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NYTimes:Protesters Carry the Fight to Executives' Homes
by dsef (dsef [at]
Monday Dec 8th, 2003 8:20 AM
Protesters Carry the Fight to Executives' Homes
Protesters Carry the Fight to Executives' Homes

Published: December 7, 2003
LATE one recent evening, an undertaker dispatched a hearse to the home of a
biomedical company employee to pick up her body.
No one, however, had died. The woman who answered the door was very much
alive, although the coffin was intended for her. Aghast, she suddenly
realized that the undertaker had been duped by an animal rights radical into
sending the hearse.
The woman was a target because she works for an American company that had
hired Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British laboratory that uses animal
testing, to help assess its new drugs. A group called Stop Huntingdon Animal
Cruelty had sent the hearse, and it had also posted the woman's name, home
address and phone number on its Internet site, along with those of three
other company executives.
The group's Web posting warned: "We will continue to target you until your
company ceases from doing any business with Huntingdon. We will not let you
The notion of harassing employees beyond the confines of the workplace is
hardly new to the corporate protest movement. But in the years since the
filmmaker Michael Moore first pursued Roger Smith, then the chief executive
of General Motors, in the movie "Roger and Me,'' protesters fed up with
conventional methods of dissent have carried out increasingly intrusive
incursions into the homes, neighborhoods and the private lives of
Such "home demo'' protests, most of which are legal, according to the
F.B.I., have succeeded in intimidating executives at dozens of companies
into ending business relationships with Huntingdon and have helped push
executives of fast-food restaurants and grocery chains to adopt more
rigorous animal welfare standards. Such success is increasingly touted by
activists eager to find ways to stop things like abusive labor and
free-trade practices and the cutting of old-growth forests.
"We're not yelling at brick walls anymore," said Jimmy O'Feral, an organizer
with Dirty South Earth First, a protest group formed this year to go after
executives at Maxxam Inc., a Houston-based holding company and forest
products concern. On Dirty South's Web site, it warns the executives that
"soon your neighbors, your church friends, your clubs & secret bourgeoisie
society counterparts, and everyone you associate with will know your
dealings in the destruction of our ancient forests."
Mr. O'Feral and about 30 supporters took action on a Sunday in October,
showing up on the doorstep of Joshua Reiss, Maxxam's spokesman.
Early that morning a bullhorn-amplified voice yelled, "Josh Reiss, come out
with your hands up!" Mr. Reiss said, "At first I thought it was the police."
The harassment was but the latest in an escalating series of confrontations
that began last May after Rodney Coronado, a longtime protester on
environmental issues and a convicted arsonist, appeared on a Houston radio
show and advocated the home demo strategy. "Until then," Mr. Reiss said,
"the protests were typical banner-waving at the corporate headquarters and
at annual meetings. But after Coronado showed up, they started targeting
people in their homes."
Since then, Mr. Reiss has been visited three times by members of the group,
who bang on drums and shout, "Josh Reiss, ecoterrorist!"
Demonstrations have also been staged at the home of Charles E. Hurwitz, the
company's chief executive, as well as at the homes of three other senior
managers and a member of Maxxam's board. Even a contractor hired to remove
tree-sitting protesters received a visit.
Mr. Coronado, 37, denies that he instigated Maxxam's recent troubles. Yet he
said the get-personal approach was a legitimate free-speech tactic in what
he described as a David-versus-Goliath struggle against corporate
wrongdoing. "We've started to run out of avenues that we think are
effective," said Mr. Coronado, a former Earth First member who served nearly
five years in prison for his role in setting fire to an animal research site
in Michigan in 1992. "When it gets personal, it hits a nerve that you can't
hit by climbing a tree or picketing a corporate headquarters."
Indeed, animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals have made substantial headway in their fight against what they call
animal abuse, and they attribute their success to getting personal with
opponents. Two years ago, as PETA stepped up its "Murder King" campaign to
pressure Burger King to adopt standards for farm animals' welfare, PETA's
executive director, Ingrid E. Newkirk, found the home telephone number of
John H. Dasburg, then the company's chief executive, and called his wife,
Mary Lou.
With months of telephone calls, handwritten letters and parcels filled with
videos depicting farm animal cruelty, Ms. Newkirk says, she persuaded Mrs.
Dasburg to show one of the videos to her husband.
In an interview, Mr. Dasburg, who resigned this year to become chairman of
Astar Air Cargo, said that Ms. Newkirk's badgering of his wife had had
little to do with his decision to adopt new animal welfare standards and to
add a veggie burger to its menu. "The phone calls and information sent to my
wife was just one means of communicating with me," he said. "But we didn't
make our decision based on intimidation."

