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Profile: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was a participant or observer in the following events:
A semiofficial logo for the Animal Liberation Front. [Source: Animal Liberation Front]The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) forms. It is widely considered the US’s most active “ecoterrorist” movement (see 1970s) and focuses primarily on attacking companies that perpetuate cruelty to animals, often in the form of animal experimentation. It is very loosely organized, and composed of anonymous underground cells that mount operations to rescue animals from what it calls “places of abuse” and, it says, to “inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.” ALF traces its origins to a group of British activists in the late 1960s called the Hunt Saboteurs Association, whose prime goal was to disrupt fox hunts. In 1972, according to the anonymously published “ALF Primer,” “after effectively ending a number of traditional hunting events across England, members of the Hunt Saboteurs decided more militant action was needed, and thus began the Band of Mercy.” The Band of Mercy went farther than its parent organization, and in 1974 two of its members, Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman, were jailed for firebombing a vivisection research center in Great Britain (see 1974). When Lee is released from prison in 1976, he and some of his Band of Mercy colleagues found the ALF. The organization first begins operations in Great Britain, but quickly moves to America and begins escalating events. Its first known operation will be in 1979, when ALF activists break into a medical school and release animals being used for research (see 1979). Before it establishes a small press office in 1991, ALF’s activities will be publicized and praised by a somewhat more mainstream animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The ALF primer explains the “leaderless resistance” model followed by the group: “Due to the illegal nature of ALF activities, activists work anonymously, and there is no formal organization to the ALF. There is no office, no leaders, no newsletter, and no official membership. Anyone who carries out direct action according to ALF guidelines is a member of the ALF.” The primer states the following as ALF guidelines:
To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. fur farms, laboratories, factory farms, etc. and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives free from suffering.
To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations.
To take all necessary precautions against hurting any animal, human and nonhuman.
The primer states: “In the third section it is important to note the ALF does not, in any way, condone violence against any animal, human or non-human. Any action involving violence is by its definition not an ALF action, any person involved not an ALF member. The fourth section must be strictly adhered to. In over 20 years, and thousands of actions, nobody has ever been injured or killed in an ALF action.” [Animal Liberation Front, 2002 ]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), whose execution is rapidly approaching (see January 16, 2001), politely declines a request by the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) that he make his last meal a vegetarian one. In a handwritten letter responding to PETA’s request, McVeigh writes that he sympathizes with the group’s cause, but will not make that request. PETA issued the request through the prison warden, stating that McVeigh’s last meal should have no meat because “Mr. McVeigh should not be allowed to take even one more life.” The warden refused, and PETA sent the request directly to McVeigh. “Truth is, I understand your cause—I’ve seen slaughter houses myself—but I still believe in reasonable taking and eating of game (as an outdoorsman and hunter),” he writes. “My one main problem with the ‘veg’ movement is this (besides the fact I’m a libertarian): Where do you draw the line and what standard is used to define that line?” McVeigh questions whether “grubs/worms/etc.” suffer. He also argues that “plants are alive, too. They react to stimuli (including pain); have circulatory systems, etc.… To me, the answer is as the Indians believed: respect for the life you take to sustain yourself, but come to terms with your place in the ‘food chain.’” He congratulates the organization on the media attention it has garnered as a result of the request, writing: “You should have seen the local editorial response to your letter. You gotta remember, this is meat-eatin’ farm country; still, good job getting the attention to your cause (like protesting dead rats on [the popular television reality show] ‘Survivor’).” McVeigh closes by saying he cannot “sustain a prolonged intellectual debate on the subject, as my time is short” but suggests the organization should contact his friend Ted Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996), an inmate of the Florence, Colorado, “supermax” prison that until recently housed McVeigh, whom McVeigh says would be more likely to take up the vegetarian issue. [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
One of a number of semi-official logos for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). [Source: Seventh Generation (.com)]A number of moderate and more radical animal rights groups hold their annual conference at the McLean Hilton in McLean, Virginia. More “mainstream” groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are represented, as are groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which straddle the divide between mainstream moderate rhetoric and extremism, and frankly extremist organizations such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976), its affiliate environmental organization Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998). PETA’s Bruce Friedrich tells a panel: “If we really believe that animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then of course we’re going to be blowing things up and smashing windows.… I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation, considering the level of suffering, the atrocities. I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them, exploded tomorrow. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows.… Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.” The panel members and audience applaud Friedrich’s words. ALF, ELF, and SHAC activists share a table, handing out pamphlets and T-shirts, one of which reads, “Words Mean Nothing… Action is Everything!” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002]
