Are They Arsonists? Dr. ALF Can’t Decide

It’s hard not to be a bit confused by the most recent animal-rights rhetoric from former Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine spokesman Dr. Jerry Vlasak. Shortly after Friday’s announcement of eleven landmark federal indictments against suspected Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) arsonists, Vlasak told The New York Times that none of the defendants had anything to do with burning buildings down, adding that “they will be exonerated.” Just hours later, he assured the Associated Press that the defendants “are people who’ve decided to risk their freedom and even their lives, in some cases,” to bring public attention to their extreme ideologies.

Which is it? Are these activists a bunch of committed restaurant, research lab, and SUV-dealership arsonists or just innocent bystanders? Vlasak seems to want it both ways. He told the Associated Press that raising animals for meat and fur “should be stopped by any means necessary. If that means going onto their farms, releasing their animals and burning the place to the ground, that’s morally justifiable.” From the other side of his face, Vlasak stated in a press release that Friday’s indictments were the product of an “FBI environmental witch hunt,” claiming that a key witness is “disreputable, and a know[n] heroin user.”

In a separate interview, Vlasak insisted that the eleven indicted activists “are above ground, well known environmental and animal activists who have little or no ties to the underground animal liberation movement.” On his website, however, Vlasak claims: “Animal liberation press officers” (of which he is one) “do not engage in illegal activities, nor do they know any individuals who do.” If he doesn’t know who the real eco-terrorists are, how can Vlasak be so sure that their number doesn’t include any of these eleven?

The community of fringe activists rising up to support the defendants are already trying to paint a picture of benign, benevolent, misunderstood bunny-lovers and tree-huggers. Click here, here, here, and here for examples. For a less rose-tinted view of the defendants and the crimes they allegedly committed, read the transcript of Friday’s FBI’s press conference, or — for the bold — download the 65-count, 83-page indictment.

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