Human Exceptionalism

What I’ve Been Saying: LA Times Columnist Calls on Animal Rights Movement to Condemn Violence

Ever since the animal rights movement came onto my radar, I have urged its leaders to condemn the terrorists within their midst. With the exception of Gary Francione and a few others, the silence among most leadership–particularly from the PETA folk–not to mention the rank and file, has been deafening.

Now, in the wake of further “direct actions” against UCLA animal researchers, LA Times columnist Timothy Rutten has taken note and called, as I have, for action by peaceable rightists to step in and exercise some control. From his column:

Knowledgeable authorities believe a relative handful of people are actually involved in the terrorist acts. A larger group shows up for the marginally peaceful demonstrations, and a slightly larger one provides various kinds of material support. Behind them is a far larger group of individuals who purport to be peacefully concerned with animal welfare, but say they “understand” how some frustrated confreres can be driven to extremes by society’s indifference to what they deem a moral imperative.

This sort of wink-and-nod morality is all too familiar to anyone who’s had contact with the fringe of the antiabortion movement. The truth is that we here in L.A. are just one psychotic sartori away from the night one of these goofballs decides that a researcher’s life is worth less than a white rat’s or a monkey’s and decides to redress the imbalance…

At the end of the day, though, two things need to happen: Law enforcement officials need to step up their attention to this investigation, because there’s a tragedy in the offing if they don’t. And L.A.’s extensive network of animal welfare advocates need to make it clear that they repudiate not only the terrorists but all who provide them material and tacit support of any sort.

More should indeed be done from the law enforcement angle, but if I were Rutten, I wouldn’t hold my breath for any meaningful condemnation from other animal rights activists. After years of making similar calls, I have concluded reluctantly that arson, vandalism, intimidation, death threats, and other such crimes in the name of animal rights just doesn’t upset all that many people within the movement.


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