THE ANIMAL ENTERPRISE PROTECTION ACT: A SCIENTIST’S PERSPECTIVE BRINGS THE LAW INTO FOCUS
By: Edward Walsh Date: 01/15/2012 Category: | Animal Rights Extremism | Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare |
The Animal Enterprise Protection Act gives courts latitude in sentencing animal rights terrorists, but remains largely unused by prosecutors. The author, himself a victim of animal rights terrorism, comments on the Act's strengths and weaknesses, and challenges the lab animal community to unify in its response.
The intent of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (the "Act") of 1992 was to discourage the unlawful disruption of commerce involving animals. As a legal instrument, it is neutral on the issue of animal rights or animal welfare. Instead, it is designed to protect individual owners of animals-particularly businessmen and women, as well as scientists-from domestic and international terrorism at the hands of those individuals and organizations that are radically opposed to the use of nonhuman animals in business and industry.
Today, the protection that was intended to flow from enactment of this legislation is threatened by the proposition of redefining the relationship, legal or otherwise, between humans and nonhuman animals. When considering the future of this legislative tool, it is clear that its utility-the value of which has been questioned since its inception-would be fundamentally eroded if those advocating for extended animal rights or, more drastically, an expansion of the articles of human rights to encompass nonhuman animals, succeed.
Is There a Problem?
After accepting the responsibility to write this article, I immediately plowed into the subject expecting to find myself awash in information about the Act on the internet. Having been detoured there on many occasions, I was nervous about the task of ferreting the relevant from the extraneous, so I fired up my favorite search engine and browsed the web for information on two items, the "Animal Enterprise Protection Act" and the "Animal Welfare Act," fully anticipating both searches to yield the standard mega-response that typically goes with such unsophisticated search strategies. To my amazement, the phrase "Animal Enterprise Protection Act" yielded less than 40 hits. This simple test set the stage for a remarkable discovery. Unlike the Animal Welfare Act, a topic that yielded more than 1,600 hits on my global search of the internet, no one seemed to care very much about the Act that offered such hope for so many just seven years ago.
I immediately picked up the phone and began calling colleagues who I knew could help me understand how this potentially important piece of legislation, written to protect honest users of animals from animal rights terrorists, had suffered such undignified rejection at the hands of the federal prosecutors it was designed to energize. I was then stunned to learn that no one has been prosecuted under the provisions of the Act. No one. Not a single soul since the Animal Enterprise Protection Act became the law of the land.
While there may be many explanations for the dormancy of prosecutors in the use of this legal tool, we can all be certain that the failure to exercise the Act in the courts is unrelated to the level of animal rights activity during the period since its enactment. On the contrary, a strong case can be made that the overall level of animal enterprise terrorism in the US has dramatically increased since 1992. Numerous laboratory break-ins have occurred during this time frame, violence and vandalism at fur farms are on the rise, as are animal releases from research and animal husbandry facilities around the world. During this period, death and bomb threats have continued to flow from activists as freely as small talk at the local tavern, and animal rights leaders continue to egg on their foot soldiers with inflammatory talk of revolution.
Most recently, a new coalition of animal rights and environmental extremists going by the names Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Environmental Liberation Front (ELF), respectively, led a band of terrorists to fire-bomb the newly constructed Two Elks Lodge ski resort in Vail, CO, as a means of expressing their concern for human encroachment into lynx territory. Damages associated with this criminal action, perpetrated, as always, under the cover of darkness, were somewhere in the vicinity of $12,000,000 and once again placed law-abiding citizens at extraordinary risk. Then, in October 1999, an acclaimed journalist was allegedly bound, kidnapped, and branded with the name of the Animal Liberation Front across his back, presumably in retaliation for his award-winning exposé of their self-proclaimed acts of barbarism. Who really perpetrated the act is, of course, unknown, since the ALF and ELF are populated by a mysterious brood of malcontents who choose anonymity in their dirty work, and understandably so. Clearly, we have a big problem here, and the Animal Enterprise Protection Act does not yet seem to be a part of the solution.
The Act Itself
The Act itself is remarkable in its brevity and its simplicity, if not its timidity. The length of the Act alone is significant: it is a single page long. This feature lies in stark contrast to other, similar criminal laws covering such a broad range of offenses and penalties and, therefore, presents the courts with extraordinary latitude on matters of its interpretation by virtue of a complete absence of guidance in its language. Penalties attached to crimes committed against businesses and laboratories are appropriate, by some minimal definition, and, simultaneously, they are glaringly ineffective. This paradox constitutes the most serious practical problem confronting the Act's utility as either a deterrent to terrorism or a prosecutorial tool.
