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Animal rights: PETA Memory Proves Longest

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An erstwhile Pittsburgher has found himself on the wrong side of an ongoing lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

One of the numerous crusades undertaken by PETA in recent years has been opposing animals performing in the circus. Part of PETA's protest has included infiltrating circuses and exposing what the group calls cruel treatment of animals, elephants in particular.

 

One circus -- the most well known -- has allegedly fought back. Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus is owned by Virginia-based Feld Entertainment, Inc. Beginning in the late 1980s, the PETA suit alleged, Feld Entertainment began using illegal methods of counter-surveillance on PETA, stealing files and information on donors.

 

Calls to Feld Entertainment were not returned by press time.

Around 1990, PETA charges, Feld Entertainment hired Steven Kendall of Pittsburgh as an undercover operative to infiltrate PETA and other animal-rights groups. PETA has been suing Feld Entertainment since 2001 on allegations relating to thefts of documents. Last month, a default judgment was entered against Kendall in Circuit Court of Fairfax, Va., after Kendall failed to appear at trial. The amount of damages Kendall will be liable to PETA for will be determined by the court in February.

 

Attempts to locate Kendall were unsuccessful. His former attorney, Philip H. Rubenstein, said that he didn't know where Kendall was, but that he wasn't in the Pittsburgh area any longer. County real-estate records show that the Pittsburgh home Kendall had been living in was sold in October of this year.

Kendall wrote a book, A Tiger Among the Jungle, published by on-demand printing house Trafford, about his experiences in counter-intelligence against animal-rights groups. A biography accompanying the book's description on Trafford's Web site says Kendall is a Mount Lebanon High School graduate. "His job," it says of Kendall, "entailed gathering evidence to prosecute animal and environmental activists involved in domestic terrorism, educating the public, and dealing with the media. Kendall refers to the role of the circus as 'Edutainment.' The role he played for Ringling Bros. Circus (Feld Entertainment) was to offset the propaganda aimed at the circus industry by animal activists. [...] He organized counter demonstrations nationwide under the umbrella group 'Putting People First.' Feld Entertainment was able to utilize this group to offset the animal activist protesters."

Philip Hirschkop, counsel to PETA, says the book is full of false statements, and that he sued Kendall in Virginia state court to have statements about him removed from the book. Kendall had the suit successfully moved to U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., but failed to appear at a Nov. 18 hearing for that suit. A default judgment was entered in that case as well. A hearing to determine the amount of damages is pending.

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