We’ve all heard about indecent stunts pulled by extremist animal rights’ groups. Usually such actions—like PETA throwing fake blood on people, or running ads that liken anyone who eats meat with cannibals—are primarily designed to grab media attention, and many in the general public realize it.
But there’s another group you may not have heard about. Called SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), they are surpassing even those tactics and venturing into vicious attacks on private citizens—putting them and their families at personal risk—publicly accusing these citizens of crimes, and even attempting to affect their business dealings.
Imagine a group that would issue a press release with the headline: “Prominent Business Leader Caught on Tape in Horrific Case of Animal Abuse.”
Then imagine you were the business leader. And your “horrific abuse” was dispatching crippled birds at a perfectly legal pigeon shoot—just like millions of grouse, pheasant, quail, dove, and waterfowl hunters occasionally do every season.
Leo Holt, former NRA Board member and President of the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem, Pa., was the individual who SHARK went after.
“My first reaction was shock. Absolute shock,” said Holt. “Our club has operated lawfully for 132 years. For 132 years we’ve been part of this community. What they have done is to abuse a family activity that we conduct with the utmost respect for safety and competition. They are the ones who should be ashamed.”
Not content with just reaching out to the press to label Holt a monster, SHARK showed up to a Fourth of July fireworks celebration in Gloucester City to pass out fliers and DVDs attacking him. Even though Holt’s company had donated $15,000 to help the city conduct the fireworks, Holt and his family stayed home to prevent any possible disruption for the attendees.
This is not the first time radical animal rights’ groups have come after the club. Protests initiated by the Humane Society of the United States—a group whose anti-hunting agenda has been well-documented on these pages before—resulted in getting three citations filed against it in the past, for reasons such as illegal discharge of a firearm. But all three were dropped. The shooting activities of the club are grandfathered in and conducted strictly according to the letter of the law.
But this most recent attack was highly personal and essentially pre-judged Holt as guilty of animal cruelty. It even named Holt’s family-owned company. What purpose could that serve other than to damage the business?
“There is no doubt this is an economic attack designed to ruin your business,” Holt said. “It is a terrorist tactic promoted by groups who have a history of using these and more sinister methods. They will go to any lengths to go after someone who opposes their activist agenda.
“Holt Logistics is a 90-year-old, family-owned transportation company,” Holt continued. “Our business is built on reputation and relationships. I’m sure there will be some economic fallout.”
Clearly—and what’s most important for hunters to realize—SHARK’s agenda is not just about pigeon shooting. Should they succeed in getting authorities to make dispatching a crippled pigeon a crime, there can be little doubt they would apply the same tactics to ordinary Pennsylvania bird hunters.
Further, they damn all hunting, and condemn rodeo, zoos, and circuses as well. Their website is full of ranting statements like “Hunters Rape Nature” and characterizations of hunting as “indefensible cruelty.” In videos, they refer to pigeon shooting in Pennsylvania as “illegal,” which is a lie, and to the Philadelphia Gun Club as “infamous,” despite its long record of providing a safe place for its local members and families to shoot.
SHARK’s favored tactic is shooting video to expose “abuses,” and post it on the Internet. (They taped the Philadelphia Gun Club’s shoot by positioning a camera over a privacy fence.) Recently, they acquired a number of “Angel Helicopters”—remote controlled helicopters equipped with cameras that enable SHARK to “chase down animal abusers and document whatever they do,” according to SHARK leader Steve Hindi. “We’re gonna getcha,” Hindi says in his promo video.
And if you can tell anything about people by the company they keep, consider this. As fringe as SHARK is, their new friends are even worse. A SHARK blog referring to their aggression toward Holt appeared on the website of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Who are they? In Congressional testimony in 2002, James Jarboe, then Domestic Terrorism Section Chief for the FBI, said, “The FBI estimates that the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of 43 million dollars.”
ALF, in case you don’t know, provides online guidance on conducting criminal activities, such as arson and vehicle sabotage, in the name of animal protection.
That’s the company SHARK keeps.
SHARK also threatened in its press release to pursue animal cruelty charges against Holt, and a citation has been filed against the club. According to Holt, SHARK has promoted its own activist Johnna Seeton to become a Pennsylvania Humane Society Officer and deploys her, under the banner of a law enforcement official, to areas where SHARK wishes to attack law abiding citizens. “She and her team have done this all around Pennsylvania,” Holt said. “They even try to get private pro-SHARK law firms appointed to be the prosecutor. What is next, judge and jury, too?”
Indeed, it is Seeton and her group, the Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network, who have filed the citation. Commenting on it, Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler told the Courier Times, “I have a complaint from them which is, essentially, hot air. It is very specifically not a crime to shoot pigeons. However, I could certainly imagine things that you could do to a wounded pigeon that could be considered cruelty to animals.”
So can anyone else, but killing a crippled bird as quickly as possible isn’t one of them.
The citation is to be considered in court Aug. 19.
In the meantime, Holt says, “I will continue to conduct myself with dignity and respect. But we are taking this very seriously. I have many family members and have to think about their personal safety, my personal safety, and that of our employees. We have the benefit of working with many members of law enforcement in our business, but what about the hunter, dog trainer or sportsman who comes under their attack?”