Animal Rights Raiders Destroy Years of Work
Animal Rights Raiders Destroy Years of Work
Date: March 8, 1992
Source: The New York Times
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According to the U.S. District Court that serves the Western District of Michigan (Southern Division), animal rights activists going by the name of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) had been participating in terrorist activities within the United States since at least 1984. ALF is a general term used to represent any animal liberation activist/extremist that uses terrorist actions and methods to protest against organizations and individuals that promote animal testing. Such organizations include the dairy, egg, fur, and meat industries and such individuals as breeders, corporate researchers, farmers, fisherpersons, ranchers, and university professors. ALF members use such tactics as firebombing buildings, breaking into laboratories, destroying research documents and information, and other such illegal acts that are intended to end the human exploitation of animals. Although ALF does not exist as a formal organization, its members informally act as small underground cells dedicated to the ALF philosophy.
According to domestic U.S. terrorist investigators, animal research facilities at universities and private businesses have been the most frequent targets of arson and vandalism from ALF members, at least since 1991. Generally, it has been found that after a target has been attacked, a press report is released that claims the action was committed to end animal research and exploitation and that future acts will occur if demands are not met. In 1991, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), along with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), began to investigate activities of ALF members with respect to a series of crimes against organizations associated with the fur industry.
The FBI stated that the first known target of ALF was Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, Oregon. Its mink farm was firebombed and burglarized on June 10, 1991. Later that day, various news agencies in Oregon were given ALF press releases related to the incident. Then, on June 15, 1991, the Northwest Farm Food Cooperative was firebombed. An ALF press release was issued stating that the cooperative was targeted because it provided animal feed to fur breeders, gave financial support to mink research, and was associated with OSU. Then, on August 12, 1991, the fur animal research facility at Washington State University was vandalized. A press release was issued by ALF, which included threats to other universities and scientists if they did not stop exploiting animals. Two other acts of arson occurred at the Fur Breeders Agriculture Co-op in Sandy, Utah, on August 28, 1991, and the Malecky Mink Ranch in Yambill, Oregon, on December 21, 1991.
The largest attack occurred on February 28, 1992, when arson, burglary, and property damage occurred at Michigan State University (MSU). On that date, the MSU offices of scientists Richard J. Aulerich (a professor of animal science) and Karen Chou (an assistant professor of animal science) were destroyed and major damage occurred at MSU's mink facilities. Thirty years of Aulerich's work was destroyed. This time, however, the press reports were released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the largest animal rights organization in the United States. PETA is dedicated to animal rights through rescue, celebrity participation, education, legislation, protest campaigns, research, special events, and undercover investigations.
In 1993, a U.S. Department of Justice report documented over 300 cases of acts of vandalism, fire bombings, physical assaults, and other illegal acts committed by animal rights extremists in the United States over the previous fifteen years. According to the Justice report, ALF had accepted credit for most of the crimes.
EAST LANSING, Mich.
Animal rights advocates entered two research areas at Michigan State University on Feb. 28, set fire to one and destroyed thirty-two years' worth of animal science research, the university administration said. The vandals also inadvertently destroyed fertility research that could have helped both humans and endangered species.
The raid was directed against Richard J. Aulerich, an animal science professor, the university said. The raid destroyed equipment and property worth $75,000 to $125,000, said Maynard G. Hogberg, the chairman of the Animal Science Department at M.S.U.
Of the thirty-two years of data lost, two to three years' worth had not been published, he said.
Karen Chou, an associate professor of animal science, said she lost ten years' worth of data on the effects of chemicals in animal reproduction. Her research was aimed at testing the viability of sperm before fertilization and at studying the effects of chemicals on reproduction.
Professor Chou said her fertility research could have helped solve reproductive problems in endangered species. It could also have uncovered the effects chemicals have on human reproduction, she said.
RAIDS AT OTHER CAMPUSES
The Animal Liberation Front, which conducted similar raids at Oregon State University one and one-half years ago and at Washington State University six months ago, claimed responsibility for the acts in a press release. The group says it seeks to end all animal experimentation and in particular calls experimentation on minks, such as Professor Aulerich was doing, cruel and worthless.
Professor Aulerich had been conducting research on toxins and their effect on animals, Professor Hogberg said. The research involves feeding minks, which are especially susceptible to toxics, food containing toxic chemicals or other contaminants. Professor Hogberg said the minks had recently been fed fish caught in Saginaw Bay in Michigan, which is contaminated by PCB's.
The research was intended to be used to benefit humans and other animals, he said.
Professor Hogberg said that he did not know how many of the 350 minks kept at the lab were euthanized each year, but said that the number was "very low." He said the animals were not maimed during the research.
