rejects claim it funds terror groups; Allegations animal-rights organization
supports domestic extremists could
cost it tax-exempt status
Burke Knight Ridder Newspapers
doesn't let political correctness get in the way of a good ad
campaign, be it a menacing Ronald McDonald wielding a bloody butcher
billboards mocking the milk industry.
now the attack dogs are PETA's critics, and they're portraying the world's
largest animal-rights group as an agent of domestic terrorism.
mention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the same sentence as
al-Qaeda by critics and on Capitol Hill has the fur flying at the organization's waterfront headquarters here. There is
even a push
to revoke PETA's
tax-exempt status because of a contribution it made to an organization accused
of committing terrorist acts. "The whole notion that PETA supports terrorism is false and defamatory,"
said Jeffrey S. Kerr, PETA's general counsel and director of corporate affairs.
"When you use
'terror,' look at the terror inflicted on billions of animals in
this country every year. That's real terror."
calls the attacks "desperation tactics" by adversaries who know
they are losing a years-long public relations war. "They're trying
us any way they can,"
is doing the talking for PETA these days rather than the
president and founder, Ingrid Newkirk, who rarely is at a loss for
words or shrinks from controversy.
is fielding queries because PETA is "seriously considering
litigation" against its attackers, although he declined to name the
or individuals PETA
recent months, PETA has come under attack for the following:
Making a $1,500 contribution to the extremist Earth Liberation Front, which has
been blamed for or taken credit for millions of dollars in
from vandalism and other destructive acts. PETA's critics have asked
the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the organization's tax-exempt
status because of the donation.
Assisting in the legal defense of several animal-rights activists
charged with or convicted of crimes.
Making statements critics say indicate the organization supports
illegal and subversive acts.
Hiring a national lecturer who served two months in prison for breaking into a Canadian mink farm and freeing 1,500 animals
saying he condones
arson at "places of animal torture" and would "unequivocally
support" the death of a researcher at a
critics include groups that profess support for the free-enterprise system and consumers' rights -- organizations
that PETA claims actually front for restaurants, logging interests,
animal-research labs, factory farms, food processors and the fur industry.
PETA also has critics on Capitol Hill.
February, a congressional subcommittee on domestic terrorism heard testimony in
which Richard Berman, executive vice president of an organization called the
Center for Consumer Freedom, suggested that
PETA had provided "philosophical and financial support" to
and asked when
the animal-rights group would be held accountable.
the hearing, an FBI official testified that "special-interest
extremism," including actions by animal-rights activists, has now become "the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat to
the country." James
head of the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Section, testified that the Earth
Liberation Front and its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front, had committed more than 600 criminal acts, causing
more than $43
million in damage,
since 1996. No deaths have been attributed to the actions, the FBI said.
group has compared PETA's funding of the ELF to support for al-Qaeda.
March 4, Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., who chaired the subcommittee,
wrote a letter to Newkirk, demanding that she elaborate on and explain
ties to the radical
animal-rights and environmental groups.
sent copies of the letter to the FBI and the IRS.
Penry, staff director of the subcommittee, said from
(PETA is) proud of the fact that they've given to ELF,"
Penry said. "They're either terribly naive or out-and-out
letter to Newkirk wound up on Kerr's desk.
12-page response to McInnis, Kerr assailed his critics as groups
bent on destroying animal and environmental activism and chided McInnis
for failing to disclose that he has received campaign contributions from PETA-hostile
a recent interview, Kerr said the committee hearing was "stacked" against PETA, which was not allowed to
testify. But Kerr was granted permission to submit written testimony on PETA's