Tuesday, June 21, 2005

FBI Looks to Stop Violent Animal Rights Activists

The FBI has announced that they are making the fight against animal rights extremists a top priority. According to the agency, increased violence by these extremists have made them one of the largest domestic terrorist threats. There are about 150 open federal cases of arson, bombings and other violent crimes directed primarily at companies participating the experimental use of animals in medical research.

I for one had no idea this was such a problem. I knew animal rights activists tended to be kooky but I find it very strange that people who believe harming animals is immoral would be comfortable committing violent acts that could harm people. But the terrorist mentality is never all that comprehensible.

And make no mistake, these people are terrorists. They might not be of the stone-cold evil variety, but as soon as you begin hiding your identity and resorting to violence to affect change, you’re a terrorist. There's a lot of opportunity to dissent and dissent loudly in the United States. But once that dissent crosses into violence, it can no longer be tolerated.

It’s a good thing the FBI is targeting these groups now instead of waiting until they kill someone.

7 Comments:

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

It is very strange that we have not heard about these bombings and acts of arson and violence. I would expect the news media to run with stories like that. I guess the damage just was not great enough.

It makes me think of the violent pro-life activists -- they do get news coverage, though.

I think of a pro-lifer as being on the right and an animal rights activist as being on the left. I wonder if there is any crossover?

Extremism is strange and scary where ever you find it. It always involves massive contradictions.

 
At 1:23 AM, Blogger Ted Carmichael said...

I always try to read stuff like this with a critical eye, and I can't help but wonder what the other side of the story is ... what is it, exactly, that the companies are doing that propels extremist behavior?

It also seems that characterizing these acts as "domestic terrorism" is a little disingenuous. I'm certainly not apologizing for these illegal activities, or advocating their actions. But it does strike me as odd that people who haven't done more than harrassment and vandalism are termed 'terrorists.' According to the article you linked to, there have been no injuries related to any of the bombings.

Of course, the article doesn't give that impression. It keeps referring to "violent acts," which - in my mind - alludes to attacks on people. Yet no injuries or personal harm was noted in the article, just damage to property.

I guess it all depends on which side you're on. After all, the Boston Tea Party and other acts of rebellion in our history would be termed 'terrorism' according to this standard. It's sort of like calling President Bush a nazi, or Gitmo a gulag ... it's bad, but doesn't seem to warrent such hyperbole.

 
At 1:42 AM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

Jennifer,

These people are extreme leftists. It's the Marxist ideology that says we have to protect and defend the down-trodden. Unfortunately, they take it much too seriously. Being a meat eater and a person who likes to wear leather shoes, I don't think I would be considered an animal rights activist. However, having seen the way some animals are treated has actually made me ill.

Most of us would agree cock fighting and dog fighting are inhumane treatments. But these kooks go will even go after people who buy crickets to fish with.

While I agree there should be some limitations to the logging industry, I disagree with the activists who spike trees. This is also a dangerous form of domestic terrorism.

But when you look at the mind set of extreme activists (and this includes people who bomb abortion clinics and shoot the doctors), they believe they are working for a good and noble cause. There is no maliciousness involved. And in an odd way, it's the exact mind set of an Islamic extremist. They see themselves as doing the work of Allah no matter how far from the Quran it is.

The Crusades were filled with Christians who were barbaric toward the so-called infidels. The IRA thought they were working for a noble cause.

In every instance that we see as extreme, there is a person (either through religion, skewed morality, or delusional mind) who believes he/she is doing the right thing.

Sorry to go on and on, but this is a complex matter. In closing I thought you might like to know that these animal rights extremists have been violent several times in the past. Since 1982 the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) has been responsible for over 100 acts of violence, arson and vandalism.

 
At 1:54 AM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

Ted,

Things do get violent from time to time. Here is a link to a story that shows what I mean.

 
At 9:21 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

The Boston Tea Party wasn't terrorism. It was civil disobedience. About the same as if these groups were just releasing caged rabbits back into the wild. Illegal, yes. Dangerous, no. The rest of the Revolution was open war with armies—not really terrorism.

These animal rights extremists may not have killed anyone yet, but it’s almost certainly only a matter of time given their fondness for explosives. I also think we shouldn’t classify these guys as extreme left in the same way we shouldn’t classify people who blow up abortion clinics as extreme right. They exist outside of our usual political classifications. By pretending they actual do exist in our political spectrum, these groups are just looking for sympathizers.

I don’t think it’s a hyperbole to call them terrorists. Obviously they aren’t as blood-thirsty as radical Islamic terrorists, but they do use violence as a means to an end. And if they aren’t terrorists, what are they? I don’t think we need to wait for them to kill someone to call them terrorists.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Ted Carmichael said...

Well, I don't know much about the subject, but I've done a bit of research since delving in. Aside from the single reference from Robert (thanks for that) about an attack on a person in England from 4 or 5 years ago, I couldn't find any reference to injuries due to these incidents of arson and vandalism.

I did find reference to 600 "criminal acts" by ALF and ELF in the US since 1996, and 1200 claimed by animal and environmental groups since 1990, but both fail to note any human injuries (though they do talk about the potential to harm people, including responding firefighters.)

Here's an interesting article from Congressional Quarterly - which seems a bit left-leaning, though I don't know CQ's reputation in that regard. Also, I particularly like David Skorton's (President of the University of Iowa) care with semantics in this article about his recent testimony to the Senate. His view seems to mesh well with my moderate sensibilities.

In regards to the Boston Tea Party, I've found that Alan was exactly right about that act being decidedly different from this new definition of terrorism, in that the Sons of Liberty were aiming only for an economic impact (and, surely, a political one). Though a few people on board the three ships may have been roughed up or restrained, the S.O.L members insisted that those on board acknowledged that only tea - and no other cargo or property - was destroyed.

But it seems there were at least two groups called the "Sons of Liberty," one in NYC and one in Boston. And their activities were much more widespread than the one Tea incident in Boston. Here's an interesting article if you'd like to read. In essence, the various loosely joined groups ransacked homes (including the lt. governor of Massachusetts), incited riots, vandalized government offices, and - in a few cases - tarred and feathered some. (Tarring and feathering someone is not as innocuous as it seems. The tar used generally was quite hot, and could cause 2nd and 3rd degree burns and some permanent damage.)

Although the Boston Tea Party does not itself represent this new idea of terrorism, I would submit that some of these other acts of rebellion do. In fact, it seems the revolutionaries injured more people than the "domestic terrorists" of today have. 1200 recorded and claimed acts and not a single injury is a remarkable record. If true, it seems these groups are being very careful, or are outrageously lucky.

 
At 5:01 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Ted, wow, great comment. Maybe "terrorist" is a little too strong of a word here. Although I'm not sure what other word to use. And history has taught us that once a group crosses into violent methods, that violence tends to escalate. So I do think it's appropriately proactive to target these groups now before they get more violent or stop being so lucky.

As for the Revolution, there were indeed atrocities committed and acts we'd never consider "American." My favorite is the liberty pole which was set in towns to get residents to sign on to the Revolution. It had a bucket of tar and a bucket of feathers hanging from it to let the towns people know what was in store if they didn't sign on to the revolution. A couple of people were even hanged from liberty poles in Boston.

I guess, if we want to be academic, all that could be considered a form of terrorism. But it's really hard to compare what happened 230 years ago to the modern world. Nor can you compare armed revolution to animal rights acitivists.

Still, it's intellectually fascinating to try.

 

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