Gregory Maas, the chairman of the Incurably Ill For Animal Research, based in Bridgeview, Ill., offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals. The group works for the continuation of animal research to aid human medical research, Mr. Maas said.
According to Bill Wardwell, a lieutenant with the Michigan State University Department of Public Safety, members of the Animal Liberation Front broke into Anthony Hall on campus about 5 A.M. and entered Professor Aulerich's office. Files and papers were strewn around the office and a fire was started, he said.
The fire gutted Professor Aulerich's office and smoke extensively damaged two other offices, a conference room and a reception area. Lieutenant Wardwell said similar devices were used in the break-ins at both Washington State and Oregon State.
At the Poultry Research Facility, where Professor Aulerich conducts his research, vandals destroyed research documents and poured sulfuric acid into laboratory equipment, including devices used to feed the minks, Lieutenant Wardwell said. They also opened the minks' cages, but the animals remained inside, he said.
"Aulerich tortures minks" and "Fur is murder" were sprayed on the wall with red paint. The slogans were signed "A.L.F.," for Animal Liberation Front.
A FEDERAL CASE
Lieutenant Wardwell said a nationwide alert was sent to warn police departments of the possibility of similar actions. Increased security is planned for research laboratories on campus, he said, including more patrols.
The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been brought in to investigate the case. Dennis B. Anderson, the senior resident agent in Lansing, Mich., said the F.B.I was involved because Professor Aulerich used Federal financing for his experiments and because police suspect that the vandals crossed state lines to commit the crime.
The animal-rights group issues its press releases through People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national animal rights group in Washington, D.C. Steven I. Simmons, a spokesman for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, said his organization was not linked to the Animal Liberation Front. But he said his group was usually alerted by the front before and after a raid.
Government investigators began to study the crimes perpetrated allegedly by ALF members (what they called Operation Bite Back) with regards to MSU, along with the other smaller crimes that were similar in attributes. Upon researching the crimes, the investigators discovered that one person was likely behind the crimes. Rodney Adam Coronado (alias, Jim Perez and Martin Rubio), a long-time advocate of animal rights, was found to have personally issued several press releases under the name of Coalition Against Fur Farms. In fact, it was verified that he had earlier helped to damage a whaling station in Iceland and sink two whaling ships.
At this time, an arrest warrant was issued for Coronado after he was interviewed by a local television station in which he stated he participated in past ALF activities and acknowledged performing illegal acts. Identification of Coronado by eyewitnesses at several ALF crime scenes was also verified. Forensic evidence confirmed that Coronado played a major role in planning and executing these illegal acts. In addition, material evidence, including documents from Aulerich's office that were known to have been stolen during the ALF raid, was found in Coronado's possession.
In July 1993, Coronado was indicted on five counts by the grand jury (in the Western District of Michigan) for his role in Operation Bite Back and with the February 28, 1992 break-in at MSU. Coronado was apprehended by law enforcement officials in November 1994 while on the Pasqua Yacqui reservation in Arizona. On March 3, 1995, Coronado pled guilty. When found guilty, Coronado was sentenced to fifty-seven months in prison.
After Coronado was arrested, further fire bombings and property damage to universities and businesses associated with perceived mistreatment of animals by ALF members stopped. However, because other animal rights extremists continue to act against scientists, business owners, and farmers who deal with animals, these people are aware that they may be targeted in the future. Increased security measures have been implemented to counter possible attacks. Since Coronado's sentencing to prison, he has publicly asked other people to take over his leadership role in the animal rights movement.
In 2004, the FBI opened an investigation called Operation Backfire to investigate domestic terrorism by the environmental activist group Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and ALF. Because of its actions, ALF was named by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in January 2005, as a domestic terrorist threat to the United States. FBI and ATF officials stated at a Senate hearing, on May 18, 2005, that violent animal rights extremists—specifically stating that ALF was one such group—pose one of the most serious threats to the United States with respect to domestic terrorism. At about the same time, the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph called ALF one of its country's most active terrorist groups.
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Committee on the Judiciary, Senate, United States Congress. Animal Rights: Activism vs. Criminality: Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Eighth Congress, Second Session, May 18, 2004. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004.
Libby, Ronald T. Eco-wars: Political Campaigns and Social Movements. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
National Research Council of the National Academies. Science, Medicine, and Animals. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004.
Animal Liberation Front (ALF). "Homepage of ALF." <http://www.animalliberationfront.com/> (accessed May 29, 2006).
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). "Homepage of PETA." <http://www.peta.org/> (accessed May 29, 2006).