Congress has attempted to strengthen the Act (see July/August 1999 "Newsfronts"); the Senate recently passed the so-called "Animal Enterprise Terrorism and Ecoterrorism" amendment, but the measure has not become law.
Before discussing the law from an analytical point of view, let me very briefly summarize the salient features of the Act. Three classes of offense are defined in the body of the law: those involving murder, the capital crime clause, and those in which bodily injury or property damage results from animal enterprise terrorism. An individual who kills someone as part of a crime that violates the Act can be sentenced to life in prison, but this is a conditional clause and some other, lesser sentence can be rendered at the time of trial. If an individual inflicts serious bodily harm on a victim during the course of an attack on an animal enterprise, the perpetrator can be sentenced to prison for up to ten years under the Act's provisions.
If the offense is limited to vandalism, theft, or some other lesser crime, and damages amount to at least $10,000, an individual can go to jail for up to a year, and can be fined an amount that is unspecified in the law. According to the Act's language, these offenses must be committed intentionally for a prosecution to move forward. Provisions for restitution of lost revenues are also a part of the law.
Adequate Sentencing Power?
Presumably, the law's value, either as a deterrent to criminal activity or a means of isolating dangerous felons from the rest of society, is directly related to its sentencing power. It may be useful, then, to consider the sentencing limits associated with each of the offenses specified in the Act and compare them with sentencing guidelines contained in a subset of similar statutes at the state level or in other federal edicts, clarifying the indisputable distinction that separates the Act from other laws.
For example, under the provisions of the Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, an individual convicted of racketeering or extortion can be fined up to $25,000 and face the possibility of a 20-year prison sentence for each count of criminal conviction, a penalty that more than doubles the maximum punishment allowable under the provisions of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. At the state level, for example in Nebraska, laws protecting the interests of victims of first-degree assault, a class III felony, carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000, or both. An individual convicted in Nebraska of first-degree arson (a class II felony) can serve up to 50 years in prison.
Even burglary convictions carry sentencing power that more than doubles the maximum penalties available to prosecutors through the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, and a person convicted of "criminal mischief" can serve as much as five years behind bars. It doesn't take too many of these examples to see that we have a big problem with the Act. In this light, it may be valuable to consider each of the Act's provisions in our search for an understanding of its virtual impotence as a prosecution tool.
The Punishment Should Fit the Crime
There is no question that the language of the bill isn't as forceful as it could be, and this problem becomes notable when one considers the first-degree murder provisions. An animal rights activist who commits murder while perpetrating an act of terrorism could be sentenced to life in prison. On this measure, the language of the Act is clear. It states that an individual "shall be...imprisoned for life" if convicted of committing a capital offense as an outcome of his or her criminal activity. This is an irrefutably strong statement. However, its impact is conspicuously diminished by the following phrase "...or for any term of years". In not so subtle terms, the provision suggests that murdering a physician or a fisherman might not be as bad as murdering a judge, a police officer, or a fireman, or that the hate-inspired murder of a scientist might not be as reprehensible as murder of a Congressman or woman.
My disposition on the value of punishing criminals versus their rehabilitation tends towards the liberal, and my first impression of the law was positive. I was satisfied with the notion that it contained strong sentencing language, but did not require the courts to impose the maximum penalty in the event of a conviction. However, after reflecting on the subject, it occurred to me that the circumstances surrounding animal enterprise terrorism are anything but normal.
I arrived at the view that terrorism is a special form of criminal activity, and as such requires special legal consideration. Murder perpetrated for the purpose of revolution, even if the killing is unplanned, escalates the social meaning of the action and defines a far greater threat to the status quo than do capital offenses committed in every other category I can think of. It may, therefore, serve society to condemn crimes with revolutionary overtones in clear, unambiguous terms.
I would argue that a revised Act should contain a clause holding open the possibility of death as a sentence in capital offenses inspired by a hatred of scientists, fur farmers, cattlemen, conservationists, or any other compassionate, law-abiding user of animals. Such a revision would strengthen the law, possibly add to its deterrent value, and send a clear message to would-be animal and environmental terrorists that in our culture their radicalism is denied in the most severe of terms.
Although the Act does distinguish capital crimes from other offenses, it does not provide an appropriate gradation of punishments to fit lesser crimes. A terrorist convicted of causing serious bodily injury as an intentional consequence of attacking a research facility, or a farm, or a rodeo, or a circus, or a zoo, or, well, you get the picture, may go to jail for ten years.
