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.

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.

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.

More on Activist's Debate Over California Foie Gras Ban

As this site noted earlier this week, there’s an ongoing conflict between animal rights groups over whether or not they should support California’s proposed ban on force feeding of ducks and geese. One one side is Friends of Animals which is opposing the bill because it doesn’t go far enough, and on the other side are United Poultry Concerns and a number of other groups who argue that activists should take what they can get.

Farmed Animal Watch’s Mary Finelli recently posted e-mail correspondence between herself and Friends of Animals’ Daniel Hammer in which Finelli asked how opposing the bill could help ducks and geese. Here’s the response she got,

>From: "Daniel Hammer" <[email protected]>
>To: "Mary Finelli" <[email protected]>
>CC: "Priscilla Feral" <[email protected]>
>Subject: Re: FoA on SB 1520
>Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 16:05:30 -0400

>Dear Mary,

>Friends of Animals proposes that people work for the rights of animals and >promote a vegan lifestyle.

>Friends of Animals is making this happen by fighting the amended version of >SB 1520. The only thing SB 1520 does is protect the "right" of Sonoma Foie >Gras to forcefully fed ducks for the next eight years. "These animals," >those currently at Sonoma Foie Gras, will have been slaughtered when SB >1520 >takes effect--along with an additional 440,000 more. SB 1520 does nothing >for these animals--each one an individual whose rights are just as >important >as those birds eight years from now.

>Friends of Animals is also making this happen by encourage people to adopt >a >vegan lifestyle. There are a number of ways we are doing this, including >our >Vegan Starter and Restaurant Guides. Obviously, if people go vegan it will >help these animals, and many, many, more.

>Thank you for taking an interest in the work of FoA. More information on >what FoA is doing can be found at:

>Cheers, >Daniel Hammer

To which Finelli responded on AR-News,

Apparently FoA thinks there is more hope for these
birds that everyone will go vegan by 2012. Any sane person knows how utterly
improbable that is. Furthermore, supporting SB 1520 and promoting veganism
are not mutually exclusive. Most if not all of the many groups who are
supporting the bill are in fact doing both. FoA is pushing its philosophical
position to a berserk extent, one that is immensely detrimental to these
many birds as well as to the animal protection community. If in 8 years
ducks are still being brutally tortured for foie gras production in
California, FoA and the Humane Farming Association, which is also opposing
the bill, will be among those to blame. It’s inexcusable and infuriating. We
have met the enemy and it is these “Friends.” I urge all reasonable people
to do what they can to support this bill.

An animal rights group and its leader insane? Say it isn’t so.


Controversy over the California foie gras bill. Mary Finelli, E-mail Correspondence, September 1, 2004.

Friends of Animals' Alaska Boycott Appears to Be Going Nowhere

In late December, Friends of Animals launched a tourist boycott of Alaska after that state decided to begin aerial killing of a small number of wolves. According to an Associated Press report, however, so far the boycott hasn’t had much of an effect on tourism or Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski’s commitment to the wolf hunting program.

The aerial hunt, which ended April 30, was intended to kill about 180 wolves in areas where they were perceived as killing too many moose. As of April 26, only 140 wolves had actually been killed. According to the Associated Press, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska.

What effect the boycott has had depends on who is doing the talking. The Alaska Travel Industry Association told the Associated Press that while it has received about 100 calls and 200 e-mails from people saying they will not visit Alaska due to the boycott, it’s difficult to know how many of those people actually cancelled reservations.

The AP interviewed representatives at two businesses — a lodge and a small eco-tour company — who say that they have not noticed any change in reservations.

On the other hand, the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, which represents 275 smaller businesses, told the AP that the boycott could effect its members and responds to inquires with a letter reading that it,

. . . share[s] your concern for the wolves. . . . Unfortunately, our state leaders have ignored our wishes and gone ahead with their personal agenda.

As an example, the general manager of small travel company Alaska Discovery tells the AP that its reservations are the worst in its 33 years. So the boycott may end up largely hurting businesses which oppose the wolf hunting policy in the first place while doing little to actually change the policy. Still, another small travel company tells the AP that it’s business is up 20 percent from last year.

Indeed, Priscilla Feral seems to acknowledge that the boycott is unlikely to sway Murkowski, telling the Associated Press that the group may have to continue the protests and boycott through the end of Murkowski’s term of office,

I just find the current regime is really destructive beyond what anybody remembers in prior administrations. All of this, more than shaming Alaska, shames the country as a whole and that is why we aren’t going to go away.

Which means they could be doing their howl-ins for quite a while, since Murkowski’s term runs through the end of November 2006, assuming he isn’t re-elected.

Assuming the boycott has only minimal effect, the obvious question is why, considering how successful Friends of Animals’ 1993 boycott was. Obviously personalities are part of the reason, with Murkowski apparently willing to ignore any boycott whereas then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved into Feral’s demands. The other reason, I suspect, is the intervening 11 years of actions by animal rights activists — let’s call it the PETA factor.

In 1993, the animal rights movement was still relatively new and novel. Today, thanks to groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the movement is old hat and it’s objections to just about any animal-related activity much more widely known. I suspect that a large segment of people who in 1993 might have heard about the Alaska boycott and been sympathetic are today saying to themselves, “Oh, there go those animal rights activists again.”

PETA and other groups seem to operate on the principle that any publicity is good publicity, which might be true when promoting a movie or CD, but is not true when trying to bring about radical social changes.


Animal rights boycott of Alaska not working. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, April 26, 2004.

Alaska Expands Plans to Kill Wolves

While Priscilla Feral and Friends of Animals were busy trying to organize protests against plans by Alaska to kill 140 wolves in the McGrath area using aerial hunting, the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game was busy expanding its wolf control program. In January it began taking permit applications to kill about 30 wolves in the Nelchina basin.

As with the McGrath plan, the goal of the wolf control program in Nelchina is to reduce the wolf population in order to increase the size of the moose population for hunters.

The Nelchina basin had a land-and-shoot program until 1995, and since that program ended the wolf population in the area has more than doubled according to the Department of Fish and Game. This has resulted in the moose population in the region declining by more than half (the wolves are apparently extremely efficient at killing moose calves).

As far as McGrath, so far weather conditions have meant that no wolves have been killed yet, but the Department of Fish and Game expects that to change in February and March.


Alaska takes applications for new wolf control program. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, January 7, 2004.