Peter Young started a two-year prison sentence in fall 2005 after freeing between 8,000 and 12,000 minks from five different farms in the Midwest. Young was convicted under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, according to Madison Coalition for Animal Rights member Kevin Carey.
"[The act] is a way to silence us because the government doesn't agree with our opinions, and it's a way to protect corporate profits," Carey said.
In a lecture at the University of Wisconsin, Young explained he traveled the Midwest with a colleague for two weeks and released minks during the pelting season. Young added he felt this was a time for saving lives, and he was not concerned with the possible ramifications.
"Self-preservation wasn't really at work during those two weeks," Young said.
Young wanted to speak at UW to help people understand why he chose to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, he said, and why animal rights activists are willing to commit such controversial acts for their cause.
"I have been motivated by what I've seen with my own eyes," Young said. "It's a tremendous burden to carry with you when you know too much. The only way to make it go away is if you go out after the sun sets and do what needs to get done."
According to Carey, people who raid fur and factory farms consider themselves part of the Animal Liberation Front. Other tactics participants use to fight for animal rights include targeting contract animal testing companies such as Covance and Huntington Life Science. These companies provide animal testing as a service, and anyone can hire them to do research on products like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Carey said ALF is completely underground, their efforts to free factory and laboratory animals are in affiliation with ALF and there are no official members or meetings.
"If anyone came out and said they were a member, they would be targeted by cops immediately because of the acts they commit," Carey said.
Young's presentation began with a short screening of "Behind the Mask," a documentary about the ALF chronicling several efforts to free animals by breaking into testing laboratories and breeding farms. It described the front as a "modern-day underground railroad" because of its disorganization, and the shuffling of animals from place to place until they can be freed.
Young will also be a member of Green Scare Panel, an event being hosted by the UW Law School. During the event, panelists will discuss the tactics the government is using to silence animal rights and environmental activists. It will be held tonight at 7 p.m. in the Law School Building in Room 2260.
Carey said students who plan to attend will learn about a different side of the animal rights movement.
"By attending you can get a different perspective from what you hear in the media," Carey said.