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Saturday, April 13, 2002

Group Begs Judge to Jail Man Who Dismembered Own Cat

Fort Myers, Florida giving voice on all sides for why it should win the Most Backward Place on the Continent award for 2002. It'll be tough to displace Washington D.C. this year, but they're in the running with this story....

April 12, 2002

Martin Mersereau 757-622-7382

Ft. Myers, FL---Hearing of the possibility that cat killer Scott Herrin will only be sentenced "to go to work at the animal shelter every weekend," PETA, in a letter to Judge Charles Carlton, likened such a sentence to "sending a convicted child abuser to work at a daycare center." Yesterday PETA faxed an urgent letter to the judge, urging him to instead hand down the maximum sentence allowed by law.

PETA is shocked that Judge Carlton threw out felony charges in the case in which Herrin, his wife, Leeah Shepherdson, and Bobbie Condon photographed themselves killing and butchering Herrin’s cat with a steak knife, suspending her body from a shower rail, smearing themselves with her blood, and "mugging" with her carcass for the camera. The group is calling for the judge to impose jail time and order psychiatric intervention and a prohibition from future contact with animals.

Along with its letter, PETA enclosed a report designed for judges and prosecutors that outlines the link between animal abuse and violent behavior toward humans, as recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), medical professionals, and a growing number of legislators. (The report and photos of the crime can be viewed at

"Sadly, … our judiciary does not always reflect this growing awareness when passing sentence on convicted animal abusers," writes PETA cruelty caseworker Martin Mersereau. "We … hope that your honor will address crimes against animals seriously in the future and that you won’t let this case serve as a sad reminder of the shameful era when animal cruelty was casually regarded."

The sentencing in case is tentatively scheduled for late April, and PETA has posted an action alert about the case at its Web site

PETA’s letter to the Honorable Judge Charles Carlton of the Lee County Justice Center Complex follows.

April 11, 2002
The Honorable Charles Carlton
Senior Judge
Lee County Justice Center Complex
1700 Monroe St.
Fort Myers, FL 33901

Dear Judge Carlton,

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the world’s largest animal rights organization, with more than 750,000 members and supporters dedicated to animal protection. This letter concerns a highly publicized animal cruelty case over which Your Honor is presiding, involving Scott Herrin, his wife, Leeah Shepherdson, and Bobbie Condon, all of Fort Myers. Reports indicate that Herrin, Shepherdson, and Condon pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges stemming from a February 2001 attack on Herrin’s cat. Herrin—apparently annoyed by the cat’s meowing and according to his own testimony—cut her throat and "mangled" her with a steak knife while a fourth party took photographs. During her interview with authorities, Shepherdson claimed that the cat was frantically struggling or, in her words, "thrashing around" during the attack and that Herrin reached for the steak knife only when a machete proved to be too dull to kill the cat. Photographs depict not only the attack, but the butchered carcass suspended from a shower rail with a blood-splattered Shepherdson and Condon "mugging" for the camera. These individuals then allegedly threw the cat’s body into a community swimming pool.

We understand that Your Honor—agreeing with the defense attorney’s contention that it could not be shown that the cat had been cruelly killed—threw out the felony charges filed by prosecutors and that Herrin, Shepherdson, and Condon were allowed to plead to misdemeanor animal abuse. It is also our understanding that, for her role in this egregious attack, Your Honor sentenced Condon to probation only. Referring to Herrin’s upcoming sentencing—according to an article appearing in the News-Press—Your Honor indicated that you would not impose jail time and stated, "[Herrin] may be ordered to go work at the animal shelter every weekend … [t]hat may be it." Clearly, people who have demonstrated violent tendencies against animals should not be left unsupervised around animals at any time. We would never consider having a person convicted of child abuse work at a daycare center.

The link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence is recognized by medical professionals and top law enforcement officials (see enclosure). Legislators are well aware of this undeniable correlation; 34 of our nation’s 50 states have strengthened their anti-cruelty statutes in recent years, and several others are currently considering felony cruelty bills. Sadly, however, our judiciary does not always reflect this growing awareness when passing sentence on convicted animal abusers. Given the violent nature of their crime and its implications for Scott Herrin’s and Leeah Shepherdson’s future behavior if uncurbed, we share your constituents’ and others’ alarm at Your Honor’s reported plans to take such a lenient stance at sentencing.

Our office has been inundated with calls from citizens outraged by and deeply concerned about Your Honor’s reported position. We share their hope that Your Honor will address crimes against animals seriously in the future and that you will not allow this case to serve as a sad reminder of the shameful era when animal cruelty was casually regarded.


Martin Mersereau, Cruelty Caseworker
Domestic Animal Issues & Abuse Department

Posted by Richard
4/13/2002 06:08:18 PM | PermaLink

Friday, April 12, 2002

Video Inspires New Dispute Over Alaska Refuge Drilling

1) Aren't we all sick of this already? Enough Mr. Bush -- you've got Venezuela, do you really need Alaska too?
2) Anyone who feels themselves at all persuaded by Secretary Norton's sophisms, please be sure to read twice the final paragraph of this article. If you're still persuaded to believe this nonsense, I've got a war to sell you...


WASHINGTON, April 11 — On its Web site, the Interior Department features a video prepared by a lobbying group that was created to promote exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Anyone who downloads the 40-second video can see the refuge's white, barren coastal plain in the dead of the Alaskan winter. It is an image that Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton prefers rather than the summertime scenes of caribou, snow geese, musk oxen and other wildlife to the south in the refuge's Brooks Range, the sort of image used by environmentalists who oppose the Bush administration's plan to allow drilling on the plain.

The dueling visions have been used freely in a fierce lobbying battle over the administration's proposal, already approved by the House and nearing a vote in the Senate.

But the Interior Department's dissemination of the pro-drilling tape was challenged today by a Democratic lawmaker, Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, who said the department appeared to be violating a law that forbids federal agencies to use certain kinds of publicity to support or oppose legislation pending in Congress.

An Interior Department spokesman said, however, that a department lawyer had concluded that distribution of the video was legal.

Seeking an explanation from Ms. Norton, Mr. Markey told her in a letter today, "It would appear on the face of it that your use of your official office to promote this industry-sponsored video in an effort to influence Congress to drill in the Arctic Refuge is precisely the kind of activity that is prohibited by law."

That law expressly prohibits agencies from distributing any "film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress," although it has been interpreted more broadly by government ethics offices. It does not apply to the lobbying routinely done by cabinet members, but is read as barring participation in mass mailings, letter-writing campaigns and other grass-roots activities like those of Arctic Power, the group that prepared the pro-drilling video.

