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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Animal Rights: Activism vs Criminality (PT. 5)

This will close my summary analysis of this Judiciary Committee hearing of May 18th. With the FBI moving in to arrest SHAC and ADL and other activists only days later, including SHAC-USA spokespersons, the message being sent by the federal government and the corporations for which it apparently works should be entirely apparent -- in these post-Patriot Act climes, there will be little hesitation in utilizing the legal rhetoric of "terrorism" against well coordinated activist campaigns that strongly challenge the right of immoral companies to murder millions of beings yearly in the name of "business as usual."

Importantly (and presciently), Steven Best opens with this as the theme for his cutting-edge new book, edited with Tony Nocella, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (TOFF). In Best's opinion, this administration can be considered "neo-McCarthyite" in its attempt to publically repress, under the guise of "security," any real critics of the status-quo. The result has been to draw an impossible line between legal and illegal protest for activists, as the term "violence" gets defined by the powers that be in a manner that is wholly self-serving and open-ended and increasingly totalizing in its application to governmental and corporate critics. Best and Nocella's collection, then, has its collective fingers on the throbbing pulse of the slaughterhouse times in its attempt to counter-surveil the contemporary socio-political moment and comprehend animal and earth activism in its broader historical perspective, even as it challenges present-day campaigns and invites new strategies to subvert police state pressures.

Perhaps the key point driven home by Best again and again throughout the text is the need to deconstruct the use of "terrorist" and "violence" by hegemonic forces like the government, corporate heads, and other social elites, while activists also draw an unequivocal line between utilizing tactics that are non-violent (though perhaps revolutionary and occasionally illegal) and dis-arming from strategies that either court or utilize violence against people, animals, or the earth. In this, Best and Nocella make a useful distinction between groups like the ALF that should be considered non-violent revolutionary syndicates and violent factions like the Revolutionary Cells. As I have noted in this five-part summary, this is a distinction that those testifying fail to make time and again in their desire to prosecute as terrorist any and all protest of their ideologies and practice.

With this, let us turn to the statements of the Committee Chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Senator whom Best notes (p. 332) attempted to pass a bill approximately this time last year that "would make the 'anti-terrorism' powers of the Patriot Act permanent, and thereby abolish the 'sunshine' review of [the act set for] 2005." According to the Center For Consumer Freedom, the (dis)Honorable Senator from Utah has used his pulpit to boldly "read aloud the full text of a letter from the Center for Consumer Freedom, drawing clear lines between underground violence and its above-ground activist support network." This to me should qualify as evidence of an alarming anti-animal, pro-industry spokesmanship having leaked all the way into a leading bureaucratic position that attempts to set the agenda for the legislative wing of the judicial system. For, as Steve Best notes in "It's War!" (TOFF), the Center is best understood as a faux-libertarian organization masquerading ugly big business interests under the rubric of peoples' choice:
The Center For Consumer Freedom (CCF) provides a prime example of how exploitation industries abuse terrorist discourse for their own political agendas, as they demonize animal rights and even vegetarian groups as "fanatics," "terrorists," or "front groups for terrorism." A front group if ever there were one, CCF is a coalition of 30,000 restaurant, alcohol, and tobacco companies adamantly opposed to vegetarianism; animal rights; anti-biotechnology activists; anti-smoking lobbying; organic foods advocates; critics of fast food, saturated fat and cholesterol; and any "food cop" who dares to question or regulate consumption of the goods related to their industry.
Interestingly, the online transcription of Sen. Hatch lacks his entering a plug for the CCF into the record. What we do have is Hatch's imploring that protecting democratic civil liberties should not dovetail into failing to prosecute what he believes is "a broad and carefully coordinated effort to threaten, terrorize and ultimately shut down lawful enterprises" being conducted by anti-vivesection and anti-animal abuse organizations. In particular, Hatch implores that some tactics used by activists deserve the strongest judicial reproach possible, tactics such as:
Vandalizing and pipe bombing research facilities; credit card fraud; threatening employees of businesses and research companies; terrorizing children of employees; and posting death threats against employees as well as employees’ names, addresses, and phone numbers on the internet.
The problem, of course, is that even if we agreed that such actions were beyond the bounds of progressive activsm, asserting them as worrysome is not the same as proving that animal activists en toto engage in this sort of protest on either a minimal or regular basis. Hatch and his corporate cronies in this Committee hearing, however, attempted to do just that: create a questionable public image of the animal activist and then cast it as an icon over the entirety of the movement. But this is little more than propaganda masquerading as standard governmental affairs.

