Over the last year I have developed a big interest in the corporate control of our legal system. Since learning about Veggie Libel Laws in Food, Inc., and the SHAC 7 shortly after that, it has become clear to me that our lawmakers are bending to the will of corporate lobbies. Big news, right? Well, it’s worse than you may realize. Through secret posh meetings, convoluted political tactics, and the right rhetoric, corporations are bringing designer bills to congress, and getting them passed. An example of this is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006. I see it as a frightening threat to free speech, even though the bill’s sponsors would deny that claim. The AETA updates a previous law known as the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. The scary addition (other than the big political buzzword TERRORISM right in the title), is the expanded definition of terrorism; it makes intentional “economic damage to animal enterprises” an offense that could send you to federal prison as a terrorist. I can’t break it down as well as Will Potter can, but you get a sense of how broad and vague this law is.
Mr. Potter’s book, Green is the New Red opened my eyes to this ‘Green Scare’ trend. And after reading an AP article about terrorism arrests around the world exploiting post-9/11 fears, it inspired me to write a letter to The Denver Post, where I read the article. I’m excited to see that my letter made it to print on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 because this issue needs to come to light whenever possible. Corporate influence over our lawmaking process is out of control, and we need to be aware of the consequences. The AETA may not ban peaceful protests and picketing, but it makes you think twice about it. Why should we worry about going to federal prison when we campaign against companies that profit from animal cruelty? Does that feel like free speech to you?
Hit the jump to read the full text of my letter to the Denver Post, a reader’s response, and my re-response…
Regarding 9/3/11 AP article, “Since 9/11, at least 35,000 terrorism convictions worldwide” by Martha Mendoza.
Terrorism rhetoric is also abused in the United States. Lawmakers feel they must be “tough on terror,” and thus corporations are finding post-9/11 opportunities. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006 exemplifies the use of fear to protect bottom lines. The AETA redefines terrorism as any act that “damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property” of an animal enterprise. It exempts protected speech, but explicitly aims to place business interests on the same level as human life. Influencing a loss of profit is terrorism? Who would agree with that statement? And yet this is where we see our federal agencies focusing their attention. In this relatively new “Green Scare,” the FBI are calling animal and environmental activists the #1 domestic terror threat. Yet nobody has ever been killed by an environmental activist. So why are we discussing them in the same breath as al-Qaeda?
I just noticed that somebody wrote in a response to my letter too. Published September 17th, 2011:
Letter-writer Mark Hagelberg scoffs at the FBI calling animal and environmental activists a No. 1 domestic terrorist threat. While they are not quite on the same level as al-Qaeda, they are terrorists. Perhaps Mark does not recall the destruction of the Two Elks Lodge in Vail, the single most expensive act of environmental sabotage in U.S. history by radical environmentalists. Also, they destroyed two Forest Service wildlife research research facilities in Washington and burned forest service vehicles in Oregon.
They just lucked out that lives were not lost in the process.
Cathy Swartwood, Morrison
I’m glad to see my opinions got noticed, and that it sparked some discourse, because this is the only way we’ll get to the truth.
Yes, some environmental activists use illegal techniques to get their point across. Be it arson, unlocking cages, breaking and entering, or whatever. I don’t condone breaking the law. But these acts, like the destruction of the Vail lodge, don’t feel like terrorism to me. It’s easy to pin that tag on a crime when there are flames involved, but Cathy has succumbed to the rhetoric and pressure that industry is using to mold public opinion. She says environmental activists “are terrorists,” without explaining why, other than to say they destroyed this, they burned that. OK, so it’s arson, it’s property destruction, it’s illegal, yes. But terrorism? I find it funny that Cathy even points out how “expensive” the Two Elks fire was. Since when does ‘expensive’ equal ‘terroristic’? Is she thinking like a patriot, or like an accountant?
Also, “they just lucked out that live were not lost,” implies that these activists have no regard for human life, and that they may have considered loss of life collateral damage. But this is not true. Actions by underground groups like the ELF and ALF have a long history of making sure they never injure or endanger any human being. I’ll admit that if you start a fire, you risk hurting somebody. But these guys, even though they are criminals, are out to protect life, not destroy it. They should go to prison. But not with a ‘terrorism enhancement’ that sends them to special secretive Communication Management Units reserved for the nation’s most feared terrorists. Let’s get our priorities straight, and stop thinking the way corporations want us to.
Anybody remember the Boston Tea Party? If that happened today, and the crates held lab supplies instead of tea, the Partiers could be convicted as terrorists. Just a thought…
But forget all that. The issue at hand is the way laws are being crafted to protect BUSINESS. This trend is encroaching on our First Amendment rights, and that is something we should all fight. There are already laws in place to convict arsonists. But the AETA is designed to SCARE aboveground activists who use legal forms of protest. Economic damage is not terrorism.
I, for one, will not be afraid to speak out against animal cruelty. I’ll be happy to call out the companies who mutilate, abuse, confine, exploit, and destroy animals whenever I get the chance. I know my rights.
On that note, good luck to the activists who will begin their occupation of Wall Street today. Their demand: Remove corporate influence from our democracy. Occupywallst.org, #occupywallstreet
Please support the peaceful occupation by donating here.