FBI Documents Characterize Farm & Animal Welfare Activists As Terrorists

onex10/CC BY-ND 2.0

Following up on the news from yesterday that a Florida state senator is again trying to get photography of farms without permission classified as a separate crime, apart from trespassing laws which already cover unauthorized physically being on someone's land.

Green is the New Red reports, "The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force has kept files on activists who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms and recommended prosecuting them as terrorists, according to a new document uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act."

Talking about an undercover investigation of a farm, whose location and name have been redacted in the FOIA-released document, the FBI file says that animal activists caused "economic loss" to businesses, and overall there "is a reasonable indication" that the activists in question "violated the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, 18 USC Section 43 (a)."

Not that it should come as news to anyone that animal rights activists and environmental activists are routinely watched by law enforcement.

But the prospect of being prosecuted as a terrorist alone is having a stymieing effect. Kate Sheppard writes, over at Mother Jones:

Sarahjane Blum, the cofound of the anti-foie-gras group Gourmet Cruelty...has spend years documenting ducks and geese that are too fat to walk or breath in videos and photographs, posting them online. In 2004, she was charged with burglary for removing birds from a New York farm, though the charge was later downgraded and she was sentenced to community service. Blum, 33, now worries that otherwise legal activities—like picketing a restaurant that serves foie gras or running education campaigns—could lead to her being deemed a terrorist under the AETA. The law's broad reach means Blum's no longer comfortable participating in or encouraging much of the work that helped prompt California lawmakers to outlaw foie gras in the state starting in 2012.

"It's impossible for me at this point to speak freely," she says. "I feel, and I am, censored. I am censoring myself."

All of this takes place against the backdrop of the National Institutes of Health announcing that the US government would halt all new grants for animal testing on chimpanzees, which acknowledged, "Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom [and deserve] special consideration and respect." (New York Times)

Doubling back around, so pretty much the same sort of activism that led to, at least in part, the ban on animal testing on chimps can be and is construed as terrorism.

The entire conference to End Factory Farming back in October, which TreeHugger was a media sponsor of, could be construed as advocating terrorism under the standard of business disruption.

And I have no doubt that abolitionists freeing slaves 150 years ago would today be construed as terrorism due to business disruption.

By the standard of business disruption and coercion, nearly every hard fought civil right, human right that we now enjoy in the United States and elsewhere was obtained by terrorism.

Which isn't to advocate for terrorism by any stretch. Let me be entirely clear on that. Rather, clearly we need to accept that the definition of terrorism here, both in law and FBI practice, is dangerously and needlessly broad, and ought to be narrowed.

Tags: Activism | Animal Rights | Animal Welfare | Factory Farming | Farming | Photography

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