full story, comments:
The American Legislative Action Council, who brought us the
stand-your-ground law, are pushing for more "anti-terror" legislation that will
muzzle free speech
When freeing 2,000 minks from a mink farm, and painting "Liberation is love"
on a barn are considered forms of terrorism, one has to stop and wonder what is
On Thursday, animal rights activists Kevin Johnson and Tyler Lang went on trial
in federal court. Charged with violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism
could receive up to 5 years in jail and be fined up to $250,000 for each charge.
The Animal Enterprise
Terrorism Act (AETA), punishes whoever "intentionally damages or causes the
loss of any real or personal property used by an animal enterprise" or
"conspires to do so." It also punishes those who create a "reasonable fear of
death or of serious bodily injury" for people involved in an animal enterprise.
If the economic damage exceeds $100,000, or results in substantial bodily injury
of another individual, the perpetrator can be jailed for up to 10 years; if it
exceeds $1m, or results in the death of another individual, for up to 20 years.
The law, and its earlier form, The American Enterprise Protection Act,
represents an industry response to the rapid growth of the animal rights
movement in the past 40 years. The animal rights movement has drawn public
attention to the inhumane treatment of animals on factory and fur farms and in
slaughterhouses by employing a wide range of tactics, including
anti-fur demonstrations, animal releases and
While the AETA punishes activists for violence (or instilling the fear of
it), even the movement's most extreme wing, the Animal Liberation Front,
rejects violence against people as well as animals - while being committed
to causing economic damages to businesses which profit from the abuse of
animals. I have found no evidence to contradict
journalist Will Potter's claim that "not a single human being has been
harmed" by animal rights activism.
I do not want to argue here that the animal rights activists who break the
law by stealing or destroying property should never be prosecuted. They are
engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience, and part of civil disobedience
involves disobeying the law to protest or stop injustice. But the branding of
such actions as terrorism, and the aggressive sentencing that accompanies this,
are of grave concern. Let us remember, animal rights activists are not attacking
and hurting people; they are trying to protect animals.
The AETA intimidates and discourages animal rights activists of any ilk, even
those with no intention of breaking the law -- first, by painting them as
terrorists, public enemy number one, and second, by the lack of clear protection
for animal-rights-related free speech.
Animal rights activist Sarahjane Blum
unsuccessfully challenged the
constitutionality of the AETA with a federal lawsuit in 2011.
She writes that, because the law punishes those who cause economic damage to
animal enterprise, "I have spent years living in fear that the more persuasively
I tell the truth about the animal suffering that underpins so much of our daily
lives, the more likely I am to get thrown in jail".
The AETA, she contends, "rebrands constitutionally protected behavior as
terrorism ... By rebranding activism as terrorism, corporate interests have made
it far too easy for some of our bravest activists to be locked away for years".
This use of the terrorism brand to muzzle free speech is even more explicit in
the "ag gag laws" being proposed around the US by the American Legislative
Action Council (ALEC), the business-funded group that brought us the
stand-your-ground law that Trayvon Martin's parents believed emboldened George
Zimmerman to shoot their son. These ag-gag laws criminalize whistleblowing,
underground investigations, and journalists who expose cruelty to animals,
according to Will
Potter's GreenIsTheNewRed blog.
It is crucial that we do not allow ourselves to be manipulated by this kind of
intimidation and doublethink. We must not take the bait and start believing that
the mink-liberators were, as federal prosecutors claimed, "a danger to the
community." They are part of a courageous, nonviolent movement of people who are
striving to bring ethics into animal enterprise. We have the right to know how
companies are treating animals, and the right to whistle-blow, speak-up,
boycott, and protest if we disagree with this treatment, without being silenced
by charges of terrorism.