Letters [November 1992]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1992:

Corrections & Clarifications
We’ve always admired The New York Times for publishing a daily “Corrections”
column; most papers publish corrections only when threatened with a libel suit, from fear
that if they admit to making even one mistake, readers won’t trust anything else they print.
We don’t share that fear. When one handles a vast amount of material in a short period of
time, there will be mistakes, and we think the most accurate paper is the one that straightens
them out the most promptly.

I was appalled to see the article stat-
ing “the weekly protests outside the Defenders
of Animal Rights shelter were coordinated by
the Animal Welfare League of Greater
Baltimore. This is an outright falsehood. I
was on vacation in Rehobeth when this story
broke and only knew about it when I arrived
home and was notified by a television station
that this incident was taking place. The for-
mer shelter employees and volunteers were the
ones who initiated this…I sent you copies of
the newspaper article (about the protests) only
because you had listed them in your annual
report on animal protection group budgets and
salaries as an organization who had question-
able spending practices.
––Elizabeth Kirk, President, the
Animal Welfare League of Greater Balitmore.
We apologize to Kirk. In all fair
ness, though, we had some help messing this
up, as not one but two unauthorized persons
called to inform us about the protests, identi
fying themselves as representatives of the
Animal Welfare League of Greater Balitmore.
We subsequently dropped a card to Kirk, after
she sent us the newspaper account, wondering
why she had her staff calling us about that but
not about the Animal Welfare League’s newly
opened board-and-care home for elderly peo
ple with pets. Because Kirk hadn’t had her
staff calling us, she didn’t know what we were
talking about, and didn’t get back to us until
after the item––based on reliable information
so far as we knew––was already in print.
In the article “No time for monkey-
business at Primarily Primates,” I was identi-
fied as representing Primarily Primates, but
“of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.” I rep
resent Primarily Primates in my personal
capacity alone and not as a representative of
ALDF. ALDF has no involvement with this
––Steven M. Wise, Boston, Mass.
In “Why They Can Hunt On Your Land,” we
identified Dan Namowitz and Lorraine
Tedeschi as cofounders of the Non-Hunters
Rights Alliance. In fact, Namowitz founded
the organization, which Tedeschi presently
heads. Namowitz disputes Tedeschi’s leader
ship. Apparently Namowitz believes the
NHRA should be essentially an ad hoc com
mittee of property owners, while Tedeschi
favors a more animal rights oriented
On our October editorial page we stated that
of the major national animal protection
groups, only Friends of Animals has under
written low-cost spaying and neutering. While
this is true at the national level, the New York
office of the Fund for Animals underwrote
some low-cost spaying and neutering locally
circa 1990, and other regional offices may
have had similar limited programs in the past.
Betsy Swart, Washington D.C. office
director for Friends of Animals, was iden
tified in the October issue as the third mem
ber of the PETA board, along with
cofounders Ingrid Newkirk and Alex
Pacheco. However, according to FoA
president Priscilla Feral, she had quietly
resigned some months earlier. Swart her
self was unavailable for comment, while
PETA declined to identify her successor.
Hegins Pigeon Shoot Protest Revisited
I’m writing to help shed some light
on the alleged activities and demeanor of
Heidi Prescott. I know Heidi well, have
worked with her a lot over the past two years,
and I admire her tremendously. That’s why I
believe her if she claims she can’t remember
something, particularly following her
marathon ordeal of organizing the Fund for
Animals conference in Harrisburg, running it
for two days, then going on to Hegins and
being arrested. I’m very familiar with the shed
that contained the pigeons (that some activists
believe should have been the target of a quick,
quiet attempted pigeon rescue–ed. note.) I t
was neither remote nor was it out of the way of
the camera crews. In fact, it sits right at the
pay entrance to the park, just before the south
shooting field.
Many people throughout the day had
the notion to rush the building. In fact, at one
point I myself was approached to locate the
“black berets,” to get them to play a part in the
attempted rescue. I failed to locate them for
45 minutes, at which time the party who origi-
nally approached me had already committed
herself to another civil disobedience action.
Though I don’t claim to be privy to
all that was intended by our side that day, I
can reasonably say that it was never Heidi’s
duty to encourage, discourage, or direct
CD––only her own…
As you know, we reluctantly took
the calculated risk of building for a huge
demonstration knowing it would add to the
bad guys’ coffers. The calculation holds that
for them it’s a short-term gain, long-term loss
(at least we hope). I certainly don’t mind
activists questioning the soundness or effects
of an adopted strategy. What I do mind is the
naivete of those who never stop to think we
knew that before we put out our first call.
