A lawsuit filed February 9 by U.S.
Surgical Corporation alleges the firm was defamed
in remarks made to reporters by Fund for Animals
Connecticut representative Julie Lewin and Fund pres-
ident Cleveland Amory, who are codefendents, along
with the Fund itself. Lewin sued U.S. Surgical for
defamation in 1991. Lewin’s suit, still pending,
alleges her reputation suffered when operatives of the
private security firm Perceptions International, hired
by U.S. Surgical, recruited Fran Trutt (who had little
previous involvement in activism) to join in protests
against the firm’s use of dogs in surgical staple
demonstrations; gave her the money to buy four pipe
bombs; and drove her to the U.S. Surgical corporate
headquarters in November 1988, where she was
arrested just after placing one of the bombs in the
parking lot. Lewin’s suit and a similar suit filed by
Friends of Animals allege the bombing plot was
arranged to discredit the protesters by association.
While a countersuit of some sort against Lewin is only
conventional legal strategy on the part of U.S.
Surgical, this suit is unusual in that it alleges the
defamation occurred through major news media, in
regular news coverage, without also alleging libel on
the part of the media––which include the most influen-
tial newspapers in Connecticut.
A libel suit filed by the McDonald’s restau-
rant chain against British environmentalists Helen
Steel and David Morris is tentatively scheduled for
trial in October, according to the March 1 issue of
Corporate Crime Reporter. Circa Earth Day, 1990,
Steel and Morris distributed leaflets critical of
McDonald’s food, hiring practices, and alleged sale of
beef raised on former rainforest. At about the same
time Steel and Morris were sued, McDonald’s also
sued a TV station, a major newspaper, two labor
organizations, and a theatrical company, all in
Britain, for issuing similar criticisms. All the others
apologized to McDonald’s and settled out of court.
Former journalist Rik Scarce, now a grad-
uate student at Washington State University, was
jailed March 10 for refusing to testify to a federal
grand jury probing the Animal Liberation Front.
Scarce is author of Eco-Warriors: Understanding the
Radical Environmental Movement, a 1990 book that
includes the most definitive history to date of the ALF,
the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Earth First!,
and a variety of other direct action groups. The grand jury wants to
question Scarce about his knowledge of Rod Coronado, in particu-
lar, a former Sea Shepherd crew member who is believed to have
organized a raid on a Washington State University animal laboratory
in August 1991, while staying at Scarce’s house. Another of
Coronado’s former housemates, Jonathan Paul, was jailed last
December for refusing to testify to the grand jury. Paul and Scarce
could remain in jail until the end of the grand jury empanelment,
next December. Coronado himself has evaded both the FBI and
Canadian police since May 1992. He is considered the top suspect
in a string of fur farm arsons and laboratory break-ins perpetrated
during the past two years on both sides of the international border.
The NRA today
The National Rifle Association took an embarrassing
defeat March 15 when the Republican-controlled New Jersey Senate
voted unanimously with 26 abstentions not to overturn the state’s
three-year-old ban on semi-automatic assault rifles. The NRA heav-
ily backed Republicans last November, attempting to isolate
Democratic governor Jim Florio, who in June 1991 vetoed a previ-
ous attempt to overturn the ban. Another bill to repeal the ban
cleared the New Jersey House in February, but was opposed by
many leading Republicans, including former governor Thomas
Kean and Senate president Donald DiFrancesco, who pledged to
donate $10,000 the NRA gave him to aid any legislators the organi-
zation tries to defeat.
Meanwhile, NRA director of federal affairs David
Gibbons resigned March 11 after he was identified as the source of
false rumors circulated to U.S. Senate Republican aides that
Attorney General Janet Reno, then awaiting confirmation, had been
stopped for drunk driving but not charged. Reno is an outspoken
advocate of gun control.
Despite the bad publicty, the NRA has grown from 2.5
million members to three million during the past 18 months, mainly
via hook-and-bullet magazine ads that play up the alleged threat to
hunting posed by hunter harrassment protests, and spotlight the
NRA role in securing hunter harrassment legislation––including in
New Jersey, where Florio signed a hunter harrassment bill into law
on the eve of legislative action on the assault rifle ban.
Connecticut governor Lowell Weicker Jr. has refused to
disclose what compensation he receives, if any, from Americans
for Medical Progress, a vivsection support group set up by U.S.
Surgical. Weicker is among the AMP directors. Tax records show
that in 1991 AMP spent more than $50,000 on unexplained “legisla-
tive activities” and consulting fees, and paid $13,000 in directors’
fees and staff salaries.
1993 budget figures for pro-vivisection activity given by
the January 25 issue of The Scientist include $225,000 for Putting
People First (nearly quadruple its 1991 budget); $225,000 for the
North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research; $200,000 for
the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research; $181,000 for dis-
tribution of National Institutes of Mental Health pro-vivisection
materials aimed at children; and $400,000-plus for the Coalition for
Animals and Animal Research, divided among 40 regional chapters.