It’s no different from passing laws authorizing special punishment for so-called “hate crimes.” It’s always been possible to punish those who burn crosses, deface houses or otherwise harass people on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation. But often, the small fines and minimal jail terms prescribed by trespassing and property damage statutes don’t fit the egregious nature of the offenses. Thus, it’s necessary to identify special circumstances that change what would normally be mere misdemeanors into the more serious crimes that they are.
Likewise with acts of property damage, trespassing and animal theft done in the name of “exposing” the conditions on so-called factory farms. The perpetrators want—indeed, desperately desire—that their actions will strike fear in the hearts of the owners of farms, ranches and meat plants. They wouldn’t want to merely be hauled into some municipal court and fined as if they’d received a traffic ticket for driving 35 mph along the town’s 25-mph main drag.
They want their crimes to seem sensational. They want the media to portray them as fanatical terrorists willing to do anything to change what they hope the public would agree is a horrific system of food production. Indeed, that’s how the activists characterize themselves: As crusaders committed to do “whatever it takes” to destroy modern animal agriculture.
So the notion that these same activists are outraged when the FBI starts treating them exactly as they secretly (and not-so-secretly) wish to be portrayed is ironic in the extreme.
They boast about how they will “take down” an evil system that exploits animals. They glory in the “bravery” of those who go underground and steal, vandalize and disrupt operations at packing plants and livestock facilities in order to stop the abuses they decry.
Then they turn around and file suit when laws designed to deal with the very lawlessness they espouse are used against them.
That’s the real outrage in this whole scenario.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.