USA Today has published two letters regarding an op-ed by the Center for Consumer Freedom’s Executive Director, Richard Berman. The first, penned by a professor of pharmacology and neuroscience, provides even more support for our position:

Medical researchers spend millions of dollars protecting their animals from these extremists, money that might otherwise be directed to finding cures for diseases. Promising young scientists are turning away from medical-research careers to avoid the prospect of harassment and death threats to themselves or their children from these extremists. The training of veterinarians is being compromised by animal rightists who oppose the use of animals in veterinary curricula.

Until society recognizes that the illogic of animal rightism requires lies, violent threats and terrorism to sustain its message, we will continue to suffer from this aberrant philosophy.

The second letter, titled “Animal rightists misunderstood,” argues that peaceful vegetarians are the real voice of animal advocacy, and that Berman “selectively” quoted “a vocal minority of misanthropes.” If only that were so.

Berman quotes only two such “misanthropes”: Kevin Jonas, the leader of the violent group SHAC, and Ingrid Newkirk, the president and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Jonas is scheduled to speak at the Animal Rights 2003 convention — marking his recent validation by the wider animal rights movement. And SHAC has arguably been more effective than any other animal rights organization in recent memory, having terrified into submission major financial institutions like The Royal Bank of Scotland, Citibank, CSFB, HSBC, Deloitte and Touche, and Barclays.

Like it or not, PETA and SHAC are the voices of today’s animal rights movement. If “mainstream” animal rights zealots consider these two groups a “minority of misanthropes,” they should try to marginalize them. Disinviting Jonas from the movement’s biggest event would be a good start.

Until then, Berman’s thesis holds true: “The animal rights movement has gone from cute and cuddly — think baby seals — to callous and cutthroat.”