A syndicated news story made its way into multiple English papers earlier this week claiming that arsonists with the Animal Liberation Front inadvertently killed dozens of birds in an attack on a zoo in Italy. Now the New York Times has reported that this may not be the case:
“A recent such protest in Italy turned nasty: so-called ecoterrorists attacked a bird sanctuary about 20 miles from Turin this week with Molotov cocktails, burning down structures and setting dozens of birds free.”
This sentence, buried in a somewhat-related story in today’s paper, directly contradicts the other report’s claim that activists burned down an aviary with 40 birds inside. Even more odd, however, is this report from an Italian paper that while claiming that 40 birds died, also includes two dozen photos of the damage — without a single photo of a dead bird.
But the photos do show two dead hedgehogs that somehow got caught up in the flames. The owners of the private zoo showed the cameras the dead hedgehogs and (an amazingly alive) hawk or eagle, which probably returned after being released by the ALF with the other birds.
While the ALF are far from a sanctimonious, all-righteous group, they’re known for one thing: deliberately avoiding any human or non-human casualties. The idea that anyone involved in such an action would release some birds and then set fire to some others is ridiculous.
The action was uncharacteristic in its sloppy execution and quite over-the-top (20 Molotov cocktails?), but the media apparently bought into a claim that 40 birds were killed. The two hedgehogs aren’t even mentioned in the English-speaking reports.
Does anyone have any further information? While the New York Times’ version of the story is more believable based on the history of the ALF, the story is still troubling. If no birds were killed, as seems is the case based on the photos as well, where did the misinformation originate?
Photos via Corriere