How Easy is it To Become an Animal Terrorist?

The federal government asked U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro to toss a lawsuit filed by five animal advocates last year that claimed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is unconstitutional.

AETA was lobbied for by a number of agribusinesses, the fur industry and pharmaceutical companies that have a financial stake in the continued exploitation of animals and was passed under Bush in 2006 and was intended to target violent activities, such as attempted bombings at UCLA’s primate research center.

However, the lawsuit, Blum v. Holder, argues that the law goes too far and the overly broad way it’s written could technically cover many legal activities from leafletting to whistle-blowing. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the group, “the language of the AETA covers many First Amendment activities, such as picketing, boycotts and undercover investigations if they ‘interfere’ with an animal enterprise by causing a loss of profits. So in effect, the AETA silences the peaceful and lawful protest activities of animal and environmental advocates.”

An attorney for the Justice Department argued that the law isn’t directed at constitutionally protected activities, such as holding peaceful protests, reports Businessweek, but the activists disagree and believe it has had a more chilling effect than was intended and has left them afraid to speak out for fear of being prosecuted as terrorists.

“The fear of prosecution is not hypothetical and the chill is not hypothetical,” said Alex Reinert, a lawyer for the group.

The law hasn’t been used much, but it has been used. The SHAC7, a group of six activists, were convicted of multiple federal felonies under the former Federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 for campaigning to shut down the notorious animal testing lab Huntingdon Life Sciences. They didn’t break anything, steal anything or hurt anyone.

Their crime? Making a website and disseminating information about documented cruelty that was being hidden behind closed doors and highlighting both legal and illegal activities to help shut it down. They all received jail time.

In 2009, two activists received jail time for releasing hundreds of animals from a mink farm.

“The law criminalizes causing damage or loss to the real or personal property of an animal enterprise,” Rachel Meerpol, a staff attorney at the center told the LATimes. “Because those terms aren’t defined, you have to take them at their common usage. And under common usage, ‘personal property’ includes money, includes profits. So that means that the acts can fairly be read to criminalize anyone who causes a business to lose profits. Activists from any social movements could be subject to prosecution as terrorists if their advocacy, if their lawful protest, affects the bottom line of a business.”

As pointed out by those in opposition to this law, and in the cases of Ag Gag legislation, there are already laws on the books to protect businesses and individuals from trespassing and damage.

“I spent years uncovering conditions on foie gras farms and educating the public about the way ducks and geese are abused,” said Sarahjane Blum, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I no longer feel free to speak my mind on these issues out of fear that my advocacy could actually convince people to stop eating foie gras — affecting those businesses’ bottom line and turning me into an animal enterprise terrorist.”

These businesses seem less concerned with keeping their properties and employees safe than they do with keeping what they do out of the public eye. Undercover investigations that are brought to light by organizations such as Mercy for Animals and a few of the plaintiffs have a more far-reaching effect than any property damage ever could and will hopefully change the hearts and minds of the public.

Leaving this law in place and allowing businesses to hide their actions behind the war on terror sets a dangerous precedent for targeting any activist who wants to rock the boat and stifles the free-market of ideas…one of the very things the Constitution is intended to protect.

The judge still has to rule on the government’s motion to dismiss.

Related Stories:

Animal Rights Activist Gets $15,000 Settlement

Second State Silences Whistleblowers

Victory! Obama Signs Animal Crush Prohibition Act

Photo credit: Nettverk for dyrs frihet (Net. for Animal Freedom)


Kathleen S.
Kathy S5 years ago

Animal abuse is wrong. I agree with DareToCare that fur farms are concentration/death camps for animals. Fur is not green and these animals need to be saved. To make money off the abuse and pain of animals is not civilized. The Earth has too many sick, cruel people using the system to abuse innocent animals. Those who respond to this are probably being monitored by our government for our sympathetic views.

Twiggy S.
Jadore F5 years ago

The SHAC 7 case was a massive miscarriage of justice.

