American Animal Activist Just Released from Secretive Prison Speaks Out

Like the animals whose rights he was advocating for, Andrew Stepanian has spent the past two years confined in a restrictive prison cell. He was convicted of a violation of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA), a bill that seeks to criminalize many respected forms of non-violent organizing. He has just been released after serving a two-year sentence in shockingly restrictive conditions. This morning Stepanian appeared with Will Potter and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. This is the first time he has spoken publicly about his time in prison.

Being held in a restrictive, illegal prison

Since being labeled a terrorist/extremist he was held with other suspected terrorists in a secretive prison within a prison, called a Communication Management Unit (CMU). The CMU allowed for only very little communication with the outside world. His single weekly phone call was scheduled in advance and was carefully monitored by multiple parties. In the interview, Stepanian describes his experiences in prison and discusses how he plans to re-integrate into the animal movement. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit with him challenging the legality of CMUs and calling public attention to these secretive prisons.

Why was Andrew arrested?
He was never charged with acts of violence or property damage. Nonetheless, Stepanian and his co-defendants have been repeated called a terrorist by the US government. Andy was active in a campaign to end animal testing at one of the most notorious vivisection laboratories, Huntington Life Sciences. HLS has been exposed multiple times for animal abuse. Videos from undercover investigators shows employees punching beagles, conducting cruel experiments and confining animals in concrete and metal cells. Along with 5 other activists and the organization, Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC), Stepanian was charged with operating the SHAC website that they say violated the AEPA. The federal prosecutors argued that the since the website reported on every action taken by grassroots activists, even anonymous ones that involved property damage, these 6 people were conspiring with these anonymous activists. That’s just bologna. It’s plain and simple, Andy Stepanian and the other 5 SHAC activists were singled-out because they were speaking out publicly and organizing public demonstrations against animal testing at the Huntington labs.

An update on the AETA
Since the SHAC 7 conviction, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act has been made even more scary. It is now called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and is more over-broad than before. It attempts to define many forms of non-violent civil disobedience as “terrorism”. It is necessary to challenge this law in the courts, but there are also organizations out there who are trying to convince legislators to repeal the AETA.

What can I do?
For more info about how to organize against the AETA and support prisoners of conscience in the United States visit the Equal Justice Alliance. For up-to-date news, read

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Roger RA
Roger RA8 years ago

A Revolution is a strong probability, I hear.

Richard Jaretsky
Richard Jaretsky8 years ago

ALERT TO NEW JERSEY RESIDENTS- Chris Christie the U.S. Attorney who maliciously prosecuted the Shac 7 is the Republican nominee for governor in this fall's election. I urge all residents of NJ who do not want to see this corrupt man be rewarded to register and vote for Gov. Corzine. Also urge all family, friends etc. to do the same.

Marlene V.
marlene v8 years ago

No one should be criminalize in this way without their day in court . Our country is founded on many respected forms of non-violent organizing . This is a Shame ...I am appaled that Communication Management Unit (CMU) exsists at all .

Innocent Animals need to be protected as they have no voice and there should be watch groups that make sure the labs,& factory farms are following the law. There is no excuse for torching or causing undue pain or stress to any animal.

Christopher Fowler

I noticed that the article did make mention the group to which the guy belongs. If that group is one of the ones on the FBI terror watch list, because of radical actions, then he got what he deserved.

In law enforcement, they call it guilt by association. If he is part of the group, then he is as guilty as the rest of them.

As far as being in the CMU, guess what; it's prison. It is not supposed to be easy or fun or comfortable.

On the flip side, why would the organization in question feel the need to do all of the things that this guy was trying to expose?
Why are they not in compliance with federal laws and regulations regarding animal treatment and who has been monitoring it to control and correct those actions?

Penelope P.
Penelope P8 years ago

As long as people can be silenced in this way the practices will continue- I find it ironic that during the cold war it was these sort of practices in USSR that was one of the things we were fighting to avoid

Thomas S.
8 years ago

Yep, I've never hurt a soul and I wonder what MY FBI record reads.

Wendy C.
Wendy C.8 years ago

The government gets away with secret prisons, mass arrests etc, for a couple reasons. The biggest is apathy. People are happy with families and jobs-as long as it's someone else -who cares? . Next is the media. Everyone we see arrested we assume is guilty like the news says no trial needed for us! lastly,we're unarmed. - . I know there's a push for getting guns off the streets but-Australia enforced a gun ban, totally disarmed the people and crime increased 400%Look it up! You see what happens to peaceful protests on college campuses. Police use heavy force to shut down lawful,peaceful demonstrations all the time Revolution even peaceful would be quashed by our Law Enforcement, NationalGuard and Army. It happened to Dr.King. All we can do is vote every single incumbant out of office but most candidates are groomed by their party and their predessesor ,and then financed into office through a sold out media They'd label me an extremist of somekind and get you to disregard me just say"Ruby Ridge" and people just quit reading.Going after a man purported to be stockpiling weapons(ALONE) they punished his refusal to surrender by murdering his wife and baby who were standing unarmed about 300feet from the cabin. Check it out! Just remember they keep track of who takes what out of the library Now they want the web history of everyone whose been on the internet.Google is in court trying to supress our names for us.
Good Ol' USA!

Stephen N.
Stephen N8 years ago

As a Senator, Obama voted for the re-authorization of the Patriot Act. Did your representatives? Watch out who you vote for. We elected the people who gave us the most un-American legislation in our history.

Heather A.
Heather A8 years ago

It is beyond disturbing that, while everyday innocent souls are tortured by sad excuses for scientists, it is peaceful and honest people like Andrew Stephanian who are punished for it. Future generations will look back and be appaled by the way we treat our fellow earthlings.

Katie R.
Katie R8 years ago

What happened to Freedom of Speech...or has the Government amended that to Freedom of some speech? All he did was protest against animal abuse? Hell, property damage?? What about animal damage??? Jeeez.