Wednesday, August 20, 2014

[SDCPJ] 9/5 National Weekend of Action Against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).

WHY this Matters to Humane Advocates, Climate Activists, and all Environmentalists: [This post is adapted from a recent presentation on an "Environment and the Law" panel at the Climate Crisis Chicago conference. The panel examined ways that the law has been used to further the interests of industries causing harm to the environment and to target activists. The author was asked to speak on the animal rights movement and how these issues relate to activists who oppose animal exploitation.]

In examining the legal risks faced by climate justice activists and the environmentalist movement, it is useful to examine the ways in which the criminal legal system is used against animal rights activists. First, it is important to acknowledge that advocating for animals is an environmentalist issue which can advance the interests of the climate justice movement. Specifically, animal agriculture is a major cause of climate change and adopting a vegan diet is one of the best steps people can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

Secondly, examining the criminalization of the animal rights movement is instructive in that it is part of a larger strategy by law enforcement in this country to target and disrupt the environmentalist movement. Over the last decade, we have witnessed the Green Scare—the heavy-handed approach of government and law enforcement in arresting, prosecuting, and demonizing environmentalists under the guise of anti-terrorism. This trend is a continuation of the decades-old strategy of the government to label activists as "terrorists" in an attempt to undermine and dismiss otherwise effective movements. (For more information on the Green Scare, see Green is the New Red.)

One clear example of the targeting of animal activists is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) which was passed by Congress and signed into law in 2006. The AETA amended and expanded the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA). The AETA makes "damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise" or "intentionally plac[ing] a person in fear of death or serious bodily injury" federal crimes of terrorism. One of the most significant changes from the AEPA to the AETA was the inclusion of "tertiary targets" meaning "any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise." This expanded the scope of the law so broadly that it now includes any entity that has any relationship with an animal enterprise, defined by the statute as:

(A) commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research, or testing;

(B) a zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store, breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other lawful competitive animal event; or

(C) any fair or similar event intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences.

The broad scope of what entities can fall within the statute is what makes the AETA dangerous. Any individual interested in advocating on behalf of animals is left to wonder whether their action could be perceived as violating the law. This is particularly true when considering that the AETA includes room for conspiracy charges, which allow for prosecution based not on an individual's action alone, but on one's connection to other people's actions, regardless of participation or even knowledge of the specific actions.

The past decade has seen a number of prosecutions under both the AEPA and the AETA. These prosecutions have been notable in that they have both criminalized activity that is generally protected by the First Amendment, such as chanting and leafleting and also been used to enhance charges for direct actions which are already criminalized by existing federal or state statutes.

https://www.nlg.org/news/blog/aeta-revisited-how-green-scare-act-continues-bind-first-amendment-and-what-nlg-doing-about
Martha Sullivan's photo.
#AgainsttheAETA

The National Weekend of Action Against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) entails talks, workshops, film viewings, protests, etc. to educate the public about federal laws that specifically target animal advocates whose work attempts to stop a person or company from profiting from the use of nonhuman animals (which includes nearly all types of non-reformist activism, from protests to liberatory actions). 

In effect, AETA labels activists as terrorists, a chilling reality that every activist of every cause should care about because this is a civil liberties and rights issue. AETA has been covered by almost every major paper in the US and is one of the most unconstitutional laws since COINTELPRO - a program established in the 1950s by the FBI that targeted the civil rights, anti-war, and Native American movements.

To understand more about the targeting of activists and the AETA, read *Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?* (2004), *Igniting a Revolution* (2006), *Muzzling a Movement* (2010), *Green is the New Red* (2011), and *The Terrorization of Dissent* (2014). 

This event is in collaboration with the launch of "Terrorization of Dissent" (2014), which will develop into a campaign with regular national days of action.

Please contact Martha Sullivan: marthasullivan@mac.com, 858/945-6273 

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