The other problem with Hatch's (and others') rhetoric during this hearing is that they want to spin activities which no one questions are illegal and already being prosecuted as necessary into becoming symbolic of a darker web of anti-American conspiratorial terrorism. That is, to the degree that occasionally more militant factions within the animal liberation struggle have consciously engaged in law-breaking civil disobediance and/or political challenge, in order to call the rich corporate heads of murderous industries to account, it is not then clear that their protest then constitutes a sort of widespread "terror" deserving of new special prosecutorial legislation and investigatory freedoms. The basic point of this meeting was for Sen. Hatch and the anti-animal industries to voice that the American government will argue that companies engaged in research and exploitation of animals are "peaceful" and "legal," whereas the relatively new popularity of animal advocacy and the willingness on the part of its activists to non-violently demonstrate both legally and illegally (where necessary) is a political threat worthy of federal criminalization.

In contrast, then, is the independently-minded, dissenting minorty voice of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Sen. Leahy did not read into record that he is disposed to be pro-animal or pro-animal activist. In fact, he cited his numerous defenses of the legal interests of commercial and research interest involved in utilizing animals in a questionable manner. However, his opinion is that this particular hearing's desire to create new "terror" legislation and announce the Bush Administration's new willingness to utilize and amend the Animal Enterprise Protection Act in the name of this goal is misguided. Leahy properly voices the politics behind the hearing, noting:
Today’s hearing was originally noticed under the title, “The Threat of Animal and Eco-Terrorism.” I can understand why that title was abandoned. When most Americans think of threats that currently face this country, we do not mean “animal and eco-terrorism.” Indeed, most Americans would not consider the harassment of animal testing facilities to be “terrorism,” any more than they would consider anti-globalization protestors or anti-war protestors or women’s health activists to be terrorists.
He wonders about what other more important matters the Committee should be attending to, but is not because it does not suit the Bush agenda:
I have asked the Chairman to hold a hearing on the reported abuse of prisoners by Americans in Iraq. Given the wide-ranging jurisdiction of this Committee over civil liberties and prisons, the reported role of civilian contractors, our role in enactment of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, and the lack of other congressional oversight, I think we should be acting.

I have long urged the Chairman to hold a hearing on the Administration’s claim that it can designate U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants” and hold them incommunicado without charges. It is appalling to me that the Hamdi and Padilla cases have worked themselves all the way up to the Supreme Court – and will likely be decided by that Court – before this Committee has ever weighed in on this issue.

I have long urged the Chairman to hold oversight hearings with the Attorney General. It was a year after his last abbreviated appearance before the Committee on March 4, 2003, that he took ill. It has now been more than two months since he returned to work, after having been briefly hospitalized for a medical condition. He testified before the 9/11 Commission on April 13. There is no apparent reason for his continued delay in scheduling a time to testify before this Committee, and his continuing failure to come to grips with the many outstanding oversight matters that have been piling up since his last appearance. He has apparently recovered and we are all delighted that he is feeling better. It is past time to hold our long overdue oversight hearings with him.
To begin prosecuting animal activists as terrorists when the most powerful prosecutor in the land, John Ashcroft, will not be legally overseen, when he utilizes his power to steal away US citizens and others as "enemy combatants" -- giving them no recourse to law or justice -- and when a scandal of historical proporations has broken as to the US government's direct violence against the human rights of protected prisoners within Iraq and Afghanistan, all this seems especially timely right-wing politics to Leahy. Still, as the hearing was to go forward, in the name of fairness, the Senator from Vermont notes that he had suggested:
...that the Committee might want to invite a third witness for the second panel to provide a different perspective on the issue of this morning’s hearing. I regret that the Chairman declined to do so to provide balance to these proceedings. If we are going to devote time to this issue, then it seemed to me to be better if we were able to hear from all sides.
One wonders if hearing from a sole pro-animal advocate would have balanced this witch-hunt, but it is conspicuous how unbalanced the testimony during this committee meeting was in fact.

