Dick Schuening, a veteran arson investigator for the State of Oregon, got the call one
morning in July. Someone had firebombed a Redmond slaughterhouse that processed and
exported horse meat. This was no amateur job: it had been carried out efficiently by
moonlight, using power tools, kitchen timers and a flammable jelly similar to napalm. The
horses were spared. Schuening sifted through the ashes of his mind, back to an
investigation that had obsessed him and a team of federal agents in the early '90s. It
didn't take long for his fears to be confirmed. Days later the Animal Liberation Front --
a radical group that opposes using animals for fur, meat or research -- issued a
communique taking responsibility for the fire. For Schuening and the Feds, the hunt was on again.
The battle for animal rights is getting uglier. The ALF, which fancies itself a kind of
IRA for the animal kingdom, is now on the FBI's list of domestic terrorist groups. So far
this year, its members have claimed responsibility for violent acts at a rate of almost
one a day. Its crimes range from small-time vandalism (smashing windows at a butcher's
shop in suburban Connecticut and spray-painting "McMurder" inside a Michigan
McDonald's) to large-scale "rescue" operations (releasing 10,000 minks from a
farm in Oregon). State and federal investigators thought they had shut the group down
after a spree of bombings and break-ins ended with the arrest of an ALF leader in 1994.
But now the violence is escalating again. Supporters brag that no one's ever been hurt in
an ALF action, but investigators who've tracked the group say that's just sheer luck.
"It's just a matter of time," Schuening says, "until someone gets killed."
Investigators admit their knowledge of the ALF is shadowy. Most members are thought to
be collegeage activists with ties to more legitimate animal-rights and environmental
groups. What stymies law enforcement is that the ALF has no traditional structure. Its
members work in tiny, secretive cells and get guidance from the Internet and underground
pamphlets, investigators say. The group's Web site proclaims that anyone who takes up the
cause is welcome to call himself part of the ALF. "It's not like the Mafia," a
frustrated federal investigator says. "I can't find an individual and say, 'Here's
the don of the ALF'."
If the ALF does have a godfather of sorts, it's Rod Coronado. The 31-year-old Native
American is the only animal-rights terrorist the Feds have ever nailed; he's serving five
years in prison for his role in the destruction of a research lab at Michigan State
University in 1992. Borrowing the ALF name from a British group in the late 1980s,
Coronado began by posing as a fur trader to gain access to potential targets. He used that
knowledge, he says, to launch Operation Bite Back: a series of raids and bombings.
Coronado insists that ALF members plot their acts carefully so that no one will get caught
or hurt. "The government may call us terrorists, but the one thing that separates us
from that is that we don't have anybody's blood on our hands," he says. His victims
disagree. "Every time a medical-research facility is destroyed, the people who suffer
from diseases are harmed," says Brandon Millett of Americans for Medical Progress.
Animal-rights extremists have been blamed for at least 85 attacks on research labs since
1987. Millett's group contends that ALF raids have delayed valuable lab testing on AIDS
transmission, sleep deprivation and lethal bacteria.
Nor is it clear that the ALF's brand of liberation does much good for animals. The ALF
likes to release horrific images of animal abuse; one undercover video shows a cheerful
farmer breaking the necks of squealing minks.
But thousands of frenzied minks have died gnashing at each other after they were
released from cages. Coyotes freed from research facilities have been hit by cars or have
returned to the lab for food. Ironically, the raid at Michigan State accidentally ruined
an adjoining lab where scientists were studying ways to curtail the need for animal
Coronado shrugs all that off, saying the ALF's main goal is to inflict financial wounds
on abusers. But there, too, the results are uncertain. The manager of the Belgian-owned
horse-meat plant in Oregon points out that the American plant accounted for a small
fraction of his company's global business and was insured anyway. (The plant exports horse
meat to Europe for human consumption.) "If they think they can destroy us, they'd
better think twice," Pascal Derde says. Standing amid the factory's ruins, he
inspects another horse -- which he will shoot through the head once the plant is rebuilt.
If the ALF likens itself to the IRA, then People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA) is its Sinn Fein. The nation's largest animal-rights group, PETA dutifully defends
the ALF, even paying Coronado's $ 42,000 in legal fees. A chic Hollywood cause boasting
supporters such as Drew Barrymore and Alec Baldwin, PETA's activities include protesting
the traveling Oscar Meyer Weiner-mobile. But now it's facing questions about whom it
supports with its $ 12 million budget. "You've got kids breaking open their piggy
banks and sending in money, thinking it's going to the little cats and dogs in their ads,
and it's really going to support animal-rights terrorism," Millett charges. PETA's
cofounder, Ingrid Newkirk, makes no apologies. "I wish every person would get up and
break into a lab," she says.
