Property Rights Foundation of America®
from PRFA's Eleventh Annual Conference on Private Property Rights

Confronting International Animal Rights and Eco-Terrorism

Teresa Platt

Carol asked me talk a little bit about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. She came on board last year and the foundation signed on, and we'd love to thank you for that, Carol. That was important. We built a coalition of about 170 groups to sign on to strengthen the Animal Enterprise Protection Act which was put in place in about the nineties.

And I will tell you, 170 groups, it was like pulling teeth. Shouldn't that have been a no-brainer? Don't we want a stronger law that protects our property against people blowing it up and burning it down? So why was this so difficult? I mean I did a lot of phone calls, a lot of e-mails. Yet, a lot of people put it on the back burner and just sort of ignored it. You know what they say about computer users. There are two kinds, the ones whose hard drives have crashed and the ones whose hard drives haven't crashed yet. You know, in the economic terrorism debate you are sort of in the same category until they really hit your particular industry; it just doesn't seem like something you really have to worry about. But, to a certain degree, they've hit virtually every little industry out there that does hands-on animal use, hands-on earth use, all the people that fund them, the insurance companies that insure them. This list is getting longer every day. The politicians who defend them. There was an assassination in Holland by an animal rightist who didn't like the line of thinking that this particular politician had. He wasn't doing enough to protect the weaker segments of society, which the killer saw as immigrants and animals. Twisted!

My father was an agricultural banker who bought a fishing boat in 1986. The first thing I learned when we bought the fishing boat was how to take care of the mail, because it turned out that the Tuna Boat Association of San Diego was on a hit list that was put together by Charlie Manson's girls. They put together a little group called the Starting Point, Inc. that was going to put out Manson's views on the environment, which were very similar to the eco-terrorists today. Manson felt, like Hitler felt, that having less people would save the Earth. They wanted things pristine, fewer people. Okay, I guess fewer people have less impact on trees, but, you know, we are humans. This is sort of the suicidal, twisted sort of thinking and Manson loved it and he taught it to his followers. They went back and started this little nonprofit called the Starting Point, Inc., and then they started sending out thousands and thousands of letters to CEO's telling them that if they polluted they would kill them. And they went out and taught people. Actually, there was a great book, Squeaky, by Jess Bravin that talks about one of the followers teaching people how to deliver death and destruction. You know, kill the CEO of a major chemical company and then put a spray can into his mouth so that you're creating an image of pollution, so that people would get the message.

Eco-terrorism is unique because it has to send a message with every crime. Whether you are just doing window breaking or burning things down, blowing things up, threatening people, you have to send a message to terrify everybody else. So you pick a target, pick a fisherman, you know, blow up his boat. Better yet, say some of them, kill the fisherman, because if you kill a fisherman, you will save six billion fish. If you believe in your heart that fish are really equal to people, this makes total and logical sense.

Now this is immoral. This is unethical. This is obscene. There are tax-exempts out there, nonprofit charities, that are teaching people this crap. Children go into these meetings, and take this in. They say, "To save the Earth, obviously, how far are we willing to go?" "I'm willing to go all the way." You know, "I'm a real hero." "I'm a real leader." There is a speaker's tour right now going all around the country with a guy who was prosecuted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. A couple of years ago he did a cross country spree against mink farmers, did a million dollars worth of damage, and who knows who else he hit. But he spent a couple of years in jail. He is speaking about how important it is to recruit people into this "great movement."

So, you know, we've got to question how we structure, how we address issues. I like property rights. I like good science, respect for the individual, decent business concepts. Business should be sustainable. Capitalism is sustainable. It's chaotic, but it is sustainable. If you can't produce a product in a timely manner for a good price with the fewest amount of resources, you're going to be put out of business by somebody else who can.

I liked all the talks about the U.N. because I'm actually amazed at what an extreme influence they have on everything. Treaties are incredible. The Endangered Species Act came from a treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Flora, and Fauna, 1970. The Endangered Species Act in the Marine Mammal Protection Act, or MMPA, was the implementing legislation for that treaty. Our fishing boat out in international waters came under the MMPA, and we couldn't fish any longer in half of the Pacific Ocean because of that act and how it was being implemented in 1986 when my family bought a fishing boat. We had to troop back to D.C. and change the law, which we did in 1998, and went on to the mink farmers and looking at wildlife law and how it has evolved over the years.