Finally, Sen. Leahy notes the socio-political blowback that has arisen from the Bush administration's chosen policy of naming everything under the sun it opposes as "terrorist." Iraq is a quagmire, Afghanistan itself was never finished in the desire to move into more oil rich domains, and Al Queda has now reconstituted itself to an estimated 18,000 worldwide combatants, as a generation of Arabs reacts to the imperial cultural and religious snobbery that has been the unilateral US position over this President's tenure. We might wonder as animal activists, then, whether we want right now to provide useful material for a prosecutorial campaign that seeks to construct animal liberation as a terrorist plot. We should resound and respond with our continued unwillingness to compromise, of this I am sure. But, if as Leahy notes, this Senate hearing represents and marks a new policy turn by the Bush administration in terms of the policing of the movement, then we must also move quickly to distance ourselves from feeding the imaginative felonious image the administration seeks to instill the public's mind. Tom Regan has argued that the movement shall not resort to violence because it is to abandon the ethical high ground. Now would be a time to be mindful of Regan's strategy, and more importantly, his language.

If the arrests of a few days ago do indeed signal a new wave of federal suppression, then this is a time for a demonstration of the movement's courage and strength, but it is also a period in which we must exercise careful caution and a rhetorical commitment to distancing ourselves from so-called terrorist acts. This said, it will also be an important campaign to contest the corporate and federal willingness to conflate democratic protest (be it legal or illegal) with real terror and violence. Protest within the neighborhoods of vivesectors making huge profits off of the abominable murder of animals en masse, disruption of their business as usual, vehement denouncement of them publically, all of this should be defended as part of a struggle about democratic process that has nothing to do with large-scale state wars on terror. A brick through a corporate window may be fodder for the authorities to investigate and prosecute, but to attempt to turn public attention away from the true terror being conducted daily on a domestic and international basis by the corporate state in the name of vilifying an ethical movement under the confused image of ragtag rock thrower and dangerous social pathologue is not only stupid, but also repressive.

Posted by Richard
5/29/2004 08:45:17 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Animal Rights: Activism vs Criminality (PT. 4)

Activist Jeremy Beckham, who in the past has challenged people like Dr. Zola to public debate on these issues (ungratified), will be taking his show on the road again this summer. See his Primate Freedom website for information about the tour and how you can help.

Via: US Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The following is a summary of the testimony of Dr. Stuart Zola, Director Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University. He presented on behalf of the National Association for Biomedical Research.

After a brief soundbite of paranoia in which he congratulates the courage of his fellow testifiers, whose actions have placed them at "considerable risk," he gives the biography of NABR:
The National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) is the only national, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to advocating sound public policy that recognizes the vital role of humane animal use in biomedical research, higher education and product safety testing. Founded in 1979, NABR provides the unified voice for the scientific community on legislative and regulatory matters affecting laboratory animal research. NABR’s membership is comprised of 300 public and private universities, medical and veterinary schools, teaching hospitals, voluntary health agencies, professional societies, pharmaceutical companies, and other animal research-related firms.
Dr. Zola then begins a line of self-justifying and circular rhetoric in which he cites the necessity of and esteem granted to animal experimentation. He cites its ubiquity in the medical research community, its foundation at the base of modern science, its connection to Nobel prize winning scientists, and its requirement by law. Lost in this argument, of course, is the way in which modern science and technology has outpaced and stripped ethics and morality in a world vision of might makes right. Lost in this argument is the counter-history of anti-vivesection that has attempted to out and democratize and so properly legislate such biomedical research upon animals. Lost in this argument is the fact that it accepts tout court a historical view of animals as unthinking, unfeeling, and unvaluable except as instruments for human use and exchange -- a historical view, we should point out, that animal rightists exist to transform at the institutional level of society and which even has recently begun to be considered a wrong-headed "old paradigm" by many mainstream medics and scientists themselves. Finally, Dr. Zola's citing of the requirement of testing upon animals since the post-WWII "Nuremburg Code," developed as a result of Nazi atrocities, may go to show that there did exist a (however mistaken) humane intention somewhere in early program of biomedics, but it ironically also scores points directly for the animal rights movement as they have powerfully made the case in books like Charles Patterson's Eternal Treblinka, or PETA's Holocaust on Your Plate campaign, that the Nazi horrors are exactly the same now committed by those engaged in animal experimentation.

