Animal Rights

Should ALF Factor in Vote on L.A. Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette?

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The Los Angeles City Council will shortly hold hearings regarding confirmation of the appointment of Brenda Barnette as the fifth permanent General Manager for the Los Angeles Animal Services Department in a decade.

These Committee and  Council reviews are essentially just public ritual, since the City Administrative Officer's report on June 18 stated that the Mayor’s appointment of Brenda Barnette, former CEO of Seattle Humane Society, was effective June 17, 2010, and Councilman Paul Koretz  was present in support at the Mayor’s press conference introducing her on that date.  

It’s no secret that Los Angeles Animal Services has been besieged by controversy -- the greatest criticism coming from the small but highly visible and vocal Animal Defense League (ADL-LA). This group has expressed discontent with each former LAAS permanent and interim General Manager, plus employees, labor representatives, and elected officials, such as Mayor James Hahn and later Antonio Villaraigosa, by posts and e-blasts which included unpleasant and often insulting comments about their personal lives, physical appearance, sexual preference, and threateningly disclosing home addresses and familial information. 

More moderate Los Angeles humane groups have retreated in fear and declined to publicly pronounce  their private dismay at being “painted with the same brush,” as they watched their own credibility tumble in the barrage of media reports of  physical and verbal protests by the ADL-LA that have punctuated public events; such as, shelter openings, and the pre-announced  visits to targeted homes and communities  by individuals in black costumes painted with white skeletons, waving placards  with blood-red paint and various graphic accusations of “killing animals.”

This time appeared to be different. Ms. Barnette is widely supported by a large base of local animal groups who believe she holds the promise of replicating in L.A. the 92% adoption rate she reports in Seattle. And, at the head of the pack is ADL-LA, which claims it has found undisputable affirmation of Ms. Barnette’s professional virtues during four-days of investigative phone calls to her former associates. 

In fact the group is so enthralled with Ms. Barnette that it has agreed to call off the continued picketing that has annoyed the Mayor and his staff until present. This has aroused more than a little speculation that the ADL-LA's protest hiatus may have been a consideration by the Mayor in selecting Barnette over a reported 120 candidates with varying degrees of animal-sheltering and other management experience.

But, the ADL-LA’s glowing endorsement of Ms. Barnette took a rather shocking twist on June 28, when they sent out an e-mail  which stated:

“...ADL-LA isn’t battle weary; we’ve fought animal campaigns for longer then the one to STOP THE KILLING at LAA. In fact, if any of the city councilmembers vote NO on her appointment, we are fully prepared to take our protests to THEIR neighborhoods!”

This might just have been considered just political posturing until, on July 3, this same “forwarded” warning appeared on the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) website, right under pictures of animals being held by black-suited, masked rescuers. http://www.animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/Actions-USA/LAAS-Barnette.htm

Animal Liberation Front is, of course, the group known for attacks on commercial animal enterprises and research laboratories and was described by the Sydney Morning Herald (5/19/05) as listed by the FBI as a top domestic terrorism threat,  “…taking ‘direct action’ against animal abuse by rescuing animals and causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through damage and destruction of property.”  http://www.smh.com.au/news/World/Animal-activists-top-FBI-terrorist-list/2005/05/19/1116361650307.html?oneclick=true

Thus, it appears that the ADL-LA, which vociferously fought the LA City Attorney for its right to “free speech” may, in effect, be attempting to deny that same right to Councilmembers and perhaps implicit in this, be issuing a thinly veiled threat to any others, including LAAS employees, who wish to comment in opposition to Ms. Barnette’s appointment or question her philosophies or performance in the future.

There is no question that without the colorful, in-your-face campaigns of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the perseverance and political acumen of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other large organizations dedicated to ending animal cruelty, the public would be largely unaware of the suffering behind the closed doors of laboratories, the cramped, debilitating cages used in factory farming, the cruel mass-slaughtering practices of the meat industry, and the callous and horrific injury and deaths of millions of animals to satisfy the blood lust of animal-fighting enthusiasts.

But, is there an arguable basis upon whi personal opinions or convictions regarding the hiring of Brenda Barnette, or anyone else, as General Manager for Los Angeles Animal Services should becomethe source of a threat to elected officials and, even more disturbing, an issue of focus for the Animal Liberation Front?

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