In this context, we can begin to see the essential fault that binds the law. If you were prosecuting a case in which an individual was rendered quadriplegic during a lab break-in, and you were seeking the maximum allowable penalty for the crime exacted against him or her, what legal instrument would be most appropriate: a federal statute that would place the felon behind bars for at most ten years, or a state law that allowed for 20 years of imprisonment? Clearly, the more punitive vehicle should be used in such a case.
I find it shocking, personally, that the Animal Enterprise Protection Act is so weak in this domain. It is a veritable invitation to serious terrorists to take advantage of what appears to be a clear mismatch between sentencing guidelines and the severity of the criminal offenses referenced in the Act; the implication is, "Come on. Take the plunge. You will be back on the street in two, maybe three years, no matter what you do." In this regard, the Act is an embarrassment.
Where the Real Battle is Waged
But what about those not-so-savage acts that are purposefully executed in the hope that scientists and others whose work involves the use of animals will be intimidated and eventually driven out of science or out of business? This category of misdeed encompasses vandalism, including the now standard window-breaking, lab-trashing, acid-pouring, scattering of roofing tacks on driveways, and many other simple-minded acts of intimidation that small-time terrorists not-so-courageously perpetrate in the dark of the night. This is the real battlefield of the movement, and it is here that activists are most effective, methodically ruining the lives of one scientist, one spouse, and one set of children at a time.
This category also includes the silly crimes: pies in the face, pushes and shoves as unsuspecting victims leave a meeting or office, those little acts that can bruise a shoulder, if not a psyche, and diminish the quality of life. It is in this domain of daily harassment that the movement takes its form. While I do not believe that it is in this theater that the issue will be resolved (for that will be determined in the courts and the classrooms and on the floors of Congress), it is here, on the streets, that we get to know our antagonists.
It is also here that our antagonists must come to know us. In response to their theatrics and petty criminal acts, we must deliver the solid, unambiguous message that their disrespect for the law will not be tolerated. It must be made clear that their terrorism will not be dismissed in a free, civilized culture. However, be certain that we will never stoop to their level, their inhumanity, to achieve our goals, always respecting and tolerating their right to disagree with our choices in life. We must nonetheless make it clear to our adversaries that they should not mistake our civility for complacency or timidity. If they seek a clash, it will come, but it will come in the form of Congressional action or in the courtroom, the places where civilized people engage their disputes. But this requires that those engaged in animal enterprise, and especially the biomedical scientists among us who have until now dismissed the threat and avoided the responsibility to weigh in on the debate, have the will and the courage to face the challenge.
If all of this is to be accomplished, strong legislation that can be translated into strong public law must be made available to federal prosecutors. Congressmen and women who are sympathetic to the cause of animal rights must be reminded that they are aiding and abetting terrorism when they work to dilute the language of criminal statutes written to protect scientists, businessmen and women, entertainers and farmers, as well as law-abiding citizens in general, from hate-inspired violence. Further Strengthening a "Toothless" Act
Having considered the capital aspects of the law, as well as the bodily injury and vandalism clauses, one additional, perhaps one central item should be addressed. The Act is completely silent on the issue of harassment and character defamation, and this mode of coercion is the most commonly employed tool of intimidation used by animal rights activists today. The absence of such a clause may ultimately explain its frailty as a prosecutor's tool. If an animal rights terrorist violates my right to privacy by protesting in front of my home, then punches me in the nose when I answer the doorbell and terrifies my five-year-old son in the process-all for the explicit purpose of either making a spectacle of me for the benefit of public relations, or to intimidate me into submission-the action constitutes something worse and far more dangerous to society than a simple punch in the nose. I claim that the act is actually a smack in the nose of all of us-to society-and thereby constitutes a significantly larger offense, one that warrants a proportionally larger penalty. Perhaps a ten-year sentence would be excessive in this scenario, but the hateful disposition of the crime combined with the perpetrator's global intent requires us to think more in terms of extended, rather than minimal, penalties when it comes to animal enterprise terrorism, as it does in cases of hate-inspired crimes generally. In this vacuum, the law becomes truly toothless.
While I seek law and order like everyone hoping for a reasonable quality of life, I am not inclined toward punishment as a social tool. I believe that punishment, especially extreme forms, should be reserved for those situations in which its utility is unambiguous. That criterion is clearly met, in my view, when our culture itself is under siege, as it is with animal rights-inspired terrorism.
