Today’s Seattle Times features a guest column written by our director of research, looking at how a recent act of animal rights terrorism may have been inspired by the movement’s recent convention in Northern Virginia. The “Animal Rights 2002” (AR2002) event featured a host of hateful seminars, including sessions devoted to “physical threats” and “intimidation,” as well as the nuts and bolts of how to handle “arson gone bad.” Organizers proudly screened videos depicting lawbreakers at work, and warmly welcomed speakers who have spent time behind bars for violent crimes.

One such miscreant is actually a fugitive from justice. Paul Watson, who runs the misleadingly-named Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, made over a half-dozen speeches at AR2002, despite his continued defiance of a warrant for his arrest in Costa Rica. Watson, whose own ship has a bow filled with cement (for ramming and sinking other boats), openly advocated the baseball-bat approach to conflict resolution, telling the audience: “The fact is that we live in an extremely violent culture, and we all justify violence if it’s for what we believe in.” In another session, ominously titled “Direct Tactics,” Watson advised the assembled activists that “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win.”

Other memorable moments from AR2002 included former Animal Liberation Front (ALF) “spokesperson” Kevin Jonas embracing the T-word (“Today’s terrorist is tomorrow’s freedom fighter”) and encouraging more activists to cross the line into lawbreaking: “Why should any one of us feel that ‘it shouldn’t be me taking that brick and chucking it through that window?’” he implored. “Why shouldn’t I be going to that fur farm down the road and opening up those cages? It’s not hard; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. You don’t need a 4-year degree to call in a bomb hoax.” Jonas (sometimes spelled “Kjonaas”) was profiled in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, defending his group and its violent actions. “I don’t feel any sympathy for people in England or America who have had their cars tipped or torched,” he offered, “because those cars were paid for out of blood money.”

Attending AR2002 as a representative of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a notorious PETA-funded animal rights front group, Sam Jacobs expressed open admiration for the violent thread running through the animal rights movement, announcing: “I thank ALF for what ALF is doing.” This is a disturbing statement coming from a medical professional (Jacobs is on the faculty of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University) who presumably took the Hippocratic Oath some years back.

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk reiterated her desire to see the U.S. beef industry crippled beyond repair, emphasizing that “yes, I do hope foot and mouth disease comes here.” Newkirk took special notice of the animal-welfare guidelines recently enacted by the Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants, but made it clear how her movement reacts to businesses that give the proverbial inch. “There is no hidden agenda,” she insisted during her keynote address. “If anybody wonders about — what’s this with all these reforms — you can hear us clearly. Our goal is total animal liberation.”