Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

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The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act became law on November 27, 2006 upon receiving President Bush’s signature. Its stated purpose is “to provide the Department of Justice the necessary authority to apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals committing animal enterprise terror.” Originally introduced by Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on September 8, 2006, the bill ultimately passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and a voice vote in the House. This page details both the text and sponsors of the legislation, as well as support and opposition surrounding the bill.

Contents

Text of the legislation

The bill (S. 3880) defines an animal enterprise as any of the following:

  • A commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research, or testing.
  • A zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store, breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other lawful competitive animal event.
  • Any fair or similar event intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences.

It then defines the following actions against animal enterprises as illegal acts of terrorism:

  • Intentionally damaging or causing the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.
  • Intentionally placing a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation.
  • Conspiring to do any of the above violations.

According to the bill, penalties for these actions vary greatly depending on the nature of the crime. A punishment of “not more than 1 year” in prison is set if no bodily injury takes place and economic damage is less than $10,000. Punishments increase substantially as economic damage, bodily injury, and the threat of the latter increases. If an offense results in the death of an individual, a violator can face life in prison.

Senate action

Bill introduced by Sens. Inhofe and Feinstein

The bill was originally introduced in the Senate by Sens James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on September 8, 2006.

Main article: James Inhofe
Main article: Dianne Feinstein

Following the introduction of the bill, Inhofe said in a statement:

Our bi-partisan legislation will provide law enforcement the tools they need to adequately combat radical animal rights extremists’ who commit violent acts against innocent people because they work with animals. This is terrorism and must not be tolerated. As a result of my committee hearings on this topic, I became aware of the need for legislation to combat this growing violent phenomenon. With eco-terrorist attacks in Oklahoma and California, Senator Feinstein and I share a commitment to passing legislation that will help end these terrorist attacks.

Feinstein, who listed the bill's passage as a legislative priority on her website, cited protesters’ harassment of researchers who use animals at the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) as a key motivation behind her support. The school, she argued, had been forced to spend more than $2.5 million to increase security at its research facilities. [1] In addition, she cited the 2003 bombings of the Chiron Corp. and Shaklee Corp. headquarters in California. Each is in the business of manufacturing food and drugs, and the Revolutionary Cells, an animal rights group, claimed credit for both. She stated, “We can no longer tolerate criminally based activism regardless of the cause it allegedly advances…This is terrorism and it must be stopped.”[2]

Cosponsors

The bill attracted the following nine co-sponsors on the respective dates listed:

Passage

On September 30, 2006, in “the wee hours of the morning before officially recessing for the fall campaign trail,” the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent.

House action

Identical bill introduced by Rep. Petri

While the House ultimately voted on the Senate bill described above, an identical House version (H.R. 4239) was introduced on November 4, 2005 by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.).

Main article: Tom Petri

Petri offered the following statement in support of the legislation:

In my own state of Wisconsin, mink farmers and biomedical researchers have experienced their own share of intimidation, harassment, and vandalism at the hands of animal rights extremists. Farmers have had their properties raided, causing thousands of dollars of damage...Scientists around the state have received in the mail at their homes razor blades with letters stating they were laced with the AIDS virus. Personal information such as home addresses, phone numbers and photographs of researchers have been posted on extremists' Web sites. Many of these same scientists report death threats and home visits by animal rights extremists who through their terrorism have a goal of driving the scientists out of their research-- research which has and will continue to improve human health and quality of life.

Cosponsors

The bill attracted the following forty-four co-sponsors:

Reps. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Chris Cannon (R-Utah), Chris Chocola (R-Ind.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.), John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.), Chet Edwards (D-Texas), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Phil English (R-Pa.), Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Mark Green (R-Wis.), Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), John Kline (R-Mich.), Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.), Rick Larsen (R-Wash.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), Butch Otter (R-Idaho), Stevan Pearce (R-N.M.), Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), Dennis Rehberg (D-Mont.), Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), John Sullivan (R-Okla.), Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)

Criticism and commendation

Commendation

Rather than seek passage of Petri's version, the House Judiciary Committee called the Senate version to the floor, "in order to speed the legislation to the President's desk before the current Congress" adjourned.[3] During the House debate over the Senate version, Judicary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) argued that the bill was necessary because current federal law was, “inadequate to address the threats and violence committed by animal rights extremists.” He said that between January 1990 and June 2004, animal rights groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front, committed over 1,100 acts of terrorism which caused over $120 million in damage.[4]

Criticism

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) spoke out against the bill on the floor. He argued that it compromised civil rights and threatened to “chill” free speech. Kucinich also addressed the animals he feared would become less protected if the legislation scared protesters away. He stated, “Just as we need to protect people’s right to conduct their work without fear of assault, so too this Congress has yet to address some fundamental ethical principles with respect to animals. How should animals be treated humanely? This is a debate that hasn't come here.”

Passage

On November 17, during the lame-duck session of the 109th Congress, the bill was passed by the House through a voice vote. As a result, roll call information for this bill is unavailable.

Interest group support

Frankie Trull, president of the National Association for Biomedical Research, stated “It’s terrific...This bill was desperately needed because a number of researchers have been under significant attack. The original law needed to be updated and improved.”[5]

Interest group opposition

Many groups found the bill to be both overreaching and unnecessary. Michael Markarian, executive vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States, a group aimed at stopping animal cruelty, said, “The language of this legislation was too broad and vague, and could be interpreted to infringe upon lawful practices, such as protest, whistle-blowing, or boycotts.” Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, a group “dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system,” said that “Adding the term ‘terrorist’ to identify activists in a recognizable civic group — that exploits the tragedies that accompany real terrorist action…We think that the wealth and pressure of big business and corporations has pushed this through, and it's an example of corporate interests working against civic rights.” [6], [7]

Articles and Resources

Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. Dianne Feinstein, "House Unanimously Passes Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act," U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, November 13, 2006.
  2. Matt Smith, "Boycott Feinstein," SF Weekly, November 11, 2006.
  3. "Congress Passes Petri Bill Against Animal Rights Extremists," U.S. Representative Tom Petri, November 13, 2006.
  4. [1] The-Scientist, 2006.
  5. [2] The-Scientist, 2006.
  6. Matt Smith, "Boycott Feinstein," SF Weekly, November 11, 2006.
  7. Megan Tady, "House Passes ‘Terrorism’ Act Against Animal Activists," The New Standard, November 15, 2006.

External resources

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