When free speech becomes ‘terrorism’

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Al Jazeera America

February, 2014
by Lori Gruen
February 10, 2014
Activism for animal rights should be protected as free speech, not equated with heinous crimes

A few years ago, I moved to a rural area. During hunting season I am routinely awakened at sunrise by the sound of gunshots; sometimes I spring out of bed startled because the gunfire seems too close to my house. In my groggy state, I often think about people around the world who live in areas that are racked by war, those who must cope with not just the regular sound of gunfire but also a constant military presence, those who are forced to shield themselves and their loved ones from the blasts of explosives, and communities that have to worry about drone strikes. Living under those conditions must be absolutely terrifying.

Because there is no nonprejudicial, rational basis for caring only about the pain and suffering of humans while ignoring the like pain and suffering of other animals who can experience those feelings, when I hear shots fired, I also think of the birds and animals who are targets.

Other animals feel pain when they are injured, and social animals experience distress when their loved ones are harmed or killed. The social group dynamics can be altered in devastating ways. Infants may be left in terror if their mother is shot; flocks may have trouble navigating after their leaders are killed. And when hunters shoot, they usually don’t know the social role that their target occupies, so have no idea about the distress they may be causing members of their victim’s family and community.

For domestic animals in laboratories and factory farms, the suffering, distress and terror are worse — rats, mice, birds, rabbits, cats, dogs and primates used in research and cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys and lambs raised to be slaughtered for food spend every day under the control of others in conditions that are stressful at best and agonizing at worst.

Animal advocates want to bring about social change to end the terror and suffering of other animals. Yet some of them are being labeled terrorists for speaking out against this suffering. In fact, federal law supports this view. Businesses that use animals, known as animal enterprises, have been protected since 2006 by Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (or the AETA, formerly known as the Animal Enterprise Protection Act). Even though no bodily harm has ever been caused by direct-action protests on behalf of animals, the law labels those who engage in certain types of protests “terrorists.”

Read the full piece here: http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/2/animal-rights-enterpriseterrorismact.html