Under a relatively new law called the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” (A.E.T.A.), activists engaged in efforts to bring needless suffering to an end for non-human animals inside factory farms, vivisection labs, circuses and the like, now potentially face charges as “terrorists” in federal courts even if their actions are peaceful and First Amendment protected.
Although a pre-existing law from 1992 known as the “Animal Enterprise Protection Act” was initially created to further prosecute and create harsher penalties for activists who use illegal tactics to save lives, such as liberating animals from abusive situations and causing economic damage to industries that profit from suffering, the A.E.T.A. has taken it one step further and tacked on the label of “terrorism” for such activities.
If labeling a person who actually saves innocent lives a “terrorist”, rather than the person who systematically abuses and kills animals for a living seems Orwellian to you, the vagueness used in writing this law will be even more unsettling.
Although the law is allegedly intended to curb illegal actions, it essentially says that those interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise with the intent of causing economic damage are committing acts of terrorism.
Well, doesn’t that include every single boycott, protest, campaign and demonstration to put an end to animal exploitation? Aren’t we trying to cause economic damage to a company that abuses animals by boycotting them? Isn’t that the whole point? When taken literally, that law goes so far as to include even living a vegan lifestyle since our very choice of diet is “disrupting animal enterprises.”
The terms and language used in this law are far reaching and potentially very threatening to the legal Animal Rights and Animal Welfare movement.
The law does include a clause that states:
“Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibition by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
But within less than three years of the laws passage, four activists from California involved in anti-vivisection campaigns were indicted for violating the A.E.T.A., even though none of them was involved in illegal actions and all of them adhered to completely legal First Amendment protected activities.
They each face up to 10 years in prison for passing out leaflets, attending demonstrations and circulating public knowledge on the Internet about known animal abusers. Does any of this fit into our ideas of terrorism or sound like terrorist activity to you?
The fact that the government is classifying activists as terrorists who simply want animal abuse to end is one of the most grotesque misuses of such a timely sensitive word. To compare the actions of peaceful protests to the attacks of 9/11, even if you are someone who is not aligned with the animal activist movement, is totally unreasonable.
Is it possible that some of this is the result of tremendous pressure from animal abusing industries that want animal protection movements to disappear. The idea of freeing animals from exploitation is simply bad for business.
In a time when terrorism is an actual threat to many of us, it seems terribly unfair and extremely disrespectful to those who have lost loved ones to real terrorist attacks to even remotely compare them to animal activists.
It is interesting to note that in the long history of the animal rights movement, not one person has been killed by an activist. That is because killing is fundamentally antithetical to what these activists are trying to achieve, which is a more just and peaceful world.
photo credit: thanks to Rennett-Stowe via flickr