The idea that violent animal rights activists threaten our culture may seem unreasonable to some people at first, especially to those who have not considered this issue in depth. However, it is important to stay calibrated in this discussion, so let me remind you that we are talking here about animal rights, not animal welfare. All responsible and compassionate people subscribe to the principles of animal protection, even though animal rights advocates claim otherwise. Be clear that here we are talking about redefining what it means to be an animal when we talk about animal rights, and when I suggest that animal rights terrorists should be treated harshly in our culture, understand that I am talking about those who have committed barbarous acts in their advocacy of an extreme philosophy that seeks ethical equality among all animals and harbors disdain for human beings as its organizing principle.
Why Is the Act Never Used?
Federal agents working to contain terrorism in the US (a goal that has recently gained priority, according to FBI Director Louis Freeh) are more than willing to acknowledge (in anonymity) that the cost in dollars, time, and effort to organize and conduct an investigation, apprehend the criminals, and develop and execute a prosecution plan, greatly diminishes the Act's value. The penalties associated with a successful conviction do not justify the effort.
It is remarkable to me that Congress made the extraordinary effort to pass the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, but in the process failed to equip the measure with the tools necessary to accomplish its purpose. Our elected officials appear to be telling us that crimes committed against scientists and farmers and rodeo performers and all other honest animal users do not rise to a sufficiently high level of significance to warrant serious action.
Clearly, it is important to understand why that is the case, if it is. When the Act was passed in 1992, in what may prove to be the most important aspect of the legislation, the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture were charged with the responsibility to report back to Congress on the status of domestic and international animal enterprise terrorism. Their combined report entitled, Report to Congress on the Extent and Effects of Domestic and International Terrorism in Animal Enterprises, was submitted to the 100th Congress the following year, and pointed out with alarming clarity that animal rights terrorism had become a prominent component of our culture. Why, then, has Congress not successfully amended and strengthened the law?
While it may be tempting to suggest that it is simply a disappointing conglomerate Congressional attitude toward animal enterprise terrorism that is at fault, in reality it is not our Congressional leaders who deserve criticism here. It is the animal enterprise community that deserves criticism-it is us. We have failed to respond to the challenge of the animal rights community and to promote Congressional action to beef up the Act, and we have failed miserably. This, I believe, is a reflection of the state of our disarray and our confusion on this issue.
Is the Act Still Needed?
The federal law is still needed because some states have failed to enact reasonable legislation to protect animal enterprise. While the Act may require revision, if not replacement, as a concept it shapes the attitude of our culture toward animal enterprise terrorism and remains one of the few tools directed specifically at animal rights terrorists available to federal prosecutors.
In preparation for this assignment, as I mentioned above, I asked a few friends to connect me with sources that could be used to supplement my own reading on the subject. Over the course of the next few days I was deluged with page after page of news releases, op-ed pieces, and general information posts dealing with the current attitudes of animal rights leaders and criminal acts being executed in the name of animal rights. I received a mystifying anthology of reports from places like New Zealand, where parliamentarians are attempting to legislate equality between certain great apes and humans, and Austria, where serious efforts are being made to grant nonhuman animals the right to sue humans, and right here at home where activists seek the redefinition (through ordinance) of our relationship with our pets.
Although my overall purpose was to estimate the current level of activity in the animal rights community with that discussed in the 1993 Report to Congress, I could not help but be drawn toward the more startling discoveries, the most stunning of which was (save perhaps the shenanigans going on in New Zealand) that academicians are seriously debating the issue of granting nonhuman animals legal standing. This, of course, strikes squarely at the center of the Act, as well as the free enterprise system at large, and threatens to dismantle it or any other law of commerce involving animals.
Essentially, the concept of legal standing defines or establishes an individual's right to legal representation within our system of jurisprudence. Without it, an individual cannot stand before the court and bring an action against another person or another entity. In other words, without it a person has no right to act within the system of laws that regulate society. Consequently, it is relatively easy to see how the issue of legal standing has become, or promises to become, the defining debate in the animal rights crusade. At stake is a determination as to whether nonhuman animals are our equals in some strange perspective of the law, or whether humans have jurisdiction over nonhuman animals by virtue of our biology. I subscribe to the latter view, in a biological context, and claim that our intellect is our distinctive biological adaptation and the source of our compassion, itself the source of our remarkable capacity to care about the well-being of others, including other nonhuman animals. We have the "right" to be a part of our biology-a position that would seem to be unambiguous, but clearly isn't in the minds of some.
