Respectful Insolence

It’s a start

It may not seem like much when it comes to dealing with animal rights “activists” who cross the line into vandalism, harassment, and intimidation, but it’s a start:

Three animal rights activists who organized a campaign to harass employees and clients of a New Jersey research lab were sen tenced to prison yesterday by a judge who said their commitment to social justice had morphed into frightening and sometimes violent protests outside people’s homes and offices.

“The means used, the harm im posed, almost arrogantly, is serious — and warrants serious punishment,” Senior U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson said.

She ordered Kevin Kjonaas, the onetime president of the U.S. chapter of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, to serve six years in prison. Co-defendants Lauren Gazzola of Connecticut and Jacob Conroy of California received terms of 52 and 48 months, respectively. Three more defendants face sentencings today and next week.

The hearings signaled the end of a case that had drawn attention from social activists and their targets, and represented a clash of ideals. Law enforcement officials portrayed the SHAC activists as domestic terror threats; supporters claimed the prosecution violated free-speech rights.

The protests began five years ago, when members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty began showing up each month at Huntingdon Life Sciences’ lab in Franklin Township, Somerset County, where researchers use monkeys, dogs, fish and other animals to test drugs and other products.

Following tactics developed by their counterparts in Great Britain, where Huntingdon Life Sciences is based, the activists then turned their sights from the company to those who kept it afloat: its employees, clients, investors, suppliers and firms with which it did business.

They descended upon targets’ neighborhoods at dawn with bullhorns, spray paint and posters, visited their churches and encouraged supporters to flood their phone or fax lines.

No one was seriously injured in the U.S. protests, but Huntingdon and others claimed millions of dollars in lost business, vandalism and other damage.

If more of these “activists” faced real jail time when they cross the line from free speech to intimidation, they might think twice. Even if they only do a 2-3 of years in prison before being released on parole (which is what is likely to happen), it should be enough to send a message. Also, the possibility of having a felony conviction on one’s record would give most people pause, even if the jail time is only a few months. In fact, the arrest of these six may already be having that effect, at least in New Jersey:

But the lead prosecutor, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna, said Kjonaas wasn’t motivated by compassion as much as the “sheer power” he felt by bullying international corporations. He noted none of the defendants apologized.

“There is nothing noble about what Mr. Kjonaas did,” he said. “There is nothing noble about in citing the kind of harm that Mr. Kjonaas reveled in.”

Kjonaas declined to address the judge except to say it had been a traumatic and learning experience for him and his family. Asked later about appeal plans, he said, “I’m pretty confident I’m not going to do five years in prison. I’ll be back.”

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie called the punishments “appropriately long sentences.”

Leslie Wiser, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark divi sion, said the group’s “terror tac tics” backfired and “in the end they only served to drive themselves into a prison cell.”

Mike Caulfield, general manager of Huntingdon’s New Jersey facility, said there have been occasional protests, but nothing on the scale of attacks like several years ago. He was buoyed by the sen tences.

“On behalf of the dozens of victims who have had their lives turned upside down by these crimes, we’re grateful that justice was served,” he said.

Comments

  1. #1 William the Coroner
    September 16, 2006

    Bloody well about time.

  2. #2 Joe
    September 16, 2006

    Many years ago, I visited a major pharmaceutical co. in my homeland (New Jersey). (I will remember the name of of the co. as soon as I click on the “Post” button.) After my seminar, they took me to lunch. When the car with 4 or 5 us returned, I realized the entrance had 3, armed guards!? It was not enough for the driver of our car to show an ID; each of us had to show an ID, and the guards *studied* each one.

    After we were cleared, I asked why all the security? It was a research lab, not a production site, so they certainly didn’t have large quantities of controlled substances to protect. They told me their biggest fear was P.E.T.A.!

  3. #3 Stuart Coleman
    September 16, 2006

    You’d think with a war on terror going on, terrorists like these, abortion clinic bombers, and others would be prosecuted more vigorously.

    Although I’m glad to hear that some sanity is creeping back into our world.

  4. #4 Joe
    September 16, 2006

    I hope this doesn’t post:

    Many years ago, I visited a major, pharmaceutical co. in my homeland (New Jersey). (As soon as I click the “Post” button, I will remember the name of the co.) When we returned from lunch, I noticed there were three armed guards at the entrance!? Each of the 4 or 5 of us in the car had to show an ID, and the guards studied them, not just glanced at them.

