Insect Rights?

Still don’t think that animal rights philosophy puts one on the slippery slope
to granting rights to just about everything that moves? Then check out
Joanne E. Lauck and Brian L. Crissey’s The Voice of the Infinite in
the Small : Revisioning the Insect-Human Connection
. This little ditty
attempts to smash the myths in Western culture about insects and seeks
to find a new more compassionate and positive relationship between humans
and insects. As one reviewer summed up Lauck’s vision:

The Voice of the Infinite in the Small is an invitation
to experience Oneness, not only with those creatures we find beautiful,
but with those that invoke our deepest fears. Once we experience that
unity, Lauck explains, our sense of self will expand and we will be able
to rediscover ourselves as part of every ecosystem and every creature
on Earth. Then we may dare to ask what part of ourselves is that we hate
and seek to eradicate? [when we, for example, try to kill pests that attack

Soon I imagine we will see groups raiding the folks who make bug zappers.

On the Lighter Side

The Onion, an online humor
magazine akin to National Lampoon only funnier, recently published a hilarious
parody of the Animal Liberation Front entitled Animal-Rights Activists
Release 71,000 Cows Into Wild
This isn’t the first time the Onion has parodied animal liberationists.
If you like the cow story check out Heroic PETA Commandos Kill 49,
Save Rabbit


Animal-rights activists release 71,000 cows into wild. The Onion.

Heroic PETA commandos kill 49, save rabbit. The Onion.

Attack on University of Minnesota Worst Lab Attack in Recent Years

On April 5, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for a raid on a University of Minnesota lab
that released over 100 animals and vandalized the lab doing more than
$2 million in damage.

The lab was conducting experiments
with rats, pigeons, salamanders and mice on a variety of research projects
including efforts to better understand cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Walter Low, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, said the
raid set back studies being conducted on Alzheimer’s by at least two years
(the University of Minnesota is well known for developing a strain of
mice that mimic the traits often found in Alzheimer’s patients.)

Along with freeing the lab
animals, the ALF operatives smashed computers, wrecked microscopes and
photocopiers and even destroyed human tissue that were part of a research
program to find a vaccine to attack brain tumors. As Low pointed out,
this is rather ironic since the animal rights activists insist tissue
cultures should be used to replace animals in medical research.

Several people in the Minnesota
area, including a cancer patient, are offering a reward of $10,000 for
information leading to the capture and conviction of the perpetrators.

The reaction from animal rights
groups was predictable. Lisa Lange of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
was quoted in New Scientist as saying, “We do things in a very different
way, but I understand their frustration. The real crime is that millions
of animals are being tortured and killed.”

On the other hand Freeman Wicklund, executive director of the nonprofit Animal Liberation League,
told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that such actions hurt the animal rights
cause. “We hope everybody realizes that the visible minority within
the animal-rights community doesn’t represent the broader movement,” Wicklund said. “A
lot of people who care about animals are upset about the actions.”

Although it is nice to see
Wicklund oppose such raids, he is ignoring reality when he implies
his view is in the majority. In fact he has been widely denounced by animal
rights activists for his stance against terrorist activities.


Animal activists suspected in lab damage. Jim Adams, Minnesota Star Tribune, April 6, 1999.

Activists up the ante. Kurt Kleiner, New Scientist, April 17, 1999.

Research labs vandalized, 75 animals taken. Associated Press, April 6, 1999.

NC A.L.F. Liberates 116 from Vivisection Lab. No Compromise, Press Release, Arpil 9, 1999.

Doctor refutes claim animal experiments have brought us closer to cure for Alzheimer’s disease, call such claims “exploitative” of stricken families. New England Anti-Vivisection Society, Press Release, April 9, 1999.

Veternarian charges U of M experimenters exaggerated claims of research progress. In Defense of Animals, Press Release, April 9, 1999.

ALF tactics condemned. Letter to the editor, Minnesota Daily, April 9, 1999.

More lost U lab animals found in Woodbury field. Jim Adams, Minnesota Star Tribune, April 9, 1999.

Minn. research labs vandalized. Associated Press, April 6, 1999.

Animal Liberation Front claims responsibility for liberation of 116 animals from University of Minnesota, while destroying violent research. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, April 5, 1999.

A.L.F. Raids University of Minnesota Animal Lab. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, April 5, 1999.

Vigil for lab animals. Animal Liberation Front, Press Release, April 7, 1999.

HSUS Pals Burlington Coat Factory Targeted by Activists

Several months ago the Humane Society of the United States discovered that some Fur-trimmed coats being
sold by Burlington Coat Factory contained fur from dogs. The story was
widely reported in the national media and BCF agreed to not only stop
importing coats containing fur from dogs but also donated $100,000 to
HSUS to help that organization track and campaign against the import of
fur from dogs into the United States.

As I pointed out, the BCF actions
were the result of embracing what Adrian Morrison calls the “muddled middle.”
If using dog fur is wrong, certainly using mink or other animal fur, not
to mention leather, is wrong. By acting in such an unprincipled way, BCF
was only inviting further harassment from animal rights activists who
won’t be satisfied until no animal products are used in the production
of garments.

In fact, animal rights activists
now appear to be aggressively targeting BCF.

The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade and Last Chance for Animals sent a letter to BCF demanding that
they stop selling coats with fur of any sort by March 26. The two groups have designated Sunday, May 30th as a National
Day of Action Against Burlington Coat Factory. As the two groups put their
complaint in a recent press release, “Burlington Coat Factory has
so far refused to stop selling fur and fur trim, despite the big expose
where they were busted with dog fur. Somehow this company fails to see
the similarities between canines (foxes and coyotes) and canines (dogs).
Therefore they still sell fur from foxes, coyotes, raccoons and who knows
what else.”

