Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > Canada
Shark Fin Poison Threat and "Eco-Terrorism" in Canada

Shark Fin Poison Threat and "Eco-Terrorism" in Canada
December 11th, 2011

It's Friday November 25th and on the heels of the Toronto Municipal Shark Fin Ban, Fin Donnelly (NDP-Westminster-Coquitlam) sits with leading shark protectionists and announces that his party will be tabling a federal petition to ban the importation and sale of shark fins. After winning the shark fight in municipalities with very little industry -- (Brantford, Pickering, Missisauga, London, etc.) -- Toronto was the sign that this issue had enough momentum to reach the federal stage. There was an overwhelming sense that the public was in favor of the ban and it was only a matter of political will.

Fast forward to another press conference on Thursday December 1st. To a room full of reporters the Toronto Chinese Business Association, led by Barbara Chiu, presented a letter which they claimed to have received on Tuesday November 29th. The letter, addressed to the TCBA, was supposedly sent by Animal Liberation Canada/USA and threatened to poison food at Mandarin Restaurants in response to resistance to the shark fin ban in some parts of the Chinese community. That press conference elicits dozens of stories in Canadian Media, outlets from Huffington Post Canada to the Toronto Star, National Post, Toronto Sun, CBC, CTV, etc. Only one source, that I know if, actually calls on any source from the Animal advocacy movement -- with one reporter checking in with the notoriously inept North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office. Instead of calling question to the letter and it's use -- which should have been obvious -- the press office only offered that they had not been made aware of the threat. With no questioning of the letter, and a media which is not well versed in the history of animal liberation tactics -- the story ran as if this letter was a legitimate threat.

Dec 2nd. Quick to save face after introducing some of the most retrograde immigration legislation this country has ever seen, Jason Kenney, the Immigration Minister (Conservative -- Calgary Southwest) jumps on this issue, calling the letter "eco-terrorism" and offering to arrange a photo op and dine-in on Sunday December 4th at the Forestview Chinese Restaurant in Toronto. The move on Kenney's part is followed up by Wai Young (Conservative -- Vancouver South) who stood up in Parliament on Dec 2nd to again repeat the claim of "eco-terrorism" and present the letter as a legitimate threat.

Before going into the substance of the letter, there are specific reasons why this reaction is important. First, Kenney already has a cozy relationship with so called "anti-terrorism" lobby groups in Canada and he has also helped author specific anti-terrorism legislation (as part of C-10). He is also the member of a political party that currently holds majority in parliament. If this faux-letter is used as a springboard to pursue and present "eco-terrorism" legislation in Canada you can expect to see Kenney involved.

Now, onto the substance of the letter. There are endless reasons of why this letter is not a legitimate threat and many reasons why the origin of this letter and it's political use has to be given critical scrutiny. First I will address the letter as a tactic.

This letter was delivered solely to the Toronto Chinese Business Association and no other source. It was not delivered independently to a press source, not sent to the ALF Press Office nor sent to any other source within the animal advocacy movement. Poison threats are not a tactic that have been widely used in the history of the Animal Liberation movement -- but for those who are aware of their use, this is an obvious red flag. Poison threats originate with the Animal Rights Militia in the UK in 1980's and culminate with the Mar's Candy Bar hoax of 1984. Canada also has a short history of poison threats, with threats going out to the media against the "Cold Buster" bars invented at the University of Alberta in 1992 and a rat poison threat in turkeys in Vancouver in December 1994. One thing all poison threats share in common is the use of media. Every single poison threat is directed at the media -- not at the source of the threat. It is the media which will create the hysteria necessary to economically impact a business or industry. If a threat is only delivered to a business they could very well bury that threat -- or do their own research and recognize that poison threats have always been returned as hoaxes. With the Cold Buster hoax of 1992, the Animal Rights Militia actually went beyond merely sending a release and instead also sent samples of poisoned bars to the media. This should illustrate the vital role of media during a poison threat. The notion that someone would use this tactic -- forgo contacting media themselves -- and instead allow a target to have absolute control over how their threat is spun is absurd.

Second, the name of the group Animal Liberation Canada/USA suggests it was conjured up by someone with absolutely no knowledge of the radical animal liberation movement. There is absolutely no homogenous underground that reaches across borders and there have never been any coordinated cross border actions. Almost every poison threat ever delivered by the Animal Liberation movement has been delivered by the Animal Rights Militia and this is done specifically because a poison threat does not follow Animal Liberation Front guidelines (you have to take all care to not harm or injure any human or other animal species.) How are we to believe that a group that; a) has never existed prior b) suggests cross border co-ordination c) does not recognize the ALF guidelines, is presenting a credible threat?

Third, the location and target for the threat is suspect. Toronto has been a relative dead zone for animal liberation front actions for the past decade. We are supposed to believe that a group that never existed prior would come forward with a tactic that is actually outside of guidelines -- in order to threaten people AFTER a ban is placed on a product? Also, the place they threaten to poison does not sell shark fin soup -- has never sold shark fin soup -- and is large chain which presents white washed version of Chinese food for a mainly white audience. Of all the possible targets and tactics this is again absurd.
Fourth, the overt racism and overall rhetoric and tone of the letter do very little to serve any legitimate interests for someone hoping to instill actual fear in a target. Littered with spelling mistakes, this threat has no real comparison in the history of ALF or ARM communiques. It is not actually written as a document that could be believed -- they assert they are going to ship e. coli from their "head office" in the U.S. -- and this is relayed in statements from the press conference on Dec 1st. Poison threats are crafted statements that are intent on presenting the danger as plausible -- remember the Cold Buster action actually involved sending tainted candy bars to the media. Racist tirades do not serve that purpose -- however, as this press conference illustrated, they do serve the needs of a business community hoping to slow down the momentum of the shark fin ban.

Was this letter written by someone within the Toronto Chinese Business Association? We will most likely never know. However, there is a wealth of precedent of so called "victims" of the ALF using the ALF as a shield to promote or protect their interests -- everything from bomb threats to arsons. When talking about faux threats influencing legislation -- which this could actually do -- one only has to look to recent examples like the University of Califonia -- San Diego bomb threats that were actually traced back to a former employee and not the Animal Liberation Front. Those threats came during the crafting of State Bill 2296 which was a bill presented to "protect" vivisectors. This letter -- the way it was worded, the way it was presented and the timing of it's presentation lead me to think that it was not authored by anyone within the animal advocacy movement. For now, we wait and see what implications this latest round of "eco-terrorism" will have. If Jason Kenney, or anyone else from the Conservative party wants to use this non-threat as their platform they can at least be aware that we are mindful of their schtick. They, along with this letter, fool no one.

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,