––Joe Taksel, Mobilization for
Whatever your personal agenda is,
please solve it without using the movement,
the Fund, or me as a tool. Your use of PETA
or the Fund’s involvement in the Hegins
protest was not to complement the fact that
everyone was pulling together or to acknowl-
edge the hundreds of organizational hours that
we put into it…No, you tried to find petty,
negative things to pick at. What possible good
can come from the little backbiting stabs you
made at PETA, the Fund, Wayne Pacelle
(Fund national director) and me?
––Heidi Prescott, Fund for Animals.
It is not “a fact” that “everyone was
pulling together” to stop the shoot. As
Marjorie Spiegel pointed out in her guest col
umn, widely divergent tactics were used that
seemed to have the effect of cancelling each
other out. As we observed, many protesters
questioned the tactics and motivations of
PETA and the Fund for Animals, It is a fact
that because of increased shoot enrollment,
more pigeons are shot now than ever before.
I have just received my first copy of
ANIMAL PEOPLE and I must admit to being
somewhat taken aback. Although you folks
are clearly doing more than your share of valu-
able animal work, what struck me is the devo-
tion with which you seem to be pursuing a
grudge against other animal groups.
It seems like you guys hate PETA
and the Fund for Animals more than you
despise the whole conglomerate of animal
abusers. I understand the right to criticize,
and that’s fine, more than fine; it’s necessary.
But there is a thin line between that and axe-
––Vicki Miller, Mt. Albert, Ontario.
Miller, with PETA help, led a
takeover of the Toronto Humane Society in the
mid-1980s. Her innovative programs were
scrapped when the old guard regained control.
Disaster Preparedness
I want to thank you for your article on Huricane Andrew. It gave us a lot of useful
information concerning animals during and after the disaster. Our department has been involved
with disaster planning for many years, but with each new disaster comes many new lessons
We have put together a booklet on disaster preparedness for pet owners in hopes that it
will help educate the public. Enclosed is a copy of the booklet for your information. Should you
have comments or questions, please contact me at 213-893-8453; fax 213-893-8406; or write
to me at my office. Again, thank you for all your help.
––Frederic B. Michael, Emergency Operations Coordinator, Dept. of Animal
Regulation, Room 1400, 419 South Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013.
The L.A. disaster preparedness manual is a model for the manuals all communities
should have. Send for a copy and study up.
Spay/Neuter Success
Congratulations! I want to thank
you for carrying on the tradition of excellence
in reporting on an incredibly wide array of ani-
mal issues. I shared ANIMAL PEOPLE with
several friends. They, too, were pleased with
the varied contents, the integrity, and the
importance of the articles.
There are many wars that must be
fought on behalf of animals. The battle to end
the incredible suffering caused by the tragic
animal overpopulation can be won. We at the
Houston Humane Society work with compan-
ion animals and are especially grateful for
your no-nonsense approach to sterilization and
care for cats and dogs. I am proud to share
that we are still in the trenches, and have
altered more than 4,200 during the first nine
months of this year! We offer $10 spays and
neuters to the general public at our clinic. We
are currently offering free spays and neuters
during the month of October to dogs of finan-
cially disadvantaged persons, thanks to a grant
from the AstroWorld Series of DogShows.
With continued help and support, we will con-
tinue our fight to stop the needless suffering of
thousands more cats and dogs.
––Sherry Ferguson, Executive
Director, Houston Humane Society.
We intend to profile the Houston
Humane Society, which we’ve visited and
found outstanding in every aspect, at our first
What’s in a name?
I was much taken by your statement, “In the first place, the struggle is not about
rights so much as it is about responsibility.” (“For leadership, look in the mirror,” editorial,
October 1992.) This reminds me of a feeling I’ve long had, namely that one of the major
difficulties facing the animal rights movement can be found in its very name: Animal
Rights. The problem lies with the use of the word r i g h t s…With all due respect to Tom
Regan and other philosophers within the movement, I believe that most animal rights advo-
cates are motivated more by the belief that animals should not be treated cruelly than they
are by the belief that animals have certain intrinsic rights which should be respected by
humans… We must drop the word rights and substitute a more fitting word, perhaps libera
tion. After all, wouldn’t we rather see animals liberated from the pain of factory farms and
labs, etcetera, than see new laws passed acknowledging that animals have certain rights?
