Surprise, surprise, surprise. Animal rights activists associated with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty have long been extolling and promising violence, and in their big protest (if you consider 180 or so activists a major protest) against Stephens Incorporated, they tried to follow through on those promises.
Police had set up a 3 foot barrier to separate the protesters from the Stephens, Inc. building. Late in the afternoon, while one activist shouted “The Battle of Little Rock has begun” over a bullhorn, several demonstrators — pushed at the barrier and attempted to climb it, at which point police apparently used force, reportedly including stun grenades, rubber bullets, and pepper spray, to control the crowd.
Estimates of the number arrested ranged from 10 reported by an Arkansas television station two a couple dozen reported by the Associated Press.
Earlier in the day the activist, many of whom refused to give the press their last names, showed up at the homes of at least two executives of Stephens Inc. to protest. Police were well-prepared, however, with plenty of police at several points along the march and a police helicopter circling overhead (hint — maybe police in Great Britain should take a look at how police can prevent violent hooliganism while still allowing people to peacefully protest).
Animal rights activist Ryan Courtade (who still can’t make up his mind which side he’s on), quickly sent out an e-mail describing the events and, in my opinion, accurately assessing the state of the animal rights movement,
Our movement needs to take a step back and reanalyze itself. What happened today is not acceptable. If we have to force Stephen’s to drop it’s financial back [sic] of HLS from Terrorism, and Fear, then we are no better than the lowest form of life. We need Stephen’s to drop financial back because of what they are doing to animals. We need to speak in a unified voice, and not with terror.
Sure, but lets be honest — there is no animal rights movement today that is separate from this sort of violence. The handful of animal rights organizations willing to condemn these sorts of actions can be counted on one hand, while even a group like the Humane Society of the United States stoops to hiring advocates of terrorism and violence.
The problem that folks like Courtade face is that the animal rights movement already waged its nonviolent campaign and it lost big time. People do care about animal welfare, and they are certainly more aware of animal issues than they were 20 years ago, but the animal rights movement has been heard and soundly rejected by the overwhelming majority of Americans. People may disagree about the most humane way to kill a cow, but few Americans consider killing a cow for food to be inherently immoral. People may be concerned about the fate of animals used in medical research, but nobody except Ingrid Newkirk is going to go along with letting a premature infant die just to preserve the life of a calf whose lung tissue is used to make the infant’s lungs work more efficiently.
The rhetoric is stale and played out — all the animal rights movement has left are its arsonists and agitators. It’s ironic that even as SHAC should be riding high with its claimed successes at driving HLS out of business, its leaders (as well as the rest of the animal rights movement) seems to have an air of increasing desperation. Even PETA’s nutty campaigns are becoming less and less imaginative and, more importantly, the shock value is simply no longer news.
Look at the protest against Stephens. After hyping this protested practically every week on animal rights mailing lists, and garnering extensive publicity for itself, the best SHAC can do is convince a little under 200 activists to travel to Arkansas? No wonder they have to resort to intimidation and fear — without it, they’d be irrelevant.
In response to the Stephen’s demonstrations. Ryan Courtade, E-mail communication, October, 29, 2001.
Animal rights activists picket. Tim Taylor, Times Record (Fort Smith, Arkansas), October 29, 2001.
Demonstrations turn violent. KARK News 4, October 29, 2001.
Activists clash with police in Ark. Melissa Nelson, The Associated Press, October 29, 2001.