In a separate press release, the two
groups reiterated that, “The only way BCF can avoid the protests is to voluntarily
give up selling fur by May 30, or agree to a phase-out plan.”


BCF demo next Sunday. Coaliation to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, February 21, 1999.

National day of action against Burlington. Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, April 9, 1999.

Burlington Coat Factory rejects peace overtures of anti-fur coalition; protests set. Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, March 29, 1999.

What Is HSUS' Position on Animal Experimentation?

Animal rights activists
were livid at a letter sent by the Humane Society of the United States outlining its position on animal testing. Back in December,
WARDS executive vice president Joseph S. Venable sent a letter to Martin
L. Stephens, HSUS vice president for animal research, asking HSUS to make
its position on animal experimentation clear. As Venable wrote in his
letter, “Despite your combined efforts, HSUS is still perceived as
an anti-vivisection society. My understanding from discussions with scientists
and research administrators is that there is a great deal of suspicion
of the motives and how this information is to be deciphered … Personally,
I believe the Human Society of the United States must once and for all
make a declaration that animals are needed for biomedical research.”

Stephens responded in early
January with a letter claiming HSUS is not an antivivisection society
and recognizes the need for experimenters to use animals in medical research.
“You may be happy to know,” wrote Stephens, “that we now
acknowledge that biomedical research on animals, has advanced scientific
knowledge and human and animal health. We also acknowledge that scientists
are concerned about the pain and distress and that, indeed, many scientists
want to see the day when animals are no longer used in harmful research.”

WARDS then published the exchange
of letters in its Winter 1999 newsletter, which brought the HSUS’ position
to the attention of animal rights activists who were none too happy. Stephens
then followed up his letter to Wards with yet another letter to animal
rights activists to explain HSUS’ position. Basically Stephens reiterates
that, “HSUS continues to be strongly committed to working towards
the day when animals are no longer used in harmful research.”

In his letter, Stephens specifically attacks the common view held by animal rights activists that medical technologies
developed by research on animals has done nothing to improve human health.
Stephens writes:

However, statement #1 [that “biomedical research, including
research on animals, has advanced biomedical knowledge and human and animal
health”] simply acknowledges that some health benefits have come
from biomedical research, including research on animals. Anyone who denies
that our knowledge of biomedical systems and their function, and our potential
ability to prevent and treat disease is not vastly greater today than
it was 50 years ago is simply ignoring reality. We can argue amongst ourselves
about the relative contributions of different research approaches but
we would prefer to look forward to what might be accomplished in the coming
years and to working to continue the decline in laboratory animal use
that has been going on for the past twenty-five years.

It is gratifying to see HSUS
recognize the obvious, but note that the letters say a lot less than they
appear to at first. Although HSUS now recognizes that research on animals
has improved human health, the statements carefully avoid even the implication
that such experiments were morally justifiable or that current medical
research utilizing animal models is morally justifiable.

This is not surprising since
HSUS vice president Michael Fox wrote in his 1990 book Inhumane Society
that although animal experimentation might have provided useful information
in the past, “it now impedes further significant progress” and toxicity
tests in animals “amount to little more than a public relations campaign
to dispel public concern and, at best, give a false sense of security.”
And, of course, Fox is infamous for his statement that, “The life of an
ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration.”

There is nothing in
the HSUS letters that contradicts Fox’s statements. Apparently Stephens
hopes researchers will read more meaning into HSUS “new” position than
is really there. As Stephens wrote in his letter answering animal rights
activists concerns about the original letter, this is merely a pragmatic
strategy designed to give HSUS a better chance of realizing its goal of
eliminating animal from medical research sometime within 20 years.


An Open Letter to HSUS. Joseph S. Venable, WARDS, Letter, December 4, 1998.

Reply to Venable letter. Martin L. Stevens, Humane Society of the United States, January 6, 1999.

Letter posted to HSUS mailing list. Martin L. Stephens, Humane Society of the United States, March 30, 1999.

On The Importance of Not Throwing Away Your Credibility

Can the cattle industry ever live
down the Oprah Winfrey lawsuit? An Associated Press story recently noted
that the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has set up
a hotline for people in the beef industry to call if they hear people
disparaging beef. As the organization’s spokesman Rob Hosford put it,

If we hear XYZ radio station carrying something about the
beef industry, procedures and products that is derogatory, unfounded
and untrue, with this task force we will send someone over there to
re-educate, so the next time they talk they’ll be talking form the right
side of the ballpark.

The hotline was apparently
inspired by the ongoing controversy in Texas over a billboard People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals put
up to promote its “Jesus was a vegetarian campaign.” Bruce Friedrich,
who coordinates that campaign, said the hotline was a sign of desperation.
“Clearly, they are running scared,” Friederich told the Associated
Press. “All the propaganda in the world can’t sanitize their product.”

The Associated Press report noted that the
hotline was set up a year after the infamous Amarillo trial of Oprah Winfrey
for allegedly defaming the beef industry after she proclaimed she would
no longer eat beef because of the risk of Mad Cow Disease.

Although I rarely agree with
Friedrich about anything, he is correct that many people might see the
setting up of the hotline as the cattle industry running scared. The ill-advised
(to be blunt it was idiotic) prosecution of Winfrey dealt a serious blow
to the credibility of the beef industry. All it accomplished was giving
the animal rights activists ammunition to use in their campaign against
the industry. As Friedrich himself wrote in a recent essay, those who
agree with the animal rights position are a very tiny minority. They will
almost certainly remain so unless animal industries make them into sympathetic
victims, which is precisely what the Winfrey trial did.