Animal extremism versus human rights

Michael Fumento
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Posted: Jun 15, 2005 12:00 AM

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) say they?re just animal lovers. In reality, they call humans ?a cancer? and demand we all become vegetarians. They also say that all animal testing ? necessary for discovering new drugs and critically important treatments ? be eliminated. ?Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it,? says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk

Indeed, PETA?s latest target is the world?s largest medical research contracting lab, Covance, which has a facility in Vienna, Va. They?ve accused the company of committing horrors with laboratory monkeys, claiming they have video footage to prove it. Yet bizarrely that which they?ve released shows no such thing ? making a monkey out of PETA.

A PETA infiltrator made secret tapes of the animals and their handling over an 11-month period. The group chopped that down to a select 28 minutes, and then cut it further to just a few minutes which it displays on its website ? presumably ?the worst of the worst.? Yet other than a tap on the head, we see nothing more beastly than cursing at some unruly animals. One clip depicts a monkey pacing in its cage. Oh, my!

Apparently PETA hopes you?ll pay more attention to its captions supposedly explaining what?s going on than you will to the actual video ? and that you?ll be shocked that lab animals are actually used in experiments rather than treated as pets. But that?s not abuse.

?If that?s the worst they?ve been able to find,? says Foundation for Biomedical Research President Franki Trull, ?I?d have to guess Covance has a first-class facility.? Certainly nobody has a greater interest in protecting those animals than Covance. Real abuse would also violate the Animal Welfare Act and the USDA Animal Welfare Regulations and Standards ? and send drug companies to other labs.

Despite this backfiring stunt, however, PETA remains both savvy and dangerous. Fortunately, lawmakers and PETA targets ? including Covance ? seem to be finally realizing how serious the PETA and animal rights problem is.

Last month the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Senate that animal rights extremists, along with eco-terrorists, pose one of the most serious and fastest-growing national terrorist threats. Unlike such organizations as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), PETA takes no credit for such actions as torching laboratories. But it does support them both vocally and financially.

?Would I rather the research lab that tests animals is reduced to a bunch of cinders? Yes,? Newkirk has said. ?I will be the last person to condemn ALF.? PETA vegetarian campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich says ?blowing stuff up and smashing windows? is something PETA doesn?t do ?but I do advocate it.?

PETA has donated to the Earth Liberation Front, a certified terrorist group that, according to the FBI, along with the ALF and other ecoterror groups has committed more than 1,200 criminal acts causing more than $110 million in damage. It paid $70,200 to an ALF activist convicted of burning down a University research laboratory. During sentencing, the federal judge implicated Newkirk in the crime.

Individual victims of PETA campaigns have usually been afraid to fight back, lest they draw more attention to the charges against them. But Covance may be setting a new trend.

Its initial reaction to the allegation was anything but denial. Rather, ?If and when we receive these materials, we will immediately review the allegations? it said, and ?thoroughly examine the complaint to determine if there are any credible issues we need to address."

Only after this review did the company file suit against PETA for fraud and conspiring to harm its business. The suit also demands that PETA and its infiltrator hand over the full set of tapes, so we can see what was left on the cutting room floor.

It?s about time that somebody hit back at these fanatics who compare the deaths of broiler chickens to the Holocaust. ?I?m getting a sense that institutions that chose not to sue in the past because didn?t want to draw attention to themselves are really saying now, ?Enough already!?? Trull told me. ?That?s encouraging because bullies only pick on you if you think they won?t fight back.?

Michael Fumento (mfumento - at - pobox.com) is author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, and a nationally syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.