ELF Extremists Claim Responsibility for Weekend Arson at Maryland Development Site

The Herald-Mail in Hagerstown, Maryland, reported that it had received an e-mail claiming to be from Earth Liberation Front extremists claiming responsibility for a fire Sunday that destroyed recently built, unoccupied townhouses. The fire caused an estimated $225,000 in damages.

According to the Associated press, the e-mail sent to the newspaper read,

Last night we, the Earth Liberation Front, put the torch to a development of Ryan Homes in Hagerstown, Maryland (off of Route 40, behind the Wal-Mart). We did so to strike at the bottom line of this country’s most notorious serial land rapist. We warn all developers that the people of the Earth are prepared to defend what remains of the wild and the green. We encourage all who watch with sadness while developers sell out the future of us and our children to join us in resisting them in any and every possible way. The Ents are going to war.

The ELF claim has brought the FBI into the investigation of the arson.

This is apparently the first arson in Maryland claimed by the Earth Liberation Front.


FBI Probes Claim That ELF Set Western Md. Fires. Associated Press, November 21, 2005.

Arson eyed in town house fires. Karen Hanna, The Herald-Mail (Hagerstown), November 21, 2005.

John Hopkins Reaches $25K Settlement with USDA

Stop Animal Exploitation Now issued a press release in August claiming that, back in February, John Hopkins University reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to settle a number of complaints over alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Most of the alleged violations occurred between 1998 and 2003.

In the settlement agreement, a copy of which was also obtained by the Chronicle of Higher Education, John Hopkins did not admit any wrongdoing.

According to the Chronicle, John Hopkins was by far the top recipient of research grants from the National Institutes of Health, receiving $599 million in 2004 for 1,300 projects.

The various complaints filed by USDA inspectors included failure to provide anesthesia or veterinary care, to inappropriate housing for 37 primates at the university’s Krieger Mind/Brain Institute.

In the SAEN press release, Michael Budkie said,

In April of 2004 we labeled Johns Hopkins one of the worst labs in the nation for violating the Animal Welfare Act at least 31 times in three years. Apparently the USDA agrees with our investigation, which uncovered a wide array of illegal activity at Johns Hopkins.

Presumably if the USDA really felt that way, it wouldn’t have settled for a relatively small $25,000 settlement fine.

For its part, John Hopkins University spokeswoman Joanna Downer told The Chronicle,

[John Hopkins University] has been making great improvements in the processes in place to oversee animal research and to maintain and improve the quality of our research and care program. If our animals aren’t doing well, it doesn’t contribute to excellent research.


John Hopkins U. Agrees to $25,000 Settlement Over Animal-Care Allegations. Jeffrey Brainard, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 10, 2005.

Johns Hopkins University labs slapped with hefty $25,000 USDA fine after watchdog group files complaint. Press Release, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, August 9, 2005.

Maryland State’s Attorney Acquits Perdue Farms of Cruelty Charges

In an odd outcome the Worcester County State’s Attorney, Joel Todd, essentially acquitted Perdue Farms of charges of animal cruelty that the company faced in Maryland.

The case began when Compassion Over Killing charged the chicken producer with animal cruelty. COK outreach coordinator Joshua Balk worked at a Perdue plant in Showell, Maryland, which has since been closed.

While an employee, Balk videotaped the processing line, and later turned that videotape over to prosecutors claiming that it showed animal abuse and the results of what COK believes is improper or non-existent training of workers.

Todd met with Worcester County Sheriff Chuck Martin, Compassion Over Killing general counsel Carter Dillard, and Balk. At that time, Todd expressed his view that the videotape did not show a crime. He told The Maryland Coast Dispatch,

We all met and reviewed the tapes together. I felt the evidence lacked merit, and there was no probable cause that Perdue Farms was guilty of any crime based on the information provided to me. They committed no crime.

But after viewing the tape for himself, Worcester County District Commissioner Earline Loomis decided that the evidence on the videotape did warrant prosecution of Perdue Farms for animal cruelty.

