Friends of Animals vs. The New York Theosophical Society

Friends of Animals sent out a press release on January 3 complaining about an a couple of events to be held at the New York Theosophical Society in January.

According to the press release, the first event on Jan. 5 would feature the New York Companion Bird Club and a raffle of prizes from Grey Feather Toy Creations, which apparently makes toys and accessories for birds. The worst part, however, is that,

The raffling of a “bird gym” will fund the transportation of a bigger cage for a nursing home-based cockatoo. . . .

Overall, the planned Bird Day event is a promotion of cages, not freedom. . . .

On January 14, the Society is featuring speaker Larry D.D. Clifford exhibiting a macaw. Friends of Animals is upset since in addition to holding captive birds, Clifford trains animals for Sea World and for other animal-related shows, including television work.

Friends of Animals’ legal director Lee Hall tries to appeal to the Theosophical Society’s history, saying in the press release,

The Theosophical Society’s mission is to cultivate the spiritual growth of humanity. A pioneer in its history was the acclaimed vegetarian doctor Anna Kingsford, who spoke of the inherent value of animals other than ourselves. To offer a venue for patently exploitive promotions is to flout the Society’s best traditions.

Now Hall could have cited Theosophical Society founder Madam Blavatsky, but Blavatsky was a meat eater, so best ignore her. But what about Kingsford?

Kingsford was a 19th century vegetarian and a prominent anti-vivisectionist as well. And she would certainly have been right at home in today’s animal rights movement. She claimed to have mystical visions in which she was visited by angels, traveled through time, and was given prophetic revelations such as this.

As for Kingsford’s vegetarianism, she had an interesting — but solidly Victorian England — defense of vegetarianism. To Kingsford, the problem with eating meat was that it debased human beings to the level of mere animals,

The modern advocates of flesh-eating and vivisection, on the contrary, would reverse the sentiment of the lines just quoted, and would have us

“Move down, returning to the beast,
And letting heart and conscience die”,

making thereby the practice of the lowest in the scale of Nature the rule of the highest, and abasing the moral standard of mankind to the level of the habits of the most dangerous or noxious orders of brutes.

. . .

But the disciple of Buddha and of Pythagoras, the preacher of the Pure Life and of the Perfect Way, cries to humanity, “Be men, not in mere physical form only – for form is worth nothing – but in spirit, by virtue of those qualities which exalt you above tigers, swine or jackals!. . .”


May Birds Know A World Without Cages. Press Release, Friends of Animals, January 3, 2006.

Friends of Animals’s Response to Joan Dunayer

As was mentioned on this site earlier, Joan Dunayer pulled out of Friends of Animals’ The Foundations of a Movement conference because Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center had been invited to speak. Dunayer condemned Potok as someone who favors animal testing and who “portrays animal rights advocacy in an entirely negative light”.

In April, Friends of Animals’ Priscilla Feral issued a reply,

The Foundations of a Movement: Mark Potok

We are delighted that Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, will address the audience of our conference in July 2005.

Located in Montgomery, Alabama – the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement – the Center confronts discrimination and works to protect society’s most vulnerable members, handling innovative cases that few lawyers are willing to take. The Center has worked to protect people against hate directed at perceived ethnicity, citizenship status, and sexual orientation. Recently, its educational film on the non-violent legacy of Rosa Parks, which revisits the Montgomery Bus Boycott while highlighting unsung heroes of the Movement, earned an Emmy nomination.

In 1981, the Center began investigating a resurgence of activity of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. This work evolved into the award-winning publication Intelligence Project, directed by Mark Potok. The Project monitors violent right-wing groups, including neo-Nazis, and advocates of racial or ethnic prejudice, such as, and their efforts to insinuate their views into environmentalism.

In 2002, the Intelligence Project focused one of its issues on the issue of “eco-radicalism” and the strong concern that environmental and animal activism could increasingly embrace violent methods.

Friends of Animals saw that one of the most respected U.S. social justice groups feared that the environmental and animal advocacy movements could come to stand for violence and intimidation before our message could be heard and understood by the general public.

We entered into a debate and a dialogue with Mark Potok.

While we take a categorical view that all other species are not here on this planet for the purpose of being commodified by our own, we also picked up on a message from a respected sector of progressive activism. It became apparent that our movement dearly needs a broader view of “us.”

Instead, what members of the public often first learn about as “animal rights” is a movement going the other way, becoming increasingly desperate, imprisoned, and isolated from the broader justice movement whose legacy we inherited and whose future we ought to be a part of.

Never has this been more true than at the present time, when the U.S. and British governments are restricting the right to protest — using proponents of violence in the environmental and animal advocacy to do so.[1] The government will and has seized the opportunity provided by the violent activists to outlaw peaceful dissent by all progressives.

