Environmental Groups Claim to Have Vandalized Banks

New York Times/June 14, 2001
By Al Baker

Garden City -- One bank branch on Long Island had 13 of its windows smashed. Two others had their outdoor A.T.M.'s smeared with glue. And at least three of the banks that were damaged overnight Tuesday were painted with graffiti protesting animal testing: "BNY Kills Puppies," "Stop the Torture" and "Investors in Murder."

Today, federal and local authorities were investigating the vandalism at five branches of the Bank of New York in Suffolk County, saying they believed it was the work of two loosely knit groups of radical environmentalists opposed to animal testing, urban sprawl, deforestation and other things they deem harmful to the environment.

The Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the vandalism in a joint news release, the latest act in their nationwide campaign of destruction that has reached from Oregon to Indiana to Long Island.

"Every indication is that A.L.F. and E.L.F. were responsible," said Joseph A. Valiquette, a spokesman for the F.B.I.'s office in New York. The Suffolk police said the vandalism was carried out late Tuesday and early today in Melville, Greenlawn, Kings Park, Commack and North Babylon. "The Joint Terrorist Task Force is investigating these incidents, as they have all the past incidents," Mr. Valiquette added.

Last winter, the Earth Liberation Front said it set fire to houses under construction on old farmland in Mount Sinai, damaged a bulldozer at a construction site in Ridge, and broke windows and scrawled "Meat is Murder" at a McDonald's corporate office in Hauppauge. In April, the Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for stealing nearly 250 ducklings from a research laboratory in Eastport.

The latest local wave of vandalism was to protest the banks' investment in, and business dealings with, Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British firm, according to a two-page letter distributed by an Animal Liberation Front spokesman from Courtenay, British Columbia. Huntingdon uses animals in tests for pesticides, chemical products and pharmaceuticals, the letter said.

A Huntingdon Life Sciences Web site says that the number of animals involved in research is often used by animal rights protesters as an indicator of suffering. But, it said: "The total number does not reflect the condition of an individual animal. The number of animals used in research is not excessive by comparison with the food industry or the numbers of destroyed pets."

Robert T. Grieves, a spokesman for the Bank of New York, would not comment on the damage to the banks' Suffolk branches nor would he speak about the bank's business with Huntingdon Life Sciences "We don't comment on client relationships or clients," Mr. Grieves said.

But Mr. Grieves denounced the vandalism. "Acts of vandalism, which carry an implicit threat to the safety of people in the area, cannot be tolerated," he said.

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