Commentary: The ultimate activist irony

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If they plan like terrorists, talk like terrorists and act like terrorists—shouldn’t they be treated like terrorists? Yet animal activists want to have their civil rights, and flaunt them, too.

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, according to a new document uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act request.

Earlier this month, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which allows prosecution of activists who trespass on and vandalize meat plants and livestock facilities as terrorists, as unconstitutional. Why? Because its “vague wording” has had a chilling effect on political activism.

At least that’s the view of the animal rights activists and factory farm opponents.

Since 2003, four years before the AETA was passed by Congress, the FBI had kept files detailing the activities of several animal rights activists who went undercover to document alleged animal welfare violations. According to a report by OpEdNews.com, the FBI special agent who authored the report said they “illegally entered buildings” owned by a producer, videotaped the premises and removed several animals from the farm.

That action caused “economic loss” to the businesses, the FBI said. The apologists within the animal rights community tried to paint such violations as “acts of non-violent civil disobedience,” since the perpetrators distributed press releases and conducted media interviews taking responsibility for their actions.

Now, they’re outraged that the FBI has files on those who would commit such actions.

Depends on the definition of rescue

“It is deeply sobering to see one’s name in an FBI file proposing terrorism charges,” Ryan Shapiro, one of the activists charged with trespassing and unauthorized videotaping, said in an email to officials at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “It is even more sobering to realize the supposedly terroristic activities in question are merely exposing the horrific cruelty of factory farms, educating the public about what goes on behind those closed doors, and openly rescuing a few animals from one of those farms as an act of civil disobedience.”

Rescue or theft? That’s the question. One man’s liberation is another man’s loss of property.

Whatever label you wish to use, the point here is inescapable: The supposedly non-violent actions that opponents of animal agriculture take in capturing and removing farm animals is a violation of the law. Always has been. All that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act does is allow prosecution of the offenders as terrorists, rather than as common thieves.

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.


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Glenn    
Vancouver  |  December, 27, 2011 at 02:53 PM

Anti-slavery activists were spoken of exactly the same way as you speak of animal rights activists. Put you back just a couple hundred years or so ago and you'd be calling William Lloyd Garrison a terrorist. How well will time favour your opposition to freedom?

Laura    
Vermont  |  December, 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM

If the Farm Bureau and the ag industry wouldn't oppose even the most minimal regulations, Murphy could have a point. But they WANT to keep everything behind closed barn doors, no matter what it looks like. It is wrenching, sickening for decent people to witness animals being treated mercilessly. Those who abuse animals are the real terrorists, not those who expose it. Factory farmers are not the small farmers of yesteryear. The very nature of intensive confinement, depriving animals of their natural proclivities and cramming them inside, forcing them into intensive production cycles, is bad enough. Add to that routine practices such as dehorning, tail-docking and castration without pain relief that have become "acceptable husbandry practices" and things are definitely looking grim for the animals. Then there are those macho farmers and workers who treat animals as if they're inanimate farm products, and there's a problem that won't go away if you continue to just let it happen. These abusers are the miscreants who ought to be prosecuted--but who's watching, who's enforcing the animal welfare laws? I'm glad someone is speaking up. If farmers were smart, they'd decry animal abuse no matter who exposes it, and they'd exhort fellow farmers to clean up their act.

Mihalovic    
Vermont  |  December, 29, 2011 at 02:59 PM

In 1999 the Martin Luther King family sued one of the assassins of Martin Luther King in civil court. They did this because the department of justice would not reopen the investigation after the Martin Luther King family uncovered evidence that the FBI, CIA, and Memphis police had assassinated Dr King. The King family also wanted to enter their evidence into a public record so it could be accessed.The jury returned a verdict in favor of the King family and juror members held a press conference saying it was a clear cut case of the FBI assassinating Dr King. There was a media blackout of the trial. Details of the trial can be viewed here or by reading the book called ACT OF STATE THE EXECUTION OF Martin Luther King written by the trial attorney William Pepper. http://www.lewrockwell.com/spl2/mlk-conspiracy-exposed.html