Dr. Zola then goes on to refer to the animal rights "industry," which he justifies by citing the combined operating budgets of all tax-exempt animal rights organizations as approaching "$200 million" in 2002. Calling the movement an industry is a sort of Luntz-speak, because as I have repeatedly attempted to show on this blog, concepts like animal rights and liberation emerge through a productive and strong critique of capitalist industrialism; so, whatever budget (emerging primarily through donations and other gifting), it is not an "industry." We might also question Zola's reason for referring to AR as such. This I think is obvious: if AR is an "industry" then a bi-partisan argument can be made for legitimately regulating it (though the current move in the Bush administration is towards the radical neoliberal de-regulation of industries!). However, it's not clear where Zola has assembled this exact figure from -- do large welfare organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States count towards his $200 million number? Certainly, to insinuate that groups like SHAC or the ALF are part of a $200 million industry is comical.

Of course, the real joke is what Zola fails to present in contrast -- isn't it good scientific method that every experimental set needs to have a control group? What then is the operating budget of his own constituency we might wonder? While the membership or budget of Zola's Association and Foundation are not clearly available, we can approximate their finances by examining the monies of the affiliated pharaceutical research association. From this memo, in which the Pharaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association documents its outpacing of the already luxurious expenditures put into the research industry by the American government, we get a nice sense of the dis-equality of scale that Zola covers up between his industry and animal activists. The memo brags of "$30.3 billion in private R&D (research and development) spending compared to about $20.3 billion for the entire operating budget of the NIH (National Institute of Health)."

Zola then gets to the heart of the matter, the failure of existing legislation and the need for new amendments and statutes to stop groups like Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty:
...since 1999 violent activists have employed a disturbing new strategy. Tactics still include arson, death threats, sabotage and vandalism, but the new approach is something the activists call “tertiary” or third-party targeting. It is this targeting of third parties that the original Animal Enterprise Protection Act and its subsequent amendments did not envision. Consequently, law enforcement has very limited means to protect these third parties from the actions of animal rights extremists.

By aggressively targeting clients, insurance companies, banks, health providers, accounting firms, shareholders, market makers, internet providers, even lawn care and catering companies, activists have found an effective way to disrupt the financial health and functioning of companies engaged in animal research.
As with the other Committee testimonials, Dr. Zola wants to stress that he does not want to take away activist's first amendment rights:
Just to be clear, I am not referring to tactics aimed at tertiary targets that involve the use of picketing, boycotts, letters, phone calls, letters to the editor, advocacy of new laws and regulations, or other forms of legal protest. It is the threat of physical violence, property damage, intimidation, coercion, and harassment that are the key weapons of these campaigns.
The problem, however, with all of this is that most of SHAC's and other animal activist's tactics simply are "picketing, boycotts, letters, phone calls...advocacy of new laws and regulations, or other forms of legal protest." It is those who have suffered under these tactics that are referring to the same activities as "threat of physical violence, property damage, intimidation, coercion, and harrassment." So, now let me be clear: the record here plainly states an attempt within the levels of the federal government to move, under the ruse of a fair and earnest legalism, in a blatantly anti-democratic manner against activists so as to repress their most American rights to demonstrate, demand, and receive progressive changes in society.

Dr. Zola closes with an appeal to new legislation but makes no direct suggestions. He simply wants the gadfly of such activism to be put to a stop so that "the rights of companies to freely do business" will stop "being infringed upon" and the "security costs (that) are soaring both for private companies and public colleges and universities" will be reduced. He appeals to the life saving need for this research, but it is clear that the bottom line here is not lives, but dollars.

Posted by Richard
5/27/2004 08:11:07 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Animal Rights Activists Charged In Actions Against Testing Lab

Big federal move following the recent senate judiciary hearings on SHAC. I am wondering how those in the animal law or terrorism law community understand the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing I have been posting about -- specifically, the appearance of the need to attempt to amend the Animal Enterprise Act so as to warrant charges of "intimidation and harassment" as constituting terrorism? As I have written, it seems to me as though the general opinion expressed therein was that the current laws on the books aren't good enough to prosecute SHAC and ALF "leaders" in the way in which they desire. This led the Committee hearing to resound with testimony that corporations and research labs wanted new legislation and juridical authorities granted in the name of responding to changed tactics from animal rights organizations and individuals.

But now this offensive gambit just days later...

