Politics & Policy

Time to Terminate Ecoterrorism

Terror in the name of ecology and animal rights is still terror.

On September 11, 2001, as the nation reeled in the aftermath of the terrorist bombings in New York and Washington, another terrorist news event got buried. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an underground animal-rights terrorist organization, released a statement that day claiming credit for the firebombing of a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, that caused $500,000 in damage.

ALF’s timing of the announcement was nothing short of unconscionable — a terror tactic designed to instill fear in Americans who use animals for food, clothing, recreation, and research.

The ALF attack was only one in a decades-long string of domestic-terror incidents on U.S. soil in the name of “ecology” and “animal rights.” In the last two years alone such attacks have done more than $24 million in damage. The targets have included automobile companies and dealerships, forestry-company offices, corporate and university-based medical research laboratories, agribusinesses, restaurants, medical-supply firms, furriers, farmers, commercial fishermen, condo owners, major universities and their medical schools, hunters and anglers, suburban homeowners, and even an SUV dealership.

The federal government’s Patriot Act, intended to make prosecution of terrorists more certain, fails to address ecoterrorism, which according to the FBI is the number-one type of domestic terrorism. As a result, the burden for policing ecoterrorism falls on the states.

According to the FBI, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the U.S. since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of $43 million. The FBI has identified over $200 million in ecoterrorist-related damage since the late 1980s.

Outdoor sports and sportsmen are frequent targets of both ecoterrorists and animal-rights extremists, leading the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance to also investigate the problem. The alliance found that the very same organizations that continually rail against hunting are the principal enemies of farmers, ranchers, medical researchers, zoos, rodeos, and all those who use animals for food, clothing, and medicine.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance has cooperated with other groups — including The Ross Institute, The Southern Poverty Law Center, and The National Animal Interest Alliance — to document decades of domestic terrorist actions. The results of the collaborations are sobering.

Environmental and animal-rights-related terrorist acts have occurred in 28 different states, Washington, D.C., and three Canadian provinces. Fourteen states have experienced major actions, defined as $20,000 or more in damages. Eleven of those targeted have suffered more than $100,000 in damages, and six more than $1 million.

People or groups who use animals in medical research were targeted 43 times. Agriculture and food production facilities were attacked 41 times, and land development organizations, 31. The fur industry, still a big target, counts 26 attacks. Researchers of genetically modified crops were targets of terrorism 20 times.

When terrorists who commit these acts are apprehended, they are typically prosecuted under existing state and local arson or vandalism statutes. They may receive fines, and if they’re dealt jail terms they typically serve a few months. In other words, perpetrators who visit animal rights and ecological terrorism on the American public are prosecuted under the same laws and receive the same penalties as precocious teenagers engaging in high school pranks.

It is time for America to make the climate unbearable for all terrorists and terrorism. Terrorism is like a disease. It poisons people’s lives with fear and causes serious damage to the economy. Each time another terrorist action occurs, regardless of the perpetrator and the cause, the climate of fear created by 9/11 increases.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has drafted model legislation to ensure that all states have in their legal arsenals the means to make political extremists of every persuasion pay dearly for engaging in terrorist activities.

ALEC has adopted the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act as a model, and is helping to circulate it to the states. At its July conference in Washington, D.C., legislators from Washington, New Mexico, Texas, Michigan, New York, and other states expressed strong interest in introducing bills in their home legislatures.

Sandy Liddy Bourne, ALEC’s policy person in charge of homeland security, said this is a local problem: “The states should have the legal tools necessary to mount the best defense possible in the name of protecting their citizens.”

The sponsors of model state bills, Rep. Ray Allen of Texas and Assemblyman Richard Smith of New York, have found stiff opposition from animal-rights, left-of-center environmental groups as well as the ACLU. At the recent ALEC conference, Allen presided over a meeting to tighten the language of the measure to provide the best protections possible and allay honest concerns about infringement of First Amendment rights. “The goal is to make sure the bad guys get their just desserts,” said Allen, “while making sure that constitutional rights remain perfectly intact.”

The model legislation is now being circulated to state legislators. Two states, Texas and New York, have seen introduction.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance/ALEC proposal calls for a new tier of crime to be adopted that significantly increases penalties for engaging in politically motivated acts of destruction. For example, if under your state’s current law the penalty for arson is a $100,000 fine and a seven-to-ten-year prison term, it would be double the penalty if the perpetrator acted according to the new law’s definition of terrorism. The perpetrator would also have to pay three times all economic damages as a result of the crime.

Organizations and individuals who provide support to the activities of terrorists would also feel the heat — they’d now be open to prosecution. This is important. When animal terrorist Rodney Coronado pled guilty to fire bombing a Michigan State University lab that was researching ways to reduce the use of animals in medical research, the animal-rights organization PETA paid some $45,000 in legal fees and other costs of his defense. Then-FBI Director Louis Freeh pointed out before Congress that the amount represented 15 times what PETA had used to fund animal shelters in 1992.

We now have Megan’s Law, which requires that sex offenders be registered and monitored. The model anti-ecoterrorist legislation likewise contains provisions for creating a “Registry of Animal and Ecological Terrorists.” A person who pleads guilty or is convicted under this section of the act is required to register with the local attorney general. He or she must provide a place of residence, a current photograph, and a signature, and any changes of address must be reported within 30 days of the move. All this information will be available on the Internet. The information will stay there for no less than three years, at which time the offender can apply to the state attorney general to have it removed.

The organizations that have supported terrorist attacks are the same organizations that have consistently campaigned against hunting. If they are made to pay for their conspiracy, by facing huge fines and jail terms, they will have fewer resources and manpower with which to attack hunting and fishing, which are major economic forces in the U.S.

More important, because campaigns for these state antiterrorism bills will be very high profile, the animal-rights movement will be cast up to public hatred. Other initiatives of animal-rights organizations, such as their attacks on hunting and fishing, will be seen in a negative light by the public, the media, and elected officials. Public support for animal-rights extremists will weaken, and sportsmen — having campaigned for the laws — will be seen as a positive force for peace.

An August arson fire wrought $20 million in damages to a newly constructed San Diego apartment complex. The “calling card” left by the arsonists was a banner proclaiming, “If you build it — we will burn it. The E.L.F.s are mad.” Not cute little elves, but the militant Earth Liberation Front. A $25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the conviction of the terrorists responsible.

It’s time to say “No More!” to these fanatics. The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act will help stop them in their terrorist tracks.

— James Swan is a contributing editor of ESPNOutdoors.com. He also writes for the Outdoor Channel’s Engel’s Outdoor Experience, which won a Golden Moose for the category “Best Waterfowl Shows 2002.” Rick Story is senior vice president and secretary of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.


The Latest