Who Are You Calling Terrorists?

In an op-ed published in the Washington Times, Steven Zak accuses conservative anti-animal rights writers of falsely branding animal rights activists as terrorists. But Zak undermines his own case by glossing over actual animal rights terrorism.

Zak writes,

Granted, some animal activists have committed serious acts of vandalism and other crimes. But the wrongers’ wrath isn’t directed solely at them. Mr. [Wesley J.] Smith, for instance, condemns groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and even the moderate Humane Society of the United States.

First, it is interesting that Zak lumps all animal rights related crimes into two categories: vandalism and “other.” So the firebombing of a Minnesota University laboratory was just an “other” crime. The death threats and razor-blade laced letters to researchers and farmers are just “other” crimes. Certainly vandalism is a major part of animal rights crimes, but animal rights terrorism has progressed way beyond just simple vandalism.

Second, of course, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals deserves condemnation for its support — moral and otherwise — of terrorism. Zak doesn’t even bother to address the issue of PETA’s Earth Liberation Front donation nor its donation to the legal funds of several individuals accused of animal rights terrorism. He doesn’t bother to dismiss or explain away the numerous statements made by PETA insiders such as Ingrid Newkirk or Bruce Friedrich that encourage and justify animal rights terrorism.

Third, Smith’s comments about the Humane Society of the United States were completely justified, although twisted and distorted by Zak’s failure to actually outline Smith’s complaint. Smith wrote,

. . . known ELF and ALF activists are routinely invited to speak at the yearly Washington, D.C. animal-rights conference sponsored by PETA and the Humane Society of the United States.

I believe HSUS is simply a participant in AR 2002, not a sponsor, but aside from that this is a valid question — why does HSUS participate in FARM USA’s annual animal rights conference which features animal rights terrorists front and center? If there were an anti-animal rights conference which featured groups that advocated burning down the businesses of animal rights activists, I know I would not attend and I cannot imagine any other anti-animal rights group would attend. So why does HSUS want to associate with known criminals and advocates of animal rights crimes?

(The irony, by the way, in Smith attacking animal rights activists is that his view of medical research is rather close to the animal rights position. Smith is, for example, a vocal opponent of transgenic research which he claims undermines human dignity).

Hopefully Zak’s next op-ed or article defending PETA and HSUS will actually address the salient issues.


Exposing animal-rights terrorism. Wesley J. Smith, National Review Online, October 2, 2002.

USA Today Runs Bizarre Column in Support of Animal Rights Terrorism

I was a bit surprised today to open up my copy of USA Today to see a guest column defending the Earth Liberation and Animal Libertation Front. Steven Zak’s “Conservative rhetoric makes mockery of U.S. ‘solidarity'” attacks conservatives for implying that progressives who do not agree with them are unpatriotic. But on his way to that argument, Zak slips in these paragraphs,

In particular, I’ve long been a staunch environmentalist. I believe in humility toward nature and other forms of life. If you want to call that a sort of religious view, so be it; but it’s one conservatives seem to have about as much tolerance for as the Taliban does for Christianity.

The Earth Liberation Front, along with the Animal Liberation Front, about which I once wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, have been frequently described as terrorists posing as activists and similar to al-Qaeda — including on this page, where a column by Richard Berman railed against “these homegrown terrorists.” An editorial in The Washington Times also called these groups “terrorists . . . enjoying the freedoms of the United States,” and it wanred of their “online training camps.

Whew! Below is the text of a letter I sent to USA Today,

Editor, USA Today,

I was reading along and agreeing with much of Steven Zak’s op-ed about conservatives attacking progressives as unpatriotic until I read Zak complain that commentators are calling the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front “homegrown terrorists.”

When extremist pro-life individuals and groups burn down abortion clinics, is that not an act of terrorism? When extremist racists burn down black churches, is that not an act of terrorism? Why, then, are animal rights terrorists who burn down research laboratories not terrorists?

Presumably if George W. Bush or The Weekly Standard argued that all research into finding a cure for AIDS and other diseases should be stopped immediately, progressives would be outraged. I was not aware that support for violent destruction of laboratories researching AIDS and other diseases was a progressive position.


Brian Carnell


Conservative rhetoric makes mockery of U.S. ‘solidarity.’ Steven Zak, USA Today, January 23, 2002.