Democracy or Capitalism?

How Corporate Interest Infringes Upon Your Rights

If you think that this law was passed by Congress and your elected representatives with sufficient knowledge, time, and debate, think again.  This bill was introduced and pushed by big businesses for big businesses.  AETA protects the interests of animal enterprises such as the National Pork Producers Association, Pfizer Drug Co. and other pharmaceutical corporations that engage in cruel and unnecessary animal testing, McDonald’s and other fast–food corporations that profit from the sale of factory–farmed animals for food, and Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and other cosmetic companies that repetitiously abuse animals to test and retest their latest line of beauty products. ( Read more about what goes on behind the walls of animal enterprises.)

Of course, their lobbying power is only viable in its disguise as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  ALEC is a conservative “public” policy lobbying group funded by over 300 corporations who write and promote hundreds of pieces of legislation serving the corporate agenda. Over 3100 pieces of draft legislation have been introduced into state and federal legislatures by ALEC members, and more than 450 ALEC–created laws were enacted in 1999–2000 alone. (Read more about ALEC).

Before the U. S. Congress passed the AETA, the corporate lawyers of ALEC had drafted and promoted their own AETA: the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act. ” According to ALEC, this bill aimed to “address actions that are designed to intimidate, coerce, invoke fear, or other forms of terror that are committed in the name of environmental or animal rights activism” and to create “penalties for persons encouraging, financing, assisting or engaging in acts of animal and ecological terrorism. ” Of course, this rhetoric is problematic for several reasons.  For one, fear is subjective.  It is the corporate animal enterprise that gets to decide if and how they were intimidated, coerced, or placed in fear.  It is also alarming that environmental and animal rights activists are being specifically singled out due to the political nature of their actions and the beliefs that motivate them.  This is a harsh blow to the democracy that is supposed to represent all persons equally, according to the 14th Amendment.  However, it is becoming more and more apparent that it is the protection of wealth and private property that gains precedence in this country. (Read more about the terrorist rhetoric).

The timing of this bill is clearly linked to the public fears instilled by September 11th and the fact that environmentalists and animal rights activists had been gaining more ground and revealing more horrors than corporate animal torturers could withstand; thus, a sly “basket bill” was introduced on September 8, 2006. Much to ALEC’s chagrin, the bill was titled the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, since it was only meant to amend the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, and it did not address environmental protests.  The bill was falsely presented to congress as non–controversial, despite the fact that more than 160 organizations and thousands of constituents opposed it. Thus, it was only briefly discussed on the Senate floor without an analytical eye or any thought to its unconstitutionality.  Furthermore, many senators are involved with ALEC and the corporate agenda of animal abuse.  It is no wonder, then, that AETA passed in the Senate on September 20, 2006 with unanimous consent. AETA was then passed through the House on November 13, 2006 by a voice vote, even though there were only 6 out of 435 representatives there to vote on it (most representatives were still out of town).  Of the six, Representative Dennis Kucinich was the only one who took the time to analyze and oppose it, claiming that it was “written in such a way as to have a chilling effect on the exercise of peoples’ first amendment rights. ” Nevertheless, President Bush, a lifelong corporate CEO and friend of the rich, signed it into law on November 27, 2006. The FBI was unsurprisingly in support of this bill as part of the “war on terror,” claiming that “one of [their] greatest challenges has been the lack of federal criminal statutes to address multi–state campaigns of intimidation, threats, and damage designed to shut down legitimate businesses. “It appears that the FBI is more concerned with protecting the property of “legitimate businesses” from the public than they are concerned with actually protecting the public.   According to bill sponsor Senator Diane Feinstein (D–CA) this bill would “[prohibit] the animal rights extremists’ violent tactics [to] ensure that important animal enterprises, like biomedical industries, stay in California for example, rather than go to India or China. ” Notice the blatant bias in this quote from Senator Feinstein; she is creating more rights for the corporations that strive to keep the secrets of their work from entering public scrutiny while demonizing the public eyes and outcries.  With this corporate agenda in mind, Feinstein sponsored the bill with right–wing Senator Inhofe (R–OK), a consistent opponent of environmental and animal rights.

Moreover, it is important to note that the penalties added in AETA revolve around money, as does the entire bill.   Big business has drafted and pushed through a law that criminalizes peaceful activists and chills the 1st Amendment rights of all those who want to speak out about animal abuse in order to immunize and secure corporate property and profits.  Criminal punishment is determined in part upon how much economic damage has occurred to the corporation in their subjective opinion. Similarly, animal enterprises decide how much fear, intimidation, or coercion was instilled by the defendant’s actions, which can result in an even steeper sentence. (Note that the law does not take the fear of non–human animals into consideration at all).

It is clear that this law was neither passed justly or in the best interest of the public. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “when Congress fails to act on modest animal welfare reforms like the animal fighting bill — and may in turn hastily pass a bill that could protect animal fighting — it makes it more difficult for organizations like the HSUS to make the case to activists that meaningful change is possible working through the system — and that they should pursue legal channels rather than taking matters into their own hands. ”

Currently, a fur selling company in Portland, OR is using the rhetoric of AETA in an attempt to criminalize peaceful animal rights protestors in the name of protecting profits. In response to consistent and peaceful protests outside of his store, Greg Schumacher of Schumacher Furs and Outerwear complained that the government should prosecute the activists under the AETA. Schumacher also filed a civil SLAPP suit against the law–abiding protestors and animal rights groups. (Read more about SLAPP suits). Recently, this case was thrown out of the court and the animal rights groups and protestors’ attorney fees must be paid by Schumacher Furs. (Read more about Greg Schumacher and the fur industry).

AETA is only concerned with corporate America, not the American people.  AETA needs to be repealed because the fundamental tactics of social movements employed by a concerned public cannot be sacrificed for the rights of a few corporations to obtain wealth and economic prosperity. (Learn more animal research facts)

Comments are closed.