Source: Massey University – 1080 milk threat likely to be personal, not political

The perpetrator of the 1080 infant milk formula threat is likely to be acting from a personal rather than political motivation, says Massey University forensic psychologist Dr Mei Williams.

“The threat appears to be more personal than political, and is an act of aggression to harm those he or she feels has been harmed by,” Dr Williams says.

“They may have experienced a beloved animal die in severe pain from 1080 poisoning – hence the anger towards the authorities and the desire for revenge. For this reason, I don’t see it as a group but rather an individualised act, and in some ways has a similar feel of extremist groups believing the end justifies the means.”

She thinks the act appears to be triggered by a personal issue because “the person, or people, see their relationship with animals as more important than human relationships – hence the threat of harm to babies through poisoning of formula.”

Dr Williams says suggestion of the threat being linked to the loss of a pet through 1080 poisoning is a possible explanation. “For some people, pets are like family, or the pet is a like a baby or child. To lose a pet in this way, especially where there is a strong attachment, could fuel extreme emotions and lead to anti-social behaviour.”

In trying to determine how such a person might be feeling in the wake of the media storm, she says they may feel a sense of satisfaction and empowerment at having created this devastation and fear. “Obviously such person would not experience a lot of empathy for other people.”

She doesn’t think the term ‘eco-terrorist’ is fitting because; “there is something honourable in that label. There’s nothing honourable in what this person has done.”

“Another reason I don’t see it as political so much is that the person has not thought through the ramifications of these threats, such as a backlash by the public. It’s very difficult to see how you can evoke public sympathy for such an extreme act.”

She stresses that her comments are her own opinions based on the information available, and on her clinical experience working with offenders, as well as her academic research on criminal psychology.

Dr Williams is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Her research interest is in criminal psychology, with particular emphasis on theories of crime, outcome evaluation of offender treatment programmes such as sexual offending against women and children, violence and assault, and relapse prevention as well as most areas of criminal justice research. Clinical interests are also in pain assessment and treatment, neuropsychological assessments and treatment of adult mental health problems. Her PhD thesis explored the link between self-control and criminal behaviour.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.