The animal rights movement needs to become a progressive force for change — not a justification for draconian laws. In this context, we’re not about to waste conference time. We’re intent on making it happen, right now, this year.

It’s important to retain the core relevance of an essentially non-violent movement for social progress, and to do so, we must build bridges to the broader movement for egalitarianism. The Southern Poverty Law Center is part of that movement.[2] Recall Martin Luther King’s words about threats to justice anywhere, and it makes perfect sense.

Please join us.


Priscilla Feral,
Friends of Animals

[1] Britain proposes “to make it an offence to protest outside homes in such a way that causes harassment, alarm or distress to residents.” This sounds reasonable enough, until it’s discovered that the police can define “harassment, alarm or distress” however they wish. All protest in residential areas, in other words, could now be treated as illegal.

[2] Some people who identify themselves with animal advocacy have questioned our invitation of a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center, using the argument, essentially, that a person who is not an anti-vivisection advocate is the equivalent of a pro-vivisection advocate. This is not the case. A number of people in the animal advocacy movement take public positions in support of biomedical or psychological research using animals in certain circumstances. The Southern Poverty Law Center does not take a position on the issue.

Joan Dunayer Withdraws from Friends of Animals Conference Because Opponent of Animal Rights/Eco-Terrorism Invited As Well

In April, Joan Dunayer announced she was withdrawing from the Friends of Animals’ July 9-10 conference because organizers dared to invite Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center as its keynote speaker.

In a letter to other activist, Dunayer writes,

I’ve withdrawn, in protest, from participation in Friends of Animals’ July 9-10, 2005 conference, at which I was scheduled to speak. I refuse to participate because the conference will feature Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as keynote speaker. Director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project and editor of the SPLC’s quarterly Intelligence Report (IR), Potok is a virulent speciesist and opponent of nonhuman rights.

As described by the SPLC’s website, the Intelligence Project “monitors hate groups and tracks extremist activity throughout the U.S.,” providing “comprehensive updates to law enforcement, the media and the public.”[1] The Project uses “high-tech online tracking as well as solid fundamental investigative techniques.”[2] For some time now, the SPLC has been casting animal rights activists as terrorists and hate-mongers and monitoring their activities.

Potok’s IR portrays animal rights advocacy in an entirely negative light. A synopsis of the 2002 anonymous IR article “From Push to Shove” reads, “Environmental radicals and animal rights activists say it’s ‘ludicrous’ for the FBI to call them the No. 1 domestic terror threat. But their rhetoric and increasingly extreme criminal actions are making the ‘eco-terror’ label stick.”[3] The article has sensationalistic headings such as “A Growing Radicalism,” “At the Hilton, Violence is Cheered,” and “Targeting Scientists, and Others.” The text abounds with pejoratives applied to animal rights advocacy. For example, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty employs “escalating violence,” uses “terroristic tactics,” and “sets a new standard for eco-terrorism.” Even lawsuits filed against factory “farmers” are “attacks.” The article refers to Chris DeRose as the “boss,” not president, of Last Chance for Animals and to Peter Singer as a “long-time darling of many eco-radicals.” According to the article, the Farm Animal Reform Movement holds its annual animal-advocacy conferences in “surprisingly highbrow” settings. “But the discussions are down and dirty.”[4] (By Potok’s own admission, the SPLC gathered information on activists at Animal Rights 2001.)[5] A 2003 SPLC article on PETA’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign is titled “Hate in the News: PETA Turns Holocaust into Pig Pen,” as if drawing connections between racist and speciesist atrocities–and deploring both–constitutes hate.[6]

IR articles express no objection to the ongoing violence that humans perpetrate against countless nonhumans and no concern whatsoever for those victims. In the language of IR, vivisection labs against which activists campaign are only “perceived as abusing animals” (emphasis added).[4] All of IR’s expressed sympathy is for those who abuse nonhumans or profit from such abuse–from vivisectors, mink killers, and pig enslavers to hunting guides and pelt dealers. IR portrays nonhumans’ abusers as the innocent victims of animal rights “terrorism.” Vivisectors are “scientists.”[4] Huntingdon Life Sciences “tests drugs.”[4] (IR omits the information that HLS also uses nonhuman animals to “test” everything from industrial chemicals to mascara.) Animal rights activism caused cat vivisector Michael Podell to abandon what IR terms his “AIDS studies.” In the manner typical of pro-vivisection propaganda, IR states, “Scientists say that some research, like Podell’s, cannot be done with computer modeling or with human subjects.”[4] Podell’s cat victims did not, of course, have AIDS; they suffered from artificially induced Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, a very different disease. IR favorably describes and quotes the vivisection-promotion group Foundation for Biomedical Research.[4]

Mark Potok clearly is largely ignorant of, and indifferent to, the cruelty and injustice of vivisection, the pelt industry, food-industry enslavement and slaughter, and other forms of speciesist abuse. He’s an active foe of animal rights and animal rights advocacy. It’s an understatement to say that Potok has no genuine understanding of animal rights and is not an appropriate keynote speaker for an animal rights conference.

