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CCR challenges the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act as a Violation of Free Speech

December 2011

CCR challenges the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act as a Violation of Free Speech

Last week, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a complaint challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as a violation of free speech. (PDF)

Pushed through Congress by powerful lobbyists for the fur and meat industries, and corporations and institutions that profit from animal research, the AETA criminalizes a broad swath of constitutionally-protected speech and activity. Since passed in 2006, the AETA has cast a chill over the animal rights community, leading many advocates to censor themselves and refrain from speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Further, the broad language of the AETA could potentially punish any political activist, from labor picketers to Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Blum v. Holder was filed in support of animal rights activists who argue that they are being silenced from lawful advocacy because they fear that their work will subject them to prosecution as terrorists under the AETA. This filing coincides with CCR's ongoing commitment to support activists who have been targeted in what has come to be known as the "Green Scare."

Learn more about the case and the stories of each of the plaintiffs, and about the AETA at .

Contact Us
"Attention AETA Act"
Center for Constitutional Rights
666 Broadway 7th floor
New York, NY
Email:  subject line "AETA"

"Attention AETA Act"
Civil Liberties Defense Center
259 E 5th Ave, Ste 300 A - Eugene, OR 97401
541.687.9180 ph | 541.686.2137 fax

Email:  - subject line "AETA"

Coalition to Abolish the AETA

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
The AETA, homepage : Date: 09 26th, 2008

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 27, 2006. The law was pushed through Congress by wealthy biomedical & agri-business industry groups such as the Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition (AEPC), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), with bipartisan support from legislators like Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative James Sensenbrenner. The new law replaced its predecessor, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA), which had become law in 1992.

The AEPA was put on the books in 1992 by well-funded industries that exploit animals. Proponents of the AEPA argued that the number of violent attacks committed by so-called animal rights extremists on farming and research facilities was escalating, and that the AEPA was necessary to protect these facilities. They claimed that (1) existing state & federal laws had failed to curtail such acts, and (2) these attacks disrupted vital services relied on by millions of Americans. Despite these assertions, the language of the AEPA swept up constitutionally-protected free speech activities, even though legislators believed they had struck a balance between the right to protest and the need to provide additional criminal penalties for violent acts. Despite the claims of the corporate interests that this law was vital, the law has only been used twice during the last 16 years.

Fast forward to 2006, the proponents of the AETA repeated these same arguments again in support of this new law. Citing some recent activities, the proponents asserted that existing law had not provided a sufficient deterrent, and that animal rights extremists were using new tactics such as making threats and targeting anyone affiliated with animal enterprises. Therefore, the federal law had to be expanded to address such acts. Yet in actuality, the language of the AETA covers many First Amendment activities, such as picketing, boycotts and undercover investigations if they 'interfere' with an animal enterprise by causing a loss of profits. So in effect, The AETA silences the peaceful and lawful protest activities of animal and environmental advocates.

AETA supporters claim the bill contains language to protect free speech activities. In fact, some Democratic legislators mistakenly came out in favor of the AETA because of its supposed First Amendment protections. For example, Senator Leahy, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported the bill because he believed it had been amended to remove penalties for nonviolent activities as well as actions that might cause a loss of profits. Representative Scott, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, asserted that the AETA excluded First Amendment activity and acts of peaceful civil disobedience in announcing his support of the bill.

In late September 2006, the bill was introduced and amended in the Senate by Senators Feinstein and Inhofe, and was passed out of the Senate by Unanimous Consent. Once on the House side, Representative Sensenbrenner placed the bill on suspension calendar, propelling the bill to the House Floor. Representative Dennis Kucinich was the only member who opposed the AETA in the room, arguing that it was inappropriate to vote out the bill in this manner. Speaking out against the bill on its merits, he emphasized that:

* Existing federal laws are adequate;

* The bill created a special class of crimes for a specific type of protest, and;

* Such a broad terrorist label will chill free speech. He also urged Congress to pay more attention to the issues raised by the millions of Americans concerned about the humane treatment of animals, and to consider legislation in response to those concerns.

Yet the bill was pushed through late at night, with inadequate notice, and with only a fraction of Congresspersons present to vote on it.


9 things you can do to abolish the AETA
Take Action, homepage : Date: 09 26th, 2008

The AETA was passed and signed into law because powerful lobbyists representing companies, universities and research agencies in every state were pressuring Congress to act in their favor. The only way to undo the AETA is to build vibrant and active movements in every state and for citizens, workers and consumers to pressure their elected officials, employers and the companies from which they buy things.

Here's what you can do today:

1. Educate the people around you. Download our resources about the AETA and share with your community. Contact us if you would like us to send you a packet of materials or for more information.

2. Organize an event in your community. Host a teach-in, house party, film screening or discussion to build support and a movement in your community. Contact us if you are looking for a speaker or materials for your event.

3. Contact your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative demanding they repeal the AETA. Write a letter to them. Start a letter writing campaign.

4. Organize a delegation to meet with your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative at their district offices in your community to educate them about the AETA and demand they repeal it. Click here for tips on having an effective meeting.

5. Organize a creative action or street theater to draw attention to the AETA and its impact.

6. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about the AETA and why you think it should be abolished.

7. Dispel the myth of eco-terrorism. Next time you see your local newspaper, news station or elected official comment on the threat of 'eco-terrorism' and the need for increased penalties, respond!

8. Target a local supporter of the AETA. Do you attend a university, buy (or boycott) animal products, work at or own stock in any company? Click here to see a list of companies and lobbying firms that supported the AETA. Chances are your school or target company was involved in the AETA's passage. Write a letter to the CEO or Director of the institution, gather petition signatures, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the institution, or organize a rally or creative action against the institution.

9. Continue working for animal protections and furthering the movement. Click here to learn about your rights. Need to talk to a lawyer now? Call (800) ECO-LAW, the National Lawyers Guild's green scare hotline.

US v. Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC 7)...

United States v. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty ('SHAC7') The SHAC7 were convicted under the precursor statute to the AETA, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, for website postings and organizing demonstrations. CCR filed four amicus briefs in support of the SHAC7, including an amicus in support of their petition for review of their convictions in front of the Supreme Court. That request was denied in 2011. Learn more:

Read More

Learn More

AETA Analysis by Will Potter


Animal Enterprise Terrorism 101 by Will Potter

National Lawyers Guild Statement

NYC Bar Association Statement

The ACLU letter to Congress

Take Action

Know Your Rights

Organizing Resources

Supporters and Allies


Attorneys for Animals

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Compassion for Animals, Inc.

Compassion Over Killing

Deerbrook Haven

Earth Island Institute

Farm Sanctuary

Food Empowerment Project

Friendly Farms Rabbit Rescue

Green is the New Red

Kinship Circle

Last Chance for Animals

Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition

RabbitWise, Inc.

Rainforest Action Network

Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center

Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

-- Copyright 2011 Coalition to Abolish the AETA. All rights reserved.

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