Animal activists still a top threat

Games security focus broadened after Sept. 11

By Jerry Spangler
Deseret News staff writer

Published: Sunday, Nov. 18 2001 12:00 a.m. MST

Sabrina also insists that property destruction is not violent because property is not alive. "When you set fire to a fur shop, it does not cry out in anguish," she said. "But when you skin a stunned mink while she is still alive, she screams and writhes in pain. That is real terrorism."

Is it illegal? Yes, she said, but only because current laws are immoral.

The Burntheolympics Web site and correspondence with the Deseret News are emphatic. UARC is not involved in property destruction, "whereas Burntheolympics supports property destruction," she said.

Utah law officers are careful not to directly accuse UARC of involvement in alleged ALF attacks. But one member of law enforcement said the high-profile group is to the Utah ALF activists what Sinn Fein is to the violent Irish Republican Army — the legitimate political front for an organization that engages in terror.

Diener dismisses the comparison as nonsense.

Vague membership

Law enforcement has struggled to crack animal terrorism cases because ALF membership is so nebulous. Anyone can claim membership while engaged in actions supported by ALF, but there are no membership rolls or dues or meetings — just a Web site telling would-be activists in exacting detail how to go about inflicting maximum damage on certain targets.

Most recently in Utah, ALF claimed responsibility for vandalism at the Bed, Bath and Beyond store in Salt Lake City. Twenty-eight plate glass windows were smashed, and ALF graffiti was sprayed on the walls.

The store's "crime" was doing business with an investment company that also did business with an unrelated company accused of conducting shoddy scientific experiments on animals.

For years, farmers and ranchers have become increasingly worried by the brazen ALF attacks. And the problem, they say, is getting worse across the country.

"The perception we have and what we are telling our people is they have to be concerned about their personal safety, as well as for their animals and fences and buildings," said C. Booth Wallentine, president of the Utah Farm Bureau.

Wallentine said most of the ALF terrorist actions have been directed at agricultural businesses — meat-packing plants, egg producers and mink farms — close to populated areas along the Wasatch Front.

But there is growing concern the ALF actions will extend to dairy farms, feed lots and even family farms in rural Utah. The Farm Bureau recently issued a a 17-step outline to help members maintain security at their farms and ranches.

National organizations like the Farm Bureau are wholeheartedly endorsing legislation proposed by Rep. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, that calls for spending $1.1 billion next year and $271 million each year thereafter for 10 years, all for research, training and security at the nation's agricultural research facilities.

Roberts' bill is clearly directed at threats that foreign terrorists could infect America's food supply, but the funding would also go to deter domestic terrorism at research facilities.

Favorite targets

Over the past decade, Utah mink producers — and those elsewhere across the nation — have been a favorite ALF target. In fact, the ALF deems the slaughter of animals for their fur a particularly egregious sin.

In Utah, a producer cooperative was bombed, causing about $1 million in damage, and attacks at several ranches resulted in the destruction of buildings, fences and breeding information, as well as the release of thousands of mink.

Chris Falco, general manager of the Fur Breeders Agricultural Cooperative, said things have been fairly quiet, with the exception of continued bomb threats, since the arrest of six activists several years ago. But mink farmers are still concerned.

"We've heard a lot of information that the animal-rights groups are trying to recruit more people" to carry on the attacks, Falco said.

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