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Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.


The S. 3880/HR 4239 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was introduced by Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on September 8, 2006. The bill became law on November 27, 2006 after receiving President Bush's signature. Its stated purpose is to:

"provide the Department of Justice the necessary authority to apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals committing animal enterprise terror."

On September 30, 2006, in “the wee hours of the morning before officially recessing for the fall campaign trail,” the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent. While the House ultimately voted on the Senate bill, an identical House version (H.R. 4239) was introduced on November 4, 2005 by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis). Rather than seek passage of Rep. Petri's version, the House Judiciary Committee called the Senate version to the floor, "in order to speed the legislation to the President's desk before the current Congress" adjourned. On November 17, during the lame-duck session of the 109th Congress, the bill was passed by the House through a voice vote. As a result, roll call information for this bill is unavailable. [1] AETA was passed in the House with just six members of Congress present, just hours after legislators mingled with celebrities for the ground breaking of a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. [2]

Text of bill S. 3880

The bill defines an animal enterprise as any of the following:

"A commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research, or testing.
A zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store, breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other lawful competitive animal event.
Any fair or similar event intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences."

The following actions are defined as illegal acts of terrorism against animal enterprises:

"Intentionally damaging or causing the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.
Intentionally placing a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation.
Conspiring to do any of the above violations."

Comments by Sen. Inhofe & Feinstein

Following the introduction of the bill, Sen Inhofe commented:

"Our bi-partisan legislation will provide law enforcement the tools they need to adequately combat radical animal rights extremists’ who commit violent acts against innocent people because they work with animals. This is terrorism and must not be tolerated. As a result of my committee hearings on this topic, I became aware of the need for legislation to combat this growing violent phenomenon. With eco-terrorist attacks in Oklahoma and California, Senator Feinstein and I share a commitment to passing legislation that will help end these terrorist attacks."

Sen. Feinstein, who listed the bill's passage as a legislative priority on her website, cited protesters' harassment of researchers who perform animal testing at the the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as a key motivation behind her support. The school, she argued, had been forced to spend more than $2.5 million to increase security at its research facilities. In addition, she cited the 2003 bombings of the Chiron Corp. and Shaklee Corp. headquarters in California. The Revolutionary Cells, an animal rights group, claimed credit for both. According to Sen. Feinstein:

"We can no longer tolerate criminally based activism regardless of the cause it allegedly advances… This is terrorism and it must be stopped." [3]

USCF

UCSF has a long history of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) [4] violations. In September of 2005, UCSF paid $92,500 in fines to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for over 60 violations. They included surgery on a ewe and her fetus without anesthesia or analgesia and leaving monkeys and lambs unmonitored after surgery. Also, forcing marmoset monkeys to breed continuously while nursing infants, causing health problems and high mortality. Monkeys have also endured water deprivation, a craniotomy without painkillers and the injection of brain destroying chemicals in at least one monkey. [5] See also ten worst laboratories.

Senate cosponsors

The bill attracted the following nine co-sponsors on the respective dates listed:

Comments by Rep. Petri

Rep. Petri offered the following statement in support of the legislation:

"In my own state of Wisconsin, mink farmers and biomedical researchers have experienced their own share of intimidation, harassment, and vandalism at the hands of animal rights extremists. Farmers have had their properties raided, causing thousands of dollars of damage...Scientists around the state have received in the mail at their homes razor blades with letters stating they were laced with the AIDS virus. Personal information such as home addresses, phone numbers and photographs of researchers have been posted on extremists' web sites. Many of these same scientists report death threats and home visits by animal rights extremists who through their terrorism have a goal of driving the scientists out of their research-- research which has and will continue to improve human health and quality of life."[6]

Fur ranching & vivisection

Most fur-bearing animals are raised in fur ranches with as many as 100,000 wild animals in a single facility. They are kept in cramped, dingy, waste soaked cages where many suffer or perish from dehydration, starvation, disease or self-mutilation. These animals do not receive even minimal protections, as the handling and killing of cage raised, fur bearing animals is not regulated by any U.S. laws. Many ranch raised animals are anally or vaginally electrocuted. [7] See also War on Animals, section 5.1 on fur ranching.

