The website is part of a training program for FINTRAC, a government agency responsible for monitoring financial transactions to ensure they aren’t being used for illegal activities such as terrorism or money-laundering. The training program was created to train employees of foreign agencies similar to FINTRAC.
The training program consists of workshops followed by an online test that includes the question: “Under which terrorist group do animal rights activists and environmental extremists fall?” The answer according to the website is single-issue terrorists.
It is true that the online test may not hold the same weight as say, a law defining nearly all animal rights activism as terrorism, such as we have in the US. And while the agency could make the point that they were simply trying to find an appropriate example that would clearly represent a very specific single-issue campaign, it remains utterly unforgivable to flippantly use terms like “terrorist” to describe any group with unpopular or fringe beliefs.
In a post 9/11 culture, the word “terrorist” is used all over the world to create the same kind of jingoistic, fear-driven climate that America experienced in the 1940s and 1950s when Joseph McCarthy was hunting for communists. Back then anyone that didn’t like the status quo was labelled as a communist to invalidate their ideas and establish them as an enemy. Nowadays the establishment is quick to call a person or a group “terrorists” even if those people are working for peace within the bounds of their constitutional rights.
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was passed in 2006 and was used in 2009 to bring charges against four activists in California for leafletting, writing chalk on the streets, protesting and publishing information that was publicly available on the internet. The charges against those activists were eventually thrown out by a judge who had the common sense to see that all of their activities were constitutionally protected free speech. The four activists were guilty of nothing more than trying to make social change and were labeled as terrorists.
When governments and conservative groups use words like terrorist, they are trying to capitalize on a stigma and invalidate an idea without ever having to disprove it. If they can successfully brand animal rights activists as terrorists, then invalidating their actual beliefs becomes unnecessary, because who wants to sympathize or be associated with terrorists?
We cannot continue to throw around words like terrorist around carelessly to describe anyone who has beliefs we dislike. It is not only inaccurate, it is irresponsible. And it is especially egregious, especially irresponsible, and especially inaccurate when those who are being accused of terrorism are activists who engage in legal protests for the sole purpose of ending violence against animals.
Photo credit: GreenIsTheNewRed.com