Americans enjoy a remarkable right to express opinions, a courtesy likewise extended to livestock producers and fur farmers and to advocates of the animal rights movement. On that, there should be universal agreement.
From time to time in Iowa’s history, though, folks on one side of the equation have demonstrated how far they are willing to go to make a point. The most recent example happened during the Iowa State Fair.
Someone hid in the Agriculture Building after closing time, then dumped red paint on the Butter Cow. A group calling itself Iowans for Animal Liberation later claimed responsibility.
This is a minor incident, and in fact likely would have gone unnoticed if the group hadn’t ratted itself out by releasing a statement and photo. Fair officials cleaned the mess up before any visitors got close.
Despite some pretty clever jokes afterward, the Butter Cow incident points toward a more serious issue. By their own admissions, committed extremists have demonstrated a disturbing and gleeful willingness to break the law through “direct actions” and to endanger human life.
A few examples:
In 2008, law enforcement officials in Minnesota investigated and eventually raided a group calling itself the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee. According to federal court documents, the “organized criminal enterprise” was an assembly of anarchists from across the U.S. intent on creating havoc during the GOP’s event in St. Paul.
Using informants and surveillance, law enforcement officials determined the Welcoming Committee would rely on improvised incendiary devices, “ignitable” liquids, wrist rockets, bricks and spears. Participants also proposed stealing various uniforms and using puppets to hide weapons. Others would throw urine and feces at police officers.
Planners discussed “pulling a single officer from a line and beating them,” according to court documents.
On a training video released in 2007 by the Welcoming Committee, a person identified as Carrie Feldman throws a Molotov cocktail, according to court documents. Feldman and her boyfriend, Scott DeMuth, also allegedly in the video, attended planning sessions, according to an informant.
DeMuth was later implicated in vandalism at a University of Iowa laboratory that resulted in $500,000 in damage. As part of a plea deal, he admitted releasing ferrets in 2006 in Minnesota. Feldman refused to testify before a grand jury and spent about four months in jail for contempt.
Peter Young, in 2004 traveled to the University of Iowa with something called the Dangerous Media Tour, according to court documents. The event promised “a celebration of crossing lines and resistance to corporate rule,” providing lessons on picking locks and theft.
At the time, Young was wanted for allegedly releasing animals years earlier at fur farms in Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin. He ultimately spent two years in federal prison.
Young remains vocal online. In January 2012 he commented on Palmer Erickson’s death. Erickson, 83, operated a fur farm in Jewell but at the end battled esophageal cancer. Before his death, so-called liberators visited Erickson’s farm.
“He died having experienced firsthand in some of his final days what compassionate raiders are willing to do to bring freedom to 1,500 of the animals he held captive,” Young wrote.
This month, Young posted information and a photo about the Butter Cow incident. It falls under the heading “Sabotage.”
All of this makes the Butter Cow incident a lot less humorous.