In an interview, Mr. Markey said the Interior Department was becoming "a cinema house for lobbyists."

"The Interior Department should not be spreading oil company propaganda any more than the Department of Energy should be promoting Enron stock," he said. "It's not their job."

Founded in 1992 with the goal of winning government approval for drilling in the refuge, Arctic Power includes on its board oil industry officials, other business executives and Alaska union leaders.

The State of Alaska, which would earn increased oil royalties if drilling was permitted in the refuge, is Arctic Power's largest source of money, having given it $1.75 million. But the group is also financed by oil and gas companies, labor groups and private citizens.

Last year it hired Patton Boggs, a powerful Washington law firm with offices in Anchorage, to lobby Congress. Ms. Norton's adviser for Alaska issues, Cam Toohey, is Arctic Power's former executive director.

Ms. Norton has done more with Arctic Power's video than post it on her department's Web site. In late February, she sent copies to network news organizations with the suggestion that they broadcast it.

In a letter to the NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, Ms. Norton wrote, "Enclosed is a Betacam tape, which you are free to use, showing the North Slope of ANWR in the winter — the only time when energy exploration would be allowed under the president's plan."

"I think it is important," the letter said, "that you have video of the actual part of ANWR being discussed, so that your viewers can have a more accurate understanding of the issue. Frequently during the energy debate, I have watched television programs feature video that resembles ANWR's Brooks Range."

Although the Brooks Range is in fact far south of the coastal plain to which the drilling would be confined, environmentalists reply that road building and other activity associated with the exploration would have adverse effects that would spread deep into the refuge.

In any event, the spending of government money to support campaigns related to pending legislation is generally considered a violation of the law that Congressman Markey cited today. Mark D. Pfeifle, the Interior Department spokesman, said the department had conducted a quick analysis of the costs of preparing copies of the Arctic Power video and sending them to news organizations. "The dubbing charges of the ANWR video: $95.81," he said. "Postage to send the ANWR videotapes: $43.55. Informing Americans what the real Alaska North Slope is like in the dead of winter: priceless."

Mr. Pfeifle also challenged Mr. Markey's suggestion that the Interior Department's Web site link to the video was illegal. He said a career lawyer at the department had concluded that it would not violate the law. Asked if there was a written opinion to that effect, Mr. Pfeifle said there was none.

Mr. Markey's chief of staff, David H. Moulton, said it was telling that the Interior Department had decided to showcase an image promoted by a group whose message coincides with the industry's.

"Usually being captured by the industry means incorporating their views into yours in an unquestioning way," Mr. Moulton said. "But it doesn't normally also involve using public resources to distribute and publicize material provided by industry."

Arctic Power officials argue that environmentalists have exaggerated drilling's potential for damage and have underestimated the amount of oil in the refuge, which, the group says, has the potential to be the largest oil field in the world.

Mr. Pfeifle, the Interior Department spokesman, said Ms. Norton herself was "tired of seeing misleading videotapes" on network news programs. The typical tape is of a green expanse of land populated by caribou herds, but "it is nowhere near the area that would be explored for energy," he said. "In fact, the showing of this videotape is irresponsible, and it is totally inaccurate."

It was for that reason, Mr. Pfeifle said, that Ms. Norton decided to send copies of the Arctic Power video to network news organizations.

In her letter to the networks, Ms. Norton wrote, "Winter-only exploration is just one example of the president's commitment to impose the toughest environmental standards ever applied to oil production."

Posted by Richard
4/12/2002 07:31:07 PM | PermaLink

Environmental Policy at its Finest...

Staffer: But what if someone asks Mr. Cheney about the environmental affects of all this?
Ms. Anderson: Oh yeah -- the environment. Hmmm -- say, why don't you take the next day or two and see what you can come up with concerning that...
Staffer: Do you think that's enough time?
Ms. Anderson: Enough time? Look: the Internet's just filled with all sorts of wacky groups saying enivironmental this and ecological that -- just gather something together, something we can use...this report was due yesterday! Heads are gonna roll!
Staffer (walking away): Something useful. Environment. Wacky Internet. Heads are rolling...

Associated Press

April 11, 2002

WASHINGTON -- After months of meeting with corporate executives, the Energy Department directed a staffer to take two days last year to query environmental groups to gather their views for Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, newly released documents show.
In a memo dated March 21, 2001, the staffer was told to analyze the environmentalists' responses "and recommend some we might like to support."
The report is "needed by Friday noon," wrote Margot Anderson, who coordinated the project, in her memo sent at 12:49 p.m. two days earlier to Peter Karpoff, a career staffer in the department's policy office.
The nod to environmentalists came the same week Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met with executives of Duke Energy, Westinghouse Electric, Entergy, Exelon and other nuclear power industry officials to discuss the administration's plan for future energy needs.
Environmentalists have complained that they were largely shut out of the policymaking process.
The memo by Anderson and handwritten notes made by Karpoff as he surveyed the environmental groups were among about 1,000 pages of papers the Energy Department released Wednesday in response to two lawsuits.
The documents gave no indication whether Karpoff submitted a formal report or list of recommendations, although the papers that were released included five pages with brief handwritten notes pertaining to the telephone contacts with the environmentalists.
"One e-mail isn't going to be a good description of this whole process," Energy Department spokeswoman Jeanne Lopatto said Wednesday.
She said, for example, that documents were taken off Web sites of various environmental groups and that other agencies also had contacts.

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

Posted by Richard
4/12/2002 05:32:55 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, April 10, 2002


Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is Europe's largest animal testing laboratory and one of the biggest in the world. HLS operates three testing centers: one in East Millstone, New Jersey and two in England. Imprisoned in these notorious laboratories are 70,000 animals including dogs, cats, monkeys, birds, rabbits, fish, mice, and farm animals. All animals used in HLS's barbaric and worthless experiments are murdered at the end of the their misery-filled lives. 500 animals die at HLS every day. 

HLS's areas of research include testing the toxicity of pesticides, herbicides, food colorings, household products, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These experiments are often done by forcing a tube down the animal's throat and pouring the chemicals into the stomach of the victim. According to HLS lab reports, some of the animals in one experiment were recorded as "rotting, but still alive." Animal technicians are told not to play with the animals, like the dogs, because it is “a waste of their time. “

HLS has been the subject of five undercover investigations exposing the horrendous animal cruelty and incompetence that goes on inside HLS. Employees have been exposed violently punching and shaking four-month-old beagle puppies, performing a necropsy (dissection) of a live monkey, transplanting a frozen pig's heart into a baboon, being drunk and taking drugs at work, falsifying scientific data, and breaking animal welfare laws. These investigations have resulted in HLS employees being convicted of animal cruelty, fined by the USDA and almost shut down by the UK government.

