THE FBI recently declared environmental and animal rights extremism its top domestic terrorism priority. The bureau is currently investigating over 150 cases of arson, bombings and other violent crimes likely related to these movements. So does this suggest that concern over animals' welfare necessarily leads to crime? Hardly, but fanaticism does. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The animal welfare movement dates back to 1824, when William Wilberforce — a leader in the campaigns to abolish slavery in the British empire and to improve conditions in factories — helped establish the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in London. Wilberforce's revulsion at cruelty to animals fit perfectly with the Christian principles on which he based his life's work. Sadly, he would be revolted by some of his self-proclaimed successors' methods today.
How did it come to this? Animal welfare was about kindness, not violence, about tenderness, not bombs. The trouble started when animal welfare organizations shifted from talking about man's duty to animals to talking about animals' "rights" — rights that aren't simply correlative with man's duty of care.
As early as 1983, Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) — which was founded in 1980 — wrote in a Washington Post article, "Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses." This outrageous statement well illustrates PETA's twisted world view. Animal "rights" derive from a moral equivalence between man and animal — just as we do not experiment on or eat babies, we should not experiment on or eat animals.
This should be borne in mind when considering PETA's recent claims of animal abuse at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Virginia facility run by Covance, a medical research firm. PETA posted several scenes on its Website that it alleges are evidence of animal cruelty and spent tens of thousands of dollars to buy a full-page ad in The New York Times publicizing them. Covance, which has an excellent record in caring for its lab animals, strongly disputes the charges and argues that the scenes are taken out of context and present a distorted picture.
PETA's record invites skepticism of its claims. As early as 1984, PETA edited videotape of an Animal Liberation Front raid on the University of Pennsylvania Head Injury Research Laboratory to use in fund-raising. As former National Institute of Mental Director Health Frederick Goodwin and University of Pennsylvania veterinary medicine professor Adrian Morrison wrote, "In subsequent literature, PETA made it clear that alleged mistreatment of animals was not the real issue. In PETA's view, animals cannot be used to alleviate health problems of people, period."
Kidney transplants, cardiac surgery, alleviation of manic-depression, and treatment of hypertension are all examples of medical advances that benefited from animal experiments. Researchers are now testing new drugs to find treatments and cures for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many more diseases that kill millions every year. Yet to the PETA activist, these matter not one whit.
The USDA is sure to investigate PETA's complaint, and so it should. But PETA's history of questionable complaints, and the quick fades used in its anti-Covance web presentation, do not inspire confidence. And, given some recent events, maybe some other federal agencies should be investigating PETA itself.
In June, two PETA employees at its Norfolk, Va. headquarters were arrested on 31 counts of animal cruelty. They were caught dumping the bodies of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens they had killed in a dumpster. Witnesses told news teams that they had given up several of the animals in good health assuming they would be found homes.
In fact, documents filed with the state of Virginia show that PETA kills 85 percent of the animals it takes in. By contrast, the Norfolk SPCA finds homes for 73 percent of the animals entrusted to its care. Former Norfolk SPCA Director Dana Cheek told petakillsanimals.com, "I often receive phone calls from frantic people who have surrendered their pets to PETA with the understanding that PETA will 'find them a good home.' Many of them are led to believe that the animals will be taken to a nearby shelter. Little do they know that the pets are killed in the PETA van before they even pull away from the pet owner's home."
And one can only wonder how many dogs and cats PETA could have kept alive had it used the money it spent on a full-page New York Times ad on food and shelter instead.
Animal welfare seems to be less important to today's animal rights activists than disrupting medical research, preaching vegetarianism, and raising funds. William Wilberforce would be delighted to see the lack of slavery, child labor, and sweatshops in the West today, but he would be horrified by "animal rights" terrorism. He might even be the first to call on the FBI and IRS to investigate PETA's practices and tax exemption.