On March 3, 2006, six members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) were found guilty of “conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act”, the first application of the 1992 statute. They were not accused of causing property damage or animal rescues, but of inciting and encouraging others to take direct action against Huntingdon Life Sciences, an animal testing lab that has been charged with fraudulent science and numerous violations against the Animal Welfare Act.
What is the Green Scare?
The Green Scare refers to the current attempts of the U.S. government to vilify and persecute environmental and animal liberation activists and those that support them. The term alludes to the Red Scare, occurring between 1917-1920 and 1947-1957, in which there was a heightened fear of communists, radicals, and infiltration of the U.S. government by communists.2
What activist Repression?
The U.S. government has exploited the post-911 climate of fear to rip people of their civil liberties. The “USA Patriot Act” undermines constitutional rights by increasing surveillance and denying individuals the rights to free speech, free assembly, to security from unreasonable searches and seizures, and to basic protections during criminal proceedings.3 The Patriot Act additionally classifies “domestic terrorism” so broadly that participating in a protest or supporting political prisoners could deem you an “eco-terrorist”. In late 2006, the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” expanded the “Animal Enterprise Protection Act” to punish all actions that “instill a “reasonable fear” in employees of an animal enterprise, or their families”.4 These progressively dangerous laws make it possible to label almost any animal or environmental activist a terrorist, instilling fear in those involved in progressive social movements and halting social action.
Increased infiltration and surveillance of animal and environmental activists has included everything from giving “eco-terrorist” defendants reduced prison sentences for information on other activists to reports of FBI agents recruiting informers to infiltrate vegan potlucks.2 Political prisoners, under the brand of “terrorists”, are additionally given unfair prison sentences: Whereas the median sentences in the U.S. is 5 years for arson, 15 years for murder, and 3.5 years for sexual abuse5, Kevin Jonas was sentenced to 6 years in prison for encouraging individuals to engage in direct action against Huntingdon Life Sciences and Jeff Leuers was sentenced to 22 years in prison for damaging 3 SUVs that were later restored. Additional public relation campaigns are branding activists as terrorists. An anonymous advertisement in the NY Times with the headline “I control Wall Street”, reporting that the New York Stock Exchange backed out of an agreement to support Life Sciences Inc. when they were ‘threatened’ by animal rights activists, was meant to instill fear in the general population and label activists as “terrorists”.2 The Center for Consumer Freedom, a coalition of restaurant, alcohol, and tobacco companies, consistently brands animal liberation and vegetarian activists as “terrorists”, while twisting the truth to deny “the dangers of secondhand smoke and alcohol-impaired driving”.3
Undermining Civil Liberties
By vilifying activists, the government is able to suppress wider social change. These scare tactics are making activists fear participation in democratic actions, such as protests, demonstrations, or freedom of speech. If allowed to continue, the repression will soon bleed over into other social movements. Any social movement that threatens the profits of major corporations will soon be a target of such misinformation campaigns.
As described by Dr. Steven Best, “Government doublespeak defines peace as war and war as peace, (corporate) criminality as principled more action and principled moral action as criminal behaviour”.3 The government oppression of animal liberation and environmental activists is part of a larger agenda to stifle civil liberties and halt any social change that threatens the super-wealthy and privileged. The animal liberation movement is now part of a larger struggle for democracy and freedom.
1Schuster, H. (2005, August 24). Domestic terror: Who’s most dangerous? Eco-terrorists are now above ultra-right extremists on the FBI charts. Retrieved May 18, 2009 from CNN.com Web site: http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/08/24/schuster.column/index.html
2Potter, W. (2008). What is the “Green Scare”? Retrieved May 18, 2009 from GreenIsTheNewRed.com Web site: http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/green-scare/
3Best, S. (2004). It’s war! The escalating battle between activists and the corporate-state complex. In S. Best & A. J. Nocella II, Terrorists of freedom fighters: Reflections on the liberation of animals, (pp. 300-339). New York: Lantern Books.
4Potter, W. (2007). Animal Enterprise Terrorism 101. Retrieved May 18, 2009 from GreenIsTheNewRed.com Web site: http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/aeta-101/313/
5U.S. Sentencing Commission (2003). Average sentence length in each primary offense category, Datafile USSCFY03. Retrieved May 18, 2009 from http://www.ussc.gov/annrpt/2003/table13.pdf
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