LCA's Involvement

Last Chance for Animals has been an integral of the fight against HLS. We have wisely utilized both our time and money toward freeing the helpless creatures inside HLS's cages. LCA President Chris DeRose traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, to speak about the campaign and lend his support to help motivate the Stop Huntingdton Animal Cruelty activists working so tirelessly on behalf of the animals. They need your help as well.

Protest this torture:

Huntingdon Life Sciences, Inc.
PO Box 2360 Mettlers Road
East Millstone, NJ 08875-2360
Phone: (732) 873-2550
Fax: (732) 873-8513
Webmail form: , then click on “Contact Us”


Posted by Richard
4/10/2002 03:33:30 PM | PermaLink


As part of a "member exclusive" promotion, AOL is giving away one million free tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. On their official site, AOL refers to the circus, which has been cited numerous times for violating the Animal Welfare Act, as "The Greatest Show On Earth®." Please contact AOL and request that they stop promoting companies that exploit and abuse animals. Politely remind them that Ringling Bros. animal trainers use whips, muzzles, electric prods, and bullhooks to force elephants and other wild animals to perform unnatural tricks. If you are a member of AOL, be sure to say so in your correspondence.

Barry Schuler, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
America Online Inc.
22000 AOL Way
Dulles, VA 20166
AOL Corporate Office: (703) 265-1000
AOL Member Services: 1-800-827-6364
Webmail Form:  
Corporate Webmail Form: 


Posted by Richard
4/10/2002 02:30:16 PM | PermaLink

World's Top Enviros Tell President Bush 'Stand Strong' As Japan Kills 440 Whales, Launches 'Eat Them' Campaign

This has to be one of the strangest stories emerging out of a first-world capitalist nation in recent memory...the introduction and propaganda for a universally condemned food under the guise that it will save the children?! And we thought that the U.S. had just cornered the market in bizarre propaganda...actually, one begins to wonder if there might not be a recent turn towards a more vicious form of state lieing? In any event, it can only be hoped that the President (in an attempt to take as many strong and uncriticizable stands as possible) will rebuke the Japanese and lend support to all pressure placed upon them in this initiative. Yet, one wonders how many global affairs this President can/will get involved in at one time. Further, as we see presently with Israel, apparently an order from Mr. Bush isn't worth nearly as much as many would hope anyhow...

From: International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW --
Wednesday, April 10, 2002

U.S. President George Bush was called upon today by a powerhouse group of the world’s leading environmental organizations to stand strong against Japan’s and Norway’s increased whaling and push for international whale trade.

In an advertisement in today’s Washington Post, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW –, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) called for President Bush to, “assert U.S. leadership, including immediate diplomatic pressure, in opposing further commercial and so-called ‘scientific research’ whaling, before the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets next month in Shimonoseki, Japan.

Japan created an international furor last week when its fleet returned with 440 minke whales hunted in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and it launched its “Save Them, Eat Them!” campaign to promote whale meat eating among the country’s youth – a majority of which have never eaten whale meat according to a recent Asahi Shimbun poll. Japan Fisheries representative, Masayuki Komatsu, went so far as to say recently, as reported by the London Sunday Times, “In Tokyo kids eat hamburgers all the time and their grades are slipping. In western Japan it's different. Youngsters eat whale meat all the time and their grades are good.”

“Japan’s whale hunting and eating campaign has reached a new level of audacity,” said IFAW President Fred O’Regan. “The disregard for international treaties, world opinion, and conservation must be met with strong action. Now is President Bush’s time to make his mark as a world leader in the international environmental arena.”

The Washington Post ad also cites a poll conducted by Market Strategies, Inc., which showed that more than 80 percent of American voters approve of high-level U.S. government officials speaking out against whaling by Japan and Norway. The poll also showed that three out four Americans would support diplomatic pressure and a majority support measured trade sanctions against the two countries if they continue commercial whaling.

IFAW President Fred O’Regan said, “The American people are united in their desire for U.S. action to reverse these recent moves by Norway and Japan. The Bush Administration has said all the right things on this issue up to now. We hope and expect that the U.S. will lead the effort to bring international pressure on Japan and Norway over the next weeks.”

Japan’s blatant push for a full-scale international whaling trade has also angered international celebrity environmentalists. Actor and whale conservationist Pierce Brosnan has launched a global appeal against commercial whaling, calling on U.S. citizens and others around the world to write letters of objection to the embassies of Japan and Norway around the globe. Brosnan’s personal email and video appeal can be accessed at

The Washington Post ad may be viewed at

For more information, contact:
Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell
Communications Manager
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW --
(508) 744-2076
Web site:


Japanese government says "Protect and Eat" on national whaling day

By Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press
Wednesday, April 10, 2002

TOKYO — Officials handed out canned whale stew, deep-fried whale meat, and blubber recipes in a busy Tokyo shopping area on Tuesday — national Whale Day — to drum up support for a resumption of commercial whaling.

The freebies disappeared quickly as hundreds of people lined up in Tokyo's main youth fashion district, Shibuya, to munch on a treat that was once a mainstay of school lunches but has now become a pricey delicacy.

"I've never tasted whale meat in my life," said 25-year-old Eri Sugiyama, as she popped a piece of deep-fried whale tempura into her mouth. "It would be even nicer with beer."

The whaling officials who dished out the morsels wore T-shirts embossed with the government's new hunting slogan: "Protect and Eat."

The event comes just weeks ahead of this year's International Whaling Commission meeting in the southwestern city of Shimonoseki, the nation's former whaling hub.

"Whale meat has been part of the Japanese diet for centuries as the gift from the sea," said Japan Whaling Association President Keiichi Nakajima. "I would like many young people to taste it and learn more about our cultural heritage."

Recent polls show that younger Japanese support whaling much less than their elders. But Tuesday's event appeared to go at least a little way toward changing that. "It's yummy, it tastes like beef," said 16-year-old Mako Yamada, who nibbled on the whale meat with a classmate. "We have to tell out friends we ate whale meat!"

The flesh distributed Tuesday came from minkes Japan hunted during what it described as a research expedition in the northwest Pacific in 2000.

