Feb. 7, 2006
The young man on the other end of the line will sound nice enough. He will be polite, but firm. He will give his name as Kevin Kjonaas, and he will want to talk about a company called Life Sciences Research, also known as Huntingdon Life Sciences. You may never have heard of Huntingdon, he will say, but you do business with them in some way. Maybe you are a senior executive for Huntingdon's insurance company. Maybe you work for its bank. Maybe you trade its stock.
The young man will tell you that Huntingdon kills puppies, among other animals -- 500 of them every day. "Do you know what sort of company you're dealing with?" he will ask. He will offer to send you some literature and videotapes documenting Huntingdon's cruelty. He will tell you to stop dealing with Huntingdon.
Stephan Boruchin, a 61-year-old NASDAQ trader based in Edmond, Okla., got the call in June 2002. It was the last ordinary day of his life.
Boruchin, who likes to be called Skip, trades in about 180 stocks through his firm Legacy Trading, and he didn't know too much about Huntingdon. He didn't think much of the call -- everyone's entitled to an opinion. He didn't heed the young man's advice. He doesn't remember which incident came first, and when he recounts his next three years the story tumbles out in a jumble of violence, exasperation and fear. There was the hammer hurled through his office window one night, followed by a military smoke bomb. There was the firebomb placed in the same office, which failed to detonate. There was the call to his 90-year-old mother, who passed away last year, at her nursing home at 2 a.m., demanding his cellphone number. (The caller insisted it was an emergency.) There was the time, back when his mother was still alive, that someone called an undertaker to come pick up her body. There were the things she started receiving in the mail: subscriptions to pornographic magazines, various sex toys, an envelope filled with white powder. There were the letters -- 19 of them -- warning his neighbors that he would trade in child pornography if it were legal and urging them to run him out of town. There was the night they splashed red paint all over his brother-in-law's home in Nebraska. There were the solid black sheets of paper sent to his fax machine, jamming it for hours at a time. There were the phone calls -- "Fucking puppy killer! [click]" -- 2,000 of them in a row on bad days.
Worst, perhaps, was the night they wrote "Skip is a murderer" in red paint all over Boruchin's home as he and his wife slept. The paint didn't bother him; that was easy enough to clean up. It was that they'd cut his phone lines. Just to let him know they could.
They are adherents of SHAC -- Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty -- and they are the new, balaclava-clad face of animal rights activism. Unlike People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or any number of other advocacy groups that use letter-writing campaigns or celebrity endorsements to oppose fur farms and city pounds, SHAC has a sole reason to exist: to put Huntingdon, a lab that earns about $157 million each year testing pharmaceuticals and other substances on animals, out of business. They do more than hold signs and chant rhyming slogans outside corporate headquarters. SHAC's supporters pursue their goal ferociously, relentlessly and often violently. They find out where the executives live. They go to their homes. They beat them with ax handles or pour paint stripper on their cars. And then they post taunting accounts on their Web site, which has a sophisticated design and an often wickedly funny tabloid sensibility. They are young, articulate and angry, and they take glee in hurting and frightening Huntingdon's employees and investors -- and anyone who does business with them.
Last week, the animal liberation magazine Bite Back published an open letter from two anonymous SHAC supporters to Brian Guenard, an executive at Columbia Asset Management, a firm that SHAC says invests in Huntingdon. It reads in part: "We have 'bumped into you' at Genuardi's and watched you in and out of CVS -- but I guess you didn't notice [sic]. We followed when you took your little brat to the Gymboree and then to Chuck E Cheese's. We know you take that little brat to the doctor at Buckingham Pediatrics, and we made sure that they were sent information about HLS and how you and your husband make money off of animal cruelty." Bank of America, Columbia's parent company, has sought an injunction against SHAC.
SHAC's modus operandi is simple, elegant and shockingly effective: Publish the names, home addresses and telephone numbers of executives and employees of Huntingdon and any companies it does business with; identify these individuals as "targets"; urge people to let targets know how they feel about Huntingdon's treatment of puppies; and, of course, add a disclaimer disavowing illegal activity of any sort.
The article continues here. I don't think there are words harsh enough to describe this sort of shit and frankly, the proper response is probaly to explode these people's heads with a shotgun round. God knows if I had these wankers on my case, the first thing I'd do is go out and buy myself a night vision scope and some ammo.
Now, I knew that this sort of hippie domestic terrorism had been growing with ELF running amok burning down car dealerships and governmental buildings, but I didn't think that it had gone beyond property damage. To know that these stupid wankers are now going around threatening and actually attacking people is unbelievable. Even more so when you consider that they're targeting those only tangentially associated with the company in question. Not that it would be defensible anyway, but this just raises the bar into new realms of assholery.
In the article it goes on to say that around a half dozen of these schmucks have been rounded up by the FBI and will go on trial for criminal conspiracy. Already they're making the arguement that their site actually diavows violence (ya, fucking right) and that they knew nothing about what has been done in their organization's name. I wonder if there's anyone who believes that crock of shit. I only hope that the jury will recognize this sort of domestic terrorism to be every bit as noxious as what we're more used to seeing abroad. It's people using violence and the threat of violence in order to advance an extremist agenda.