Activism or Terrorism? Examining the Tactics of Radical Animal Rights and Eco-Saboteur Groups

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Radical Animal Rights Groups Teacher's Notes

Activism or Terrorism?
Examining the Tactics of Radical Animal Rights and Eco-Saboteur Groups

Related New York Times Article" Radical Animal Rights Groups Step Up Protests", By SAM HOWE VERHOVEK, November 12, 2001

Elyse Fischer, The New York Times Learning Network
Javaid Khan, The Bank Street College of Education in New York City

Grades: 6-8, 9-12
Subjects: Geography, Language Arts, Social Studies

Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students research animal rights issues and controversies and determine whether they believe extreme tactics are justified. Students will then practice debate and rhetoric skills by successfully arguing both sides of the issue.
Suggested Time Allowance: 1 hour

1. Reflect upon whether they believe that violence is ever an acceptable mechanism for protest.
2. Explore the current tactics of radical animal rights protesters and eco-saboteurs through reading and discussing "Radical Animal Rights Groups Step Up Protests."
3. Examine legislation, public opinion and arguments about the rights of animals.
4. Synthesize their research and discussion in position papers, supporting or refuting the tactics of the radical animal rights activists and eco-saboteurs described in the article.

Resources / Materials:
-student journals
-classroom blackboard
-copies of "Radical Animal Rights Groups Step Up Protests" (one per student)
-research materials about animal rights issues and controversies (encyclopedias, library references, computers with Internet access)

Activities / Procedures:
1. WARM-UP/DO-NOW: Students respond to the following questions in their journals, written on the board prior to class: "Think about political protests, in which people voice or otherwise demonstrate their opinions about various current issues dealing with laws or policies. Is violence against property is ever justified in political protests? Is violence against people ever justified in political protests? Explain your responses." After several minutes, encourage students to share their answers.

2. As a class, read and discuss "Radical Animal Rights Groups Step Up Protests," focusing on the following questions:

a. To what incidents does the article refer when it begins "the incidents have not tailed off, even since Sept. 11"?
b. According to the article, how have many mainstream protest groups reacted to the events of September 11, 2001? How have radical animal rights groups reacted?
c. Why are state and federal law enforcement officials frustrated and angered by the most recent attacks of sabotage described in the article?
d. What kind of defense, if any, have the animal rights activists responsible for these acts given?
e. Who has taken responsibility for the break-ins and release of animals on Iowa farms? What does it mean to take responsibility for such acts?
f. According to the Animal Liberation Front, when will such attacks stop?
g. How did the animal liberation group rationalize the death of released animals by cars or predators?
h. Since September 11, for how many acts have the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility?
i. What role does the Internet play for radical animal rights proponents or "eco-saboteurs"?
j. Why was Michigan Technological University possibly targeted by "eco-saboteurs"?
k. Have there been any injuries to people in any of the "animal liberation" or eco-terrorism acts?
l. What was the reason given by the Animal Liberation Front for the firebombing of a Federal Bureau of Land Management corral near Susanville, California? What happened to the corralled horses?
m. How much damage did the firebombing of the corral do?
n. What is one example of a public animal rights protest given in the article?

3. Divide students into six equal groups, each focusing on one of the following questions about animal rights issues and controversies (Questions should be posted on the board for easier student access):

--What organizations are the "key players" in the world of radical animal rights activists? How do they recruit and retain members?
--What organizations are the "key players" in the world of "eco-saboteurs"? How do they recruit and retain members?
--What sort of research is done on animals, and for what products and services is this research conducted?
--What are the key arguments for and against animal research?
--What government regulations exist that pertain to the care and treatment of the following classes of animals: endangered or threatened animals living in the wild, animals raised in captivity for food or products, animals raised in captivity for research, animals raised in captivity for service or entertainment and domesticated animals?
--Is there a "hierarchy of animals" in the government protection and regulation of animal testing and research, and if so, what is it?

After approximately 15-20 minutes, have students in each of the groups number off (one through four or five, depending on the number of students) and regroup with members from other groups with the same number (so that all "ones" form a new group, all "two's" form a new group, etc.) Each student should then present his or her research to the group, allowing students to ask questions for clarification.

4. HOMEWORK/WRAP-UP: Synthesizing all of the information explored in class, each student writes a position paper in support of or opposed to the tactics of the radical animal rights activists and eco-saboteurs described in the article. At a later date, teachers may choose to have the class debate the subject. Alternately, before leaving class, students might write down their opinion on the issue and then focus their papers on supporting the opposing opinion.

Further Questions for Discussion:
--What is terrorism?
--Are radical animal rights activists terrorists? Why or why not?
--Should animals be afforded the same rights to life and liberty as American citizens?
--Do you feel that groups like the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front have the right to speak "in the name of all that is wild"? Why or why not?

Evaluation / Assessment:
Students will be evaluated based on initial journal response, thoughtful discussion in class and small group research, and well-written position papers.s

incident, corral, primate, loose-knit, sabotage, escalate, liberator, prey, impinged, espouse, genetic, manipulation, perpetrator, anonymous

Extension Activities:
1. Brainstorm a list of domestic or international issues or causes about which you feel strongly. Choose one issue or cause, and write a position paper or persuasive essay espousing your feelings. When you are finished, proofread and mount your paper. Then, write a position paper or persuasive essay countering each argument that you made in your original paper. Mount this next to your original essay.

2. Interview members of your class, family, friends and acquaintances about the definition of terrorism. After your interviews, define terrorism. Decide whether terror is ever an acceptable weapon. Determine whether terrorism and violent acts of protest are synonymous. Create a poster or visual display that includes your definition of terrorism, survey responses and your analyses.

3. Does the continuation of animal rights protests signal that life is back to "normal" after the attacks of September 11? Write an essay about what defines a "normal" day for you and what has changed since the attacks on September 11, 2001.

4. Research companies that market themselves as "cruelty-free." How do these companies avoid testing on animals? Write a profile of one such company. Conversely, profile a company that does test on animals. What is its rationale for animal testing?

5. Create an illustrated timeline that traces the evolution of animal rights or ecological activism. When have protests turn violent, if ever? What groups have similar goals but different tactics?

6. Research the regulations concerning the care and treatment of animals in your community. Include research animals, domestic animals and wild animals. Create a public information packet that educates the public about the protection of animals (and the public) in your community.

Interdisciplinary Connections:
American History- Research symbolic animals in American history. How did the donkey, the elephant, and the bald eagle become symbols of the country? What other animal symbols are present in American history? Make a chart or poster of animal symbols in American history. How does this reflect the prominence of animals in American history and culture?

Fine Arts- Create a political cartoon that expresses your feelings about animal rights issues.

Science- Research one endangered plant or animal species and create an action plan for its protection.

Technology- Both the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front use the Internet to espouse their philosophies. Critically analyze their sites. Be sure to focus on the following in your analysis: Authority - What is the authority of the author, and where did he or she come by the information? Bias - What is the bias of the author or site, and how is it reflected in the site? Timeliness - How current is the site? Is it using current or outdated information? If it is using old information, how might things have changed since it was last updated? Be prepared to report upon your findings to your classmates.

Other Information on the Web
The Animal Liberation Frontline Information Service ( aims "to provide an uncensored clearing house for information and news about animal liberation activities and activists."
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

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