Maybe Sen. Hatch and the FBI and corporate heads had a closed door meeting and decided that it was better to act now with the current laws and the demonstrated new resolve to utilize them forcefully than wait for an amendment fight (which Sen. Leahy signaled would be coming)? Or maybe as a friend put it, this arrest and the judicial hearing are better preceived to represent "parallel but separate campaigns from the executive (FBI) and legislative branches to protect big business."

Ahem: either way -- fascism anybody? Can a hegemonic power bloc that is a sort of extremist corporate police state really be allowed to get away with this?

Let us have our voices be heard loud people! Speak back to power -- otherwise it is just the sorrow and the pity of it all.

This goes far beyond protecting some of our best animal rights activists and militants. This is about animals and liberation, yes. But this is more largely about the Orwellian cyberpunk state, a dark power of transnational corporate conglomerates utilizing the government of the people to fashion their own aims and protect their own interests.

The great liberation educator of the 20th century, Paulo Freire, spoke of history as a movement between people's rage and hope.

I am hopeful because I know the power of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty goes well beyond the work of people like Kevin Jonas, Josh Harper, Lauren Gazzola, and Andy Stepanian. I know that this movement is not a political struggle that will topple because of the attempt to overturn a few.

But I am enraged at such cavalier acts of corporate state repression. I curse the federal conspiracy that would charge a democratic movement with terror because it dared to side and speak from the standpoint of moral outrage and populist zeal.

Via: NBC
Federal agents in four states on Wednesday arrested seven people charged with organizing a campaign of intimidation and harassment against a British company that tests pharmaceuticals on animals.

Those arrested are charged in an indictment against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA that was unsealed with the arrests.

The nonprofit group and the individuals are charged in a multiyear conspiracy to terrorize Huntingdon Life Sciences, which has labs in New Jersey. The charge carries up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Their actions included "telephone and e-mail blitzes, fax blitzes and computer blockades against HLS in order to divert HLS employees from their regular work," the indictment charged.

The group and three of the suspects are also charged with conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking and three counts of interstate stalking. Each of those charges carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The stalking charges accuse the activists of placing three people, and their families, in fear of death or injury.

The arrests came just over a year after the members of the FBI's domestic terrorism squad raided SHAC's headquarters in Franklin Township as well as a house near the University of Washington in Seattle, seizing computers and printed materials.

Among those arrested Wednesday in Seattle was a resident of that house, Joshua Harper, a self-proclaimed anarchist and longtime animal-rights activists.

Arrested in California were New Jersey residents Kevin Jonas, identified as president of SHAC; Lauren Gazzola, SHAC campaign coordinator; and Jacob Conroy.

Agents in New Jersey arrested residents Darius Fullmer and John McGee, while New York resident Andrew Stepanian was arrested on Long Island, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark said.

Posted by Richard
5/26/2004 10:14:43 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Animal Rights: Activism vs Criminality (PT. 3)

I have decided to extend the summarizing of this Committee meeting by two in order to cover in greater depth the testimonies of Dr. Zola of Yerkes Primate Center and of Senators Hatch and Leahy. I'm not finding other summaries online and so having these in the record can be valuable for other researchers and activists.

Via: US Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The following is a summary of the testimony of Jonathan Blum, Senior Vice President, Yum! Brands Inc.:
We're the world's largest restaurant company, with about 33,000 restaurants around the globe -- we own Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Foods. We operate in about 102 countries and have revenues of $8.4 billion, with system sales exceeding $24 billion since the majority of our system is franchised.
No small fryers, I'd say! Blum's reason for testifying?
I'm here today to talk with you about a "corporate campaign" that's been waged against KFC for about three years by an organization called -- People for Ethical Treatment of Animals -- or PETA.
Blum it appears is upset that PETA has attempted to get KFC to affect change in the farming and processing of chickens and he accuses them in an Orwellian fashion of practicing "corporate terrorism," a rich charge because that is exactly the charge being levelled against giant international conglomerates like Yum! Brands Inc. (a $32.4 billion company you've probably never even heard of). Blum claims that "KFC does not own any farms or processing facilities" and that it buys about "5% of all the chicken in the United States." He is angry that PETA has not gone to the source, which he laughably insists is "humane" anyhow, but has instead chosen KFC as a target to get suppliers to implement more humane methods.

