‘Just a Handful’ of Animal Extremists?

Over at Discovery.com, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle agreed to answer a number of questions about his views of the “humane” movement. Given that Pacelle no longer espouses his previous radical views (openly, at least), we didn’t expect to see anything other than platitudes and vagaries. But we were unpleasantly surprised.

Stating his opinion of the difference between an activist and an extremist, Pacelle said the following:

There are just a handful of cases, truly a handful, in the history of the animal welfare movement where people have been very menacing or threatening or actually committed violence.

Um, really?

Let’s see what former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI John E. Lewis had to say on the matter of animal rights extremism in 2004:

[S]pecial interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and related extremists, has emerged as a serious domestic terrorist threat. … The FBI estimates that the ALF/ELF and related groups have committed more than 1,100 criminal acts in the United States since 1976, resulting in damages conservatively estimated at approximately $110 million.

Yeah. Not exactly “just a handful.”

Now, Pacelle referenced violence in the animal welfare movement. We’d argue that this encompasses groups like the ALF, which undoubtedly view themselves as bettering animal welfare by “liberating” animals. Maybe Pacelle has a stricter definition of just, say, pet shelters, in which case he’d probably be correct. But in the context of the question, we interpret the answer in an expansive way.

For the record, HSUS has a statement against violence. But we certainly hope that its CEO isn’t glossing over the existence of fringe, terroristic elements in the larger animal liberation movement.

In fact, animal activists just the other week set fire to a fur store in Idaho, causing $100,000 in damage. Why isn’t HSUS speaking out more against this kind of violence? Given how many press releases that HSUS puts out (often several a day), can’t it afford to put out one against this violent act in the name of animals? If HSUS will offer a reward for the killing a single deer, as it did this summer, why won’t it offer one in this case of arson?

We’re sure Pacelle would agree with us that it’s good to be “humane” to humans, too. And it shouldn’t be a burden for HSUS to take more initiative in speaking out against violence—even “just a handful” of times.