Dan Murphy on Newkirk's Letter to Arafat

Okay this happened awhile ago, but Dan Murphy wrote what I thought was the best retort to Ingrid Newkirk’s idiotic letter to Yasser Arafat asking the Palestinian leader to stop terrorists in that country from using animals when they carry out their attacks. Back in February, Murphy wrote,

Of course, it is tragic that terrorists place no value on lives lost, whether their own, their victims or “collateral animals” killed in the course of their murderous attacks. Newkirk’s letter, however, didn’t offer a single word of regret for the senseless casualties inflicted on both Palestinians and Israelis, noting instead that, “All nations behave abominably in many ways when they are fighting their enemies, and animals are always caught in the crossfire.”

Which is like expressing sorrow that when a family loses its home because it caught fire and burned, that trees are shrubbery were damaged by the smoke and flames.

Ah, but I assume Newkirk would leave that sort of thing up to PETA’s like-minded folks at the Earth Liberation Front to which it was so eager to donate money.


Animal extremists hit new low with fawning letter to Arafat. Dan Murphy, MeatingPlace.Com, February 14, 2003.

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. (pool-138-88-95-208.res.east.verizon.net)

Subject: Our real adversaries are consumerfreedom.com …

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

Dan Murphy's Excellent Commentary on AR2002

Dan Murphy, the editor Meat Marketing & Technology magazine, wrote an excellent account of an appearance he made at Animal Rights 2002.

Murphy was invited to give a short speech to activists covering areas where industry and activists might have some common ground. As you might expect, Murphy was largely wasting his time. As he wrote,

Not surprisingly, my remarks had about as much of a lasting impact on the more than 800 diehard activists in attendance as the “lecture” I gave my cat Riley last week about not clawing the couch.

. . .

Unfortunately, the overwhelming attitude among speakers, disciples and exhibitors alike encompassed a migraine-inducing mix of virulent anti-meat propaganda, bizarre animal action campaigns and a few frightening glimpses into the mind and soul of crusaders who have truly lost the plot.

Murphy relayed a long litany of things that the assembled activists were against as well as some choice quotes from people like Ingrid Newkirk (“You just look at animals — just look into their eyes — and you can tell they’re people. It’s that simple.”) and Paul Watson (“There is no way to change our laws without using violence, and we cannot shy away from violence as a crucial arm of the movement. We can all put ourselves on the line. It doesn’t take a four-year degree to call in a bomb threat.”)

But Murphy was brilliant in tearing apart a bizarre claim by the Animal Defense League’s Jerry Vlasak who argued that violence was compatible with the nonviolent outlook of the civil rights movement.

“Dr. [Martin Luther] King said that destroying property doesn’t violate the principle of non-violence,” [Violence] is part of every successful social justice movement.” (Jerry Vlasak, of the Animal Defense League). That last quote angers me.

Narrow-mindedness in the service of one’s chosen mission is at least understandable. But some of the animal rights leadership obviously enjoys selling a not-so-subtly packaged message of violence in service to the cause.

When the pro-violence folks quoted above arrogantly tried to claim King as a spiritual ancestor to the extremists responsible for blowing up trucks, bombing buildings and destroying the property of legitimate business people, I glanced around at the SRO crowd packed into the room, and the mostly young, predominantly female and almost exclusively white audience members were all nodding their heads in earnest agreement.

Were the real Dr. King still alive I can only imagine that he would disagree with far greater conviction. I won’t digress too extensively here, but allow me to share just a couple relevant quotes for those losers who have a dream that King would somehow relish their sick sanctioning of property destruction:

. . .

To suggest that arson in the name of the “cause” would be approved by Dr. King — whose own home was fire-bombed by white bigots passionate about their “cause” — is an ignorant interpretation of history at best.

To invoke the name of Martin Luther King on behalf of violent ALF types who are past even the fringe of legitimacy is a venal, bankrupt attempt at credibility that puts an Orwellian spin on a chapter of American social history about which I doubt more than a handful of the activist types at that Animal Rights meeting have more than an MTV-like video clip awareness of its significance.

In fact, using Vlasak’s perverse version of nonviolence, the fire bombing of King’s house was morally acceptable because nobody was hurt — only property was destroyed. According to Vlasak philosophy, somebody who might burn down a black church or firebomb an abortion clinic is not engaged in violence so long as it is only property that is destroyed.

That these sorts of pedantic arguments actually seem to find widespread acceptance in the animal rights movement is indicative of just how marginal the movement is. Nobody outside the movement buys these sorts of arguments anymore than the buy the argument of extremist anti-abortion advocates that destroying an abortion clinic is simply a valid act of defense on behalf of unborn children.


Animal Rights conclave window to weird world of act-out activists Dan Murphy, MeatingPlace.Com, July 12, 2002.