Under Maryland law, however, a state’s attorney can “confess a verdict of not guilty” which effectively pre-empts a trial and functions the same as a not guilty verdict in that the defendant cannot be retried on the charge. According to the Maryland Coast Dispatch, this is rarely used, but Todd invoked this power nonetheless to pre-empt the Perdue Farms trial and effectively acquit the company of the abuse charges.

The decision to do so certainly caught Compassion Over Killing by surprise. Dillard told The Maryland Coast Dispatch,

In essence, the state intervened and prevented Perdue from ever having to go to court and be put in the spotlight to face these charges. We are very disappointed that Mr. Todd chose this very unusual procedure.

. . .

It is odd that you can get an acquittal, without the defendant even having to appear in court. This cut out the availability of public input . . .

Compassion Over Killing campaign director Erica Neier add,

The bottom line is that this sends a message that in Worcester County, corporations, especially Perdue Farms, don’t have to abide by Maryland’s animal cruelty laws. So, companies can handle animals in any manner they see fit.


Todd acquits Perdue of all charges in cruelty case. Benjamin Mook, The Maryland Coast Dispatch, February 4, 2005.

Maryland Bear Hunt to Begin as Scheduled

Despite a 12-7 vote against Maryland’s proposed bear hunt by the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said the bear hunt would go forward as planned this October.

The Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee is charged with reviewing rules and decisions by stage agencies, and it voted 12-7 in late August to oppose the Maryland Department of Natural Resources plans to allow a bear hunt. The vote means that Gov. Ehrlich must personally approve the bear hunt, and a spokesman for the governor said the DNR would be allowed to proceed with the planned hunt.

Paul F. Schurick, spokesman for Gov. Ehrlich, told the Baltimore Sun,

The governor is going to allow DNR to move ahead with their plan. The governor asked the scientists at DNR for a recommendation, and the science has not changed.

Animal rights groups claimed the bear hunt was simply a quid pro quo reward to the National Rifle Association for its support of the governor. Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle told The Baltimore Sun,

This hunt amounts to a political payback by the governor to the NRA and other trophy-hunting advocacy groups who have supported him.

Paul Peditto, director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service, countered that the justification for the bear hunt was based on sound scientific management practice. Peditto noted that the DNR currently receives about 150 complaints a week about bear activity and told The Baltimore Sun,

We now average more than 30 bears who are hit and killed by cars in Western Maryland a year, often injuring drivers. To our mind, the time has come to stabilize our bear population so that people and bears can coexist.

Maryland’s bear hunt is scheduled for Oct. 25 through Oct. 30 with a limit of 30 bears to be killed. If 30 bears are not killed in October, an additional season from Dec. 6 to Dec. 11 is planned.


Governor says fall black bear hunt will go on. Tom Pelton, The Baltimore Sun, August 26, 2004.

Legislative panel hears arguments to halt bear hunt. Gretchen Parker, Associated Press, August 25, 2004.

Panel Votes Against Bear Hunt. David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post, August 26, 2004.

Maryland DNR Rejects $75,000 from Fund for Animals and HSUS

The Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States made a financial offer to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in March: withdraw plans for a Fall bear hunt season, and the two groups would donate $75,000 to the DNR to compensate property owners for damage from bears as well as help education Maryland residents on managing bear-human conflict.

On April 14, the Maryland DNR said it was willing to accept the $75,000 from the groups but could not agree to the stipulation that the bear hunt season be withdrawn,

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today accepted a funding offer from the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States to mitigate bear and human conflicts. While accepting the funding, DNR rejected the stipulation that the proposed bear hunting season be cancelled.

The funding offer, $75,000 in total, would be used to further the financial resources DNR currently dedicates for bear damage compensation and bear-human conflict management. Specifically, these funds would be used to compensate individuals who document bear damage and to implement an aversive conditioning and bear education campaign in bear-occupied areas.

“While we may not agree on the hunting regulation proposal, I hope that the Fund for Animals and Humane Society of the United StatesÂ’ commitment to assist us is sincere and that we can count on their financial and philosophical support for the remaining non-lethal and education strategies in our bear management plan,” said DNR Wildlife & Heritage Service Director Paul A. Peditto.