But how far are extremists really willing to go? The ALF is not the most violent
animal-rights group. A Canadian outfit calling itself the Justice Department claims
responsibility for sending envelopes rigged with poison-covered razor blades to hunting
groups. Chased from their own country, some well-armed Canadian activists are thought to
have fled to the United States. If that's true, the militant ALF may soon seem as harmless
as a couple of caged minks.
ANIMALS HOLD THE KEY TO SAVING HUMAN LIVES
Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Murray, M.D. says Americans must make a choice between AIDS research and the animal rights movement.
by Dr. Joseph E. Murray Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1996
Dr. Murray, a Nobel laureate, performed the first human kidney transplant in 1954. He
is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Medical Progress.
The recent experimental transplant of bone marrow cells from a baboon into a human AIDS
patient has already elicited one conclusion: Americans must decide whether they support
animal research or "animal rights."
Even before Jeff Getty entered San Francisco General Hospital for the procedure, the
public relations machinery of PETA, the Humane Society of the United States and other
groups that take the extreme animal rights view went into high gear with the message that
humans have no right to interfere with animals, even if lives are in the balance--which
they are; AIDS research would be impossible without animal experimentation.
Animal activists, in commentaries, letters to the editor and TV news sound bites, have
blasted researchers' latest attempt to find an effective treatment for AIDS. This
offensive against scientific inquiry comes as no surprise. Six years ago, PETA's founder,
Ingrid Newkirk, told a magazine reporter that if animal research resulted in a cure for
AIDS, "we'd be against it."
Animal activists oppose all animal-based medical research. If we had listenedto their
arguments 50 years ago, children still would be contracting polio (the vaccine was
developed in monkeys). Diabetics would not have insulin, a benefit of research on dogs. We
would also be without antibiotics for pneumonia, chemotherapy for cancer, surgery for
heart diseases, organ transplants and joint replacement.
Today, once again, the animal activists are wrong. And we can't let a potential
treatment for AIDS fall victim to their specious rhetoric.
This debate is not just about AIDS and Jeff Getty's immune system. The knowledge gained
from this experiment could have an impact on cancer therapy. The research almost certainly
will enable doctors someday to treat leukemia, aplastic anemia and lymphoma patients with
human bone marrow that is less than a perfect match and to open the pool of potential
organ donors to include animals.
There are honest differences of opinion in the scientific community about the
assumptions on which the Getty experiment is based. Although I am not directly involved in
this research, I am convinced that all reasonable approaches must be objectively
investigated if we are to conquer AIDS.
Animal activists condemn the experiment as morally wrong because the baboon donor was
killed. In practical terms, they say, even if the transplant works, there are not enough
baboons to provide marrow cells for all AIDS patients.
The baboon donor for the Getty experiment, raised in captivity for research,was fully
anesthetized while the marrow cells were drawn. The animal was sacrificed then because all
tissues had to be preserved for further scientific study. In the future, when the
procedure moves out of the experimental phase, scientists will be able to harvest the
necessary cells without sacrificing an animal. Ultimately, sufficient numbers of cells
will almost certainly be grown in cultures. As has been the case in countless other
medical treatments, the initial techniques will be simplified as the procedure becomes
For all its potential, there are no guarantees that the procedure will work, that the
transplanted cells will take hold in Getty's system or that they will provide him with any
increased immunity. Nor are there any guarantees that he will be safe from baboon
diseases. Guarantees are not the nature of medical research.
Medical research is a lengthy, highly risky and expensive process with no certainties.
Without taking the time, braving the risks and paying the costs, there can be no success.
The Getty experiment is an important step in this ongoing process. Scientists agree that
whenever a cure for AIDS is found, it will be through animal research.
Medical researchers are working for the health of us all. They should not be diverted
from that essential purpose by irrational "animal rights" demands. Lies,
threats, intimidation and violence by the movement's extremists already have delayed
scientists' projects and delayed the benefits of their research from reaching the public.
As we approach the 15th anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus, it is not
enough to wear red ribbons and hope that a cure is found. We must actively support those
scientists, doctors and brave volunteers such as Jeff Getty who are on the front lines of research.