The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986 but allows Japan to hunt whales for research purposes. Tokyo says the program gauges whale migration patterns, population trends, and diet, but opponents call it commercial whaling in disguise since most of the meat ends up in restaurants.

Japan conducts two whale hunts every year. During the last season, it caught 100 minkes, 50 Bryde's whales, and eight sperm whales in the northwest Pacific and 440 minkes in the Antarctic.

Copyright 2002 — Associated Press

Posted by Richard
4/10/2002 07:18:22 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Biodiversity at The Hague: We Need More Hugs, Not Drugs

10 years later, the U.N. is following up its Earth Summit in Rio (the conference that put "biodiversity" on the global map) with its biodiversity conference at The Hague. Symbolically, the move of location is important and interesting. The first conference took place in the "under-developed" South, the very region that has much to lose in its loss of biodiversity by the encroaching "global" North. But the sweeping measures passed at that conference, despite some real gains, have been met mainly with 10 years of constant bickering and failed implementation strategy -- this is, after all, the U.N.: the Articles now being drawn up are, in the end, voluntary and major states (e.g., the U.S.) often aren't even full participating members in many committees (such as this one on biodiversity). Thus, the move to The Hague -- the timeless seat of international court and justice! Of course, the problem here is that, ultimately, Hague power is much akin to U.N. power: it is invested with the power to subject nations to its rules, which is a much nicer way of saying that in so far as it has any power, it has this power as a front for the nations that allow it to have such power. Who are these shadow nations, you might ask? Well, nations exactly like the U.S. -- rogue nations that can look the conjoined signers of the Kyoto protocol treaty in the face and tell them, "This treaty would be bad for business -- no thanks." So The Hague is a meaningful place only in so far as you recognize the meaning of the nations that power it -- nations that are not even on board with the U.N. eco-conference's Southern agendas.

Yet, we live in a world where American corporations are no longer stationed simply in New York, or Chicago, or Washington D.C. solely, but also in Taiwan, in Paris, in Frankfurt, in Beijing, in Tokyo, etc. Corporate life is trans-national and the rules affecting it have become increasingly trans-national as well. Also, life in the streets is becoming trans-national (with its multi-cultures provided a new wealth of trans-national commodities to choose from and identify with). Therefore, despite all the 9-11 propaganda, no U.S. citizen really should be (or CAN BE) proud to be an American anymore. Not because being an American is ideologically suspect (though it may be), but because the concept of America (as a single nation with distinct boundaries) is now a misnomer. America is globalizing and so is just as likely to be found in Afghanistan and central Africa as it is to be found in the hills of sunny Tennessee.

In this sense, international federations like the United Nations are a more true model of the type of governance that should be legislating trans-national corporate behavior. But as we have seen for years, exactly the one thing a governing body like the U.N. needs (but in this case, lacks) is the power to enforce its decisions upon powerful rogue nations -- nations more powerful than the combined strength of the U.N. security council. Thus, if the U.S. (or some other primary nation) does not willingly wish to comply with U.N. rules, it very well may choose not to do so. But if this is the state of international law, then what presently exists is a type of corporate mob rule in which legislators of state are forced to affect complex (illegal?) diplomacy with mob bosses whilst promoting an air of general progress and security to the public at large.

So, The Hague. I can only wish that the measures that will be drafted and passed over these next two weeks will be broad, sweeping, and universally ratified, leaving only the sticky question of enforcement. Further, I hope these policies will be passed with a moral conscience that is aware of the potential historical importance of such measures...that the countries involved will remember that, in the end, this is about a lot more than economics and that the job of global conservation is at hand. It appears, however, that the choice to house this conference in the North is being accompanied by a set of agendas that are equally particular, one of the major agendas of this conference: how can giant pharmaceutical companies get access to Southern genetic resources. My prediction, then: with so much money at stake, agreements will be struck for the sake of public agreement, more avenues will be opened into the pristine forests and jungles, a handful of Southern leaders will make a killing on the deals, and we ecologists will spend the next decade or so screaming the very articles being drafted today in the attempt to protect what everyone is suppossed to be protecting. Bleak -- I would love to be proved wrong!!! But the world doesn't need drugs at the expense of hugs...

Posted by Richard
4/09/2002 08:12:09 AM | PermaLink

U.S. reverses finding of Alaska drilling harm, says paper

The moral of this story is: "You don't publish findings that aren't helpful to your boss..."

By Reuters
Tuesday, April 09, 2002

WASHINGTON — In a hastily prepared report, the Bush administration has reversed an earlier study that concluded that opening Alaska's wilderness to oil drilling could harm wildlife, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The new report suggests that the most likely scenarios being considered for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should have no impact on caribou, the Post said.

The newspaper said it had obtained a copy of the new two-page report, which was written by the same scientist at the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey who led the original caribou study that was issued only a week ago.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton commissioned the new report almost immediately after the initial report came out, the Post said. It bolsters the administration's position that drilling can proceed in the refuge without harming the caribou herd.

The original report, which environmentalists used to support their opposition to drilling, found that drilling in the refuge could especially hurt the Porcupine River caribou herd, which travels 400 miles from Canada's Yukon Territory to the Alaskan coastal plain for calving in May and June. Snow geese and musk oxen are among other wildlife that also could also be affected, the original report said.

But Interior Department officials said the original report's conclusions were not based on the scenarios under consideration in Congress.

So, the Post said, they plugged in two likelier scenarios that assume more limited disruption to the environment and found that those scenarios would reduce caribou calf survival rates by no more than a negligible 1.2 percent.

The administration still faces an uphill battle in its bid to get the Democratic-led Senate to vote to open the area to oil exploration.

A Reuters survey of all 100 U.S. senators last month found that at least 50 senators, including five Republicans, said they opposed drilling in the refuge and 10 others were undecided. Under the Senate's rules for controversial legislation, 60 votes are required to cut off debate and proceed with a vote.

Posted by Richard
4/09/2002 07:32:30 AM | PermaLink

Monday, April 08, 2002

A Republican from the State of Washington Targetting "Eco-terrorism"

-- He Couldn't Represent Big-Lumber, Could He?

Lawmakers target 'eco-terrorism'

Todd Milbourn
Star Tribune
Published Apr 7, 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., invokes the language of the war on terrorism in describing environmental and animal rights activists who ransack research labs and torch ski resorts.

"Like the murderers in New York and Pennsylvania, members of these shadowy organizations have no respect for human life and will stop at nothing in pursuit of their dark vision of the future," he said at a recent congressional hearing. "National environmental organizations need to know: Either you are with us or you are against us."

