Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is a United States federal law introduced by Republican Thomas Petri of Wisconsin. The final version of the bill, recently passed by both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, was known as S. 3880. [ GovTrack: S. 3880 [109th: Text of Legislation ] ] Earlier versions of the bill were known as S. 1926 and H.R. 4239. [ GovTrack: H.R. 4239 [109th: Text of Legislation ] ] The bill is described by the author as being intended to "provide the Department of Justice the necessary authority to apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals committing animal enterprise terror."

The intended targets are animal rights activists and environmental activists, sometimes called eco-terrorists, who engage in acts of "force, violence, and threats involving animal enterprises" by penalizing damage or interference to animal enterprises or conspiring or attempting to damage or interfere with an animal enterprise. The law does not "prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibition by the First Amendment to the Constitution,"

The House passed the bill under a suspension of the rules, which meant that only six Representatives were present to vote on it. Among the six, the only opposition was from Representative Dennis Kucinich, who said that the bill was "written in such a way as to have a chilling effect on the exercise of the constitutional rights of protest... people who, the law says, well, their first amendment rights are protected... I think for that reason, this bill has not yet reached its maturity." [ View Appearance | C-SPAN Congressional Chronicle, Created by Cable. Offered as a Public Service ] ]

The bill was passed by the Senate by unanimous consent in September 2006 and was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives by a voice vote in November 2006. [ [ House Unanimously Passes Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act] "Capitol Hill Press Releases" November 13, 2006] [ [ S. 3880 (109th): Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act] GovTrack Legislation: 2005-2006 (109th Congress)] It was signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 27, 2006.__TOC__


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), though not opposing the bill, sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, requesting "minor changes" to the bill to address concerns that "legitimate expressive activity" which economically damages or inhibits the business of an animal enterprise, could be classified as terrorist activity. The ACLU also expressed concern that the bill could be used against those interrupting illegal animal enterprises, such as animal fighting. [ American Civil Liberties Union : ACLU Letter to the House of Representatives Regarding the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act ] ]

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opposed the bill and "is sorry" it passed into law. [ ASPCA: ] ]

Animal rights activists have criticized the bill on the grounds that it does not provide explicit protection for whistleblowing and undercover investigations, [ PETA - Action Alerts ] ] and complained they have been unfairly singled out. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claimed that "no other industrial sector in U.S. history has ever been given such legal protections against people's exercising of their First Amendment free-speech rights.

According to PETA, this bill is an attempt by corporations to manipulate people's fear of terrorism in an effort to stop the peaceful animal protection movement". The Humane Society of the United States believes the law's language is overly broad and vague, the current law is satisfactory, and that the AETA could be interpreted to protect unlawful animal enterprises.] Alliance for Animals director Lori Nitzel suggested "it heavily criminalizes civil disobedience, and just for animal rights activists." [] , mirrored at [] ] However, Jerry Vlasak, spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, suggested the bill would have little impact on the movement because underground activists "don't really care about those laws" and law enforcement agencies had already "gone after" effective above-ground activists. [ Health Business - Analysis - ] ]

The American Kennel Club endorsed the bill, because it contains "explicit language" which protects the right of protesters to engage in "peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration." [ The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act Passes the House of Representatives ] ] Frankie Trull, president of the National Association for Biomedical Research described as "just silly" fears that peaceful protest would be criminalized by the bill, believing it would only apply when protesters "harass someone to the extent that they fear for their safety." The bill was supported by the Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition, an industry group including GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Roche and Wyeth among its members, Fact|date=November 2007 leading the the activist group Win Animal Rights to suggest it was "bought and paid for, by the pharmaceutical industry" Fact|date=November 2007


External links

* [ Text of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act]
* [ Earlier House version of the bill (H.R. 4239)]
* [ Transcript of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act]
* [ ACLU Letter to Congress Opposing the AETA]
* [ ACLU Letter to James Sensenbrenner Supporting an Amended AETA]
* [ U.S. terror hunt targets animal activists (Toronto Star)]
* [ People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Action Alert Regarding the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act]
* [ American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Action Alert Regarding the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act]
* [ The Casualties of Green Scare (CounterPunch)]

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