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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)


Air Date: Week of

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Eco-terrorists struck especially hard in the West this summer, torching car dealerships and a construction site and bombing a biotechnology company. They caused more financial damage than in dozens of earlier attacks combined.


CURWOOD: In the last several weeks, environmental and animal rights militants, or eco-terrorists, have struck at least five times on the west coast, causing tens of millions of dollars in damages. Joining me with more detail is Ingrid Lobet of our Los Angeles bureau. Ingrid, tell us, what’s been happening?

LOBET: Well, in early August there was perhaps the largest eco-terror crime – that’s measured in dollars of damage – that we’ve ever had in the United States. Vandals torched a nearly finished five story apartment building and an underground parking garage in a fast-growing section of San Diego. They left a banner that read “you build it, we burn it.” And that arson caused 50 million dollars in damage. The Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, said it was their crime. And then two weeks later a related group, the Animal Liberation Front, or ALF, broke into an historic building where a restaurant was going to open. That was in Sonoma, California. They poured concrete down the sink and flooded the building and two adjacent businesses. They threatened the chef’s family. And the issue here was that the restaurant was apparently going to serve fois gras, which is duck or goose liver pate. And apparently the livers of the ducks or geese are often enlarged by forced feeding when you prepare that

CURWOOD: Rough business. What else is going on?

LOBET: Well then, in late August arsonists hit four car dealerships and several car owners east of Los Angeles. They destroyed 20 Hummers and damaged 50 other cars, SUVs, by painting them with slogans like “I heart pollution” and “lazy Americans.” It seems like the vehicles were all chosen for their low fuel efficiency, although one fire official did point out that the fires themselves released hundreds of tons of particulate pollutants into the air.

CURWOOD: What happened in Washington state?

LOBET: Then there was that case, also in late August. Animal liberation militants snuck into a mink farm in the rural town of Salton, Washington, and let out ten thousand minks. And they were then killed by traffic, and they also went on to eat people’s chickens and pet cats. And then, just as Labor Day weekend was beginning, two bombs exploded at the corporate offices of one of the country’s biggest biotech firms. That’s the Kiron Corporation. And here the gripe wasn’t even with Kiron, but a with a company Kiron contracts with for lab work, and it does animal testing, which as you know is required by the FDA before drugs can be used on humans. No one was hurt, but again the attack got pretty threatening personally, because they left a warning that said “you might be able to protect your premises, but can you protect all your employees’ homes?”

CURWOOD: So, what do the authorities and people who study these groups say is happening with these five incidents in such a short period of time?

LOBET: Some of them do see this as a ratcheting up of activity. In the biotech company attack, for example, they used bombs, explosives, instead of arson which is the more common tool for some of these groups. And then they also point to the extensive damage at the San Diego apartment arson, 50 million dollars. But, it’s also true that these groups have been increasingly active over time. They’re continually active.

CURWOOD: Ingrid Lobet heads the Living on Earth bureau in Los Angeles. Thank you, Ingrid.

LOBET: Thank you.



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