Friends of Animals does a disservice to nonhuman animals and their advocates in hosting Potok, giving him positive publicity, and presenting him as a credible spokesperson with regard to animal rights. I no longer will participate in the FoA conference because I no longer believe that participation is in the best interests of nonhuman animals. Further, I advise animal advocates to be wary of Potok and the SPLC.

Its interesting that Friends of Animals is willing to host a speaker who is opposed to a segment of the animal rights movement, while Dunayer can’t apparently stomach even the hint of a dissenting view.


Joan Dunayer Withdraws, in Protest, from Friends of Animals Conference. Joan Dunayer, Letter, April 14, 2005.

Tourism to Alaska Increases while Friends of Animals Spins

In 1993, Friends of Animals initiated a tourist boycott of Alaska after the state resumed aerial killing wolves. Then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved to Priscilla Feral’s demands and put a swift end to the wolf hunts. So when Friends of Animals announced yet another boycott in December 2003 after Alaska again decided to allow aerial killing of wolves, the activists must have thought they would be able to bring substantial pressure against Gov. Frank Murkowski. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

In fact, according to the Associated Press, despite the Friends of Animal boycott, the number of people who visited Alaska over the summer actually increased over 2004. Alaska’s 15 national parks set a new record for number of visitors.

This leaves Feral with nothing to do but spin, telling the Associated Press,

Maybe more people would have visited if not for the public outrage over the issue. For me, it’s not a quick fix. I wish it was. We’re just going to keep shedding light on a gruesome issue whatever way we can. It does feel like an uphill battle with the current governor, but even he will eventually be replaced.

Murkowski’s term runs through November 2006, and he can run for re-election. Regardless, if they can’t impact visitors to Alaska, the issue isn’t going to have traction with any Alaskan governor as the program is popular within the state. No one’s going to lose their jobs over increased tourism, regardless of whether or not Feral thinks it might have been higher (one could as easily make the claim that more visitors chose Alaska because the governor resisted the animal rights group’s demands).

Friends of Animals is also not having much luck in court. It has sued to stop the hunting and a trial on the matter is scheduled on May 16. It also sought an injunction to end the killing until that trial takes place. In February, Alaska Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason refused to issue such an injunction, and took a nice legalese swipe at the group,

The plaintiffs [Friends of Animals] have made it quite clear that to them, the practice of killing wolves from airplanes to enhance moose populations for human consumption is a practice they find morally and ethically repugnant. But in balancing the hardships between the parties for purposes of preliminary injunctive relief, the fact that the state’s aerial wolf control programs are in direct contravention to the plaintiffs’ beliefs is not, under the law, a factor that is considered an ‘irreparable injury’ in determining whether preliminary injunctive relief is necessary.

Friends of Animals is currently trying to gather 28,000 pledges to boycott Alaska by the end of February. Since December 2004, it has collected a total of 5,000 signatures at live events, and is now turning to Internet petitions to reach the 28,000 level.


Group launches new ways to oppose wolf control program. Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, February 1, 2005.

Judge won’t suspend Alaska wolf control. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, January 27, 2005.

Judge rejects group’s bid to halt wolf control program. Associated Press, February 2, 2005.

Worst. Dunayer. Review. Ever.

So this web site may have seemed like it should have been called JoanDunayer.Net lately, but I’m still a long way from finished writing about Dunayer. On the other hand, Friends of Animals’ Lee Hall probably should have refrained from writing about Dunayer’s book Speciesism at all if he had nothing more to say than his horrible review, “Raising the Bar.”

Hall has a completely different — and stupid — take on Dunayer’s view of animals as person. Hall for some reason think that Dunayer’s book is somehow relevant to legal precedents which treat corporations as persons under certain circumstances.

Hall writes,

Consider this: Corporations according to our modern law, are legal persons. They are born, die, and have emergencies as well — often. When a conflict arises between the survival of a corporation and the survival of a sentient individual, should a corporation, which is essentially a collection of humans who get together in search of profits, automatically have the right to bolsters its own viability at the expense of a feeling, breathing individual’s life?