While the goal of animal rights advocates to establish a principle of full equality among all animals would fall short of its target, were nonhuman animals to gain legal standing as a group in our system of jurisprudence, the door would nevertheless be open to judicial chaos. The courts would find themselves barraged with claims against scientists, farmers, zoo directors, fishermen, NASA, and on, and on. It is of course impossible to predict the actual consequence of fundamentally revising our judicial system, but the prospect of triggering a chaotic atmosphere of litigation on behalf of animals of every description would be almost certainly increased.
While the intent of the concept of "legal standing" is to protect the legal interests of those that cannot speak for themselves, its utility has never been limited a priori to humans, to my knowledge. Individuals and their lawyers already have the right to sue on behalf of nonhuman animals, if my understanding of the concept is correct. If that is the case, I must ask, "Why all the fuss?" We already have the capacity to represent the legal interests of other animals in our courts, and the push to extend the definition of legal standing becomes duplicitous.
Of course, granting legal standing to nonhuman animals is, presumably, step one along a remarkably short continuum. If group legal standing was given to nonhuman animals (an action that I continue to find remotely possible at best), what will our legal scholars have to say on the issue of a nonhuman animal suing a human for property rights in an estate settlement? How will they direct us in our thinking about the natty problem of culpability when a nonhuman animal breaks the law, now that it has the legal equivalent of human rights? Ultimately, we can only hope that reason will prevail-that our legal scholars will remember why a mentally challenged human has rights in our culture and a very smart chimpanzee does not. We can only hope that they will remember that humans, and humans alone, have the capacity to act responsibly by virtue of our genome; that it isn't necessarily the 98.5% of our genes that we share with chimps that matters-it may be the 1.5% that we don't.
The issues reviewed here must be revisited in Congress. The foundation of a reasonable enterprise protection package was laid in the Act's passage in 1992, but true security requires that the law be reevaluated, its strengths and weaknesses considered, and amendments made accordingly. We must lobby our legislators, educate them in relevant areas, and raise the political stakes by reminding our politicians just how many of us there are. The collective us-the scientists, the farmers, the cattlemen, the rodeo and circus and motion picture entrepreneurs, the furriers, the hunters and fishermen, the physicians, the conservationists-constitute the vast majority of Americans and are a huge virtual alliance of voters who understand and respect our biology, and recognize the dangers of reckless philosophical views.
Most important, perhaps, we must bring back balance to, and restore order in, our schools. We have allowed the animal rights message to move unchecked into the classroom. Too many good, highly motivated teachers who work to inspire compassion in their students have been duped into believing that animal use is animal abuse. We, for there is no one else to blame here, have allowed this to happen in front of our very eyes and the abrogation of our responsibility in this matter is shameful.
But do we appreciate our enormous capacity to counter the empty rhetoric of a few emotionally involved primatologists, a few misguided actors and singers aspiring to convert celebrity into authority, and a handful of philosophers and lawyers who operate on the margins of reason? Do we recognize our capacity to correct the misinformation being fed to our primary school teachers about our biology? It is on this point that I am, admittedly, prone toward despair. I fear that we do not truly understand this or the implications of failing to assemble. I fear that those of us who choose not to wear fur products for whatever the reason, or are uncomfortable supporting the use of animals to study AIDS, or prefer not eating meat or going to rodeos (all perfectly appropriate individual choices in and of themselves), quietly, but effectively, promote the dissolution of our culture in the failure to take a unified stance in behalf of all animal users who are compassionate and operate within the clear bounds of law and humanity.
On this question, we must be frank. This is a dangerous, defeatist attitude that threatens the future of living in a free society more than any other cultural pressure. We must continue working with leading organizations like the National Association for Biomedical Research, who worked so diligently and professionally to shepherd the Act through Congress in the first place. We must follow the example of member organizations of the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) and join in common cause. It is time to follow the lead of the American Physiological Society and the Americans for Medical Progress, and appeal in a common voice for reason by signing on to the NAIA-sponsored petition requesting that the Senate Judiciary Committee convene hearings on the subject of animal rights terrorism. It is time to go in and take back the moral high ground that we abrogated as we dug our heads into the sand at the first sign of assault.
There was a time in my youth that I imagined writing groundbreaking, tide-turning essays on questions of human rights and the subjugation of the human spirit; an inclination that flowed naturally from coming of age in the '60s, no doubt. However, even in my wildest musings it never occurred to me that I would write on the question of granting legal standing to mice and rats. It bothers me a lot, quite frankly, that we occupy ourselves in this way, especially in the face of the glaring monumental failures of our culture; our war-making propensity, our failure to resolve world hunger, our inability to turn back oppression against women and minorities, against people the planet over. I despair that instead of joining in common cause to rid the planet of these and other human atrocities, we debate this outrageous question of rights for non-human animals; that we are consuming resources on such an empty issue.