Brad    
Wisconsin  |  December, 29, 2011 at 04:57 PM

Laura- I manage the 400 cow dairy my family owes in Wisconsin and this is your official invitation to my farm. Perhaps its been a while since you've visited a working dairy, and if you ever get the chance, you might see that the vast majority of us care about our animals enough to get up early, stay up late, sacrifice time with our family and friends, and do whatever it takes to make sure that our cows and calves are as healthy and comfortable as possible. Just ask my ex-wife. Most farm no longer dock tails, and pain medication for dehorning is on the rise. I am a very vocal advocate for the use of pain relief for dehorning, and we are also experimenting with the use of bulls that will give us calves without horns. I can't say much about castration because we don't raise male calves. We have found another producer to raise them. Who told you that "routine practices such as dehorning, tail-docking and castration without pain relief that have become "acceptable husbandry practices""? I'm pretty sure it wasn't a dairy farmer. A dairy farmer will tell you that a mistreated animal will not perform as well as a happy and comfortable animal. We opened our farm up to the public last summer for the county Dairy Breakfast sponsored by the Farm Bureau because not only do we have nothing to hide, but we want to show people what we do here and that are animals are healthy and happy. I'd be happy to invite anyone that wanted to see how our farm works. Just let me know!

Laura    
Vermont  |  December, 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM

If the Farm Bureau and the ag industry wouldn't oppose even the most minimal regulations, Murphy could have a point. But they WANT to keep everything behind closed barn doors, no matter what it looks like. It is wrenching, sickening for decent people to witness animals being treated mercilessly. Those who abuse animals are the real terrorists, not those who expose it. Factory farmers are not the small farmers of yesteryear. The very nature of intensive confinement, depriving animals of their natural proclivities and cramming them inside, forcing them into intensive production cycles, is bad enough. Add to that routine practices such as dehorning, tail-docking and castration without pain relief that have become "acceptable husbandry practices" and things are definitely looking grim for the animals. Then there are those macho farmers and workers who treat animals as if they're inanimate farm products, and there's a problem that won't go away if you continue to just let it happen. These abusers are the miscreants who ought to be prosecuted--but who's watching, who's enforcing the animal welfare laws? I'm glad someone is speaking up. If farmers were smart, they'd decry animal abuse no matter who exposes it, and they'd exhort fellow farmers to clean up their act.

Laure Johnson    
Florida  |  December, 28, 2011 at 12:17 PM

This isn't about human slavery, nor about all farmers abusing animals. That just doesn't happen. What this is about is a long term propaganda machine which has instilled much of the animal rights agenda into the minds of the general public. That is why otherwise reasonable urbanites and suburbanites actually believe most farmers are abusive towards their animals. That is simply not the case. The reality is that most people doing farm work happen to like the work they do, which includes liking to work with animals. It does not include abuse. While there will always be a few abusers, just as there are a few abusive parents and spouses, that does not mean that all animal agriculture folks are abusing their animals. HOWEVER, that is the image the animal rights folks want to put forward because they want to END animal agriculture! I think those folks might be more productive if they focused on becoming better educated about the history of humanity and the history of agriculture and how humans need modern agriculture in order to survive.

msfreeh    
Augusta Maine  |  December, 29, 2011 at 02:56 PM

FBI Agent Accused Of Masturbating In Public http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/12/ex-fbi_agent_sentenced_to_pris.html May 25, 2007 09:02 PM FBI Agent Accused Of Masturbating In Public Posted by, Marissa Pasquet KOLD News 13 News Editor FBI Special Agent Ryan Seese, 34, is facing sex offense charges after a cleaning woman said she found him masturbating in a women's lavatory on campus, according to a University of Arizona police spokesman.

msfreeh    
Augusta Maine  |  December, 29, 2011 at 02:57 PM

http://www.dairyherd.com/dairy-news/The-ultimate-activist-irony-136257818.html?ref=818 FBI Agent Accused Of Masturbating In Public May 25, 2007 09:02 PM FBI Agent Accused Of Masturbating In Public Posted by, Marissa Pasquet KOLD News 13 News Editor FBI Special Agent Ryan Seese, 34, is facing sex offense charges after a cleaning woman said she found him masturbating in a women's lavatory on campus, according to a University of Arizona police spokesman.


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