Industry Group Says Mainstream Animal Advocates “Consorting With Terrorists”

by Will Potter on August 15, 2007

in Terrorism Scare Mongering

The genius of the Red Scare, and now the Green Scare, is that once you have completely demonized an entire group of people (either labeling them “communists” or “eco-terrorists”) you can slowly extend that scare-mongering in ever-wider circles. So first you brand someone who vandalizes an SUV as a “terrorist” (an absurdity in its own right), then you move on to branding anyone who associates with that person as a terrorist, and then you move on to branding anyone who even ideologically supports—or does not condemn—those people as terrorists.

Seem far-fetched? It’s happened before, and it’s happening again. Here’s yet another example.

A few weeks ago mainstream animal protection groups held a conference in Washington, D.C. called Taking Action for Animals (TAFA). That conference, it should be noted, formed when some animal groups split off from the existing National Animal Rights Conference: a move motivated, in part, by a debate about whether Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and “direct action” supporters should have a voice at the podiums. Some of the TAFA folks didn’t want to be associated with the those who support illegal activity, and so they ultimately went separate ways.

TAFA has been criticized by some animal advocates as being “welfarist” (a very dirty word coming from the more hardcore animal rights crowd). An especially-heated debate started this year when TAFA organizers announced that a cattle rancher from Niman Ranch would discuss so-called “humane meat” and a representative from Whole Foods would discuss animal welfare standards. [For more on this on-going debate, see James LaVeck’s article on “neo-carns,”and Bruce Friedrich’s reply.]

Doesn’t sound like much of a “terrorist” conference, does it? The so-called “militants” in the animal rights movement have actually been criticizing the suit-wearing, mainstream, reform-oriented, non-violent, above-ground TAFA crowd as not being radical enough. In turn, TAFA supporters frequently go out of their way to condemn more militant groups.

Yet industry front groups—who said little about the Animal Rights Conference in L.A., where one of the “convicted terrorists” from SHAC was given an award—came out swinging at TAFA organizers, saying “there’s no excuse for consorting with terrorists.”

Consorting with terrorists?

So what did they do? Smuggle guns? Funnel drug money? Plot to blow up a building? Nope. TAFA organizers allowed a group called Hugs for Puppies to set up a table at the conference. Yep, set up a table.

The Center for Consumer Freedom put out a press release headlined “Animal Protection Groups Welcome Terrorism to DC Conference”:

Hugs for Puppies is the Philadelphia chapter of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), an organization convicted last year in federal court-along with six of its leaders-on domestic terrorism charges related to a violent campaign against medical researchers …

Center for Consumer Freedom Director of Research David Martosko said:
“There’s no excuse for consorting with terrorists. The Humane Society of the United States and PETA should be distancing themselves from violence. But by welcoming their movement’s most vicious activists with
open arms, they’re defending the indefensible.”

You really have to give credit to the PR machine of industry groups, and the relentless green-baiting that would make Joseph McCarthy proud. There’s so much misinformation wrapped up in their statements that it becomes hard to directly, concisely refute them. Pretty brilliant, actually. The “with us” crowd speaks in terrorism sound bites, the “against us” crowd writes insanely long blog entries debunking the myths. Ahem.

It’s guilt by association. The SHAC activists that Martosko mentioned were convicted as terrorists for running a controversial website that supported illegal tactics—for associating, ideologically at least, with the “terrorists.” Hugs for Puppies is labeled a terrorist organization for associating, ideologically, with SHAC. And now TAFA is branded as supporting terrorism for associating with Hugs for Puppies. For allowing them to set up a table.

So the question, it seems, is where does it all stop? Where do you draw the line?

I think it should be crystal clear by now that industry groups are NOT drawing the line at underground, illegal activity. That’s not the point of their terrorism rhetoric and terrorism legislation. The point is to instill fear in the mainstream, above-ground, animal advocacy movement.

I don’t just mean fear of being rounded up as a terrorist, or facing terrorism enhancement penalties. I mean fear of even working on the same campaign as convicted “terrorists.” Fear of even being at the same

The first step to confronting this is recognizing that “naming names” and pledging loyalty oaths (such as condemning other activists, or allowing petty property crimes to be labeled as terrorism) won’t work. It didn’t work during the Red Scare, and it’s not working now. Instead, animal protection groups should acknowledge that they may disagree—abolitionists may think welfarists are too mainstream, welfarists may think rowdy home demonstrations give the movement a bad name—but the bottom line is the NONE of it is terrorism.

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