Now, I urge you to be cautious here. Do not misunderstand me. The empty issue to which I refer is not animal welfare, not animal protection. For the human attribute that drives us to protect the planet and its creatures is, in many ways, our ultimate achievement as a species, one of humankind's richest and fullest celebrations of intellect. That we respect and care about other animals is not the issue. It is the "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy" argument that lies at the heart of this debate. It is the philosophy that encourages us to think about granting legal standing to nonhuman animals that we are discussing.
The question that I pose as central to this discussion and the one that I had to grapple with as I wondered about my decision to write this essay is, "Can the handful of philosophers, lawyers, and political activists among us who are promoting the idea that ethical distinctions cannot be made among members of the animal kingdom ever truly hope to win this extreme argument that they wage?" I seriously doubt it. But if they were successful, those other human tragedies to which I refer would be compounded by the Alice in Wonderland atmosphere that would have consumed us.
Let me end by reminding you that I am a biologist. Moreover, my understanding of the natural world shapes my view on this question, and my morality stems from that understanding. If there is a fundamental principle in biology that we have uncovered in our search to understand ourselves, it is the principle of biological connectivity, the idea that we are inherently related to every other living entity on the planet. In that understanding, I do not deny my connection with lowland gorillas and other great apes that some wish to make human. But neither do I deny my connection with the hawks that I love to watch sailing on updrafts high above the Midwestern plains, or the butterflies and moths that dart and flitter down on the floodplain near Beaver Hollow that so enrich my life. The gorilla might share more of my genome than the Grey Hairstreak butterfly, but my respect for both is tied to our shared birthright. It is in that understanding that I know that the greatest disrespect I can pay those distant and not-so-distant relatives would be to deny our distinctiveness, to deny our diversity by declaring our equality.
The Act in Action
In preparation for this assignment, I learned of two cases in which plaintiffs brought claims against a local branch of the Humane Society in 1994 and the US Government in 1997, both basing their action on alleged violations of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. The claims were summarily dismissed in both cases, partly because the federal animal enterprise statute references criminal acts only. The claims in question were private actions and consequently fell into the civil law category and outside of the reach of the Act. However, in the case of the 1997 litigation, as reviewed in an unpublished disposition, a Circuit Court judge in California issued a ruling that may explain in part why the Act has been so under-used. The plaintiff in this case argued that government agents violated the Act in their efforts to enforce animal welfare laws related to his explicit business interests that involved animals protected under the charter of the Animal Welfare Act. The plaintiff, who had been charged with animal cruelty in an earlier action in which animals under his care were poorly cared for and improperly nourished according to investigative reports, sought redress in the courtroom, albeit to no avail.
The court found that the plaintiff had no right to sue for damages under the "private right of action" term of law because the Act is a criminal statute, and most significantly the court referred to a clause in the Act which states that individuals who lawfully disrupt an animal enterprise "for the purpose of enforcing animal welfare laws" are exempt from prosecution. This exemption is remarkable in its potential to diminish or otherwise interfere with (if not completely undermine) the fundamental rights of a citizen to defend his or her interests in matters of dispute regarding animal commerce and, therein, inherently threatens our liberty. Those charged with the responsibility to enforce animal welfare laws must be held accountable for their actions or we run the risk of stepping out onto the slippery slope of autocracy that so many other cultures have sadly embraced, and we have so masterfully avoided, at least until now. This aspect of the Act should almost certainly be revisited by the Congress.
I also learned that Justin Samuel and Peter Young, both well-known animal rights activists, have been indicted by a grand jury in Madison, WI under the provisions of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. Both Samuel and young are allegedly guilty of conspiring to perpetrate "animal enterprise terrorism and unlawful interference with interstate commerce," by releasing 3,600 mink from fur farms in Utah in October of 1999, as well as other "overt" acts of terrorism in three states. They are facing potential imprisonment for twenty years on each of four counts of extortion, as well as one year on each of two other counts, according to information that I uncovered while preparing to write this article. Although the Animal Enterprise Protection Act is included as a component of the grand jury's case against Samuel and Young, other violations, including most significantly provisions of the RICO Act, explain why prospective penalties are so impressive. Justin Samuel is in custody; Peter Young remains at large.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Edward Walsh |