Marieanne Phillips

Need to have the Law where companies, no matter who they are be named and shamed for miss treating animals and the cruelty they dish out. Who do they think they are? Do they think they are above the law? There is another law more powerful, does over-ride any man made law to protect animals. Instinct to protect all beings who don't have a voice.

Marieanne Phillips

This is another level of manipulation to shut down people who are against animal cruelty.

Colleen Prinssen
Colleen Prinssen5 years ago

when ever I read comments about this subject. I feel that it is very very easy to.
I do not know why more people do not get warnings when they say "I wish all _______________ and _______ and _______s would die"
other sites people would get banned or scholded for "I hate the people of xyz I hope they all die. if I ever see one doing the thing I don't like with the animal I do. I will kill them"

but on care2, you get scolded for saying anything to them.

because everything is always an extream. if someone made a coat out of road kill groundhogs, it is the same as if they skinned them alive and they only gave them some vodka before the skinnning.

some people homesteading and living off the land raising goats for meat? they are the same as when a zoosadist takes advantage of working in a factory farm.
like how some people become cops "just so they get to carry a gun all the time".

It makes me wonder if these folks violent hyperbole words are, in fact "trolling". because it is downright scarry the things people say. But, "animals were hurt".
is this "ends justifying means"? would ot make it right to bully a child who wears fur to death?
from what I read here, the answer is "yes".
and it is right to troll their memorial facebook page with "bitch got what was comming, her and daddy hunted innocent 'coons and fox. she got it. I love the person who made her feel bad and caused her death. I think I'll mail them presents"

Marlene P.
Marlene Phelan5 years ago

To see the innocent laboratory animals that the unjust AETA act effects, please read my document to President Obama, on the website:,, (under), letters,
"Letter from Marlene to President Obama", (Sept.2010, updated 8/13/11.)
The info on the AETA act is on page 50. In my document the truth about animal experimentation is exposed. The animals are able to speak from their graves and the animal rights activists are shown as people with tremendous bravery and integrity as they really are! It woiuld help these anmals if you read this document! Thank you! Marlene

Joan P.
Joan P.5 years ago

it will be a very sad day when our grandchildren ask us what one or the other animal looks like and all we have to show them are a few pictures, no children you can't see the live animals, people shot them for financial gain! South Africa a typical example kill the Rhino because their are some countries who think that chewing bits of fibre will do a lot for their sex life, why don't they see a doctor if they have sex problems? Elephants are killed for their tusks, make ivory value nil, so that no one will buy, game are shot to eat or to dry the meat because that is supposed to taste fantastic, sometimes I am ashamed to be human, but then if I was an animal, someone would eventually shoot me?

Aidan M.
Aidan Moran5 years ago

Anyone who is actually doing illegal activities (liberating farms, burning down buildings, destroying stuff, etc) isn't going to care what a law says. There are already laws in place that make what they do illegal, yet they do it anyway. The only people that this sort of a law could have any effect on are the people who peacefully protest.

According to this law, if I helped to convince several people to never go to a circus that uses animals, then I caused the loss of profit to that company, therefore making me a terrorist? No. This isn't at all about terrorism. The 1 and only reason for the creation of this law was to demonize and restrict peaceful protesters.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch5 years ago

When animal atrocities are brought to light, the perpetrators scatter like cockroaches....

We, as a society, have a duty to shine the light on any abuses we find, and should not back down because of fear of being prosecuted for doing such acts!

DareToCare Still

|While I hate to consider the possibility - (conspiracy theory alert) , doesn't it seem that since the so called "war on terror" (make that "war to liberate other countries oil") began, Americans have been losing their rights wholesale? Laws purporting to crack down on terrorism are now commonly being used against ordinary citizens exercising their supposed constitutionally guaranteed rights. There have been created, concentration/death camps for animals, with thousands dying - and nobody is coming to the rescue. I am sickened by how low government is sinking in order to protect its corporate citizens. My sympathies for both the helpless animals and the once great democracy known as the USA.