Saving a life is usually a selfless act of heroism, unless that life is an animal’s life — then it’s sometimes considered terrorism.
While ag-gag laws have been in the forefront of animal activism, the arrests and indictments of two animal activists puts the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) — an act where helping animals boils down to domestic terrorism — on the map again.
Animal Activists Become Terrorists
As reported in The Blaze, earlier this month, two concerned animal activists were federally indicted by a grand jury.
What was their heinous crime?
Allegedly setting 2,000 minks stuck in an Illinois fur farm free, in August 2013. In the eyes of the law, this act translates to conspiracy and interfering with animal enterprise. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the two California men in their late twenties are looking at five years in prison and a whopping $250,000 fine if they are convicted.
Feds claimed that Tyler Lang and Kevin Johnson (who also goes by the name Kevin Oliff) also made the intentional drive through Iowa, Missouri and Illinois to damage private property — a fur farm where minks were bred, raised and sold to manufacturers . In the process of freeing the captive animals, Lang and Johnson allegedly damaged the farm’s fence so the animals could escape. They are also accused of devastating the paint on a pair of the farm’s vehicles and vandalizing the barn by painting “Liberation is Love.” Prosecutors claim that Lang and Johnson also had plans to go to a neighboring fox farm.
Not surprisingly, Fur Commission USA, an organization devoted to protecting the interests of mink farmers since 1994, is delighted by this indictment. The organization’s executive director, Michael Whelan, expressed that, “It is tragic, that not only are hard working farm families left to start over, but these naïve, misguided young men now face felonies and years behind bars. I just hope that those that preach animal rights extremism and promote these acts, someday learn what they do to people’s lives.”
Whelan also points out how the animals also lost in this tragedy. For most of the minks, freedom was short-lived. Exposure to the elements, dehydration, hungry predators and passing vehicles killed most of the animals.
For supporters of Fur Commission USA, protection laws are set in place to protect against (mis)condut — trespassing, getting official records, getting a job undercover to harm the farm. Farm protection laws don’t have to have to do with freedom of speech rights.
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
Many animal activists think that AETA has everything to do with freedom of speech. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) explains that AETA was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2006. The Act replaced the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA) — a law that was backed by animal exploiting industries. According to CCR, AETA “silences the peaceful and lawful protest activities of animal and environmental advocates.”
One Truth-Out author and animal activist explains that she lives in fear for speaking out about animal suffering. The more that she does, the more likely that she’ll face jail time.
Despite AETA’s claim that it won’t affect average citizens exercising their constitutional rights, activists aren’t convinced. If laws on every scale of government exist to deal with issues of vandalism, threats and harassment, then what’s the need for AETA? For animal activists, AETA is a legal way to turn nonviolent civil disobedience into terrorism and to punish those who speak for those beings with no voice.
Voiceless Animals at Fur Farms
If animal activists are silenced, then no one will be able to speak for the animals trapped in fur farms. Despite modern luxuries that keep us warm, the (totally unnecessary) fur industry has no plans of slowing down. Fur Commission USA boasts that the fur industry is worth as much as Wi-Fi with profits exceeding $40 billion.
According to PETA, here are a few of the costs to fur farm animals that created those $40 billion profits (where 85 percent of the skins come from fur farms) :
- Animals living in cramped, dark and unsanitary spaces.
- Animals going insane, similar to zoochosis, where they will self-mutilate, eat their cage mates and neurotically pace.
- Animals subjected to harsh elements year-round, eating a diet that is unfit for consumption, dehydration and parasitic diseases.
- Animals can have their necks broken, be skinned alive, electrocuted (even electrocuted at their genitals) or poisoned. This is all perfectly legal, too. There are laws protecting property against vandalization, but there are no laws protecting fur animals against mutilation.
The exploitation and atrocities get worse. The stinging point is that 50 million animals die for vanity. Lang and Johnson weren’t 100 percent correct in their actions, but I think that their motives were beyond vanity. Condemning activists as terrorists and exploiting 50 million fur animals feels a lot more criminal — too bad the law says otherwise.