    After we were cleared, I observed that it was a research lab, not a factory with large amounts of controlled substances. My host told me their biggest worry was P.E.T.A. (And that’s not People Eating Tasty Animals.)

    PETA are disgusting.

  5. #5 Susang
    September 16, 2006

    Wow. Six years in prison. For actions far less criminal than than, say being involved in bombing several abortion clinics. But do a search on that particular subject and you’ll see that the sentences for the two are virtually the same. In some cases, the bombers got less time. Murder a doctor and you can be out in 15 years.

    I’ve worked as clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, as have many of my friends and have seen the kind of harrassment, threats and abuse they live with daily. Perhaps I’ve got my tinfoil hat screwed on a bit too tight, but when the protesters who harrass the employees of a multinational conglomerate are sentenced to 6 years in prison and the god fearing psychopath who has threatened to kill my friend gets a night in jail and a slap on the wrist, I’ve really got to wonder what’s really at play here.

    The previous poster said that he felt this was a sign of sanity creeping back into our world. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, its just another case of business as usual. If you have the money and influence, people make sure you get the justice that’s required by law. Ask the people on death row. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/060630.html

  6. #6 Robster
    September 16, 2006

    I can only hope that these jerks spend every day of their sentences.

  7. #7 Lawrence
    September 16, 2006

    Peter… watch out for your cornhole, man.

    Oh, and a little UFIA in a PMITA prison ought to make the next terrorist-wannabe think twice.

  8. #8 Keanus
    September 16, 2006

    Susang, I too volunteer weekly as a Planned Parenthood escort and I’ve encountered my share of near psychopaths and nuts, been shoved, spit on, had people scream in my ear to the point it hurts, and experienced other similar encounters. But we need to keep things in perspective. Many people who have engaged in violence against Planned Parenthood have been punished. To wit:

    Michael Griffin, who murdered Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola FL, was sentenced to life wiithout parole.

    Rachelle Shannon, who shot a doctor in Wichita KS and also engaged in arson and butyric acid attacks, is serving an 11 years for attempted murder and additional time after that for the arson and acid attacks; she’ll likely never be free again.

    Paul Hill who murdered Dr. John Britton and his escort, and wounded Dr. Britton’s wife, again in Pensacola, was executed in 2003.

    And more recently, James Kopp who murdered Dr. Barnett Slepian in Amherst NY (a Buffalo suburb) was sentenced to 25 years to life. He likely would have received the death penalty but France’s condition in granting extradition (he was arrested there) was that he be spared the death penalty. He’s yet to be tried on several federal charges or been extradited to Canada for the attempted murder of three Canadian doctors.

    And within my own personal experience, an anti-abortion protester (a muscular young male) was convicted of assault, fined $5000, required to pay damages, and given two years probation for attacking and breaking the wrist of one of my fellow escorts, a 73 year old man.

    I can’t say that all is proportionate, but I don’t think it’s accurate to imply that perpetrators of anti-abortion violence have bought their way out of convictions or penalties.

  9. #9 Susang
    September 17, 2006

    Actually Keanus, I wasn’t implying that at all. What I was implying was that the behavior of both types of “protesters” tactics are amazingly similar. I’m sorry you so misunderstood my comments regarding wealth and prosecution.

    Its not that I believe abortion protesters have bought their way out of convictions or penalties. The reality is far more complicated than that and isn’t limited to merely issues of wealth. What I do believe, is that a company worth billions of dollars is far more likely to receive the support of the police, district attorneys and government in their quest for prosecution than an abortion clinic.

    Especially when anti-abortion sentiment is so entrenched that situations like the bizarre trial and conviction of Dr. James Pendergraft, who was essentially sentenced to four years in prison for being a black ob/gyn who decided to open one of his clinics in Ocala, FL.

    Here’s the FBI fact sheet on “The Terrorist Threat Confronting The United States”. http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress02/watson020602.htm Try to find the word “abortion”. Okay, that wasn’t fair, it isn’t in there. I’ll give you an easier one, try “pro-life”. Here’s a hint, don’t blink. And don’t look under right-wing.