In a wartime climate, lawmakers are hoping to toughen penalties for crimes involving plant or animal research by making them violations of federal racketeering laws.

The FBI is also deploying more special agents to track down elusive activists, whom they label "eco-terrorists."

Since 1996, the FBI estimates, groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) have carried out 600 violent acts that caused more than $40 million in damage.

In Minnesota, the groups have struck at least 10 times since 1984, most recently in January. In that attack, the ELF claimed responsibility for setting fire to the construction site of the Microbial and Plant Genomic Research Center on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus.

In 1999, ALF raiders took more than 100 research animals from a university lab and trashed equipment, setting back research on Alzheimer's and other diseases.

"It's only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt," said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., a member of the House subcommittee on forests that held the hearing.

The FBI describes the groups as patchwork confederations of saboteurs aiming to advance their agendas through "direct actions" -- violent or symbolic acts, such as arson and vandalism -- against those perceived to be harming animals or the environment.

The ALF Web site offers how-to guides for raiding labs and constructing incendiary devices. It also features a primer titled, "Arson Around with Auntie ALF."

The Agroterrorism Prevention Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., would establish a federal clearinghouse for information on "eco-terrorism" to assist law enforcement efforts. It also would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty if such a crime results in a fatality.

David Barbarash, an ELF spokesman in British Columbia, said that the terrorist label doesn't fit ELF activists.

"It doesn't apply to individuals who do not harm or kill people, who are engaged in political acts of economic sabotage," he said, noting that the activists plan attacks and take precautions to minimize risks of injuring people. The ALF says in a report that it, the ELF and other groups carried out 137 acts of sabotage in 2001.

Despite the groups' public presence, the saboteurs have generally eluded law enforcement. Officials have made several arrests, but most of the cases remain unsolved. The FBI's counter-terrorism chief, James Jarboe, said at the recent subcommittee hearing that it is difficult to make arrests given the groups' freedom-of-speech protections and their lack of hierarchical structures.

Michael Pendleton, a professor at the University of Washington who has studied forest crime, testified that property rights groups pose a greater threat than animal rights activists.

"The vast majority of property crime and violent acts are committed not by eco-terrorists, but by a relatively small but known group of local residents," Pendleton said.

In the mid-1990s, a small pipe bomb exploded outside of a Forest Service outpost in Nevada. Months later, another bomb detonated outside a Forest Service worker's home, destroying the family's van and part of the house.

Pendleton said about $100 million worth of timber is stolen each year from national forests.

McCollum said that Congress, in focusing on animal rights groups, should be careful not to deal with one extremist wing and not the other.

"Both groups need to be held accountable for their actions," she said.

McCollum said that the violent actions of radicals make it more difficult for the causes they espouse to get a fair hearing. She said they would probably find more success seeking change legally.

"We have a process," she said. "It's called a ballot box."

-- Todd Milbourn is at .

Posted by Richard
4/08/2002 09:42:42 PM | PermaLink

Is the New York Times magazine going Green? This week: Meet the E.L.F.

April 7, 2002

From Tree-Hugger to Terrorist


Critter glares at me across an empty table. ''I'm sorry you've come all this way,'' he says. Critter, whose legal name is Craig Marshall, is an intense young man with short-trimmed hair, a scraggly beard and flared side chops that give him the look of a singer in a rockabilly band. He is a vegetarian anarchist who spent several months living nearly 200 feet up a Douglas fir to prevent it from being cut down. Now he sits in an interview room at the Snake River Correctional Institution in the eastern Oregon desert. I've come to talk to him about crossing lines. If he'll talk.

''Corporate media protects corporate interests,'' he tells me. ''You'll probably use inflammatory quotes and say I'm some crazy son of a bitch,'' he says.

Critter isn't crazy, but he is a rare specimen. Using the F.B.I.'s definition of the term, Critter is a domestic terrorist. Almost two years ago, he and an accomplice were caught after they firebombed a Chevrolet dealership in Eugene, Ore. He says he did it to punish carmakers and consumers for their love affair with the gas-hogging S.U.V. Although the pair never claimed the bombing on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front (E.L.F.) -- the eco-terror group that has inflicted, along with its ally the Animal Liberation Front (A.L.F.), more than $43 million in damage on farmers, scientists, foresters, universities, housing developers and business owners -- their crime fit the profile of a classic E.L.F. action. Critter, 28, pleaded guilty and got five and a half years. His accomplice, a quiet 22-year-old forest advocate named Jeffrey Luers, aka Free, went to trial and was rewarded with 22 years and 8 months, the longest sentence ever handed down in an eco-terror case.

Much of America's political conversation since Sept. 11 has focused on the definition of borders, of lines crossed. At what point does a devoted student of Islam volunteer to become a mass murderer? When does legal political protest become terrorism? As one of the few environmental advocates convicted of an eco-terror crime, Critter knows what it is to move across the boundary that separates the peaceful tree-sitter from the violent firebomber.

Once he agrees to talk, Critter settles into a discussion of the revolution necessary to save a doomed planet. He describes the radical environmental circles in which he traveled as a tight-lipped culture that recognizes arson as a legitimate act of political protest. ''It takes all the tools in the toolbox to dismantle the master's machine,'' he says. ''More passive people do tree-sits. More active people are comfortable risking their well-being. There's a line a lot of people are not willing to cross. I was willing to cross it.''

But why -- and why now? In some respects, we live in a golden age of ecological awareness. More Americans identify themselves as environmentalists now than at any time in the nation's history. Recycling programs, a radical notion 30 years ago, have become commonplace. Organic grocers thrive.

We also find ourselves in a singularly bad time to be a terrorist in America. And yet the E.L.F. remains one of the nation's most active and destructive domestic terrorist organizations. In the weeks after Sept. 11, worldwide revulsion over the terrorist attacks inspired surprising gestures of peace. The Irish Republican Army announced that it would dismantle its weapons arsenal; Basque separatists made peace overtures. No such pause disrupted the calendar of the E.L.F. On Sept. 16, E.L.F. members ripped up oil-exploration survey markers near Moab, Utah, and left a note telling the company to ''drill in hell.'' On Oct. 15, an E.L.F. firebomb leveled a United States Bureau of Land Management wild-horse corral 80 miles north of Reno, Nev. On Nov. 6, the police discovered crude E.L.F.-style firebombs set next to two forestry buildings on the Houghton, Mich., campus of Michigan Technical University. The attacks have continued in 2002. On Jan. 26, an E.L.F.-claimed fire damaged a construction site at the University of Minnesota, where a plant-genetics research center was being built.