How many times today do we hear "bunnies" and, you know, "grizzly bears" and all these wild issues that are sort of "the rubber is hitting the road" now? The animals have been doing what they do best, which is reproducing, and they are moving into all kinds of little niches and the law follows them wherever they go and it just causes havoc. You end up caught up in these incredible day-to-day fiascos because of a treaty that was signed way back when.

I'm going to suggest to you that you need to put forward a treaty because there are a lot of people around the world that love private property. One guy said to me that there is not a stronger capitalist in the world than a Chinese Communist. They build something, they hang on to it. These people have got little rabbits in their back yard and they are raising pigs and chickens and all kinds of things and they own these animals. Animals are the original form of property rights. They were what we built our societies on, and all around the world people are building their property rights based on access to fish and access to chickens, for food and clothing. And capitalism is kicking in and these people are excited. And overarching all of this in this political ether is sort of this socialist, apolitical party without a country. They have no allegiance to the United States. They are chopping into our humanitarian programs. It is power and politics and patronage. They pick the winners and the losers. People will still log. People will still mine. They are going to pick who mines, who logs, where they log, and you, the little people, you are just not in that.

But America is unique. It instead comes from the bottom up. The power comes from the base. It comes from the land. It comes from the people. So America said, tell the kings and rulers that we are kicking out all the politics and patronage and power. So they hid. They hid in this political ether. They hid within our humanitarian programs. They have been raiding the aid programs in the United States, the United Nations. Billions and billions of dollars are going to these people who believe that this is the political structure of the future and that they should be in charge. So there is this real huge fight that is going on, and on the fringes is this tiny little left that is willing to kill for it.

This is what it does when the left shows up and they burn a building down. You go very, very quiet. You get nervous about speaking in public. It shuts you up. Free speech ends up dead. The little tour that's running around the country right now after we passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act last year, they are saying that it impacts their free speech. I have no clue what arson has to do with free speech, except that it victimizes and terrorizes the target to the point that they can't talk anymore. So you have whole groups of people that get very, very frightened about writing a letter to the editor, about going out and standing up in public and saying something. Sort of that Norman Rockwell picture of the farmer in the meeting room, one of my favorites. How comfortable would he be talking, standing up in that group, if his building had been burned down, his wife had got a death threat last week, his animals had been released? Would he have stood up? I tell you, probably not.

So eco-terrorism has a place in the political arena and they even say this: "We as a forward thinking people of today should recognize the fact that there is nothing wrong with breaking unjust laws in pursuit of justice." Civil disobedience? They say, "Damaging property saves lives." So they go from civil disobedience to what we saw at the WTO, which is a riot. They use Gandhi to say, "Look, Gandhi supported civil disobedience." Yes, but when people started to riot, he said, "Stop that. That is not civil disobedience." But they are teaching people. This is a nonprofit that says this.

One fellow says it is his responsibility to make sure that property destruction is represented as nonviolent: "It is my responsibility to represent property destruction in a positive manner." He works for a tax-exempt and that is his job. That is what he is out doing every day.

Are we surprised when things blow up? At the animal rights 2003 conference they did a survey. One hundred percent of the people thought civil disobedience was moral and effective, and I agree. Civil disobedience is moral and effective, but choose it carefully and be ready to go to jail. But you can also pass laws. That is moral. That's effective. That is the way America works most of the time. They felt that theft of the animals was moral by about 96 percent of the people. About 70 percent thought it was moral to destroy equipment, and 57 percent thought it was effective. It's probably not that effective, because most of our equipment is insured.

Political assault? Physical assault had greater support. Death threats and physical assault, about 26 percent of the people thought that that was moral and 22 percent thought physical assault was effective; 26 percent thought death threats were effective. It gets worse. Twenty-two percent felt that political assassination was moral and 17.4 percent stated that it was "an effective way to meet their goal of animal liberation." Twenty-two percent of the people surveyed at this conference thought that they could go out and kill a politician and it would be just dandy. And in all of these groups, they have tax-exempt charitable status to help animals, to help wildlife, to help all these things, and, yet, so little goes to hands-on animal care that it's shocking.