  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    September 17, 2006

    It’s bloody well about time these cretins faced some time in the slammer. They are terrorists and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    I agree with you as well that this will help deter these actions in the future. Most of the people in these silly, nefarious animal “rights” groups are privileged white kids from the suburbs. Give them a disincentive and they will return to their utterly useless existences and remain far from my vision.

  11. #11 Roman Werpachowski
    September 17, 2006

    Most of the people in these silly, nefarious animal “rights” groups are privileged white kids from the suburbs.

    Do the quotes mean that you think animals have no rights at all? Just asking.

  12. #12 sophia8
    September 17, 2006

    It would be great if both the animal rights mob and the anti-abortion mob instead used their formidable harrassment tactics against worthwhile targets.
    Weapons manufacturers or major industrial polluters, for instance. Putting some of them out of business would, in the long run, contribute far more to human health and happiness than shutting down a few research labs or abortion clinics.
    I have to add that I’m NOT advocating violence in any cause. Just pointing out how stupid and selfish these pinheads are.

  13. #13 Tyler DiPietro
    September 17, 2006

    Do the quotes mean that you think animals have no rights at all? Just asking.

    I don’t believe they do, no. Rights are only a meaningful concept when applied to humans who can act responsibly within a social environment. This is true even among humans, as children don’t have the full spectrum of rights that an adult has.

    That doesn’t mean that excessive and/or unnecessary creulty to animals isn’t wrong, just that it isn’t a violation of rights in any meaningful sense of the term.

  14. #14 James
    September 18, 2006

    I’m inclined to agree animal welfare and animal rights are not the same thing. Gratuitous animal cruelty should be stopped for humanity’s sake, not for the sake of the animals.

  15. #15 Paul
    September 18, 2006

    I’m interested by the comments of Susang and Keanus, when I was in my teans in Ireland in the 1990’s there was an extremist anti-abortion group named Youth Defence which used violent and intimidatory tactics against pro-choice activists and politicians. While not as violent as their counterparts in the US they used many of the tactics adopted by animal rights campaigners in the UK, vandalism, threatening letters and phone calls, smear campaigns, “night visits” and even a couple of assaults on individuals. Their campaign didn’t last too long as this was pre-WWW and the police arrested and jailed the worst offenders before it could spread too widely. At the same time in seems that more moderate anti-abortionists realised that they were a PR disaster and put pressure on them to stop. This may now be happening with AR extremists in the UK.

    It seems to be the case that what is now happening with AR extremists is the same as what happened with anti-abortion extremists a few years ago, the authorities initially try to ignore the problem but are finally forced to act when things “get out of hand” and the stability of society is threatened.

    Susang and Keanus also raise another question, are supporters of research using animals prepared to go out and publicly support the scientists doing this (in my opinion) vital work, in the same way that pro-choice activists have been brave enough to do ensure access to safe and legal abortion? I believe that this support is vital to provide moral support to those under threat and to create a climate where animal research can be discussed properly in the mainstream media. In the UK movements such as Pro-Test (http://www.pro-test.org.uk/) and the Peoples Petition (http://www.thepeoplespetition.org.uk/) have done much to reduce the climate of fear that surrounds this issue. Relying on legal measures alone is not enough, supporters of science must be prepared to speak out in public and if necessary take support for animal research to the streets.

  16. #16 TheHatter
    September 18, 2006

    “I don’t believe they do, no. Rights are only a meaningful concept when applied to humans who can act responsibly within a social environment. This is true even among humans, as children don’t have the full spectrum of rights that an adult has.”

    Perhaps this comment will be a bit too analytical for this debate, but I have one question: Why should it be a given that the term “rights” has any sort of validity if the term is only given to those who have the power to claim them? You say that even children don’t have the full specturm of rights, but they do have some and the intelligence of animals such as chimpanzees has been compared to that of 3 year old children. Not to mention the fact that people with mental disorders and disabilities still have rights as do people who convicted of heinous crimes and abuses.

