniques of “monkeywrenching” which, when applied, result in property crimes of enormous financial cost.

The Ruckus Society and the Rainforest Action Network (another outfit founded by Mr. Roselle) are tax-exempt organization that have enjoyed contributions from such mainstream sources as Ted Turner and Ben & Jerry’s. When will this breeding ground for environmental criminals be held accountable?

Ruckus, by the way, also gets funding from a San Francisco outfit called the Tides Foundation, which distributes other foundations’ money while shielding the identity of the actual donors. Our tax law permits this sort of money-laundering. If the public is prevented from learning where a tax-exempt organization like the Ruckus Society gets their money, then the legal loopholes that permit foundations like Tides to operate as it does should be closed.

Mr. Chairman, these are all serious charges that I am making, and I urge this Committee to fully investigate the damage that ALF, ELF, and other like-minded terrorist groups have caused to American businesses, American livelihoods, and the American psyche. I would also urge the appropriate Congressional committee to explore the tax-exempt status of groups that have helped to fund – directly or indirectly – these domestic terrorists.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.

Robert Cohen Goes Off the Deep End, Part I

In mid-January the Center for Consumer Freedom issued a press release that was the first group I’m aware of to point out that Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine had been actively working with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. According to the press release,

The profile of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reveals that PCRM’s Neal Barnard recently engineered a letter-writing campaign with Kevin Jonas of the violent animal rights group known as SHAC. Jonas used to be known as Kevin Kjonaas, back when he was a spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a militant group labeled terrorists by the FBI.

SHAC is singularly dedicated to dismantling the Huntingdon Life Sciences company, a UK firm which (like most respectable biologists) recognizes that most breakthroughs in the study of human diseases come from research using animals as test subjects. Huntingdon Life Sciences’ work includes animal research to find new treatments and cures for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer and epilepsy. SHAC activists have chosen to make their feelings known by fire-bombing automobiles, smashing windows, assaulting research employees, and targeting individual investors for round-the-clock harassment and intimidation.

Since PCRM is joined at the hip with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, including through a dummy nonprofit which the CCF also uncovered, this raises a lot of questions about both PETA and PCRM.

Of course to Robert Cohen, who really seems to be losing it these days, the connection between PETA, PCRM, and SHAC is of course that there is a conspiracy afoot by the dairy industry!

Citing CCF’s recent advertising campaign against PETA, Cohen distributed an e-mail wondering,

Where do restaurant and tavern operators [which CCF represents] get the financing for multi-millions of dollars worth of ad revenue? How do restaurant operators carefully coordinate attacks against Neal Barnard on the same day the dairy calcium summit begins, and the same day that CBS ran their biased milk story, sabotaging Neal Barnard by not clearly portraying the NOTMILK message? How were the dairy industry press release and the CCF press release posted within an hour of each other? Coincidence? Ha! Coincidence of this type do not happen.

No, it could not possibly have been that two groups with strong views about PCRM happened to release press releases about PCRM on the same day because PCRM had an upcoming event scheduled. No, it had to be a conspiracy between CBS, CCF, the dairy industry, and probably the tooth fairy as well.

Cohen continues ranting that,

This is carefully plotted warfare. The battle lines have been drawn. To accuse Neal Barnard of being a terrorist is to take advantage of a political and social climate that equates terrorism with the vilest of anti-American acts. Neal Barnard merits a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, not the label of terrorist.

Well, they did give Arafat a Nobel Peace Prize, so maybe one is not out of the question for Barnard. On the other hand, Cohen is simply lying when he says that CCF accused Barnard of being a terrorist. Rather, CCF simply noted that Barnard is actively working with an individual, Kevin Jonas who is an outspoken advocate of violence and, before doing the SHAC gig, was a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front.

I’m sure a lot of people would like to hear Barnard’s explanation as to why he’s working with Jonas — for some reason PCRM does not mention that little tidbit anywhere on its web site as of February 2002.

Of course this is the same Robert Cohen who thinks the diary industry was being conspiratorial for trying to hold an even last year that didn’t involve animal rights protesters. It is Cohen who is left to babble on about soldiers and wars.


Center for Consumer Freedom Says Anti-Milk Activists Linked to Animal Rights Terrorists. Center for Consumer Freedom, Press Release, January 17, 2002.

WAR Declared on NOTMILK Movement. Robert Cohen, E-Mail Communication, January 21, 2002.

Best Anti-Animal Rights Ad Yet

Finally, there are a number of different organizations actively engaged in campaigns to dispel animal rights misinformation. I think the most effective ad I’ve seen yet is that being run by the Center for Consumer Freedom (formerly Guest Choice Network).

So far, they have run three separate ads, two of which were designed to clearly parody ads by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. My favorite features a young, smiling girl holding a cat. Along the right side of the ad is a quote by Bruce Friedrich saying, “It would be great if all the fast-food outlets, slaughter-houses, these laboratories and the banks who fund them exploded tomorrow.” The punch line is at the bottom of the ad — “Peta: Not as warm and cuddly as you thought.”

That’s an extremely effective ad — my hat goes off to whoever came up with the idea. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more ads like that.

Center for Consumer Freedom has versions of all three of its ads available on its web site here.


Recent Advertising Campaign. Center for Consumer Freedom, January 14, 2002.