The audacious timing of the E.L.F.'s crime spree surprised terrorism scholars, who worry that the forest monkey-wrenchers may be growing into a classic revolutionary organization.

''I'm afraid these people might be the real anarchists,'' says Gary R. Perlstein, a Portland State University criminologist who has tracked the E.L.F. since its inception. ''Not just the talkers, but the bomb throwers and assassins.''

There are now Web sites, videotapes and quarterly zines dedicated to the E.L.F.'s increasingly violent actions. F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors have been able to arrest only a few of its members. And as the group widens its targets and increases the violence of its attacks, experts are wondering what further boundaries the group's supporters are willing to cross. What happens when the E.L.F. realizes that firebombs aren't getting the job done?

The E.L.F. is actually a British export. In 1992, a handful of environmental advocates in Brighton, England, broke away from Earth First! to form a more radical splinter group, the Earth Liberation Front. The E.L.F.'s members, who referred to themselves as elves, abandoned aboveground politics in favor of direct action. This decoupling allowed Earth First! to concentrate on legitimate mainstream campaigns while the E.L.F. carried out the dirty work of tree spiking, sabotage and arson.

Two years later, Judi Bari, the Northern California Earth First! leader, called for a similar move in the United States. ''It's time,'' she wrote in Earth First! Journal, ''to leave the night work to the elves in the woods.''

The American version of the E.L.F. announced its existence in October 1996 by torching a United States Forest Service truck in Oregon's heavily logged Willamette National Forest. A few months later, the group declared its alliance with the A.L.F., which had been attacking mink farms and research laboratories since the early 1980's. ''Leave the forests alone,'' warned one communique, ''and no one gets hurt.''

For the next year, the E.L.F. limited its attacks to traditional anti-logging and animal rights targets, burning horse corrals, a meat-packing plant and federal agriculture buildings. In 1998, the group began going after bigger game. E.L.F.-set fires did $12 million worth of damage to a ski resort in Vail, Colo., and E.L.F. members destroyed the Medford, Ore., office of U.S. Forest Industries, a private timber company.

Into this drama stepped Craig Marshall and Jeffrey Luers. Luers, a child of the Southern California suburbs, became politically active as a teenager when he saw that the American government was spending billions of dollars on military projects while homeless people went hungry. He wrote to politicians but got form-letter replies. He became a door-to-door canvasser for the Sierra Club but grew disillusioned with the group. In the spring of 1998, at age 19, he hopped a freight train to Eugene and found kinship in the town's thriving anarchist community. One night at Out of the Fog, a funky downtown organic teahouse that serves as the watering hole for Eugene's circle-A crowd, Luers watched a slide show about Warner Creek, a section of the nearby Willamette National Forest that environmental advocates saved from logging by occupying the trees in 1995 and 1996.

''I was like, Wow -- here's people that are getting out there, and they're actually stopping logging, they're not lobbying about stopping logging, which is what I'd just been doing for the last seven months,'' Luers told a reporter for The Portland Oregonian. (Luers, who is appealing his sentence, declined to be interviewed for this article.)

A new tree-sit was born that spring. In March 1998, the Forest Service sold the logging rights for a 96-acre section along Fall Creek in the Willamette National Forest, about 35 miles southeast of Eugene, to a local timber company. Critics of the sale charged that the Forest Service had shirked its duty to complete the wildlife surveys that are required under the Northwest Forest Plan. The old-growth and second-growth Douglas firs along Fall Creek are home to the red tree vole, a fir-needle-eating rodent that's a dietary staple of the northern spotted owl, which is still threatened. While mainstream environmental groups sued the Forest Service, a small band of forest advocates blocked the logging road and camped on high-canopy platforms to stop the cut. Luers was among them.

A tree-sit is a cold, harsh, lonely way to save a forest. At Fall Creek, Luers and fellow advocates built plywood-and-tarp dwellings 200 feet up trees they gave names like Happy and Fanghorn. A bucket hanging beneath the platform served as the bathroom.

Craig Marshall joined the sit that fall. An Easterner reared in a small Massachusetts town, Marshall held political beliefs that weren't so much pro-environment as anti-authority. ''I never had much use for people telling me what to do,'' he recalls. ''Back in the fifth grade, I was already questioning the Pledge of Allegiance.'' After hitchhiking to Eugene, Marshall heard about the Fall Creek sit at Out of the Fog and immediately volunteered.

During the warm months, idealistic advocates flocked to Fall Creek from all over the country, drawn to their generation's version of Freedom Summer. Come November, the cold Pacific storms drove away all but a handful of advocates, including Marshall and Luers. Marshall changed his name to Critter. Luers became Free. The two became friends.

hen you're living in a tree-sit, there's a lot of time to swap stories of the horrors of industrial forestry in action. And in truth, it's not a pretty sight. The romantic vision of a chain-saw-toting lumberjack bears as much resemblance to mechanized forestry as a pioneer hog farmer to an industrial slaughterhouse. A hydraulic feller buncher, which looks like a power shovel with claws and saws, can grasp, cut and delimb a Douglas fir in one terrifyingly swift motion.

There's also a lot of time in a tree-sit to consider the great chasm that exists between mainstream eco-consciousness and the dire situation faced by the planet. In the past few years, scientists have issued ever more gloomy warnings about global warming. Biologists tell us we have entered a period of catastrophic species extinction. And when you're out there living as one with the wind, rain, mud, mushrooms and squirrels, it occurs to you that recycling our beer cans just ain't gonna get the job done. So you start to look for ways to shock humanity into action.

''If one in 10 people care about the planet,'' Marshall says, ''that one person has to do 10 times as much as those other 9.''

At this point, Marshall and Luers may have begun talking about taking things a step further, but they probably kept their conversations to themselves. ''Veteran activists only allow a select few to know about their involvement with the E.L.F./A.L.F.,'' instructs a security primer posted on several forest-advocacy Web sites. ''And those few consist of the cell members who they do the actions with AND NO ONE ELSE!''

The E.L.F. is made up of a series of small cells that remain mostly unaware of one another's identities and plans. In ''Igniting the Revolution: An Introduction to the Earth Liberation Front,'' a $10 video sold in Portland's counterculture bookshops, Craig Rosebraugh, then the E.L.F.'s spokesman, urges volunteers to start their own units rather than try to join one. ''There's no realistic chance of becoming active in an already existing cell,'' he says. ''Take initiative; form your own cell.''