    I don’t disagree with what many of you are saying. I don’t believe in violence as a viable means to any end. However, I also don’t belive that human beings are owed anything that any other creature on this world is not owed. You compare harassment to the murdering of abortion doctors, which seems a bit odd to me. There are people who are harassed and psychologically abused every day of their lives and no one comes to their aid. I realize that measures to the extreme of murder have in the past happened, but that is not the issue at hand here. I believe animals do deserve rights because we have encroached upon their habitats so much in efforts to benefit our own survival. However, these efforts, if gone unstopped will inevitablly add to the extinction of our own species as well. Beyond this, it seems to me that there are very few human beings who would actually be able to handle seeing a baby being used for biomedical research. However, the information obtained would probablly be more acurate than information obtained by using an animal like a chimpanzee. If this is so hard to immagine, try imagining a chimpanzee. Not only are they are closest relative, but we are theirs. They show signs of culture (tool use and gestures) and can aquire human language (sign language)to express their needs, desires and thoughts and feelings. And even though we share at least 98.76% of the same genetic code, they do differ from us greatly in the way they respond to disease.

    Regardless of genetics and similarities, all animals were born with the right to live a life without torture. It is one thing to eat animals for food or even use their hides for clothes, but biomedical research along with the factory farms of America, go beyond this. If a convicted murderer is allowed the right to be free from torture, why should an innocent animal have to endure it?

  17. #17 Paul
    September 19, 2006

    The Hatter makes some interesting points but most are red herrings, for example the statement “You compare harassment to the murdering of abortion doctors, which seems a bit odd to me. There are people who are harassed and psychologically abused every day of their lives and no one comes to their aid”. I’m sure Susang will be able to confirm that for every murder many doctors, patients and pro-choice activists are harassed, does the scientific community have to wait until one of their number is murdered before they are “allowed” to ask for measures to protect them? Of course there are lots of other people who are harassed for various reasons, they also deserve protection, and I believe that in standing up to and closing down one high profile campaign of harassment we will be sending a powerful message that such behaviour will not be tolerated in civilised society.

    As to rights I agree with Tyler that they are only meaningful in a human social context, though this does not mean that we have no obligations towards other animals. His example of Chimpanzees is interesting, Chimpanzees account for a very tiny and diminishing proportion of the total number of animals used in research in the US (less than 0.01%?) and have not been used for research in the UK for over 20 years. The reason for this is that scientists share the concerns that Hatter has about undertaking research on highly intelligent animals such as Chimpanzees, especially when in most cases alternative species (in some cases humans) are available.

    The overwhelming majority of animal research (95%) uses rodents, species that in other circumstances are considered to be vermin. To pretend that such species have rights is a nonsense, though those using them for research certainly have a duty of care towards their animals. It’s also a complete misrepresentation to describe animal research as torture, research is highly regulated and the distress suffered by the animals, while in many cases real, is far less than what they would suffer due to disease and predation in the wild. What is needed is a little perspective.

    Research involving more intelligent animals such as dogs, cats and monkeys, does present more of a challenge, no scientist will want to work on these species if a rodent alternative is available. On the other hand well-planned research using such “higher” species has provided key information that has lead to the development of new treatments for human (and animal) disease. A good example of this is the use of monkeys in research by Prof. L.-A. Benabid and others that has facilitated the development of the Deep Brain Stimulation method for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. It must also be borne in mind that such research usually precedes or accompanies research in humans, it’s not a case of either humans or animals, both are often required, and indeed the procedures used on the monkeys and on the humans in Prof. Benabids work were very similar, not pleasant perhaps but certainly not torture. The decision to undertake such research is not easy and it’s wrong to suggest that scientists are engaging in “torture” without any consideration about the welfare of the animals involved.

    A final thought, convicted murderers are given the right to be free from torture (though from what I’ve heard about some prisons and executions in the US this right is more honoured in the breech than observation), but when was the last time you heard of a chimpanzee being convicted of murder?

  18. #18 Tracy W
    September 20, 2006

    If all animals have the same rights as humans, presumably they have the same rights to have the police interfer if other animals try to kill them.

    I think a lot more animals are killed by predators than are killed by vivisectionists. Consequently any animal rights activist, to be consistent, should at least devote equal time and effort to dissuading cats, dogs, eagles, sharks, chimpanzees, etc from killing other animals.

    Indeed, many animals commit infanticide on their own species under specific circumstances. This shold also be addressed.

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