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KAREN LEVENSON: Confessions of an Animal Rights Terrorist

There are probably lots of legitimate terrorists at work in Canada, who know all about timers, fuses, and incendiary devices, or how to nurture anthrax. I’m not one of them.

KAREN LEVENSON: Author of “Confessions of an Animal Rights Terrorist” is a writer and researcher, who currently serves as a consultant to Alley Cat Allies. For ten years, she worked as a researcher on Canada’s commercial seal hunt, and was director and campaign coordinator for the Animal Alliance of Canada, for whom she lobbied to revise the codes of practice for farmed animals and farmed animal transport regulations. She currently lives in Guelph, Ontario.

BOOK excerpt:

It begins on a breezy, leaf-tossing day in November 2009. My office window rattles with the one-two punch of wind, as the ominous grey sky sucks in any remnants of sun. Hunched over my computer, I’m filling in the cells of an Excel spreadsheet that charts the courses of the 2006 and 2007 Canadian commercial seal hunts. I’ve already been tucking the data into their own nest-like rectangular cells for three hours when the phone rings. A woman’s voice stumbles into the receiver.

“Are you the Karen Levenson who’s involved with public safety and animals?” “Public safety?” I don’t do public safety unless the public has four legs and a tail. Who is this woman? What does she want?

“In parks? Public safety and animals?” she says.

I lean back in my office swivel chair and sigh. It’s not that I don’t care about public safety. It’s just the things done in the name of public safety make the world less safe for animals. Yet I know what she’s referring to. Four years earlier, I successfully lobbied for a trapping ban in Guelph after a wildlife trap, meant for raccoons, strangled a Jack Russell Terrier in a popular off-leash dog park. “May I help you?”

“I was hoping to meet with you.”

“What about?”

“Errr . . . uhmmm.”

“Has an animal been caught in a trap?” I ask.

While Guelph is the only Canadian city where animals are safe from throat-crushing or leg-breaking traps, animals not living in Guelph still suffer excruciating deaths in them. Perhaps she knows about one.

“I’d rather not say any more on the phone. I’m at work.” Her voice is hushed, as if she is trying to stuff all her words into the phone receiver without spilling any of them. “Can I meet you somewhere?”

Is the woman a whistleblower? I wonder, imagining an envelope full of confidential information. I can’t fathom about what. It could be so many things: hunting . . . trapping . . . poaching . . . research . … the seal hunt.

“Where do you work? Can I meet you nearby?”

“Toronto,” she says. “No, I’d rather come to you”…

“We work for CSIS,” the woman says, flashing her badge at me in the 24-hour Tim Hortons coffee shop. “We want to ask you some questions.”

She indicates the woman beside her, with a quick sweep of her head.

CSIS! What did CSIS want with me? Were they here to arrest me? For what?

CSIS stands for the Canadian Security Intelligence Services. It investigates terrorists. Think CIA, but polite. How did I get to this point?…

“Do you know any terrorists who might act alone: not in your group, but maybe someone
who hangs out with your group?”

The truth is I don’t. The people I work with are among the kindest I know. They don’t believe in violence (neither do I) — not toward a sealer, nor an animal researcher, nor a slug along the side of the road.

In fact, after a rain, I move snails and worms from the sidewalk and put them in the grass, so they won’t get stepped on.

There are probably lots of legitimate terrorists at work in Canada, who know all about timers, fuses, and incendiary devices, or how to nurture anthrax. Maybe they live in Guelph; maybe they don’t. I’m not one of them. But it becomes clear to me, after 45 minutes under their burning glares, the Andreas want a name, any name. If I don’t provide one, I might be spending the next 24 hours on a hard, plastic chair at Tim Hortons. So, I give them names…

Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada and Loyola Hearn is his obedient Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) minister. Both are responsible for the slaughter of over a million harp seals between the years 2006 and 2008.

Andrea-One wearily hands me her business card.

“If you hear anything, call me.”

The card is white and has her name—Andrea Smith—and phone number embossed in shiny black letters. There’s no CSIS logo, or CSIS address, or even a CSIS employee title…

I turn onto Stone Road and step on the gas. I ache to call Liz White, my boss at Animal Alliance of Canada, but decide against making the call from my home phone. It might be bugged. I reach for my cellphone, then think better of it. CSIS might be tapping my cellphone.

I head for the Zehrs Supermarket, several blocks away, zooming past shaded, single-family homes, narrow woodlots, and new housing developments. I skid to a stop in front of the supermarket, rush inside to find a payphone – one of the last payphones in Guelph – and insert a handful of quarters. The rotary dial is oddly comforting.

“If CSIS wants information, they can call our office,” Liz shouts into the receiver, once I debrief her. “They have no right to contact you.”

I’ve never heard Liz so angry. She’s been described by Toronto’s NOW Magazine as being as warm as apple pie; she’s also been characterized, by an outwitted politician, as the most dangerous woman in Canada.” SOURCE…


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