By Lindsey Nelson
April 11, 2012UVU’s Animals and the Law Conference may have been under secret FBI surveillance, with animal rights activist Peter Young as the primary target.At the conference, held April 5 and 6, attendees were given an evaluation form in order to rate each speaker on various criteria. One of the evaluation sheets that was turned in had the following in the comments section:“Peter – my position is difficult and I can’t reveal myself, but I need to warn you – you are being watched at this event by the FBI (as well as the other key participants). However, there is specific focus on you. My conscience requires I tell you this – I wish I could do more. Take care!”While there is no way to verify the credibility of the note, it is not unlikely that there was an FBI presence on UVU campus and on the streets of Orem during Young’s stay. The FBI has a long history of searching for, closely pursuing and monitoring the actions of Young. Since connecting Young with the Animal Liberation Front, which the government considers a terrorist organization, he has been on the FBI radar.
Indicted in 1998 by a federal grand jury, he was charged with two counts of animal enterprise terrorism and four counts of disruption of interstate courts. With a sentence of 20 years in prison hanging on each charge, he, in theory, faced a maximum of 82 years. Due to a legal technicality, he only ended up serving two.
Young is 100 percent vegan, straight-edge and deeply dedicated to the welfare of animals. Though his beliefs may be considered radical or extreme by some, they have a convincing rational basis to him and other activists. Young believes that when pain and torment are being inflicted, one must go directly to the tormentor and try to stop them.
“Anyone committing injustice should consider themselves an open target,” he said. “They provoked it, so they shouldn’t be surprised when A.L.F. breaks down their door.”
He was drawn to veganism and the Animal Liberation Front because he believed in their principles such as direct action, equal rights for animals, and opposing the brutality and misery of hundreds of millions of animals who are slaughtered each year for the purpose of indulging society’s hedonistic taste for animal flesh. In high school, Young first witnessed the horror of a slaughterhouse firsthand and eventually changed his life.
“I became vegan because it is requisite for being a decent person,” Young said. “I could either become vegan, or stand on the side of human tyranny, mass enslavement and murder.”
The inherent irony is because of that decision, Young, who has never killed anyone and strives to live a non-violent life, has been labeled a terrorist.
Young, a self-employed person and has designed for himself a life of freedom. He has the liberty to go and do the things he wants to do, when he wants to do them. In Young’s opinion, all animals deserve such liberty. He is also a persuasive and dynamic speaker.
Said Professor Chris Foster of UVU, “He flips the logic and makes it seem as though you’re the terrorist if you aren’t liberating animals.”
On the morning of April 5, a radio program aired about the conference.
The guests were Chris Foster, conference co-constructor, and Dara Lovitz, one of the conference speakers. Inevitably, Young’s name was brought up, and he was referred to as an animal rights “icon.” The talk show host, presumably to keep things lively, referred to Young as a terrorist and insinuated that he may not be opposed to taking human life. Lovitz and Foster made quick work of nullifying the host’s claims.
Lovitz said Young was “the hero of the movement,” and a practitioner of nonviolence.
With total disregard for public opinion, Young said he doesn’t mind being both a terrorist and a hero. He said he broke the law to save the animals and doesn’t think the animals would see him as either one.
“They would view my liberating them as my obligation,” he said.