[Broward New Times]
For an animal rights activist who once mounted the Oscar Meyer
Wienermobile, Nicolas Atwood is feeling awfully shy these days.
A decade ago, a Miami-Dade police officer had to escort a screaming
Atwood off the giant hot dog by sliding him down the fiberglass frank.
"Meat is murder!" said Atwood, then 24 and wearing a pink pig mask.
Maybe he's so bashful now because he can't control his most recent
media exposure: The New York Stock Exchange is suing Atwood.
As part of a years-long campaign to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences
Inc., an international animal-testing contract company, animal rights
activists have been targeting its clients, employees, and financial
backers. The NYSE is on their list because Huntingdon shares are
bought and sold on its online trading board, NYSE Arca. Exchange
spokesman Rich Adamonis declined to comment on the lawsuit, as did
Huntingdon's U.S. representative.
"This isn't about me," Atwood says. "It's about the movement."
Atwood runs a print and online magazine, Bite Back, that chronicles
nearly everything activists are doing worldwide to fight for the
rights of animals. Anytime someone spray-paints the windows of a Paris
shop that sells foie gras or sets fire to a meat factory in Germany or
rescues a guinea pig in Russia, Atwood posts it at
www.directaction.info. In accompanying pictures, ALF is almost always
seen spray-painted on a window or the street -- that's short for the
Animal Liberation Front, which aims to shut down businesses that harm
animals. ALF says it's a nonviolent organization, although it endorses
property destruction as well as breaking into facilities to rescue
monkeys, mice, cats, dogs, or any other living creatures. Its ongoing
"Operation Bite Back" was begun to combat fur research facilities and
animal feed suppliers.
He's just a member of the media, Atwood says as he sits down at a
rusting metal table in the backyard of the downtown West Palm Beach
house he shares with his wife and dog, at 726 Palm St. He deserves the
same protection as the mainstream media, he says, which routinely
publishes personal information, including home addresses, about news
subjects. Atwood has an unlisted phone number, because, he says, he
wants to maintain his privacy. His address, however, is a matter of
public record with the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser.
Just a few years before he trekked to the top of the hot dog, while a
student at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, Atwood became a
vegan. Still, he says, he didn't leap into activism.
"Some people have the light-bulb moments. I just kind of had a growing
awareness. I always had a sensitivity to animal issues. It just spoke
to me emotionally."
Last year, the Sunday Times in London branded Atwood the "mastermind"
behind planned violent action against Oxford University staff and
students. According to the Times, Atwood posted the names and, in some
cases, the home addresses of 40 people who were participating in
medical research, calling them "legitimate targets" and urging other
activists to set fires, commit burglary, or vandalize the targets'
Atwood says now that there are no masterminds in the animal rights
movement. ALF says its members operate autonomously.