“ALF to vegan death threats”?

by Will Potter on September 1, 2009

in Terrorism Scare Mongering

ALF_beaglesScare-mongering against radical animal rights and environmental activists has become so easy that it is hard for some folks to resist joining the attacks. POM Wonderful, the juice company, tried to label lawful protesters as part of the Animal Liberation Front. Groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom have warned of “violence” when PETA moved to DC. The Humane Society of the United States went out of its way to blame underground groups for an arson, when the police had no evidence linking the crime to them. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on. Perhaps the most absurd addition to the list to date comes from within the animal rights movement.

Gary Francione, a law professor at Rutgers, and Steve Best, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas–El Paso, have been going back and forth about animal rights issues, specifically the use of direct action. It almost led to a debate (which looks like Francione pulled out of) and has currently turned into a shining example of all that a post-newspaper Internet future heralds: trash talking, trash talking and more trash talking. It came to a head recently when Adam Kochanowicz warned of “ALF to vegan death threats” after receiving a message from Gary Francione that said:

I have received several messages from people informing me that they have received threats and/or violent communications because they have posted messages in support of non-violence or critical of the views of Steve Best.

If you feel threatened, you should go to the appropriate authorities.

You might want to go through your FB list. The administrators of “Go Vegan or Die,” which promotes violence (including personal violence) and the harassment of those who promote non-violence, are: Mary Xanthos, Karen Challenges, Ward Chanley, Kerri Millam, Holly Donna Balaclava, Gina Maltese, and Camile Marino. People communicate with Steve Best at their own risk as he distributes emails to those whom he knows will respond with threats of violence.

If you are a member of this group or otherwise support violence, please respect my wishes and leave this site.

This continues to get circulated around on blogs and Facebook pages, so I think it’s important to clear up a few things. These are the same types of smear tactics being used by animal industries against activists as “terrorists.” Specifically:

  1. Linking above-ground individuals who ideologically support direct action with underground activists who carry out direct action. Regardless of how you feel about people who support illegal tactics, warning people to communicate with a professor of philosophy “at their own risk” because he “distributes emails to those whom he knows will respond with threats of violence” is idiotic. It’s a heavy accusation, and one that, in this political climate, is surely not taken lightly by the FBI.
  2. Singling people out by name as the “leaders” because of their ideology or the alleged actions of those involved with them. Francione lists individuals by name not because of anything they have done, but because of a Facebook group that promotes ideas he disagrees with.
  3. Labeling the ALF as “violent” or prepared to become violent. There has not been a single act of physical violence in the history of the U.S. animal rights movement. To think that the Animal Liberation Front or any underground animal rights activists would choose to break that history and make their first target a VEGAN is pretty laughable and egotistical. But with scare-mongering like this, it doesn’t matter how laughable it is. It is intended to end a debate by labeling people as “violent.”

Francione has made it a point–like many academics, Steve Best included–to single out people he ideologically opposes and attack their positions. At times, he has done so pretty shamelessly. For instance, when Austrian activists were rounded up and detained without charges, Francione went out of his way to attack the “welfarist” campaigns of the activists arrested.

Here’s the thing: everyone involved can continue the name-calling and chest puffing and other nonsense that has come from all sides in this debate as much as they like. The vast majority of people, including activists, probably will not pay much attention.

But sweeping, serious allegations of violence, along with naming names and encouraging people to contact law enforcement, only serves to follow in the footsteps of industry groups that have turned activists into the “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

What do you think?

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