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FBI: Activists Who Investigate and Expose Animal Cruelty on Factory Farms Face Terrorism Prosecution

What’s the REAL crime– this, or reporting this to the world? (Photo: KC Vegetarian)

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian” ~Sir Paul McCartney

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” ~former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941)

In a development eerily reminiscent of the United States’ prosecution of war crimes whistleblower Bradley Manning, the nation’s most prominent law enforcement agency has established that investigating and reporting crimes against animals is now tantamount to terrorism.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) keeps files on animal rights activists who investigate and expose cruelty on factory farms, and the Bureau has recommended prosecuting such people as terrorists.

Will Potter from learned about this deeply troubling development through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by activist and MIT doctoral student Ryan Shapiro. He received a heavily redacted 2003 FBI file that details the work of animal rights advocates who carried out undercover hidden camera investigations of factory farming operations in order to document criminal abuses. The FBI said these activists “illegally entered buildings… and videotaped animal conditions.”

This type of activity caused “economic loss” to businesses, the FBI asserted, and some animals were also rescued from horrific conditions. This, the FBI says, is a “reasonable indication” that activists “have violated the ,”  an odious piece of legislation that prohibits any person from engaging in certain conduct “for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise,” was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in late 2006.

“It is deeply sobering to see one’s name in an FBI file proposing terrorism charges,” Shapiro said in an email. “It is even more sobering to realize the supposedly terroristic activities in question are merely exposing the horrific cruelty of factory farms, educating the public about what goes on behind those closed doors, and openly rescuing a few animals from one of those farms as an act of civil disobedience.”

What it all boils down to is that the FBI is protecting corporate profits over animal welfare. Writes Will Potter:

The FBI makes clear that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is not about protecting public safety; it is about protecting corporate profits. Corporations and the politicians who represent them have repeatedly lied to the American public about the scope of this legislation, and claimed that the law only targets underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front. The truth is that this terrorism law has been slowly, methodically expanded to include the tactics of national organizations like the Humane Society of the United States.

Potter and others fear that legislation like the AETA may one day be used to defend corporations against legitimate First Amendment-protected activities such as the Occupy Wall Street protests, or “anyone else who threatens business as usual.” And with the United States on the verge of legislating the indefinite military detention of American citizens suspected of being terrorists without charge or trial, there is certain to be a chilling effect on free speech and all sorts of muckraking and whistle blowing activities.

Potter points to a string of efforts, from an “Ag Gag” bill introduced in Florida that would criminalize undercover animal cruelty investigations, called “terrorism” by the measure’s sponsors, to “eco-terrorism” legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing corporatist lobby group that acts as sort of a dating service matching wealthy corporate donors with for-sale lawmakers.

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  1. FranziskaDecember 22, 2011 at 10:43 pmReply


  2. Lioba MulterJanuary 13, 2012 at 2:53 pmReply

    So true!

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