Is Documenting Cruelty to Animals a Federal Terrorist Crime?

January 12, 2012

Quite a few evening news stories aired in recent years have featured lurid video of food or fur animals being cruelly abused. Film of slaughterhouse workers prodding downer cows with forklifts may boost TV ratings. Animal-rights activists want such practices to stop. But the businesses that make money from these practices want the public and press to stop talking about what they are doing.

Food and fur companies got help from their friends in Congress via passage of the "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act" (AETA) in 2006. It metes out draconian jail time to activists who may set a mink or monkey free — doing so in the name of fighting "terrorism."

But according to the Los Angeles Times, recent directives from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force suggest that merely filming commercial acts of cruelty to animals could be a terrorist offense — something that now can lead to indefinite military detention without trial.

Activists hardly help matters by entering facilities illegally, freeing animals (or is it stealing commercial property?), much less setting the facility on fire when they leave.

The problem remains how to distinguish between legitimate (even undercover) documentation of cruelty to animals, whether by activists or journalists — and terrrorism.