Without a continual stream of profit, a corporation might fail in its duty to shareholders, and be unable to sustain itself over time. A business may well claim its survival is at stake in a given transaction, for property owners’ interests are deemed, and will continue to be deemed, immense stakes. After all, wars are fought over them. If a company’s a person, money is personal survival and that trumps the very life of any animal who isn’t a legal person. An oil company’s profit will frequently prevail over entire communities of wolves, seals, birds, and others. With corporations now considered legal persons, every nonhuman animal is endangered.

Advocates for animal right will, at some point in the very near future, need to grapple directly with the new realities of corporate personhood as well as conflicts related to our rising population. Regarding the latter, as land is taken up for a burgeoning human community, nonhumans tend to be moved, killed, or otherwise controlled.

Joan Dunayer’s proposal would fashion a legal obstacle to this patterns, as freed nonhuman would be seen as owners of their eggs, milk, honey, pearls, nests, and hives. And they would have a claim to the natural habitats in which they live, so that emancipation from property status could be effectively enjoyed.

Okay, let me start by making a confession — in large measure I have no idea what the hell Hall is talking about. His review at times reads like Philip K. Dick’s Valis trilogy. But lets see what we can tease out.

If I’m not mistaken, In the last two paragraphs above, Hall is asserting that if Dunayer is correct than animals might have property interests not only in their natural products, such as eggs, but in their natural habitats. This would seem to follow from Dunayer’s views. I have a tree in my backyard that birds use to nest. If the birds are really persons, they would seem to have a much better property interest claim in the tree than I do.

A couple years ago, bees began nesting in an area near my home. We killed the bees because and destroyed their nest because we have children in the neighborhood who allergic. Was that self-defense or mass murder?

Hall’s claims about the limited personhood of corporations made no sense. First, treating corporations as persons is very old, going back to the 19th century in the case of the United States. Second, it is eminently sensible and obvious since a corporations is simply a device for human beings to carry out collective action and should have the same general sort of rights and obligations as a person.

For example, the New York Times is a corporation that happens to publish a newspaper? Should the New York Times have the same rights to free speech as individual persons do? Should the government be able to limit what the New York Times publishes because it is, after all, just a corporation rather than a real, flesh and blood person?

To us another example, Friends of Animals is incorporated. Should it have the same rights as a living person would have to organize protests and disseminate its animal rights views?

Of course it should. To not treat corporations and other collective instruments of human activity as persons would pretty much prevent any sort of collective or cooperative action by human beings.

Hall doesn’t seem to make any substantive claims about corporate personhood — lame ranting about “money is personal survival” is simply that.


Raising the Bar. Lee Hall, January 12, 2005.

Friends of Animals Wants End to West Virginia's "Youth in the Outdoors" Program

In September Friends of Animals called on West Virginia Governor Bob Wise to put an end to that state’s “Youth in the Outdoors” hunting program for children 8-17.

In a press release, FOA president Priscilla Feral said,

At any age, to kill a living, conscious being and call it sport is one of the most troubling ideas modern society has yet to come to grips with.

The FOA press release goes on to say,

Most children have a natural affinity for animals. Urging young people to suppress that feeling, to choose to cause death, and even to associate all of this with a day’s outing, is not sound public policy. It prepares children to engage in violence, while stunting their potential to seek more creative futures.

In a press release from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Wise says of the “Youth in the Outdoors” program (which includes an essay contest),

This is an exciting program because it encourages the contestants to do some research and practice their writing skills, and the winners have the opportunity to learn more about our stateÂ’s wildlife and fish management programs. ItÂ’s also a great chance for them to be exposed to career opportunities they might not see otherwise, and to have some fun at the same time.

According to the DNR,

The essay contest is only one part of the GovernorÂ’s Youth in the Outdoors Program. The WVDNR and several private organizations have created a series of events, including two different youth deer hunts, a youth squirrel hunt, the construction of two new fishing lakes in Kanawha and Logan counties just for youth and physically-challenged anglers, and the ongoing GovernorÂ’s Outdoor Youth Challenge competition which has been held each year during the National Hunting and Fishing Days Celebration at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park. This event challenges the participantsÂ’ skills in .22 rifle shooting, bow shooting, clay target shooting, casting, distance estimation, West Virginia fish identification and a written exam on state hunting and fishing laws and safety rules. The Senior Division also includes a muzzleloader shoot. The Junior (10-13) event is held on Saturday and the Senior (14-17) event on Sunday. The challenge has been such a success that it has been expanded from 50 to 100 kids in the two age groups.


FoA urges West Virginia Governor Bob Wise: Give Children a Chance to Reach Their Best Potential. Press Release, Friends of Animals, September 23, 2004.

Governor’s Youth in Outdoors. Press Release, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, 2003.