Animal activists still a top threat

Games security focus broadened after Sept. 11

By Jerry Spangler
Deseret News staff writer

Published: Monday, Nov. 19 2001 1:40 p.m. MST

The cooperative has toughened its security, installed better lighting and hired guards. It no longer lists its phone number under its business name.

Other companies that process and package meats have also beefed up security.

Wallentine said law enforcement officials have pleaded with skittish farmers and ranchers not to resort to packing loaded weapons. But that is easier said than done when farmers and ranchers hear almost weekly reports of attacks somewhere in the nation by animal-rights activists on livestock auction houses, feedlots and other businesses that buy their produce.

Since Sept. 11, there have been a firebombing at a federal corral for wild horses in northeastern California, a fire at a primate research center in New Mexico and back-to-back break-ins in Iowa, one at a fur farm to release more than 1,000 mink, the other to free pigeons raised for research.

Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Portland, which is looking into the incidents, told the New York Times. "This is a horrible time in the nation's history, and to be adding to that with your own brand of violence just goes beyond the pale."

The ALF attacks have Utah's agribusiness on edge.

"The perception is we have a lot of enemies out there, and we have for some time," Wallentine said.

Olympic spotlight

But attacks on Utah's family farms and ranches during the Winter Games wouldn't generate much publicity — certainly not the kind of publicity animal-rights activists are seeking.

With 10,000 or so reporters in Salt Lake City to cover the Games, it may be an irresistible political forum for activists. Recently, PETA enlisted the support of famed figure skater Scott Hamilton to demand that SLOC cancel a professional rodeo scheduled as a cultural event during the Olympics.

The request fell on deaf ears.

Diener said UARC will also use the Games as a political platform to draw attention to animal rights, but he insisted it will be nonviolent.

"All of our actions are done keeping in mind we need to respect the rights of others," he said. "But humans are animals, as well, and as animal-rights activists we believe in the rights of humans so long as they do not infringe on the rights of other creatures."

Sabrina promised that activists of all kinds will be converging on the Games, including those advocating native sovereignty, Tibetans opposed to China's control of their nation, environmentalists, anti-globalization protesters and "anarchist/class warriors of all sorts."

Should law enforcement be concerned? "Anywhere you have a gathering of thousands of overzealous cops and thousands of protesters, you are going to have conflict," Sabrina said, adding that incidents in Seattle and Switzerland escalated out of control only because of provocations by police.

Tight-lipped security officials have been watching and preparing for the worst. Long before the events of Sept. 11 added to the urgency, Utah anti-terrorism officers were combing through "worst case" and "most likely case" scenarios.

And yes, Wooldridge said, animal-rights terrorism is part of security preparations, just like every other possible form of terrorism.

"We look at terrorism as one package, whether it be domestic or international, state-sponsored or rogue individuals," he said.

In the case of animal-rights terrorism, "we know what their behavior has been in the past." And as counterterrorism experts, it is their job to consider all possibilities.

"Everybody had a wake-up call on Sept. 11," Wooldridge said. "But we were already awake."


E-mail: spang@desnews.com

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