From a Molotov cocktail attack on a police cruiser to vandalism at a gourmet taco restaurant, animal liberation terrorists are still active across North America. It’s in the shadow of these and other recent illegal acts that the American Bar Association will vote on a misguided and reckless push to roll back anti-animal terrorism laws.
The New York City Bar Association has submitted a referendum to the ABA’s House of Delegates asking the ABA to push for repeal of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) and calling on the Justice Department to cease enforcing the law. The law, passed in 1992 and upgraded in 2006 following the arrests of several SHAC activists—who were found guilty of animal enterprise terrorism—is an important law in fighting radical vigilantes.
The AETA makes it a crime to damage or interfere with an “animal enterprise”—zoo, pet store, research lab, farm, etc.—by causing property loss or by putting someone in fear of death or serious bodily injury through using threats, intimidation, trespass, or vandalism. It’s an entirely reasonable law to push back against a terrorist movement whose tactics have involved not only targeting businesses, but associates of businesses and their employees and family members with actions including from bombings, death threats, office invasions, and computer attacks.
Yet the NYC Bar, along with groups like the so-called Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), has claimed that the law creates a chilling effect on free speech. It’s a bizarre claim both on its face and in practice.
The law explicitly contains provisions exempting protected activities, such as picketing or demonstrations. And the AETA in practice certainly isn’t stopping the likes of HSUS and PETA from attacking brands (or people, for that matter). PETA’s recent street theater opposing the circus and HSUS’s increasingly desperate kitchen-sink campaigns against livestock farmers demonstrate that the AETA is not having a silencing effect on free speech. In fact, in March a federal judge threw out a lawsuit brought by animal liberation activists against the AETA, finding that they couldn’t reasonably showing that the law chilled free speech.
Let’s hope the ABA sees through this transparent attempt that serves only the animal-liberation fringe. There are still terrorists out there, but ski-mask-wearing radicals brazenly handing out “Wanted for Murder” sheets in neighborhoods seems to have become a thing of the past. Rolling back 20 years of legal protections for legitimate businesses only serves vegan vigilantes, not the meat-eating, leather-wearing public at large.