In other words, Blum is advancing the thesis that in the United States it is unacceptable to demand progressive purchasing and other economic behavior from giant multinationals -- it is not KFC's fault that they buy chicken from monstrous factory farms, but it is rather the factory farms' fault that they supply as they do. However, he points out, these farms are owned by "trusted" names like "Tyson, Pilgrim's Pride and Goldkist" and so there really is no problem anyhow! Finally, he notes that no one wants to implement these changes; the changes would cost Yum Brands! "$50 million." It's not a small sum certainly, but then neither is the "$32.4 billion" of company assets.

Blum then goes on to list the numerous "legal" interventions that PETA has made both at the places of business of Yum! Brands and executives' homes. He points out that Yum! is not against free speech or the right to demonstrate, and that while any one of PETA's protests would not be cause for alarm, taken together in concert, they represent what should constitute an illegal campaign of harrassment and intimidation. He's particularly concerned about the children who live in the neighborhoods and homes of these top executives -- the fear and anxiety they suffer from witnessing democratic and ethical protest. In one example, Blum notes, PETA came into the neighborhood dressed as chickens for Halloween and gave children copies of poultry factory farm videos as treats -- "Imagine the horror on these kids' faces as they went home and played these new videos," he notes. But why should they be horrified? I thought the methods of Yum! Brands' various suppliers use tested, trusted, and humane processes and uphold certification standards?

Blum's appeal to the Senate is anti-democratic and smacks of collusion:
You can do something about this by making it a criminal act for any animal rights activist to personally harass or intimidate an executive, or cause a business disruption in the way PETA has done to us. Let's not wait until someone gets hurt physically. Surely the perpetration of continuous and repeated psychological infliction is enough to classify this as a crime.

I'd also ask urge congress to consider eliminating PETA's tax free status, as they benefit from the tax laws designed to help not-for-profit organizations. Their corporate terrorist activities do not warrant this benefit.

Posted by Richard
5/25/2004 01:43:12 PM | PermaLink

Monday, May 24, 2004

Animal Rights: Activism vs Criminality (PT. 2)

Via: US Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The following is a summary of the testimony of William Green, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Chiron Corporation. He began by asserting that Chiron is a properly humane corporation working in animal/human research and biotechnology. He lists the various organizations that Chiron maintains accredidations with (though he fails to mention the degree to which these accrediting bodies actually enforce real standards checks or uphold humane values themselves. Instead he appeals to the letter of the law and to "sound science" and says that his corporation is working within the bounds of each. The law's letter and science's soundness are two important areas that the animal liberation movement is looking to critique and transform, however, so Green's argument is little more than legitimating bluster at this point.

He then gets to the crux of matter, and the apparent reason for the hearing -- to find a way to create legislation (update the Animal Enterprise Act) that will shut down SHAC and SHAC-style activism, send a stronger prohibitive message to animal and earth activists, and open the door to greater probitive surveillance electronically and otherwise by federal, state and local officials. Green's comment:
We draw the Committee's attention to this information as it is important to understanding the crux of the issue we bring before you today on two levels - first, we are victims of a sustained campaign of intimidation, harassment and extortion that we have endured at the hands of animal rights extremists; and second, that campaign is cloaked in a more subtle and more intimidating mantle of assault on an entity with which we have only remote contact.
Green makes the strange claim that SHAC-USA has greatly hurt Chiron's profits (to the tune of $2.5 million), forcing them to delay important pharaceutical research and pass expenses on to the public, even though he then notes the company's revenue grew to $1.8 billion in 2003. He, of course, fails to mention the hegemonic hold his industry has on the American economy, as its top grosser, and how it uses this power to institute outrageous prices for the same drugs that can be purchased for pennies just across the border. Must be SHAC's fault...

Green then spends a few paragraphs promoting Chiron's work on various vaccines that demanded animal research, such as the polio vaccine. He concludes, "If animal rights extremists succeed in their efforts, it will have a devastating effect on human health." Without taking up directly the claim that these vaccines demand animal research -- which can be done, btw -- I will simply point out the manner in which Green defines human health narrowly as that which must be protected by vaccines and pharaceuticals. He fails to realize the opposing view which makes the critical point that the industries feeding this conclusion themselves produce and constitute a world of such ill-health that they are in a sense underwriting themselves at the expense of human and non-human animals alike.

