ELF terrorism ignorant, counter-productive, costly

“Free the seed” was the hallmark left by Earth Liberation Front activists when they wreaked havoc at the University in February 2000, vandalizing a St. Paul greenhouse. Ironically, this domestic terror group, which protests corporate sponsors to the University and has caused an estimated $40 million in damage nationwide does more harm than good to environmentalist causes, setting University research back years and sometimes killing what they aim to protect.

The ELF Web site says members “will dance as we make ruins of the corporate money system” and aim to collapse industry and undermine the foundations of the state. ELF cited these goals in its responsibility claim for the recent St. Paul campus arson, protesting “capitalists like Cargill Ö who seek to exploit and control nature to the fullest extent under the guise of progress.” Cargill and the state Legislature equally funded the $20 million construction project.

Damage to University property is particularly pernicious now in light of recent funding cuts, and corporate sponsorship of University projects only furthers research and development otherwise hindered by tight budgets. The University is currently top-ranked for discoveries made in environmental and scientific fields, and this progress would be difficult, if not impossible, without money stemming from corporate sponsorship. Radical, dangerous groups such as ELF and their supporters need to recognize the incalculable detriment they pose to environmental research, some of which helps protect endangered species and all of which enables more efficient human use of the environment.

ELF tops the FBI’s list of domestic terrorists, and monetary damage inflicted cannot compete with harm inflicted upon many Universities’ crop, environmental protection and disease research. The group deliberately attacks taxpayers, researchers and University students and all should stand against them. Last May, in an attack on the University of Washington Center of Urban Horticulture, the ELF destroyed research aimed at protection and restoration of trees facing extinction, killing one-third of the remaining population of an endangered tree species in the process. Clearly ELF actions are quite contrary to “freeing the seed,” and they do not realize the consequences of their actions.

Students at the University all benefit from corporate money and should support its elicitation for future projects. The current $18.7 million budget requests for the St Paul greenhouses, which are used for research by the colleges of Natural Resources and Biological Science, as well as the Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science college, have so far only been allocated $3.4 million by Gov. Jesse Ventura. Money needs to come from somewhere, and discounting corporate sources for this and other projects simply because of ill-informed protest will hurt the University. They make fulfilling basic research course requirements difficult for undergraduate students, and impede graduate students from the groundbreaking research that has come to be expected from the University.