So the Fur Commission has a neighborhood watch program to protect ourselves against crime. We have a data-base which pulls information together, which we share with law enforcement. We have something called the Red Flag Report, which analyzes groups that promote illegal action because we feel the IRS should look at their financial structure and pull it. We don't think that advocating crime is tax-exempt charitable work. So we work with the police all the time. We are willing to work with you if you have any problems at all.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is still going to need some work. It's going to have to be fixed and changed and strengthened. There are all kinds of things that need to be done. Laws are imperfect and the courts change them as time goes on, so we are constantly having to fix these things and keep on top of it. But that can be done.

The other things that we're planning on doing this year where I think some of you can help: We need better, stronger coalitions so that when we have to fight something, we can do it quickly. You can't build a coalition in fifteen different states in three days. It just doesn't happen. The opposition has done this beautifully. If you want to pass a treaty, if you want to pass a law, if you want to do anything, you are going to have, each person is going to have, to have a little snare of a hundred groups that they can pull in. We are going to build an ag defense coalition in the next year. We are starting right now to draft some principles already. Carol's going to be reviewing them next week.

We are going to have a bunch of groups on the list so that anytime legislation violates a principle, all 300 of us sign on that we are opposed. Bam! Done! We are going to automate it. I don't know about you, but I've got farmers in 28 states. I can't do this piecemeal year after year. It's just too much work. So we are going to automate the list serve, agree to the principles in advance. Anything that violates the principles, we will send it out to list serve. Go ahead and read the legislation. If you disagree, we'll take your name off the list. If not, the letter goes in. We are opposed. It goes into the states, to the Farm Bureau, to the groups on the ground, makes them stronger. They now have 300 groups demanding that this legislation is a piece of garbage.

And then you know what I want us to do? I want us to start passing our own legislation. We'll just change it. If you don't like these laws, then just change them. Build a coalition, come up with the wording, write what you want. Move it. Change it. There are enough people that want it, it can be done. Otherwise we are constantly on the defensive.

One thing that I am going to change right away is that groups that are raising money on animal welfare should be spending the money on animal welfare in the states where they raise the money. They don't like that, because they are not spending it on animal welfare. They are spending it on legislation to tie us up in knots. So that one I want changed right away, and I'm hoping that the coalition will start supporting that, say, in 2008 and 2009, and we will be moving that one along.

And then I would like to see these models used, for sustainable use and property rights and pets, the same sort of thing that we could do.

We are going to build that, and I am hoping that you will jump on when you see that. There are a couple of flyers in your book about eco-terrorism and please, come and visit our website,, and anybody who wants fury friends for fund raisers, here they are. We raised $900 in Washington on one of these little things. Grassroots are always struggling for funds. So please note, use them to raise money.

I brought this fur piece because I wanted you to feel it. I mean global warming, be dammed. Winter is still going to be really cold. And I went shopping the other day and came up with this. Isn't this gorgeous! In fact, a furriers right around the corner has had people come in with masks to try to scare them. Right down the street, dressed in terrorist masks, they came in a shop run by four or five little ladies, scared the heck out of them—right around the corner. So I got this hat. I thought this was fabulous. And thinking about it: farm-raised mink, the felt is from beaver, wild, caught in maybe Canada or Massachusetts. Massachusetts has some real problem with beaver, right? And this is domesticated and wild. This is New Zealand's brushtail possum, an invasive species mixed with domesticated Merino sheep. Don't you love our creativity? Utilitarian aspects versus what we have been arguing about, the esthetics.

I think it's beautiful what the animals give. They are constantly saying, "Just look at them." "Don't touch." "Don't use them." The constant battle between the utilitarian for food and fiber and the esthetic generated from urbanites, who say, "Hey, we don't need animals anymore. We don't need any of these things anymore." "We will get our stuff…" I have no clue where. But with less than three percent of the planet supporting crops, yeah, you are dependent on the earth, you are dependent on the animals, and with 75 percent of the earth covered with water, you are really dependent on the sea. So that Law of the Sea Treaty, you know, earth-shattering. Most of our protein still comes from fish stocks. We are still hunters. We are still gatherers. We are still farmers. You know, power to the people, powerful little people.

So I will leave you, come and touch and feel this, and this winter when global warming kicks in and it is 10 below, 20 below, just laugh and go buy something nice and cozy. Thank you, Carol.

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