Activists Protest Circus in Everett, Washington

Animal rights activists in Everett, Washington, planned to turn out to protest the arrival of The Ringling Bros.. and Barnum & Bailey Circus there in September. News coverage of the planned protest provided an interesting contrast between the circus and activists.

Along with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society of Lynwood planned to protest and hand out leaflets outside the circus. According to Washington state newspaper The Herald,

PAWS, along with People for the Ethical Treatment of ANimals and the Northwest Animal Rights Network, will be in front of the Everett Events Center passing out brochures to circus-goers and ticket buyers.

. . .

[PAWS spokeswoman Zibby] Wilder said PAWS objects to circuses keeping wild and exotic animals captive for entertainment. Many circuses, including Ringling Bros., subject animals to a variety of abuses, the group claims.

“We’re giving information so people can make a more informed decision next time,” Wilder said.

Ringling Bros. spokeswoman Melinda Rosser had a different take on Wilder’s efforts to educate circus-goers. According to The Herald,

“All we hand out is the facts. We want them to think about it,” Wilder said. “We live in an area that’s known for its wildlife awareness. The circus is no different — those animals need to be cared for and protected.

One of the handouts is a circus coloring book for children. It shows elephants in chains, bears in costume and a tiger jumping through flaming hoops.

Rosser said the coloring book is yet another example of lumping circuses together — Ringling Bros. has no bears, no fire hoops and no animals wearing clothing.

Wilder’s group did convince a local automobile dealership to promise that, in the future, it wouldn’t sponsor radio advertisements for the circus. Brien Motors owner Rock Peterson wrote the group saying,

After reading about the treatment of animals by circuses, I agree with you that we . . . should not be associated with that type of activity.

According to Wilder, Peterson was the only one of the circus sponsors who responded to letters the group sent.


Protest follows circus. Jennifer Warnick, The Herald (Washington), September 13, 2004.

Washington State Considering Animal Rights/Environmental Terrorism Legislation

On January 12, several Washington State Senators introduced legislation to address acts of environmental and animal rights terrorism in that state modeled on legislation introduced last year in the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the legislative summary of the bill,

An “animal rights or ecological terrorist organization” is
defined as any association, organization, entity, coalition, or combination of two or more
persons with the purpose of intimidating, coercing, or causing fear with the intent to obstruct,
impede, or deter any person from participating in an activity involving animals, activity
involving natural resources, animal facility, research facility, horticultural educational or
research facility, or the lawful activity of mining, foresting, harvesting, gathering, or
processing natural resources.

It is unlawful to: (1) deprive an owner of an animal or natural resource from lawfully
participating in an activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources under
specified circumstances, (2) obstruct or impede the use of an animal facility or the use of a
natural resource without effective consent under specified circumstances, or (3) participate
in or support animal or ecological terrorism by performing specified acts. The prohibition
does not apply to government agencies and their employees, employees of financial
institutions, secured parties, employees of an animal control authority acting within the scope
of employment, or participants in otherwise legal employee or employment organization
labor-related disputes. If the damage to property does not exceed $1,500, the offender is
guilty of a gross misdemeanor (up to one year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine). If the damage
to property exceeds $1,500, the offender is guilty of an unranked class C felony (up to one
year in jail and/or a $10,000 fine). Any violation that results in the intentional or negligent
infliction of bodily harm to any individual is punished as a class B felony ranked at level 6
on the sentencing grid (12+ to 14 months imprisonment and/or a $20,000 fine for a first
offense). A sentence outside the standard range is authorized if any of the offenses result in
the death of a human being or the death or destruction of an animal.

In addition the bill calls for the creation of a publicly available registry of anyone convicted under the statute,

A registry of animal and ecological terrorists is created. Upon conviction for an act
contained in the chapter, the offender must register with the Attorney General on a proscribed
form and notify the Attorney General if the information changes. The Attorney General
creates a website containing the information. The offender’s information remains on the
website for not less than three years. After that time, the offender may apply to the Attorney
General for removal of the information after a hearing.

On January 29, the bill was approved on a 6-2 vote by the Senate’s judiciary committee and moved on to the Ways and Means committee for its consideration.

The law was proposed in response to the August release of about 10,000 mink from a Sultan, Washington farm. Kate Roesler, co-owner of the mink farm, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that existing laws would impose a maximum punishment of 1 year in jail for the release which caused an estimated $500,000 loss.

On the other hand, Lindsay Saibara of the Northwest Animal Rights Network told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that she worried the law might harm groups like hers,

It can target organizations like ours, that work within the legal system
and above ground.

At the time of the release, the Northwest Animal Rights Network celebrated the release of the mink and dismissed suggests that the mink might pose any ecological threat. As NARN’s Andrew Knight said at the time,

The amount of suffering that has been prevented by releasing them [the mink] from cramped cages and freeing them from an extremely cruel death more than justifies a temporary disruption to the ecosystem.

The full text of the proposed bill can be read here.


Bill targets ‘eco-terrorism’; It would toughen penalties, create registry. Richard Roesler, Spokane Spokesman-Review (Washington), January 16, 2004.

Activists Release 10,000 Mink from Washington State Farm

In late August, Animal Liberation Front extremists broke into a farm in Sultan, Washington and released approximately 10,000 mink.

The activists broke open cages at the Roesler Brothers Fur Farm causing damages estimated at more than half a million dollars.

Most of the released animals were recaptured, but not before doing significant damage at other farms in the area.

Washington farmer Jeff Weaver told the Associated Press that the released mink converged on his farm where they killed at least 25 animals, including geese, chicken and ducks. Weaver told the AP,

Over half our livestock was shredded. Murdered. Eaten alive. . . One of the mink had part of a chicken in its mouth and was headed for the creek. They’re starving. They’ll kill anything in their path.

Weaver estimated his losses at about $2,000.

But those who support such actions said that the net increase in animal well being was worth it. Andrew Knight, director of research at the Northwest Animal Rights Network, told the Associate Press,

The amount of suffering that has been prevented by releasing them [the mink] from cramped cages and freeing them from an extremely cruel death more than justifies a temporary disruption to the ecosystem.

The FBI is investigating the incident and the Fur Commission USA is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.


Scores of freed mink feed on farm animals. Associated Press, August 30, 2003.

Animal rights group frees thousands of minks. Associated Press, August 28, 2003.

Freed minks attack farm animals. Katherine Schiffner, Daily Herald (Washington), August 29, 2003.

Freed mink attack Sultan farms. Seattle Times, August 29, 2003.

Animal Rights Activist Under Investigation for Alleged Perjury

The Associated Press reported in its March 4 edition that the Grant County Sheriff’s office was investigating possible perjury charges against the director of a Seattle animal rights group.

The Associated Press cited Chief Deputy John Turley as saying that David Thornton, director of the Northwest Animal Rights Network, was currently the subject of an investigation for allegedly making false or misleading statements to a public servant as well as for second-degree trespassing.

The allegations stem from a complaint that Thornton, 33 made, after entering a private dog farm near Quincy, Washington. Thornton allegedly filed a complaint stating that 200-300 animals on the farm were in distress and that some were near death. An investigation by sheriff’s deputies, however, found about 60 dogs that appeared to be in good health, well-fed and with adequate living space.

According to the Associated press, the sheriff’s office will send a report to the Grant County prosecutor’s office recommending that criminal charges be pursued against Thornton.


Sheriff’s office recommends charges against animal rights activists. The Associated Press, March 4, 2003.