Ms. Newkirk then turned her attention to executives at Yum Brands' KFC
division, and began calling Cheryl Bachelder, who was the president then, at
her home. "But she didn't flinch," Ms. Newkirk recalled. So in May, the
group began dropping leaflets in the mailboxes of Ms. Bachelder's neighbors,
and it planned a demonstration at her home in Kentucky, complete with a
television projection truck equipped to show her family and neighbors
footage taken from inside a slaughterhouse that supplies KFC with chicken.
On the eve of the demonstration, Ms. Newkirk recalled, Ms. Bachelder called
her and said: "Please don't come to my neighborhood. I will come and see you."
At their meeting, Ms. Newkirk cooked four vegetarian alternatives to chicken
for the KFC president to sample. And by the end of their meeting, Ms.
Newkirk says Ms. Bachelder agreed to sweeping changes, including a 30
percent increase in the space used to house each chicken.
Yet when Ms. Bachelder returned to her corporate headquarters, "it was clear
that she got her knuckles rapped" by Yum Brands' chief executive, David C.
Novak, Ms. Newkirk said. The company subsequently declined to agree to
PETA's list of demands. A KFC pitchman, the actor Jason Alexander, who had
appealed to the company to make changes after he was lobbied by PETA, was
dropped in June.
Then, in September, Ms. Bachelder resigned from the company to pursue other
interests, according to a company statement. Ms. Newkirk speculates that the
move was related to Ms. Bachelder's failed negotiations with PETA. Both Ms.
Bachelder and Mr. Novak declined to be interviewed for this article.
None of this has deterred Ms. Newkirk from pursuing the home demo strategy
with Mr. Novak. A conflict resolution specialist hired by PETA recently
visited his neighbors, his country club and the manager of his favorite
Italian restaurant to discuss KFC's chicken practices.
"People may say, 'Oh, isn't it awful that they harass [them] in their
homes," Ms. Newkirk said, "but the sad fact is that it's often the only
thing that works."
Perhaps the best example of that has been Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty's
fierce pursuit of Huntingdon, once the world's second-largest biomedical
testing lab. Branding the company's workers ''puppy killers'' -
approximately 85,000 animals are killed annually in company tests of things
like new drugs and agricultural chemicals - the group's supporters in Europe
and the United States have pursued many of the ploys on a "Top 20 Terror
Tactics" list posted two years ago on the group's Web site, like home demos
and tactics that include sending out undertakers, like the one sent to the
biomedical worker's home.
The company has taken defensive measures. To keep investors from being
identified, it has ceased trading its shares on the London Stock Exchange
and reincorporated in the United States, where securities laws allow
companies to shield the identities of all investors except those holding
more than a 5 percent stake.
But that didn't stop the group, whose members descended upon the home of
Warren Stephens, whose private equity investment firm in Arkansas had
provided a $33 million loan in exchange for a 16 percent stake in
Huntingdon. Mr. Stephens, although defiant, sold the loan at a loss last year.
Michael Caulfield, Huntingdon's general manager, acknowledged that the
harassment has hurt his company and his associates. Although he, too, has
been targeted, most recently on Halloween night, he said that the harassment
campaign "has been more of an annoyance than anything. Their bark is
generally worse than their bite."
Yet, Frankie L. Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research,
said she worries that the campaign could spread to other animal testing
firms and undermine necessary research. She and law enforcement officials
also express concern that physical assaults could be in the offing.
"Are the protests at residences a precursor to violence? It could be,
because that's how it started in Europe," said Steve Olson, a supervisor in
the F.B.I.'s domestic terrorism unit.
MAINSTREAM environmental groups have criticized violent actions against
companies and their employees. "They're crossing the line when they harass
people on a personal level," said Cindy Allsbrooks, whose son, David "Gypsy"
Chain, was killed by a falling redwood tree in 1998 while trying to stop its
cutting. If anybody has a reason to be upset, she said she did, adding, "but
this isn't the way to go about changing people's minds."
Activists like Kevin Jonas, the spokesman for the Stop Huntington group,
insist they are not terrorists. But Mr. Jonas acknowledged that the label
may serve the group's purposes.
"The more we're painted in the media as terrorists the better, because no
investment banker or pharmaceutical client is going to want to touch
Huntingdon with a 10-foot pole."

by research
Monday Dec 8th, 2003 9:34 AM
I guess nuclear and weapons have no private investors that could get scared and not want to touch it with a ten foot pole, right?

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