There then begins a lengthy Green diatribe as a recounting of how SHAC's campaign has intimidated people working for the company and it is spun in such a way that makes it seem that working for a company of questionable ethics and extreme economic and political clout is somehow in itself an a-political gesture that shouldn't be subjected to democratic pressure from activists.

Which leads to the crux of his reason for being there -- the failure of current legislation to prosecute and prevent activists from hurting his company's bottom line. He lists a handful of reasons of why the Animal Enterprise Act must be updated:
1. Physical Disruption Versus Economic Disruption
Animal rights extremists, such as SHAC, have shifted tactics from physical disruption to economic disruption. The extremists cause economic disruption by harassing and terrorizing animal enterprise employees and those who do business with the animal enterprise. These acts of terrorism often take place at sites other than the animal enterprise and, therefore are not intended to cause direct physical disruption of the animal enterprise itself. The existing Animal Enterprise Protection Act does not reach such conduct because there is no intent to physically disrupt an animal enterprise.

2. Property Damage
The Act's focus on property damage also needs to be changed to adapt to the current tactics employed by animal rights terrorists. An element of the offense currently is that the defendant damages or causes the loss of property used by an animal enterprise. While animal rights extremists often cause property damage, they also rely on threats and other types of harassment to intimidate and terrorize employees.

3. Animal Enterprise Requirement
The Act is also limited because it applies only to enterprises that actually work with animals. SHAC's strategy is to terrorize those who do business with HLS - many of whom do not actually work with animals themselves.

4. Definition of Animal Enterprise
Another deficiency in the statute is that its definition of "animal enterprise" is too restrictive. The Act does not expressly apply to an enterprise that uses animals for education or for other medical science programs.

5. Penalties
Finally, the current penalties under the Act are not stringent enough. For example, a defendant who causes no more than $10,000 in property damage faces a maximum sentence of six months incarceration and a defendant who causes any amount of damage over $10,000 faces a maximum of only three years in jail. The penalties for these offenses should be increased and more stringent penalties for acts that cause a large amount of damage should be enacted.
Green also discusses amending the Hobbs Act, discussed in the previous posting: Part 1. His main platform is to promote the following negatively democratic amendments to the Animal Enterprise Act, however:
1. Economic Disruption
The problems with the current statute related to the requirement that there must an intent to cause physical disruption can be remedied by amending the statute to make it a violation to intend to cause physical or economic disruption. "Economic disruption" would include losses and increased costs. The statute should be clear, however, that it would not apply to actions that are protected by the First Amendment.

2. Non-Animal Enterprises
The scope of the statute should be expanded to cover animal extremists' current tactic of targeting companies or individuals that do business or associate with animal enterprise, but which are not animal enterprises.

3. Threats And Harassment
The acts prohibited by the statute should also include threats, persistent and harassing communications, intimidation or coercion in furtherance of a plan to cause economic or physical disruption.

4. Definition Of Animal Enterprise
The definition of animal enterprise should be expanded to include the use of animals for education. It also should be broadened to include events for the purpose of advancing biomedical sciences.

5. Penalties
The penalties for violating the statute should be strengthened. The maximum penalty for economic or physical disruption should be one year up to $10,000, five years for over $10,000, and ten years for over $100,000. The amount of loss or damage referred to in setting the penalty should be the damage done to the targeted person or entity, not the animal enterprise. Such a cost to the animal enterprise may be difficult or impossible to prove.
Green closes by calling for the right of corporations to file civil suits against animal activists for damages, as well as for the right to file umbrella prosecution at the federal level instead of having to take up numerous state-level actions. In my opinion, both horrendously unpalatable ideas designed to aid corporations increase their bottom-line and be more efficient, even as they endanger and threaten citizens for using their political right to assemble and struggle for a non-corporate and omnicidal world.

Posted by Richard
5/24/2004 07:50:02 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Animal Rights: Activism vs. Criminality

This will be the first of a three part posting in which I provide summary notes of the more important parts of the statements of those presenting (MCGREGOR W. SCOTT, JOHN E. LEWIS, WILLIAM GREEN, JONATHAN BLUM, DR. STUART ZOLA, ORRIN HATCH, PATRICK LEAHY) before the Senate Committee on May 18, 2004.