Other groups, including the I.R.A., Al Qaeda and right-wing patriot factions, were organized around this leaderless resistance model but never were truly leaderless. Their imagined world ultimately requires a hierarchy. The E.L.F., rooted in a philosophy of anarchist primitivism, dreams of peaceful leaderless tribes living in robust ecosystems. ''In a tribe, you take care of each other,'' Critter says. ''There's no need for Big Brother to take care of you.''

This is the conundrum of the E.L.F., and the reason the group is so difficult to track or to stop: there is no membership; there are only acts. Anyone can join -- tonight -- by torching a science lab. Existing cells may applaud your crime but will not contact you. And so law enforcement agencies have found the group impossible to infiltrate. ''They know each other and don't tolerate strangers,'' says Bob Holland, a Eugene, Ore., police detective who has been investigating eco-terror crimes since 1997. ''It's not like infiltrating the Mafia, where you can go to Joe Bonanno and say, 'The goodfellas down the street recommended me.' These people are hanging with people they've known for years, and when they decide to do a direct action, they're the only ones talking about it.''

Beginning in December 1999, the E.L.F. began directing its firebombs against an array of new and sometimes puzzling targets. Arson fires burned the laboratory offices of researchers studying plant genetics at Michigan State University and the University of Washington. More E.L.F. fires destroyed houses under construction on Long Island and in Bloomington, Ind. E.L.F. members smashed windows at an Old Navy store in Huntington, N.Y., and tried to burn down a Nike outlet in Albertville, Minn. The Republican Party Committee headquarters in Monroe County, Ind., was burned because, according to an E.L.F. communique, the party supported the extension of an interstate highway.

What happened? In a word, Seattle. When the antiglobalization movement exploded at the November 1999 World Trade Organization meeting, E.L.F. advocates realized two things. First, violence gets attention. Second, their targets were too limited. After Seattle, the E.L.F. realized that its beef wasn't merely with the Forest Service; the problem was global capitalism itself. Any symbol of that system -- a new subdivision, a botany lab, a political clubhouse, a car dealership -- became a target.

A year into the Fall Creek sit, Critter began to question the effectiveness of his own limited campaign. While he was saving the tree beneath him, he says, he watched a section of forest across the valley fall to the saw. At the same time, government prosecutors began to squeeze some of the region's prominent radicals. In February 2000, the home and office of Rosebraugh, the E.L.F. spokesman, were raided.

It's difficult to mark the exact moment when a radical advocate chooses to cross the line separating civil disobedience from violent crime. But sometime in May or June 2000, Jeffrey Luers and Craig Marshall decided to take that step. Behind them trailed years of political frustration and legal hassles. Within them burned the conviction that greedy humans were annihilating the natural world. Ahead of them lay Chaos Days 2000.

In the late spring of 2000, a local advocacy group called Eugene Active Existence organized the Seven Week Revolt, a smash-the-state festival to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the city's June 18, 1999, anarchist riot. The days leading up to June 18 were dubbed Chaos Days, and it was during that week that Luers and Marshall came down from the trees to join in the parties and protests. Chanting slogans wasn't enough for them, though.

''I realized that the only way to hurt a corporation is in the wallet,'' Marshall says. ''If you do it hard enough and long enough, they'll go out of business.''

They chose a target: Joe Romania Chevrolet, a car dealership at the edge of the University of Oregon campus. To the tree dwellers, Romania's blocklong lineup of $25,000 trucks and S.U.V.'s symbolized consumer decadence at its worst. ''They're gas-guzzling monsters, destroying everything they encounter,'' Marshall later explained. ''They're a status symbol for rich American consumers, who are killing more people on this planet than anyone else.''

The elves' weapon of choice remains the firebomb, schematics for which can be downloaded from the E.L.F. Web site. ''On a pound-for-pound basis,'' the anonymous authors explain, ''incendiaries can do more damage than explosives against many type [sic] targets if properly used.'' The 20-page pamphlet includes instructions on creating flake aluminum-sulfur igniters, thermate incendiary devices and homemade napalm. Critter and Free's devices were crude but effective: gallon milk jugs filled with fuel and stopped with sponge wicks.

Marshall and Luers did their due diligence, observing the rounds of the night watchman. ''Precautions were taken to make sure nobody was hurt,'' Marshall later said. Soon after midnight on June 16, Luers and Marshall parked a borrowed car across the busy boulevard from Joe Romania Chevrolet. They nervously passed a cigarette back and forth. Carrying their sloshing milk jugs, they crossed the street and followed a dark bicycle path to the crowded lot, where they placed the devices under two new Chevy pickups and sparked a Bic lighter to the wicks.

''Down under the truck, my heart is pounding,'' Luers later recalled in an account written for Earth First! Journal. ''Wow! I'm really doing this. Why? Then I remember being a kid growing up in Los Angeles, having to stay inside some days because the smog was too bad to go outside. I was 6 [expletive] years old, and I couldn't play outside because the air was hazardous to my health. It has gotten worse since!''

As the fire raged, Marshall and Luers drove to the neighboring town of Springfield. E.L.F. actions are sometimes claimed with spray paint at the scene of the crime or via an anonymous encrypted e-mail message sent to the E.L.F. spokesperson or posted on the E.L.F. Web site, but the truck burners were ambivalent about claiming their action. ''I don't know if we would or wouldn't have gotten a communique out,'' Marshall later said. ''The point isn't to let people know. The point is to stop it then and there.''

What Luers and Marshall didn't know was that undercover cops from the Eugene Police Department had been tailing them all day. Rumors of a big anarchist party had spread through Eugene, and the police were hoping Luers and Marshall would lead them to the clandestine kegger. Although they didn't actually see them set the fires, the police observed them acting suspicious around the dealership. After a dispatcher put out a call about a fire at Joe Romania Chevrolet, the police arrested Luers and Marshall. They never made it to the party.

Marshall pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson and unlawful possession of a destructive device and received a five-and-a-half-year sentence. Luers might have gotten a similar sentence, but a police search turned up evidence linking him to an earlier attempted arson. Though Luers denied any connection to the earlier case, he was found guilty of that crime, too, and was sentenced to 22 years and 8 months in state prison.

The story of Critter and Free illustrates the local political and psychological forces that help inspire a single act of eco-terrorism, but there may be larger historical influences at work as well. Consider the idea that eco-terrorists are at least partly driven by the rising and falling fortunes of their cause. Forty years ago, James C. Davies, a political scientist, proposed the J-curve theory of revolution. Uprisings are most likely to occur, Davies said, when a prolonged period of economic and social progress is followed by a short period of sharp reversal.

