Closing the Legislative Gap on Eco-Terrorism
Yesterday President Bush signed into law bi-partisan legislation that will enhance the effectiveness of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ability to prosecute animal rights extremists who utilize violence and terrorist threats. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) S. 3880, co-sponsored in the Senate by myself and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), received unanimous support in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
The need for legislation became obvious following two hearings I conducted as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The Committee heard testimony from multiple victims, officials from the FBI, DOJ and the educational and scientific communities about radical environmental and animal rights groups who use criminally-based activism in an effort to influence public policy. Witnesses told the Committee groups such as the Earth Liberation Front (“ELF”), the Animal Liberation Front (“ALF”), and Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (“SHAC”), use crimes of violence to frighten individuals, companies, and governments into abandoning work affecting the environment or animals. Importantly, the Committee learned that many of these fear-based tactics by eco-terrorists were not covered under current law.
As a result, I worked closely with my colleagues Senator Feinstein and Congressman Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) to craft legislation that strengthens current law to help end these violent tactics used by animal rights extremists. Our bill signed by the President yesterday, with the full support of the Congress, will better protect scientists, medical researchers, ranchers, and farmers and will help put an end to these horrendous extremist tactics. Specifically, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA):
* Clarifies that it is a crime to intentionally damage or interfere with an “animal enterprise” – which includes legitimate commercial and academic institutions that may use animals for education, research or testing;
* Expands federal law to also make it illegal to intentionally harm or cause property loss to anyone connected with an animal enterprise;
* Criminalizes threats, harassment, and other illegal activity that uses interstate commerce to intentionally cause fear of death or injury to anyone connected with an animal enterprise;
* Establishes graded penalties of up to life imprisonment, depending on the financial damage or level of bodily injury caused bysuch illegal conduct;
* Establishes that a convicted animal enterprise terrorist can also be ordered as restitution to pay the animal enterprise’s cost of repeating experiments and other losses resulting from the criminal conduct; and
* Clarifies that all legitimate protest activities protected by the First Amendment are exempted from any prosecution under the bill.
Links to EPW Committee Hearings on Eco-Terrorism:
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