Dr. Michael Podell, a medical researcher with Ohio State University, gives up his tenured position and a $1.7 million research project after being targeted for harassment by activists with the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Podell used cats in his research, which focused on why drug users succumb more quickly to AIDS. After PETA put Podell on its “action alert” list, PETA activists sent Podell almost a dozen death threats, including a photograph of a British scientist whose car had been bombed with the words, “You’re next,” scrawled across the top. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002]
Shaklee logo. [Source: IAm4Kids (.com)]The “Animal Liberation Brigade” and “Revolutionary Cells,” two offshoots of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998 and 2002 and After) animal rights organization, bomb the offices of Shaklee Inc. in Pleasanton, California. No one is injured in the blast. SHAC has targeted Shaklee because its parent company, Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Co., does business with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), long accused of abusing and torturing animals in its research practices. (Apparently the fact that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), another animal rights organization, lists Shaklee as one of its “Caring Consumers” on its Web site does not affect the decision to bomb Shaklee’s offices.) The FBI offers a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the prime suspect in both the Shaklee and Chiron (see April - August 2003) bombings, Daniel Andreas San Diego of Sonoma, California. An anonymous email claiming responsibility for the bombing says that activists used a 10-pound ammonium nitrate bomb “strapped with nails.” Although the building sustains little damage, the email warns that “we will now be doubling the size of every device we make” and that “customers and their families are considered legitimate targets.… We gave all the customers the chance, the choice, to withdraw their business from HLS.” The email says: “Now you all will have to reap what you have sown.… You never know when your house, your car even, might go boom.… Or maybe it will be a shot in the dark.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Newly released documents indicate that several FBI investigations have targeted—albeit peripherally—activist groups working on issues such as animal cruelty, environment, and poverty relief. One document reveals an FBI plan to monitor a “Vegan Community Project.” Another document speaks of the Catholic Workers group’s “semi-communistic ideology.” Other groups monitored include PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Greenpeace. An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) official says, “You look at these documents and you think, wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in FBI files that they’re talking about a group like the Catholic Workers league as having a communist ideology.” A Greenpeace official says, “The fact that we’re even mentioned in the FBI files in connection with terrorism is really troubling.” [New York Times, 12/20/2005]
The Bush administration confirms that it believes US citizens can be designated as “enemy combatants” under the Military Commissions Act (MCA—see October 17, 2006). The confirmation comes during the trial of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari and the only person on the American mainland being held as an enemy combatant. Al-Marri, currently held at the Charleston, South Carolina Naval brig, is a legal US resident accused of being a sleeper agent for al-Qaeda (see September 10, 2001). He was arrested in December 2001, while living with his family and studying computer science at Bradley University in Illinois. Al-Marri is charged, not with any direct terrorist activities, but with credit card fraud and lying to federal agents. He is challenging his indefinite detention in federal court, and the government is using the MCA to argue that al-Marri has no status in the courts because of his designation as an enemy combatant. One of the appellate court judges, Roger Gregory, asks Justice Department lawyer David Salmons, “What would prevent you from plucking up anyone and saying, ‘You are an enemy combatant?’” Salmons responds that the government can do just that, without interference from the courts, and adds, “A citizen, no less than an alien, can be an enemy combatant.” Gregory and the second of the three appellate judges, Diana Gribbon Motz, seem uncomfortable with the law’s provisions that the US judiciary has no role in such designations. When Motz asks Salmons about the difference between nations making war and individuals committing acts of terrorism, Salmons retorts with a familiar, and long-disputed, argument that the US Congress gave the government the right to detain terrorist suspects without charge or recourse to the judiciary when it granted the administration the right to use military force against terrorists after the 9/11 attacks (see September 14-18, 2001).
Theoretically Declaring War on PETA - Motz is skeptical of the argument, and asks a series of hypothetical questions about just what organizations or individuals President Bush could designate as enemy combatants. Using the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as an example, Motz asks, “Could the president declare war on PETA?” Salmons says the question is unrealistic, but refuses to say that Bush could not do so if he chose. The Bush administration is careful in its use of the enemy combatant designation, Salmons says, therefore, “The representative of PETA can sleep well at night.” [New York Times, 2/2/2007]
Ignoring Constitutional Concept of 'Inalienable Rights' - Author and investigative journalist Robert Parry notes that in the al-Marri case, the Bush administration is arguing against the concept of “inalienable,” or “unalienable,” rights as granted by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. According to the administration, as long as the US is embroiled in what it calls the “war on terror,” Bush can use his “plenary,” or unlimited, executive powers to essentially waive laws and ignore Constitutional rights if he so chooses. Parry writes that “since the ‘war on terror’ will go on indefinitely and since the ‘battlefield’ is everywhere, Bush is asserting the president’s right to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants wherever the person might be, virtually forever.” Parry concludes, “The Justice Department’s arguments in the [al-]Marri case underscore that Bush still sees himself as a modern-day version of the absolute monarch who gets to decide which rights and freedoms his subjects can enjoy and which ones will be denied.” [Consortium News, 2/3/2007]
Entity Tags: Military Commissions Act, Bush administration (43), Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, Al-Qaeda, David Salmons, George W. Bush, Robert Parry, Roger Gregory, Diana Gribbon Motz, US Department of Justice, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
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