Human Exceptionalism

Animal Liberationists are Proving My Point That Their Movement is Ceasing to be Peaceable

I have an article (subscription required) in this week’s Weekly Standard about the thuggery of some animal rights activists. It describes how a small cadre of animal rights terrorists called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) has undertaken a campaign of intimidation and criminal harassment to drive Huntindgon Life Sciences out of business. Their latest victory: In an act of craven capitulation to Brown Shirtism, the New York Stock Exchange reversed a decision to list Huntingdon’s parent company, Life Sciences Research, on the Big Board.

“The NYSE fiasco is merely the latest triumph for …SHAC,” I write, “which has vowed to drive Life Sciences Research out of business because it tests drugs on animals. Toward this end, SHAC activists hit upon a vicious and brutally effective tactic known as “tertiary targeting.” SHAC harasses and intimidates executives and other employees (and their families) of any company merely doing business with Life Sciences.

“The SHAC website identifies targets, providing their home addresses, phone numbers, and the names and ages of their children and even where they attend school. Even after the NYSE put off Life Sciences’ listing, for instance, the SHAC website, according to Forbes, listed ‘names, numbers and email addresses of 100 NYSE staff members.’ Targeted people may receive anonymous death threats or mailed videotapes of their family members taken by SHAC activists. Companies have been bombed. Homes have been invaded and vandalized. In one recent case, animal rights activists broke into a lawyer’s house and flooded it with a garden hose because his company once did business with Life Sciences and wouldn’t be cowed into agreeing to never do so again. In a more recent case in the United Kingdom, a nursery school rescinded vouchers to Life Sciences employees in the face of violent threats.”

This is an important story, I write. “The stakes in the war against Life Sciences are greater than the survival of one company. If SHAC and its co-conspirators succeed, they will validate terrorism as an effective means of accomplishing ‘animal liberation.’ And if Life Sciences succumbs, what animal testing enterprise will be safe? And what about other animal-using industries? Today, it is medical testing. Tomorrow it could be the fast food industry, zoos, the salmon fleet. The list is potentially endless. So is the list of potential imitators. Why wouldn’t antiwar radicals, having noted SHAC’s success, apply tertiary targeting against businesses that contract with the Defense Department?”

If Life Sciences abuses animals, it is a matter for law enforcement, not vigilantism. Otherwise, we lose the rule of law and the ability to resolve our increasingly bitter social and political disputes peacefully.

I end the article with the following observation: “And don’t expect ‘mainstream’ animal rights leaders–if that is the proper word–to be of any help. Most have stood mutely by as their movement’s fringe has grown increasingly ruthless. PETA has explicitly refused to condemn tertiary targeting and has even compared lawlessness in the name of animal rights to the efforts of the Underground Railroad and the French Resistance. Nor have the rank and file made an audible fuss about terrorism committed in furtherance of their cause. This general silence is beginning to sound an awful lot like cheering–calling into question the peaceable nature of the entire animal-rights movement.”

A harsh assessment? I think not. I am already hearing from animal liberationists in reaction to the piece, and true to form, none has yet condemned SHAC, but rather, accused testing labs of being the real thugs–thereby proving my concluding point.