[UW Badger Herald - opinion]
This time of year -- while most people are out shopping, buying gifts for loved ones, planning their holiday festivities and simply counting down the days until winter break -- marks the anniversary of two animal rights cases: the Operation Backfire arrests two years ago and the incarceration of most of the SHAC 7 one year ago. These were cases that primarily went under the radar in comparison to cases like the Jena 6, which rightfully gained much public attention this past year. For the animal rights and environmental activists sitting in prison this year, holiday shopping is the last thing on their mind. To understand these cases, you must first have an understanding of the government ruling us. While corporations are gaining more and more protection under our laws, our freedom to speak out on what we feel is unjust is being crushed. While one can point out numerous examples during our present Bush area of fear-mongering, the Operation Backfire and SHAC 7 cases represent perfect examples.
Ending a 10-year investigation by the FBI known as Operation Backfire, 11 people, many of the them self-proclaimed Earth Liberation Front members, were indicted in December 2005 and January 2006 on charges including arson, conspiracy and destruction of an energy facility. Despite all their crimes being nonviolent, there is no use labeling these activists as terrorists with such bills as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act passed last year, a bill which included a much heavier sentence than the previous Animal Enterprise Protection Act. If some of the defendants had been found guilty of all their charges, they faced a minimum life sentence. However, all received between three and 13 years.
But we cannot continue to be silenced. From the Jena 6 to the SHAC 7 our strategies may not always be the same, but our goals of living in a truly free and democratic world are. We cannot forget about the Operation Backfire defendant, the SHAC 7 defendants or any political prisoner who has put his or her own freedoms at risk to expose the truth. Perhaps most importantly, we cannot continue to look past the environmental injustice, the animal cruelty and human injustice that continue every single day. Gandhi may have put it best when he said "no one is free when others are oppressed."
Kevin Carey (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in wildlife ecology.