The Calgary Herald
Animal rights activists give the good guys a bad name
By Barry Cooper
August 11, 2010

During Stampede Week, I wrote a column offering good-natured advice to
animal-rights advocates for calling into question the myth of the
cowboy. I received a lot of bad-tempered e-mail in response, which got
me thinking about the difference between practical animal welfare
organizations such as the Calgary Humane Society and antics of
animal-rights advocates.

The latter tend to be utterly humourless, though some are
inadvertently ridiculous. For example, People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) advised Ben and Jerry, the environmentally
sensitive guys who used to make ice cream, to use breast milk in their
product. Ben and Jerry solemnly replied that mother's milk is probably
best used for babies.

Some eccentric academics apply the abstruse categories of contemporary
ethical discourse to animals. For the most part, only their students
have to pay attention. But other serious advocates and activists are a
different and dangerous matter.

A couple of weeks ago, the FBI arrested Walter Bond in Denver. He has
"Vegan" tattooed on his neck and "Straightedge" on his arm, which
signifies he doesn't drink alcohol, take drugs, or engage in sexual
promiscuity. He was charged with torching a store, the Sheepskin
Factory in Glendale, last spring.

After the fire, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) posted an entry on
their website said to come from Bond. It claimed the arson "was done
in defence and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died
cruelly at the hands of human oppressors." Making a living "from the
use and abuse of animals will not be tolerated." Besides the Sheepskin
Factory, Bond mentioned "my recent arson against the Leather Factory
in Salt Lake City." The posting concluded with "Go vegan! ALF Lone

The ALF, like their pals in the Earth Liberation Movement (ELF) and
other groups, is organized on the model of "leaderless resistance."
Former Klansman Louis Beam developed the concept almost 20 years ago.
He called for a two-tiered organization. The visible arm engaged in
publicity; the underground tier is comprised of "lone wolves" who
remain anonymous, maintain no ties to the public organization, and
carry out the attacks.

Sometimes, small groups of individuals form cells to carry out "direct
action." Either as cells or as lone wolves, as Beam said, "they know
what has to be done." Nobody gives them orders.

Bond was carrying an ALF publication called The Declaration of War:
Killing People to Save the Animals and the Environment. But the ALF
could hardly be blamed for that, could they? The ELF published an
equally useful manual, Setting Fires with Electrical Timers, that
included instructions on how to avoid leaving forensic evidence at an
arson site along with other bits of tradecraft. But that, too, is just
free speech.

Obviously, not all direct action involves "war" and arson. Sometimes,
harassment and intimidation of scientists who use animals in their
laboratories is enough. Sometimes, threatening their families or
vandalism do the trick. The leaderless resistance model poses problems
for police. The visible side is legally protected and the attackers
are nearly invisible.

Even lone wolves like Bond have friends, in his case friends who share
his views about animals, if not his views on violence and
intimidation. Apparently, Bond was identified by an acquaintance
concerned about animals, but also concerned firefighters might be
killed if Bond kept at his work.

This tells us another thing about the animal rights movement. Besides
the illegal practitioners of direct action and the legal propaganda
arm, there are the generally passive sympathizers. Occasionally, they
have enough common sense and courage to turn in the criminals.
Unfortunately, the irrationality of animal rights gives a bad name to
the genuinely dedicated people who are concerned with the welfare of

Barry Cooper is a political science professor at the University of Calgary.

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