ARM!/Chicago to stand down, but ARM!/PAC stands up

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2001:
DENVER, CHICAGO–Just as the last visible remnant of Animal Rights Mobiliz-ation! seemed to be fading from the movement it helped to launch, the ARM! Political Action Committee emerged seeking felony penalties for extreme cruelty to animals in Colorado and Wyoming.

ARM!/PAC claimed a preliminary victory on July 6 when Circuit Judge Randal Arp of Torrington, Wyoming, sentenced Travis Wilson, 20, to serve eight months in jail for beating, mutilating, and burning alive his ex-girlfriend’s basset hound. Wilson may get two to five years more for stealing the hound. More than 1,000 letters and 300 telephone calls resulting from ARM!/PAC alerts had urged an aggressive prosecution and stiff sentencing.

Earlier, ARM!/Chi-cago director Kay Sievers, suffering health problems and unable to find a qualified volunteer successor, announced in the summer 2001 ARM! news-letter that if the right person does not emerge to take over, she will fold the organization at year’s end and disperse the assets to other animal rights groups.
Both ARM!/PAC and ARM!/Chicago emerged from Trans-Species Unlimited, started in 1981 by George Cave and Dana Stuchell, of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, after a conference convened by Farm Animal Reform Movement founder Alex Hershaft. Other conference participants founded Mobilization For Animals, PETA, and the Animal Rights Network, all within the same few months.

Opening a New York branch under the late Steve Siegal and the Chicago branch under Sievers, TSU may be best remembered for expanding the annual New York City fall protests against fur held by other groups into Fur Free Friday, a national event. TSU also started Humans Against Rabbit Exploit-ation, possibly the first rabbit advocacy group.

In addition, TSU was among the first groups to seek routine disclosure of animal protection group financial data. Animal Rights International founder Henry Spira was first, with a special report published in a 1976 edition of Report To Humanitarians, a tabloid newspaper issued by Frederick Thomsen from 1971 until his death in April 1978. Spira went on to other projects, but his call for disclosure was revived by Mobilization For Animals founder Richard Morgan in 1984, and was picked up by Cave in 1988.

Morgan and Cave each published forerunners of the annual “Who gets the money?” reports issued by ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton and publisher Kim Bartlett since 1991. Morgan and Cave looked at about 20 groups; ANIMAL PEOPLE now covers 150-plus. Since 1998, “Who gets the money?” has been expanded each spring into The Watchdog Report on Animal Protection Charities, which also reviews programs and policies. The 2001 edition covers 90 groups ($20, from P.O. Box 960, Clinton, WA 98236.)

As with the other early efforts at financial monitoring, the TSU project did not survive a general collapse. TSU income fell by two-thirds in 1991, after the 1990 “March For The Animals,” in Washington D.C. economically drained the animal rights cause, bringing a wave of activist group dissolutions. Trying to recover, Cave and Stuchell turned TSU into ARM!, softened their previous criticism of pet-keeping as an alleged violation of animals’ rights, and cut ARM! Chicago loose as a separate group under Barbara Chadwick. Sievers took a five-year break. Siegel, terminally ill, closed the N.Y. office.

Cave and Stuchell then turned ARM! over to Rocky Mountain Humane Society founder Robin Duxbury, who folded RMHS in 1992 and moved the ARM! offices from Williamsport to Denver. Dux-bury traded use of the ARM! mailing list for ad space in early editions of ANIMAL PEOPLE in support of her “No Dolphins In Denver” campaign. Reader response helped Duxbury win a promise from the Colorado’s Ocean Journey aquarium, then in construction, that although it was originally to include a dolphinarium, it would never display captive dolphins.

Ocean Journey has kept the promise. Now $57 million in debt and expecting to have to pay $120 million to cover the interest plus principal, Ocean Journey defaulted on a bond issue in mid-July 2001. Attendance is reportedly 15% under projections. Some creditors believe dolphin shows could save Ocean Journey; others believe it is doomed. “No Dolphins In Denver” was ARM!’s only big win of the 1990s–at least under that name.

Duxbury started the horse advocacy group Project Equus as an ARM! campaign and passed ARM! itself to other leadership, who moved it to Sacramento in 1998. What remained of ARM! returned to Duxbury just a few months later, however, when the new administration felt unable to continue. Duxbury organized ARM!/PAC from the remnants with the aid of a recent bequest.

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