Jacques Ferber, Inc., Files RICO Lawsuit Against Animal Rights Groups

Jacques Ferber, Inc., a Philadelphia
furrier, recently filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, the Animal Defense League, and Vegan Resistance for Liberation charging the groups with illegally conspiring to shut down
the furrier.

In its lawsuit, Jacques Ferber,
Inc., maintains that the furrier has been the subject of weekly protests
since 1995 by the three groups. Ferber maintains the protests have escalated
to a campaign of vandalism including incidents where windows have been
smashed, the store’s doors glued shut, and its customers and employees
threatened and harassed.

Ferber’s lawyer, Bruce E.
Rodger, also outlined several other actionable incidents including the
printing of “wanted” posters that depicted a Ferber principal with the
text “Wanted for Murder” and “Considered Extremely Violent.”

John Paul Goodwin, executive
director of the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, told the Philadelphia
Intelligence
that the suit under the |Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization| statute was a threat to
civil liberties. Goodwin also predicted Ferber would be unable to prove
the charges saying, “The fact is they don’t know who’s doing that. Any
lawsuit that says the (the individuals named in the suit) did is grossly
inaccurate.”

Whether or not RICO lawsuits
threaten fundamental civil liberties is still a hotly debated question,
although the Supreme Court so far has upheld civil lawsuits under RICO
(for the record, I think at a minimum the RICO statute needs some additional
clarification or it could just as easily snag anti-animal rights groups
as it will pro-animal rights groups).

As for the factual requirements
under RICO, however, they are rather minimal. Goodwin is mistaken if he believes
that in order for Ferber to win it must show that the defendants committed
specific illegal acts. In fact, if the precedents from the recent RICO
suits against pro-life groups apply here, all Ferber will need to show
is that the groups named in the lawsuit engaged in an organized way in
advocating or aiding the harassment or vandalism.

The recent verdict against
a pro-life web site that displayed “wanted” posters of doctors who performed
abortions, for example, found that the mere online posting or physical
distribution of such a poster could constitute an actionable act under
RICO. So could speech that merely suggested or described the creation
of such posters.

Similarly, even if none of
the three groups had members who participated in the vandalism, if it
can be shown that any of the three groups held strategy meetings at which
any of the vandals did attend, the groups might be liable.

Realistically a lot depends
on how the animal rights activists and the furrier are perceived by a
jury. Clearly, for whatever reason, the pro-life activists were seen as
very unsympathetic by juries, especially in light of the spate of physical
violence up to and including murder perpetrated by some fanatical pro-lifers.
Whether a jury will see animal rights activists as more like the pro-life
movement or more like the civil rights movement (albeit misguided) remains
to be seen.

Clearly a suit like this has
the best chance of winning if it were filed by a research institute against
groups that advocate or condone acts of violence against important medical
research. Unlike furriers, which many Americans seem ambivalent toward,
medical research still continues to enjoy a lot of support. Besides which
almost all Americans, and certainly every member of any conceivable jury,
would have benefited directly from medical research. It is hard to imagine
those who would condone or advocate for “direct action” against medical
facilities would be the receive much sympathy from a jury considering
a RICO charge.

Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic Calls It Quits

Gary Francione recently announced
that the |Animal Rights Law Clinic| would be shutting its doors. Although
Francione says he remains committed to the animal rights cause and will
continue to work and speak on animal rights-related issues, Francione
cited the difficulties in running a law clinic along with changes in the
animal rights movement for his decision to close the clinic.

On the latter claim, Francione
wrote in a prepared statement that:

…the American animal rights movement has collapsed and has embraced
a welfarist ideology in which I have no intellectual or professional interest.
I openly (and quite happily) acknowledge that my views are out of step
with a “movement” many of whose leaders and members are not even vegans
or vegetarians, and that seeks primarily to make animal use and treatment
more “humane” … if the “movement” does not embrace as part of its baseline
ideology that the property status of animals is morally indefensible,
then it seems unlikely that the legal system, which has also become more
conservative over the past decade, will conclude otherwise.

On the problems involved
in maintaining the law clinic, Francione complained, “The burden is
exacerbated in these reactionary times as I am forced to waste more and
more time responding to the efforts of animal exploitation organizations
and conservative legislators who do not believe that a state university
ought to have such a Clinic.”

Being one of those people
who questions whether a state university should have such a clinic, it is
good to see pressure against animal rights activists paying off (and legitimate
pressure at that, as opposed to the threats and acts of violence favored
or condoned by so many in the animal rights movement).

On the other, hand Francione’s
claim that the animal rights movement has become a bunch of wishy washy
animal welfarists does not seem to square with recent events. On the one
hand, of course, the most successful animal organizations have always
been (or at least been perceived as) welfarist organizations. But this
has not stopped the most vocal and most fanatical of the strictly rightist
groups from intensifying their activities. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is certainly as strong
as ever, and Animal Liberation Front activity seems to be on the upswing
with the widespread attacks on fur farms and the recent attack at the
University of Minnesota.

If Francione’s view were correct,
it would certainly be something to celebrate but I think he is being a
bit premature in declaring that the animal rights movement in America
has “collapsed.”