Obviously it will be difficult to get the entire movement to change the words by
which it refers to itself. But this letter is my attempt at starting this endeavor. I will refer to
myself as an animal advocate, o r animal liberationist, o r animal activist. If somebody
suggests a more clever or fitting label, then I’ll adopt it. I will say that I am a member of
the animal liberation movement, and that I believe animals should be treated with compas-
sion and liberated from their current state of slavery to humans. For when it gets right down
to it, it is slavery we are opposing––the subjugation of the weak by the strong.
––Michael Gurwitz, Washington D.C.
Well-put. However, as one of our editorials explains, we believe the movement
phase of our cause has either ended or ought to, so that having any name is no longer
important. It is also possible that the phrase animal rights brings adverse response from
some simply because whenever rights are mentioned, one thinks of wrongs, too, and no
one likes to feel accused of wrongdoing. There is, finally, a lesson to be learned from the
civil rights movement. Civil rights activists struggled in the 1940s and 1950s to replace the
word “nigger” with “Negro”; in the 1960s to replace “Negro” with “black”; and in the
past two decades, many have tried to replace “black” with “Afro-American,” each time
hoping the redefinition would advance social justice. The effort may have helped a little,
but it is noteworthy that the success of the name-changing has been much more apparent
than the achievement of equal rights and opportunity. The relative absence of overtly racist
language in public life today serves in part to mask racist attitudes that unfortunately per
I am conducting research on people who can telepathically communicate with ani-
mals. I want to explore the messages and lessons we can learn from animals, at the same
time supporting the concept there’s a oneness we all share…Is it possible that you or others
at your organization might know people who have this ability or have heard of such inci-
dents? If so, I would like to invite them to participate in my research and possibly be
included in my book.
––Gayle Shaw, 16984 Catalina Way, Redding, CA 96003.
Primarily Primates
Neither PETA nor the Fund for
Animals nor any other group had any involve-
ment in my decision to ask a few individuals to
approach Wally Swett to make a structural
change at Primarily Primates. Rather, my
decision was based on the statements of 17 for-
mer employees, volunteers and other eyewit-
nesses––10 of whom were willing to issue
detailed written statements or interviews…All
but four of these individuals had worked at
Primarily Primates in the past two years, and
their combined experience at this sanctuary
alone exceeds 25 years. Your article insinuates
that I am dealing with “moles” who only
worked there a week or two.
Contrary to your allegations, I never
sought publicity…or tried to cut off funding to
Primarily Primates. I did, however, caution
that I could neither predict nor guarantee how
long the other individuals would wait before
taking further action of their own.
Wally could have shown some good
faith by quickly a) allowing an inspection by a
qualified person designated by the Association
of Sanctuaries, a group from which he
resigned in the spring of 1992, b) forming a
special advisory committee to review the man-
agement structure of Primarily Primates, and
c) reinstating the volunteer program, invalu-
able for keeping cages cleaned and widely
used by other sanctuaries. Instead, four
months have passed and none of the above
have occurred.
Whereas Wally asserted that, “We’re
inspected by the USDA, U.S. Dept. of Fish
and Wildlife, the San Antonio Metropolitan
Health District, and Texas Parks and Wildlife,
all of these agencies when contacted countered
that this is not the case. U.S. Fish and Wildlife
did send an agent to Primarily Primates in
January of this year, but he confirmed that he
only looked at one endangered species and did
not inspect the sanctuary.
You wrongly asserted that Belton
Mouras of United Animal Nations found the
allegations “unsubstantiated,” and yet you
never contacted him. In fact, Mouras found
the evidence compelling, the volunteers credi-
ble, and he urged the Primarily Primates board
to take the above mentioned actions immedi-
No one involved in this…is motivat-
ed by a personal or political agenda….if you
had spoken to any of us before writing your
story, it would have been clear that we are
simply people who care about animals.
––John Holrah, Voice for Animals,
San Antonio, Texas.