This was, in this writer’s opinion, a clever strategy to take, especially Peditto’s comments when he had to know full well that HSUS and the Fund would both interpret this as a rejection. Oddly, the conservative Washington Times ran an op-ed by Gene Mueller who completely missed the point here> Mueller chastised the DNR for getting into bed with animal rights groups and wrote,

I’ll wager the well-heeled Fund for Animals and the Humane Society are having parties right now, celebrating the fact that they got a foot into the door of an agency that regulates all the hunting and fishing of an American state.

Hardly. In fact The Fund for Animals and Humane Society of the United States released a press release the same day noting that the DNR had rejected its offer,

The Fund for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States learned today that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has rejected a substantial financial offer for solving bear conflicts and compensating farmers for bear damage. In a March 17 letter, the two organizations offered collectively to provide $75,000 to compensate farmers for bear damage and expand educational programs to solve bear conflicts, if the DNR’s plan for the first bear hunt in fifty years was withdrawn.

In that press release, Fund president Mark Markarian said,

It is clear that the DNR is not seeking to solve bear conflicts in western Maryland, but simply to put bears in trophy hunters’ sights. Hunting bears for trophies or rugs will not provide money to farmers and will not provide the relief that citizens are demanding. Governor Ehrlich’s administration should look for constructive solutions and new funding partnerships, not trophy hunting opportunities.

And HSUS senior vice president Wayne Pacelle offered this bit of trivia,

There are fewer black bears in Maryland than there are pandas in China or endangered grizzly bears in Montana.

I’m not sure what the population of pandas in a country the size of China has to do with the population of bears in a state the size of Maryland, but such comparisons probably makes perfect sense to animal rights activists.


DNR, animal rights groups in bed. Gene Mueller, The Washington Times, April 21, 2004.

Maryland Rejects $75,000 Offer To Cancel Bear Hunt. Press Release, The Fund for Animals, April 14, 2004.

Letter to DNR Offering $75,000 for Solving Bear Problems. Letter, Michael Markarian, Fund for Animals, March 17, 2004.

DNR Accepts Funding From HSUS, Fund for Animals. Press Release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, April 14, 2004.

Animal Rights Activists Take On Thanksgiving

As the United States prepares
to celebrate Thanksgiving, animal rights activists are busy trying to
make their case that meat eating in general, and the eating of turkeys
specifically, is cruel and unnecessary.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a special undercover investigative report on its web
site claiming to document cruelty at a turkey farm in Minnesota. PETA
urged people to write Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and other officials
with complaints about animal cruelty.

Interestingly, even PETA seems
to be recognizing that it has a credibility gap with its undercover investigations
after repeatedly providing misinformation and selectively edited videotapes
in previous undercover operations. A letter from Mary Beth Sweetland,
PETA’s Director of Research, Investigations & Rescue Department, to
a Minnesota prosecutor specifically mentions that the videotape of the
investigation is “a first-generation copy of the original videographic

No word yet on whether or not
Minnesota officials are investigating the case.

Meanwhile United Poultry Concerns
is going to protest the annual White House Thanksgiving ceremony. Keeping
with tradition, a live turkey will be presented at the White House and
President Clinton will then “pardon” the turkey.

According to UPC’s Karen Davis,
“Instead of sarcastically ‘pardoning’ a turkey to palliate mass murder,
food poisoning, moldering carcasses and rotting politics, we urge people
to join us in marching to a different drumstick this Thanksgiving and
Eat Happy.”

A UPC press release on the
protest also claimed the pardoning ceremony was designed to “make fun
of turkeys.”

Meanwhile, to celebrate Thanksgiving,
PETA will be in Baltimore giving away fur coats to the homeless. The coats
have been donated to PETA over the years and have a red stripe painted
on one of the sleeves to make them worthless for resale.

Here’s my suggestion for PETA
next year. Why not get a bunch of people to donate Thanksgiving turkeys,
put a red food die stripe down the middle and pass them out as well? Couldn’t


Turkey Advocates
Will Protest Presidential “Pardoning” Ceremony
, United Poultry Concerns
press release, November 1999.

Turkey Farm Cruelty:
The Case
, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals letter, November
18, 1999.

Peta To
Give Away Fur Coats To Baltimore’s Homeless
, People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals press release, November 22, 1999.