Animal Rights Terrorism Update

Detroit school teacher
and animal rights convict Gary Yourofsky went on a hunger strike immediately
after being ordered to serve a six month sentence in a Canadian prison
for participating in an April 1997 fur farm raid. Yourofsky said he would not
eat for 40 days to protest the killing of 40 million animals each year
for fur. Other imprisoned animal rights activists were reportedly joining
in with sympathy hunger strikes of their own.

Numerous activists were arrested
involving protests during World Lab Animals Week at the end of April.
Six activists were arrested and charged with burglary for freeing animals
and damaging equipment at laboratories at Southern Methodist University
in a protest sponsored by Animal Liberation of Texas (can someone spell
R-I-C-O?)

Animal activists broke into
three research labs at the University of California at San Francisco,
overturning refrigerators and ruining at least one medical experiment
according to UCSF officials. Three activists were arrested by UCSF police
and charged with burglary. Ironically one of the labs compromised included
one where experiments were being conducted aimed at reducing the number
of animals being used in medical experiments.

Correction: this article originally described Gary Yourofsky as a “convicted felon.” Yourofsky’s conviction was in Canada whose legal system does not use this particular way of classifying crimes, and this claim was inaccurate.

Canned Hunts?

Recently animal rights
activists seem to be making some inroads into restricting and, in some
cases, banning so-called “canned hunts.” In a canned hunt, animals are
let loose in fenced-in area and hunters pay a fee to shoot the animals.

In April, Oregon’s Fish and
Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to ban canned hunts. The Louisiana
legislature was considering a bill to prohibit canned hunts and similar
bans and regulations are being considered elsewhere.

There seem to be two main arguments
animal rights activists are using against canned hunts.

The first is that the animals,
which are often exotic, nonnative species, could escape and threaten the
local wildlife. Are these the same activists who regularly condone the
release of nonnative species “liberated” from labs and fur farms, and dismiss
fears of threat to local wildlife as anti-animal propaganda? Regardless
of the hypocrisy involved, this fear certainly might call for reasonable
regulation. Requiring those who operate such as requiring establishments
to meet certain minimum requirements might make sense. This
concern alone, however, certainly does not warrant an outright ban.

The argument that really seems
to win people over, however, is that canned hunts are somehow unfair.
As Oregon legislator Ryan Deckart told The Oregonian, “It’s not
[a] fair chase.” If that is to be the standard for killing animals —
that the animal must first be given the opportunity to escape — then
Deckart should introduce legislation immediately banning slaughter houses
which, the last time I checked, rarely allow the animals they kill or
process any semblance of a “fair chase.”

This is a clear instance of
the “muddled middle” at work — it makes no sense to say that a person
can’t fence in land, populate it with animals and pay others to kill said
animals if the animals are exotic and the killers are hunters, but that
the same setup is perfectly okay if the animals are cows or chickens or
pigs and the killers are from a nearby slaughterhouse. Either both situations
are moral or they are equally immoral.

This whole issue seems to
me like a case of legislation by intuition — hunting repulses many who
wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a hamburger at McDonald’s — rather
than by rationally looking at the issue.

Medical Advances Thanks to Animals

In April, Alexion Pharmaceuticals
and Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital announced they transplanted
genetically altered pig nerve cells into an animal model of Alzheimer’s
disease (in this case, mice). The mice regained cognitive abilities once
the pig cells were implanted.

“The current test model represents
the most rigorous animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, in which wholesale
loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with highly advanced stages
of the disease,” said Dr. Ole Isacson, associate professor in the Neuroregeneration
Laboratories at McLean Hospital. “Today’s reported findings represent
the first demonstration of functional restoration using transgenic pig
neurons in an animal model of Alzheimer’s.”

Meanwhile, researchers at Genzyme
Transgenic Corp., Tufts University and Louisiana State University announced
in April that they had genetically engineered goats to produce a human
protein used to affect the clotting of blood. The goats were the result
of a cloning experiment, suggesting that someday large numbers of genetically
engineered animals, carrying important drugs for treating human diseases
and medical conditions, may be produced relatively rapidly.

Short Takes – May 1999

 Clinton administration can’t look Sudan
in the eye

      Leave it to the Clinton administration
to give a public relations coup to one of the most corrupt governments
in the world, Sudan. Last summer the United States destroyed a pharmaceutical
factory in Khartoum, Sudan, claiming the CIA had proof the factory was
being used to produce chemical weapons.

       The owner of the planet, Saleh
Idris, sued the United States after it seized his assets under U.S. anti-terrorism
laws. On May 3rd the U.S. Dept. of Treasury responded to the
threat of a lawsuit by Idris and unfroze all of his assets. According
to the Clinton administration, the CIA still maintains it has proof the
pharmaceutical plant was being used to produce chemical weapons but they
can’t show the evidence in court without jeopardizing unspecified U.S.
intelligence sources.

       The government isn’t getting
off that easy, though. Idris announced he plans to sue the United States
for $30 million in compensation for the destruction of the factory. Will
the United States pay $30 million to Idris rather than risk compromising
ongoing intelligence operations by actually presenting any evidence to
back up its charges? Stay tuned.