Animal Enterprises Need More Protection

In February of 2005, as Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), I opened an inquiry into radical environmental and animal rights groups who use criminally-based activism in an effort to influence public policy. Groups such as the Earth Liberation Front ("ELF"), the Animal Liberation Front ("ALF"), and Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty ("SHAC"), to name a few, use crimes of violence like arson, bombings, and property destruction to frighten individuals, companies, and governments into abandoning work affecting the environment or animals. This is the textbook definition of terrorism and is crime punishable by current law.

However, after taking testimony through two EPW Committee hearings from multiple victims, officials from the FBI, DOJ and the educational and scientific communities, it became painfully obvious that many of these extremists' tactics were, in fact, not addressed by current law. I am referring to a sophisticated form of fear-based activism using threats, stalking, harassment, and intimidation to frighten those away from their work on animals. These fear generating tactics are directed not only at a person or company working with animals but also at those that simply do business with or have some connection to those working with animals. This is also terrorism and, unfortunately, is not adequately covered by today's laws.

Animal rights extremists dawning fatigues and hoods, equipped with bullhorns regularly appear in the darkness of night threatening the lives of families. Cutting power and phone lines, bashing in front doors, and throwing bricks through windows are just some of the preliminary things regularly done in an effort to force an unsuspecting CEO to decide to drop a client simply because they want the harassment to end. This is how it starts. Hold out, due to your principles, and quickly you will find a website calling for a "direct action" to be committed upon you with your home address and your children's names, schools, and soccer schedules posted on it.

Recently, in California, animal rights extremists, after relentless harassment with no success, left a bomb on the porch of a UCLA scientist. Only the extremists were one house off and left the bomb for the scientist's 70-year old neighbor. Terrified for his family's safety, the scientists publicly left his post as a UCLA researcher pleading in a press release for the harassment to stop.

If we allow these violent extremists to scare good scientist, researchers, or farmers away from lawful and necessary livelihoods with animals, we have capitulated to common thugs. Never before in this country have we set policy through fear and we should not start now. That is why I have introduced S. 3880 the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act with Senator Dianne Feinstein. This bill strengthens current law and addresses the increasingly violent tactics of animal rights extremists. I urge all my colleagues to join Senator Feinstein and me in this effort to protect our ranchers, farmers, doctors, scientists, and all other citizens who merely wish to make an honest and necessary living.

Sen. Inhofe is chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW).