You might remember the 2004 animal-rights attack on a University of Iowa animal laboratory, carried out by the terrorist Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Here’s the scene: 55-gallon drums filled with acid-soaked research documents, 401 “liberated” laboratory animals, the continuous harassment of researchers, and a warning to “stop or be stopped.” So what does a former PETA lawyer who works for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have to do with this? That’s likely the question a prosecutor has for HSUS attorney Leana Stormont, who was subpoenaed Monday to testify before a federal grand jury about the raid.
Who exactly is Leana Stormont? The former animal control worker graduated from the University of Iowa Law School, and went on to become the Midwest Coordinator of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, a group that (according to the Los Angeles Times) provides research to the rest of the animal rights industry -- including HSUS and the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine -- with suggestions about who's ripe for targeting.
While enrolled at the U. of I., Stormont helped lead the Iowa Law Student Animal Defense Fund. She was a third-year law student when the ALF lab attack occurred. About two months afterward, Stormont’s group hosted animal rights radical Steven Best, who spoke in defense of the ALF terrorists, saying he’d sacrifice the life of a stranger to save his dog.
Best was a co-founder of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office and has been listed as a “press officer” for the ALF alongside the murder-endorsing Jerry Vlasak. Despite this shady résumé, Stormont writes that Best is “a courageous and provocative thinker.”
Stormont hasn’t just hosted radical speakers for her student group. She herself opined in 2005 on the use of violence and attempted to justify it, passing the blame off to others:
[Medical research labs], loggers, factory farmers and members of our own government are terrorizing the Earth and its nonhuman animal inhabitants. If these people did a better job of safeguarding our world, groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front would be less inclined to take the law into their own hands.
Get that? It’s not terrorists’ fault for engaging in terrorism. Scientists, loggers and farmers made them do it. “I suspect that groups like ALF and ELF would love nothing more than to refrain from engaging in illegal activity,” Stormont writes. Right.
After law school, Stormont was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 2005 and worked as a PETA legal counsel. Eventually, she moved to HSUS’s immense legal staff; she led a 2008 lawsuit against an egg producers’ trade association, and currently identifies herself as an HSUS attorney. (We placed a call today to HSUS's legal department and confirmed her status.)
HSUS sure knows how to pick ‘em.
Stormont isn’t even the first full-blown radical to wind up on HSUS’s senior payroll. HSUS still employs former ALF spokesman John “J.P.” Goodwin, who has described his goal as “the abolition of all animal agriculture,” racking up a hefty arrest record along the way.
HSUS responds to our criticism by claiming that Goodwin has “renounced” the activity of his “youth.” (Interestingly, the fur industry has documented Goodwin's employment history, establishing that HSUS hired him long before he stopped making statements on the ALF's behalf.) Regardless, a Paul of Tarsus-like conversion story makes for a convenient argument—likely one that parole boards hear from convicts every day. We wonder if HSUS will whistle the same happy tune about Stormont.
We should underline here that having ties with someone claiming ties with ALF doesn’t make Stormont guilty of any crime. And she hasn’t been charged with anything. (Yet.) But her conversation with the grand jury should be telling, assuming she testifies.
One man has already been indicted under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in connection with the University of Iowa attack, another woman is in jail for refusing to testify, and (according to the indictment) additional suspects may still be indentified.
We’ll be tracking these developments closely. But in the mean-time, enterprising young attorneys who are considering hopping aboard the HSUS train may want to think twice. You can never be too careful.