Animal Protection > Activist Index

Kevin Kjonaas set up a website with details about businesses that use animals for research information, and now he and five other activists have been convicted of inciting terrorism, reports Thomas Walkom ...
March 2006

TRENTON, N.J.—Kevin Kjonaas is an unlikely casualty of George W. Bush's war against terror.

No one, including the U.S. government attorneys who just finished prosecuting him for so-called animal enterprise terrorism, says that the 28-year-old Minnesota native killed anyone — or even hurt anyone.

He's never planted a bomb or sent anthrax through the mail.

The government doesn't claim Kjonaas damaged property — or knowingly provided material assistance to anyone who did.

"I've been an ass," Kjonaas acknowledged days before a Trenton jury found him guilty of inciting terrorism. "Some of the things I've done have been just rude, and I wouldn't do them again. But am I legally responsible (for the crimes the government accused him of)? No."

However, earlier this month, Kjonaas and five others ranging in age from 27 to 31 became the first people convicted under a 1992 U.S. law — significantly beefed up after 9/11 — that defines as terrorists those who damage firms involved in the animal business.

Along with another case in Oregon, this one involving radical environmentalists, the New Jersey trial marks a significant step forward in the Bush administration's decision to bring the war on terror home for use against those it views as its new domestic enemies.

"This is just the starting gun," says David Martosko, research director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization funded by the U.S. restaurant industry and a fierce opponent of animal rights.

He says the government should move against more mainstream organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the Humane Society of the United States, which he calls "the farm teams for the eco-terror problem."
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They call themselves the SHAC Six, after the acronym of their animal rights group — Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.

They could be called the Internet Six.
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Like much of the militant animal rights movement, SHAC started in England. Founded in 1999, it was aimed at Britain's biggest animal research firm, Huntingdon Life Sciences.

A video aired on television that showed some Huntingdon employees deliberately abusing test animals gave the campaign particular piquancy. By 2001, protestors had driven the firm almost to bankruptcy.

Not all of the militants' tactics were peaceful. In one celebrated instance, two men beat Huntingdon's managing director with baseball bats.

While SHAC denounced the attack, this beating — as well as instances of threats, vandalism and firebombing — added a disturbing aura of thuggery to its protest.
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In person, Kevin Kjonaas seems quite unlike the fire-breathing radical described by prosecutors. Slight and soft-spoken, he remains unfailingly polite as a reporter quizzes him, over dinner, on the animal movement's tactics and his role in them.

"I still think residential picketing is a good idea," he says. "It's been done for ages. Look at Cindy Sheehan (the U.S. peace activist who held a vigil outside of Bush's ranch). But not all of it is appropriate right now and not all of it is savoury."

Recalling Dillenback's testimony, he sighs.

"If I had to do it over again, I'd censor more of those Web postings and be less aggressive and confrontational, so that no one could perceive us as a threat, only as an embarrassment.

"We want to put pressure on those people (involved in animal testing) but we don't want them to think their children are going to be abducted. That's ridiculous... The tone and tenor need to change, not just from a PR perspective but because we represent a noble cause...

"The American public supports violence at times," he goes on, picking at his vegetarian curry. "But the animal rights movement is not at the stage now where violence or the rhetoric of violence is appropriate... It's not even close."
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Another organization, Win Animal Rights has taken over the anti-Huntingdon protests. "The train has left the station," says Pamelyn Ferdin, a Los Angeles animal rights activist recruited to formally run SHAC after Kjonaas was indicted.

"When activists see above ground people getting put in jail, they're just going to get mad."

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