Animal Protection > ALF Foes
Animal activists fight for their own rights

[Salt Lake City Weekly]

Some Utah animal advocates fear being put in a legal cage ...

In June 2008, Jeremy Beckham took a day trip from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, with his girlfriend and brother to visit famed Capilano Suspension Bridge. The longtime Salt Lake City animal-rights activist had no problem entering Canada, but his name was flagged by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection when he returned.
... Beckham believes the government hypes the threat of animal-activist crimes in order to disrupt the entire movement and that merely being an animal activist can make you guilty by association. Beckham and others believe animal exploitation is the moral equivalent of human torture or murder, and they’re incredibly earnest and uncompromising in their beliefs that breaking the laws to free animals is similar to the Underground Railroad.

Agree with them or not, understanding their motivation is key to understanding tactics that some find unsavory: picketing at animal researchers’ homes, for example, or publicly praising illegal mink releases. While some activists have purposely violated the law in defense of animal rights, those who are not willing to cross legal lines face anxiety-inducing quandaries: When does free speech become illegal support of others’ crimes, and what are the consequences of being an “eco-terrorist” sympathizer?

Law enforcers from the FBI down to Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill remind these activists that ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating it, and yet refuse to issue legal opinions that clearly distinguish illegal behavior and free speech. An FBI official recently told City Weekly that the activists have nothing to worry about if they “don’t push the envelope.” But activists are almost sure to keep pushing. In which case, they may face more detentions at the border, FBI informants in their midst and more revisions to the legal understandings of free speech and assembly.

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