In a rare piece of good news, a federal judge has dismissed the indictments against four animal rights activists who have been charged under the new Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. This law was written to make it a federal crime to interfere in any way with any industry that utilizes animals as products, test subjects or any other capacity.
The faultiness of such a law has been outlined in great detail. Under the most literal reading of the law, simply being vegan could be construed as an act of terrorism since it interferes with companies’ ability to sell meat, dairy and eggs. This law is a terrifying joke. It’s a stopgap measure to try and stave off the rising tide of consumers aware of the plight of animals in our culture. Animal rights is the biggest moral concern in 2010, and the AETA is a misguided attempt by the animal agriculture industry to paint the animal rights community as a domestic terrorist threat.
How much sillier does it get than to live in a country where the KKK still exists, yet the animal rights community is considered a terrorist threat?
The four activists composing what was being informally referred to as the AETA4 were Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo. They were charged with federal crimes for doing what amounted to constitutionally protected free speech: picketing and distributing fliers regarding cruel vivisection taking place at UC Santa Cruz. Judge Ronald White very likely saw through the obvious legal facade when he said the indictment was too vague and lacked “specificity” in the allegations.
It’s likely that the four activists will be indicted again, but it isn’t a good sign for the government’s case that the original indictment has been thrown out. It’s going to be difficult for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to make a more specific indictment without getting to the heart of the matter: that the government is trying to prosecute people for exercising their first amendment rights.
Regardless of where you stand on animal rights, you should oppose the AETA if you believe in the first amendment. This law is an affront to liberty, and the people on the front lines of the greatest moral struggle of our generation are the ones suffering.
My sympathies are with the AETA4 and I can only hope that their lengthy legal battle will soon come to an end.