Animal-rights fanatics have become increasingly adept at media spin. Nowadays, if given a platform by the press, they frame their “animal liberation” activities as compassionate as well as protected by the right to free speech.

Witness the coverage of the movement’s latest martyr, Adam Durand. A native of Rochester, New York, Durand was recently sentenced to six months in prison and fined $1,500 for trespassing on a New York egg farm. One of Durand’s lawyers called the penalties “excessive,” and found it “troubling” that the judge considered Durand’s “words and speech” when sentencing. A fellow activist complained that “this is a sentence that doesn’t really fit the crime.” He went on to say, “It’s outrageous that they would give him six months. Adam should be applauded, not sent to jail for this.

Fortunately, Judge Dennis Kehoe saw through the rhetoric and pegged Durand for what he really is: a self-appointed arbiter of the law. As the judge told the new convict, “[s]ociety rejected vigilantism many years ago, and I believe we should not return there anytime soon.” He rightly scolded Durand for his “arrogant and self-righteous statements of justification,” noting that he had “demonstrated by word and action [his] obvious disdain for [his] victim and the laws of the state of New York.” Kehoe went on to defend the especially strict sentence given to Durand:

I have always believed that criminal consequences should be more severe for those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and who continue to benefit from their criminal behavior.

Like most efforts to curb animal-rights fanaticism, this case is not about free speech. Properly disciplining low-level criminals like Durand sends a strong message to the animal-rights community that unlawful activities will not go unnoticed or unpunished. Given the recent capitulation of the New York Stock Exchange to the anti-animal research (that is, anti-medical advancement) Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, these illegal tactics do work … if they go unpunished.