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Animal Activists and Journalists Who "Violate" the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act Will Be Labeled "Terrorists"

By Theodora Filis

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) of 2006, was passed by Congress late at night, with inadequate notice, and with only a fraction of Congresspersons present to vote on it. Pushed through Congress by wealthy biomedical & agri-business industry groups such as the Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition (AEPC), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).

Under AETA it is no longer just the radical underground activists that are targeted for harming the corporate agenda, but also the law–abiding, above–ground activists. AETA is so broad and vague that ordinary citizens may not know that they are acting outside the vast boundaries of this new law. Under AETA, it doesn't take much to be labeled an “animal enterprise terrorist. ” Techniques that have been used for years in various social movements are now acts of terrorism if they cause profit loss, including increased security costs, to an animal exploitation business. Those who peacefully protest or engage in undercover investigations can be deemed a terrorist precisely because these actions are purposefully enacted to cause economic loss to a business so that it can no longer engage in the exploitation of animals.” --   Civil Liberties Defense Center

Proving, Congress would prefer to lock away all animal and environmental rights activists rather than bring attention to the horrible treatment of animals, the environment, and our health... or to consider legislation in response to our concerns.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are animal feeding facilities that confine animals for more than 45 days in an area that does not produce vegetation during the growing season. Animals are crammed by the thousands or tens of thousands, unable to breathe fresh air, see the light of day, walk outside, peck at a plants or insects, scratch the earth, or eat a blade of grass.

Notorious breeding grounds for disease, overuse antibiotics, and pollute the environment – CAFO's have the right to treat animals cruelly – as long as the animal is intended for the sale of food – these actions are considered common practice. Farmer's are protected by “common farming exemptions” (CFEs) that vary from state to state but all serve the same purpose – to legalize the horrors of battery cages, veal crates, and gestation crates, and allow cruel practices such as castration without anesthetic, beak searing, and the deliberate withholding of lifesaving veterinary care.

According to a document uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, 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.

The 2003 FBI file details the work of several animal rights activists who used undercover investigation to document repeated animal welfare violations. According to the FBI report, “The animal activists caused “economic loss” to businesses, and they also openly rescued several animals from the abusive conditions.” This was not done covertly in the style of underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front — it was an act of non-violent civil disobedience and, as the FBI agent notes, “the activists distributed press releases and conducted media interviews taking responsibility for their actions."

Based on these acts (trespassing in order to photograph and videotape abuses on factory farms) the agent concludes there “is a reasonable indication” that the activists “have violated the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, 18 USC Section 43 (a).”

ABC News reported, Florida Bill SB 1246 would make it a first degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. Farmers say the bill is needed “to protect the property rights of farmers and the ‘intellectual property’ involving farm operations.”

Adding to an already troubling situation, a proposed amendment to the $1 trillion federal farm bill, passed in the House earlier this year – The Protect Interstate Commerce Act – introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), would amend the farm bill by limiting states’ power to supervise their own farming standards. Under the legislation, states would be banned from enacting farm product regulations stricter than what other states mandate.

Looking into the future, I imagine there will be many different industries scrambling to have similar laws passed to protect them from the watchful eye of reporters and activists.

Why are we not allowed to know where our food comes from? To include GMOs on our food labels? The right to food safety, and a healthy lifestyle, that includes organic and local farming? And why should those who strive to protect the humane treatment of animals be arrested for doing so?

Of course, we all know the answers to those questions – the old mighty dollar. I say, as I always do, the best way to send a clear message to Congress and to those who produce our food – stop buying these products until they change their policies and practices.

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