Games rodeo conflict continues

Animal rights leader used to be big game, shark hunter

Tue, Feb 19, 2002

The Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT)


Animal rights supporter Steve Hindi says that about a decade ago he traded in his hunting rifle for a video recorder as his weapon of choice.


The Illinois man and former game and shark hunter became fairly well known to Utahns recently through his outspoken and admittedly aggressive criticism of Olympic organizers for their decision to proceed with the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo. The event hosted at the Legacy Center at the Davis FairPark took place Feb. 9-11.

Animal rights activists have maintained that rodeos are cruel to animals and have no place at the Games. While Hindi's group, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, as well as members of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition protested the event, their numbers never reached more than 100.

Hindi, 47, now back in the Chicago area, probably made his most impressionable mark on Utah earlier this month when he filed a defamation lawsuit against State Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton.

The suit accuses Ray of calling SHARK a terrorist group in a Jan. 3 letter the lawmaker wrote to Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney. A small grassroots organization, SHARK was founded by Hindi and has about a dozen members. According to the suit filed in Salt Lake City 3rd District Court, Ray disseminated that letter to media outlets along the Wasatch Front. Hindi also claims that Ray repeated those assertions during "Take 2," a local talk show aired by TV station KUTV. During that program, Hindi and Ray represented opposing sides of the rodeo debate.

In one excerpt from the letter, the suit says Ray wrote, "We cannot allow terrorist groups such as SHARK and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to frighten us with their threats of violence."

Ray, 35, has called a news conference for 10 a.m. today at the Utah State Capitol to discuss a terrorism bill he has sponsored this term as well as the flap over the rodeo.

Hindi is known for wild antics like flying a paraglider over a hunting club to scare away geese, or stunning himself with a cattle prod at a public meeting to demonstrate that the electric charge can be harmful to animals. His acts of civil disobedience have placed him in jail at least once, and before a judge more than several times, but they have never led any law enforcement agency to describe him as a terrorist.

Arguably one of Hindi's more questionable affiliations is his board of advisers position with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Formed in 1977 by splintered members of the ecological preservation group Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd is known for ramming commercial fishing vehicles they believe are unlawfully hunting whales.

Hindi said he supports Sea Shepherd's actions when they are merely stepping in for law enforcement who cannot always be present to witness illegal conduct out on the vast seas.

Although Ray is now taking a cautious approach on how he characterizes SHARK based on advice he said he has since received through the Utah Attorney General's Office, the lawmaker said that Hindi's relationship with Sea Shepherd can stand on its own.

"I personally think that's a pretty strong connection," Ray said. "I think if you look at the facts, that group is mentioned by the FBI and he's on their board of advisers. If you read their posting on their Web site, they brag about the fact that they sink ships."

Ray said the comments in the Jan. 3 letter were directed at SHARK and other animal-rights activists that funnel funds to such groups as the Animal Liberation Front. ALF is described by the FBI as a terrorist group and "one of the most active extremist elements in the United States."

The lawmaker also said that over the decade since Hindi founded SHARK, Hindi has moved increasingly toward more aggressive behavior, and has had the potential to act like a magnet for more extreme elements of the animal rights movement.

"When you get a permit to protest, you are opening yourself up to people who are anarchists showing up under your banner," Ray said. "The people putting the protest on may not be violent, but they are going to attract those who are."

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