See also animal testing, sections 1 through 3

House cosponsors

The bill attracted the following forty-four co-sponsors:

Reps. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Chris Cannon (R-Utah), Chris Chocola (R-Ind.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.), John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.), Chet Edwards (D-Texas), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Phil English (R-Pa.), Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Mark Green (R-Wis.), Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), John Kline (R-Mich.), Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.), Rick Larsen (R-Wash.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), Butch Otter (R-Idaho), Stevan Pearce (R-N.M.), Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), Dennis Rehberg (D-Mont.), Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), John Sullivan (R-Okla.), Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)

During the House debate over the Senate version, Judicary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) argued that the bill was necessary because current federal law was, “inadequate to address the threats and violence committed by animal rights extremists.” He said that between January 1990 and June 2004, animal rights groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front, committed over 1,100 acts of terrorism which caused over $120 million in damage.

Frankie Trull

According to Frankie Trull:

“It’s terrific...This bill was desperately needed because a number of researchers have been under significant attack. The original law needed to be updated and improved.”[8]

Frankie Trull is a long time lobbyist and founder and president of Policy Directions Inc., a Washington, DC based public relations firm and industry lobby.[9]

She is also president and founder of the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), an industry group and Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), a front group. Ms. Trull worked with a "broad array of biomedical research organizations that partnered with agriculture", to pass AETA. [10] She was previously instrumental in blocking reforms to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). See also NABR & the Animal Welfare Act.

Protecting corporations & labeling activists

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) spoke out against the bill on the floor, arguing that it compromised civil rights and threatened to “chill” free speech. He also addressed the concern that animals would have less protection if legislation scared protesters away. According to Sen. Kucinich:

“Just as we need to protect people’s right to conduct their work without fear of assault, so too this Congress has yet to address some fundamental ethical principles with respect to animals. How should animals be treated humanely? This is a debate that hasn't come here.”

Many groups found the bill to be both overreaching and unnecessary. According to Michael Markarian, executive vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS):

“The language of this legislation was too broad and vague, and could be interpreted to infringe upon lawful practices, such as protest, whistle-blowing, or boycotts.” [11]

Critics have characterized this legislation as well as being designed to protect the financial interests of corporations and industry as well as chill dissent and discourage legal activism, boycotts and protests. [12] According to Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, a group "dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system.":

"Adding the term ‘terrorist’ to identify activists in a recognizable civic group — that exploits the tragedies that accompany real terrorist action. We think that the wealth and pressure of big business and corporations has pushed this through, and it's an example of corporate interests working against civic rights." [13]

Constitutional violations

AETA terrorism charges cannot be brought against someone whose target is "unaffiliated with an animal enterprise", which violate constitutional rights to equal protection under the law. According to Charlotte Laws, PhD in a January of 2007 article in Counterpunch:

"Why should biomedical corporations and their executives--as well as other animal industries that bestow hefty campaign donations upon Washington politicos--be provided with a special law? Aren't there more (or equally) deserving "targets" in need of activist protection, such as abortion clinics, anti-union employers, gay-run businesses and houses of worship? Should there be an Abortion Clinic Terrorism Act, a Union Employer Terrorism Act, and a Gay Community Terrorism Act, among others? Or would these niche laws further impede efforts to identify real terrorism, as the AETA does?
There have been over 13,000 incidents against abortion clinics and doctors since 1977, including seven murders. There have been over 2,100 acts of union violence between 1991 and 2001, including bombings, shootings and near fatal injuries. In 2004 alone, there were over 4,500 racially motivated incidents in America, while there were another 1,480 based on religious bias and another 1,460 based on sexual orientation. Animal and environmental groups have committed far fewer acts, yet they are pinned with the "terrorist" tag, while those who shoot abortion doctors or burn down synagogues are perceived only as felons." [14]

The only attempted murder in the history of the U.S. animal rights movement was coordinated by corporate provocateurs.[15]

The bill expanded the Animal Enterprise Protection Act that was used to convict the SHAC 7 of "animal enterprise terrorism", a few months prior in a federal court. The group was part of the Stop Huntington Cruelty (SHAC) campaign.[16]

Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC 7)

In March of 2006, six young webmasters were the first individuals to be convicted for "animal enterprise terrorism" in Trenton, New Jersey. They posted videotape of tortured dogs and reported on legal and illegal activities, eventually causing the corporation to lose profits and be dropped from the New York Stock Exchange. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), unable to catch underground activists, instead targeted the website operators. They are currently serving up to six years in prison for their speech. [17]

Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is a contract research facility (CRO) with a long history of gross animal welfare violations. See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Animal activists who have been injured or killed

There have also been a number of incidents involving victimized animal activists who have been injured or killed.

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