Holrah’s letter was extensively edited
to avoid libel. ANIMAL PEOPLE began
probing Holrah’s allegations against Primarily
Primates upon receiving a 79-page collection
of letters from former staff and volunteers that
he had already sent to several of Primarily
Primates’ funding sources. Although the num
ber of complainants and their cumulative years
of service sound superficially impressive, it
was quickly evident that after subtracting the
service time of one individual who was fired
for serious cause, the remaining people had
been involved with the sanctuary for an aver
age of barely more than a year––and at that,
many had been involved for only a few hours a
week. It was further evident that the dossier
was unsupported by inspection documents
from any source: not from Texas Parks and
Wildlife, from which Swett obtained a scientif
ic rehabilitator’s permit in 1984; not from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has
jurisdiction over virtually every animal at the
sanctuary, since almost all are either threat
ened or endangered species; and not from the
USDA, with which Swett files reports in com
pliance with the Animal Welfare Act whenever
he receives an animal from a licensed breeder,
exhibitor, or researcher. These agencies tend
to inspect in response to complaints; that they
apparently told Holrah they had not recently
inspected Primarily Primates would tend to
support Swett’s contention that there were
never any complaints made. Further, to our
knowledge, Holrah didn’t so much as look
for such a paper trail to support his charges
until after we pointed out that one was lacking.
Whether or not Ingrid Newkirk of
PETA and Wayne Pacelle of the Fund for
Animals had anything to do with compiling the
collection, we did discover that each had fur
ther circulated the letters and allegations,
including to representatives of other funding
sources, before Primarily Primates president
Wally Swett even knew he had been accused of
anything. Having 79 pages of Holrah’s posi
tion already in hand, as well as copies of cor
respondence in which he told a major funder
that Swett should be removed from the
Primarily Primates board of directors and be
physically removed from the premises, we
deemed Holrah’s position more than fairly rep
resentated, and further deemed it time––past
time––that Swett got a chance to respond.
We have requested but not yet
received comment from Mouras. However,
even Holrah’s own correspondence
with Primarily Primates’ legal advisor Steven Wise
indicates clearly that Mouras’ investigation
undertaken for the Summerlee
Foundation––another recipient of Holrah’s
dossier––did not support Swett’s removal from
any position of authority.
As to what Swett should or should
not have done to show good faith, since when
is it anyone’s obligation to make concessions of
any sort in response to accusers the accused
hasn’t even had the chance to confront and
cross-examine? We have not heard of the
repeal of the Magna Carta.
The article about what Wally Swett
has been through thoroughly appalled me. I’m
so fed up with the egomaniacs in our move-
ment––who died and made them judge and
jury over other groups and people?
––Eileen Liska, Highland, Michigan.
I have met with the ex-volunteers at
Primarily Primates on a number of occasions
and find them very credible. I regret this, as I
helped Wally build the first corn crib cage on
that property and I am responsible for many of
the animals there. It is for this reason that I
asked Wally and Wise for accountability and
have received nothing but denial.
Furthermore, there is not and never was any
plot to take over Primarily Primates.
Unfortunately, you are dead wrong on this one.
––Donald Barnes, Washington D.C.
director, National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Refer again to the Magna Carta..
Since June of the year 1215, individuals in our
society have enjoyed the right to plead inno
cent until and unless proven guilty.
Barnes is among Holrah’s nominees
for positions on the Primarily Primates board.
Swett responds:
I’m deeply hurt by Don Barnes’
involvement with the disgruntled ex-volunteers
and his method of choosing sides. Although
Don has met with them “on a number of occa-
sions,” he’s not met with the Primarily
Primates board, with me, or visited Primarily
Primates since this attack started. Since this
started, I’ve called Don once. He indicated he
didn’t want to get involved, yet he has, and
like the others, without doing any homework.
Primarily Primates was the first place Don
sought out when looking for a job with an ani-
mal group after leaving the military and his
position as a researcher (he lived in San
Antonio). He’s until recently been only sup-
portive and full of praise, calling Primarily
Primates his favorite place, and popping in
whenever in San Antonio, usually with a
friend or two.
I would like briefly to respond to
Holrah’s letter. I will not go into detail, as
enough character has been assassinated, but I
have strong reasons to doubt the credibility and
motives of many of his informants.
Not only did we readily agree to an
inspection of Primarily Primates, but it has
been performed. We have been discussing the
merits of expanding our board for nearly a
year. We are inspected and visited by the state
and federal agencies who license us. Finally, I
did not “resign from the Association of
Sanctuaries,” which we strongly support, but
only declined its vice presidency.
––Wallace Swett, Primarily Pri-
mates, San Antonio, Texas.
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