News has just emerged that Matt Block, the head of Worldwide Primates – a company which imports monkeys for experimentation – has received five years probation and fined over $14,000 for sending white powder to himself and an employee and then blaming animal rights activists.
With the powder there was a not which said: ““WE’LL BE BACK AND YOU WON’T KNOW WHEN,” the letter read. “YOU ARE THE LOWEST PIECE OF CRAP WALKING THE EARTH AND YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU DO TO HELPLESS MONKEYS EVERY DAY!”
The note was part of an elaborate plot to blame the Florida-based group which had targeted Block’s company for years, Smash HLS. He also sent another letter to one of his employees. Both were used as evidence in a lawsuit against the group but when the FBI tested them they found Block’s DNA on the gum he had licked. He had no choice but to plead guilty to a federal charge of “intentionally conveying false information through the mail.”
At his trial on 24 January Block tried blaming the activists in a different way, saying “all these events occurred amidst a huge amount of harassment of my family, staff and as well as within several days of my mother’s death, and probably definitely entered into a poor thought process.” He added: “I will continue to support medical research, which benefits not only humans but animals as well.”
Smash HLS wasn’t informed of Block’s arrest. A member recently stumbled upon the court case while doing periodic research on Block, who has since turned over control of the company to his son. A spokesperson from the group named Nick Atwood said: “We’re frustrated we didn’t find out earlier. We would have loved to have gone to court. We definitely feel we’re victims, in a sense. We’re looking into the possibility of taking legal action.”
Smash HLS is believed to be last remaining group in the world campaigning to close down a specific animal research establishment. It has protested outside Worldwide’s HQ and homes of employees for years. Company workers’ identities, photos, home addresses and even divorce records have been published online.
In 2014 Block obtained an injunction against the campaign and it was during that litigation he the powder to himself and a colleague. He could have been sent to prison but the prosecution went easy on him, saying he had done it not to cause “mass hysteria or panic to the public at large” but instead to “draw attention essentially to threats involving his own business”.
This wasn’t Block’s first brush with the law. In 1992 he was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment for a smuggling deal that left three orangutans dead. The case sparked international outrage, including primatologist Jane Goodall.
This case is reminiscent of that of hunt scum John Newberry-Street who was jailed for nine months in what was described as “a bungled bomb plot intended to discredit anti-blood sports campaigners.” In June 1991 he called the police claiming to be the group British Animal Rights and said a bomb was under a Land-Rover belonging to the British Hunting Exhibition and would go off at any time.
Newberry-Street was caught because one of the nails found in the device was the same as a large nail behind a cushion in his vehicle. He admitted placing it there and also said he made hoax calls pretending to be from hunt saboteurs threatening various hunts in the area. Before sentencing the judge said:
“In the present climate, when terrorism and sabotage exist in the country, acts like yours induce in people fear and distrust and cause actual danger because police officers are taken from their duties to deal with the hoax – in your case no less than 85 officers were removed from their duties and the bomb disposal squad called.”
The huntsman’s lawyer claimed his client had been incensed by a similar device placed under a car in Bristol the previous day which had gone off and harmed a toddler. This wasn’t claimed by the ALF until after the incident had attracted nationwide publicity, including the injuries to the child. The ALF Supporters Group issued a staement:
We are, however, condemning whoever has deliberately and maliciously attempted to discredit the campaign of the ALF by falsely claiming that the ALF has been responsible for an action quite clearly outside of its strict policy of nonviolence. Of course we know there is no shortage of those who would wish to discredit the ALF. The police, the media, animal abusers and, indeed, some members of the animal rights movement itself, seize any chance to attack the ALF. And when the actions of last week happened, somebody grabbed the opportunity to try to harm the ALF by putting out a false statement claiming that the Animal Liberation Front was responsible.