Via: United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The testimony of MCGREGOR W. SCOTT, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA sets the tone for this hearing by attempting to speak to what he sees as the present "inadequacy" of the legal means to prosecute animal and earth activism strongly at the federal level:
One of the difficulties in prosecuting these cases is the inadequate scope of 18 U.S.C. Section 43, which makes it a crime to travel in interstate or foreign commerce or use the mail for the purpose of causing damage to an animal enterprise. The current animal enterprise terrorism statute is insufficient to address the threat posed by terrorist acts committed against research laboratories, businesses, and other entities that use animals. At present, the statute applies only when there is "physical disruption" to the functioning of the enterprise that results in damage to or loss of property. Enterprises, however, have been harmed economically by threats, coercion and other methods of intimidation -- often directed at employees, customers, or vendors of an animal enterprise -- that do not fall within the existing criminal prohibition. For example, ALF’s Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (“SHAC”) campaign has targeted an animal testing company called Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Additionally, the current penalties for those who violate the animal enterprise terrorism statute are inadequate and may fail to deter much of the criminal conduct prohibited by current law. For example, in the absence of death or serious bodily injury, those who perpetrate animal enterprise terrorism are now eligible for a maximum of three years in prison under the statute. In many cases, however, such a penalty does not reflect the gravity of the offense, and the Department therefore supports increasing the existing penalties for animal enterprise terrorism in those cases where terrorists cause substantial economic damage. If an animal terrorist, for example, causes millions of dollars in economic damage to an enterprise, he or she should be eligible for more than three years imprisonment.

Finally, the Department supports adding the animal enterprise terrorism statute as a predicate for electronic surveillance and monitoring. Law enforcement agents currently possess the authority to conduct electronic surveillance - by petitioning a court for a wiretap order - in the investigation of many terrorism crimes and ordinary, non-terrorism crimes, such as drug crimes, mail fraud, passport fraud, etc. However, current law does not allow investigators to conduct electronic surveillance when investigating animal enterprise terrorism. Such surveillance would be helpful in preventing this type of terrorism and should be allowed when investigators have probable cause to believe that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a violation of the animal enterprise terrorism statute. Given the serious and often violent nature of animal enterprise terrorism, the Department urges Congress to correct this deficiency in current law.
The testimony of JOHN E. LEWIS, DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, COUNTERTERRORISM DIVISION, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION begins with a shockingly broad definition of "domestic terrorism":
Domestic terrorism involves acts of violence that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, committed by individuals or groups without any foreign direction, and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Later, the ALF and the ELF are defined as non-revolutionary political operations, but rather "special interest extremists":
During the past several years, however, special interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and related extremists, has emerged as a serious domestic terrorist threat. Special interest terrorism differs from traditional right-wing and left-wing terrorism in that extremist special interest groups seek to resolve specific issues, rather than effect widespread political change.
Lewis also states for the record that the FBI is interested in new prosecutorial powers against "low-intensity" activist campaigns:
Despite these recent successes, however, FBI investigative efforts to target these movements for identification, prevention and disruption have been hampered by a lack of applicable federal criminal statutes, particularly when attempting to address an organized, multi-state campaign of intimidation, property damage, threats and coercion designed to interfere with legitimate interstate commerce, as exhibited by the SHAC organization. While it is a relatively simple matter to prosecute extremists who are identified as responsible for committing arsons or utilizing explosive devices, using existing federal statutes, it is often difficult if not impossible to address a campaign of low-level (but nevertheless organized and multi-national) criminal activity like that of SHAC in federal court...
Lewis goes on to remark that while the FBI discussed utilizing the existing Animal Enterprise Terrorism (AET) statute, it was agreed that a better legal strategy was to charge organizations such as SHAC under the Hobbs Act (Title 18 U.S.C., Section 1951), claiming that international extortion was masquerading as activism. Unfortunately, Lewis notes, the Supreme Court closed this option down in 2003 with its decision in Scheidler v. National Organization for Women. This decision found that "while activists may be found to illegally interfere with, disrupt or even deprive victims of the free exercise of their property rights or their right to conduct business, this activity does not constitute extortion as defined under the Hobbs Act unless the activists seek to obtain or convert the victims’ property for their own use."

Lewis closes with a pitch for revised legislation, testimony that 190 cases are currently being investigated involving ELF/ALF, and a statement that the FBI has created 20 Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs) on ELF/ALF as part of its new campaign to inform members of the Intelligence, Policy and Law Enforcement Communities.

Posted by Richard
5/23/2004 12:04:31 AM | PermaLink