Christopher Hewitt, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County sociologist who is writing a book about terrorism in America, makes a compelling case for adapting the J-curve theory to domestic terrorism. ''When your hopes have been raised and you feel there's a chance for victory through legitimate political means, you'd be foolish to resort to terrorism,'' Hewitt says. ''Terrorism is a high-cost option, a weapon of the weak, a tool of last resort. But if your movement suddenly collapses or suffers political reversals, then some activists will be tempted to go for terrorism.''

Two examples: Many antiwar advocates believed that President Johnson's decision not to seek a second term in 1968 signaled the end of the Vietnam conflict. When his successor, Richard Nixon, expanded the war, the most radical activists gravitated to the Weather Underground, a group responsible for several high-profile bombings during the 1970's. Similarly, Ronald Reagan's 1980 election led anti-abortion advocates to expect the demise of Roe v. Wade. But by decade's end, abortion remained legal, and the tactics of radical activists had escalated from pickets to blockades to bombings. With the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, the hopes raised by Reagan were finally crushed. That's when abortion doctors started getting assassinated.

The emergence of the E.L.F. fits a disturbingly similar pattern. Environmentalists saw Clinton's election as the harbinger of a wave of ecological reform. Eight years of a Democratic administration did bring progress: federal agencies were greened up, air and water standards improved and great swaths of wilderness were saved from development. But eco-advocates were so embittered by Clinton's failure to bring about sweeping change that Al Gore had to fight for the Sierra Club's endorsement in the 2000 election.

The E.L.F. set off its first major firebomb, in fact, the year after Clinton's 1995 timber-salvage-rider dispute. The salvage rider made it easy for logging companies to harvest trees they claimed were diseased or damaged. It was a sweet deal for the timber industry, a setback for environmentalists. For hardcore greens it was Clinton's Judas moment.

Following the slow disenchantment of the Clinton era, radical environmentalists are now faced with George W. Bush, the Texas oilman who wants to pump crude out of the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve, rejects the Kyoto global-warming protocols and offers environmentalists three more years of pro-industry rollbacks. Radical greens find themselves in the same situation abortion foes faced in 1993.

Although the protection of all life remains one of the E.L.F.'s major tenets, some observers wonder if that line will soon be crossed. ''Up until now, they haven't harmed the people they're trying to harm,'' says Gary Perlstein, the domestic-terrorism expert. ''When they destroy a tree farm in Clatskanie, Ore., they're not hurting the Weyerhaeusers of the world. I worry that they're going to eventually see that. And then the true believers among them may say, 'Well, maybe we have to assassinate the president of Weyerhaeuser.'''

The E.L.F.'s rhetoric hasn't gone that far yet, but its supporters describe the war they're waging in increasingly dire terms. ''If someone had their hands around your throat strangling you, would you gather petition signatures to present to them, politely asking them to stop?'' asks a recent issue of Resistance, a quarterly E.L.F. zine. ''Would you go limp as a symbolic gesture of your noncooperation? Hopefully you would defend yourself by any means necessary.''

I put the question to Craig Marshall: In a perfect world, what would we do to save the earth? ''First, knock down all the concrete,'' he says. Thinking further, he adds: ''The problem is, we've gone too far already. There's no easy solution. For life to survive as we know it, millions of people are going to have to die. It's sad to say that, but it's true. Millions of people are already dying -- it's just gonna have to start happening here.''

That's a pretty chilling statement, I tell him.

''I'm not saying anybody needs to be executed,'' he says. ''But there's a need for decreasing the population. Look, I don't take life. I fight to protect it. I'm doing the best I can to make sure life survives. Not only human life -- all the other life that humans are extinguishing.''

Bruce Barcott is a contributing editor at Outside magazine.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company | Privacy Information

Posted by Richard
4/08/2002 10:09:41 AM | PermaLink

More on the BK Veggie

Recently I posted the vegan call to arms of Erik Marcus -- Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Veggieburgers -- demanding that the BK Veggie (Burger King's new "vegetarian" burger) be supported in the quest to turn corporate fast-food towards the humane. Following Marcus's logic, I myself went out on Friday to experiment and cast my vote in dollars for this product.

The experience was interesting...contrary to Marcus's posting, the BK staff (managerial and otherwise) knew little to nothing about the BK Veggie, save that it was a novelty item akin to carnival spectacle. Claims that the BK Veggie could be microwaved, instead of broiled, so as to be cooked apart from meat, and that this recommendation was itself issued from Burger King's corporate offices, met with a dumb stare. Asking the mayo to be withheld threatened to turn the mere ordering of the meal into a political contest, with the manager declaring proudly that "he was related to t-rex" and that his staff cooking the burger should make sure to give us a "double shot of mayo" just to show us. Further, he insisted that he had never received anything from Burger King and that if he had, he didn't have to follow it. Finally, perhaps satisfied that he had preserved himself against the imminent vegetarian threat at his register, he relented and allowed the meal to be microwaved without the mayo.

The taste of the sandwich was far from appetizing, but it was not inedible by any means. Contrary to Marcus's feelings that it was tasty, it had the appearance, texture, and follow through of soggy cardboard. The real "whopper," however, was the price: $2.15 for a flimsy, quasi-nutritious item that lasted about 1 minute (over conversation). In this sense, while I continue to agree with Erik Marcus that corporate food should be pressured to move vegan/vegetarian and supported to the degree that it does so, having done so with the BK Veggie, I must addend the proclamation in the name of sustainable capital practices.

Simply put: this burger is worth approximately $.89 and could find a home on any of the major corporate fast-food Value Menus. However, priced toward $2 per patty (or in my case -- OVER $2), is an outrage. This is no luxury item, nor does it seem costly to produce. At $2 per BK Veggie, it should be 3x its size and have more garden "fixins" to accompany it -- fresh onions, a garden relish, etc. To sum up, then, we who support this food in the name of some form of "progress" should not forget that capital practices must be forced on many sides. Too often vegetarian and vegan food is priced outrageously in the name of exoticism or added costs. Of course, there are times when these costs may be justified, but the point is that we should not forget to question each and every time the reasons and consequences of the same.

Here is another critical article on the BK Veggie, with ingredients. I have read (in addition) that the Polysorbate 60 in the bun is a slaughterhouse bi-product and is therefore NOT VEGETARIAN.

Posted by Richard
4/08/2002 09:27:49 AM | PermaLink