Sometimes, it's better to be wrong than right, and this is one of those times. At issue is the effectiveness of the tactics of coerecion, intimidation and terrorism employed by AR (and Eco) extremists to get their way. I've said that they are fiendishly effective, and really warrant being taken seriously for two reasons: first, their success will encourage AR and Eco activists not previously inclined to use violence and coercion to adopt them to achieve their own ends, and second, the tactics are portable, meaning that any 2-bit extremist group (like MEChA) can easily adapt them to their own agenda.
This article seems to validate the first of my concerns: AR activism is increasingly inclining towards violence, coercion and intimidation, ARA's are aiming at 3rd parties to bring down their primary target, those tactics are very effective on a tactical level, and the entities (PeTA, SHAC, ALF and ELF, for example) employing such tactics are virtually immune from legal accountability.
A federal statute aimed at curbing violence by animal rights extremists is ineffective against new strategies of targeting customers, employees, and vendors of companies using animals for research and other purposes.
Moreover, violent rhetoric and actions by some elements within the U.S. animal rights movement have recently escalated. Extremists bombed two northern California companies last year and have threatened to assassinate researchers, corporate officers, and employees.
[ . . . ]
During the past several years, special-interest extremists such as the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front have shown themselves to be a serious domestic terrorist threat, said John E. Lewis, deputy assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterterrorism Division.
Rather than attempting to effect widespread political revolution, special-interest terrorists conduct acts of violence to force segments of society to change their attitudes about issues the terrorists consider important, Lewis explained. [Emphasis added . . . Ed.]
In recent years, ALF and ELF have become the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States. The FBI estimates ALF, ELF, and related groups have committed more than 1,100 criminal acts in the country since 1976, resulting in more than $110 million in damages.
[ . . . ]
"It demonstrates a new willingness on the part of some in the movement to abandon the traditional and publicly stated code of nonviolence in favor of more confrontational and aggressive tactics designed to threaten and intimidate legitimate companies into abandoning entire projects or contracts," Lewis said.
"Make no mistake about it," agreed McGregor W. Scott, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, "the individuals who commit these crimes are hard-core, dangerous, and well-funded criminals whose weapons are firebombs, timed detonation devices, Molotov cocktails, and poison."
It's worth noting here that PeTA is an extremist organization that has provided funds for terrorists and terrorist organizations.
Since May 2003, Chiron Corp., a biotechnology company headquartered in Emeryville, Calif., has experienced a campaign of intimidation, harassment, and extortion from animal rights extremists, said William Green, Chiron's senior vice president and general counsel.
[ . . . ]
Chiron and Shaklee were targeted for their business ties to Huntingdon Life Sciences, an international research firm headquartered in the United Kingdom with an office in East Millstone, N.J. The animal extremist group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty has been trying to force Huntingdon out of business for several years.
In America, SHAC USA is using similar tactics with the same goal. "The extremists threaten and cause physical, economic, and emotional harm to these third-party companies and their employees in an effort to force them to quit doing business with a targeted animal enterprise," Green said. [Emphasis added . . . Ed.]
On May 26, the Department of Justice announced the indictments of a SHAC USA cell in New Jersey and seven of its members. The cell and the individuals are accused of conducting a campaign to terrorize employees, officers, and shareholders of the Huntingdon facility in New Jersey (see page 483).
These indirect, or "secondary" and "tertiary," actions, Lewis explained, are a departure from traditional forms of special-interest terrorism. Generally, direct actions are criminal activity meant to cause economic loss or destroy a company's operations or property. Instead, animal extremists harass, intimidate, and coerce companies and individuals doing business with the primary target, he said. [Emphasis added . . . Ed.]
The SHAC 7, as the defendants are called on the SHAC Web site, have pleaded not guilty and vow to fight the charges tooth and nail. The site goes on to claim that the indictment is "a frightening new frontier in the war on speech.
"Their indictment is constitutionally flawed and imperils not just those who speak out on behalf of animals, but anyone who has something controversial to say," according to the SHAC Web site. "The stand they now take is a stand for civil liberties for us all."
And here we see the ultimate defense: freedom of speech. As I've pointed out several times (for example, here), the information published on the SHAC, ALF and ELF websites, and in their flyers, and the rhetoric used in speeches by their luminaries, though inflammatory are by themselves harmless. But the goal of all this is to recruit anonymous "useful idiots" to their cause, and incite them to do the actual violent deeds: you really don't need very many useful idiot foot-soldiers to accomplish your ends.
[ . . . ]
Two other witnesses accused People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of engaging in a similar campaign of threats and coercion. Jonathan Blum, senior vice president of Yum! Brands, the world's largest restaurant company, accused PETA of engaging in "corporate terrorism" in its operation against Kentucky Fried Chicken. [ Emphasis added . . . Ed.]
For nearly three years, PETA has attempted to pressure Yum! into forcing its poultry suppliers to switch from standard processing techniques to a gas method of killing poultry, Blum said. The changes are "impractical, unnecessary, and unproven," he said, and would cost the company more than $50 million to implement.
When Yum! resisted PETA's demands, the organization escalated its campaign from rhetoric and dialogue to harassment and threats, Blum said. PETA's offenses include publishing the home addresses of company executives on its Web site, encouraging members to write them regularly, and telling executives' neighbors they live next to "chicken killers," he added. [Emphasis added ... Ed]
"PETA has stepped over the line of protected speech and has resorted to pressure through intimidation, harassment, and invasion of privacy," Blum said.
Blum, along with Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a coalition of restaurants, food companies, and consumers, said PETA's tax-exempt status should be revoked.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Berman listed several instances he says prove PETA has encouraged and funded violent activity. He notes PETA donated more than $150,000 to activists who have been arrested for arson, burglary, and attempted murder.
Additionally, PETA activists have been arrested some 80 times for crimes allegedly committed during protests, the letter stated.
Berman concluded, "A disturbing current of violence runs beneath the surface of 'mainstream' animal rights groups in the United States. And some of these tax-exempt charities are providing 'material support or resources' to groups and individuals whose activities fit the U.S. Criminal Code's definition of 'domestic terrorism.'"
Who would ever guess! PeTA! Using terrorist tactics (of targeting individuals on their website, and using inflammatory rhetoric to describe them), and using your good-faith contributions to support terrorists! I'm shocked! Shocked! Well, maybe I do have an inkling ... (link, link).
Even though the Animal Enterprise Protection Act provides a framework for prosecuting animal extremists, witnesses testifying before the Senate committee said the law is inadequate and must be strengthened.
Scott said the law does not give the federal government the necessary power to effectively prosecute animal rights extremists.
[ . . . ]
Additionally, the current penalties for those who violate the statute are inadequate and may fail to deter criminal conduct prohibited by the law. In the absence of bodily harm or death, the maximum penalty violators face is a three-year prison sentence. Scott said the Justice Department supports increasing prison sentences when extremists cause substantial economic damage.
I want much, much more: all terrorists (AR, Eco and "other" - as in Islamic or IRA) should receive very stiff penalties not only when they cause "substantial economic damage," but when their actions require members of emergency response teams (fire fighters, police) to endanger themselves (by fighting fires, for example) or risk the lives of others (by responding with siren, thus endangering drivers and pedestrians along their route of travel).
The safety and well-being of people, and the right of people to live free from threats, coercion and intimidation, certainly trump "substantial economic damage."
Or so I would argue.