The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, vol.3, no.1, (January 2007)

Dispatches from a Police State: Animal Rights in the Crosshairs of State Repression



Welcome to the post-constitutional America, where defense of animal rights and the earth is a terrorist crime. 

In the wake of 9/11, and in the midst the neoliberal attack on social democracies, efforts to grab dwindling resources, and crush dissent of any kind, the US has entered a neo-McCarthyist period rooted in witch-hunts and political persecution. The terms and players have changed, but the situation is much the same as the 1950s: the terrorist threat has replaced the communist threat, Attorney General Alfred Gonzalez dons the garb of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and the Congressional Meetings on Eco-Terrorism stand in for the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Red Scare of communism has morphed into the Green Scare of ecoterrorism, where the bad guy today is not a commie but an animal, environmental, or peace activist. In a nightmare replay of the 1950s, activists of all kinds today are surveilled, hassled, threatened, jailed, and stripped of their rights.  As before, the state conjures up dangerous enemies in our midst and instills fear in the public, so that people willingly forfeit liberties for an alleged security that demands secrecy, non-accountability, and centralized power. 

The days of COINTELPRO have returned with a vengeance. Between 1956 and 1961, the FBI operated a secret intelligence program whose purpose was to infiltrate, disrupt, and neutralize social justice movements and protest groups by any means necessary, including frame-ups, violence, and assassination. Despite the condemnation of FBI and CIA policies in the Church Committee Report in 1976, these rogue agencies continued their war against dissent and it escalated dramatically after 9/11.  

Hour by hour, day by day, our First and Forth Amendment rights (among others) are hemorrhaging and bleeding away into the sinkhole of corporate-state tyranny. As I write, there are new reports that the Bush Administration has collected reams of information on every airline passenger, and assigned each one a secret security rating (which can never know or protest), based on criteria such as the number of one-way trips one takes and preferred meal choices. Displaying the fascist poison spreading throughout the nation, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, launched a speaking campaign in November 2006 to persuade lawmakers that free speech rights must increasingly give way to security needs.  

This issue goes beyond Republicans vs. Democrats, as the latter have hardly distinguished themselves on civil liberties since 9/11 and we can expect little improvement in the future, even if they control the executive and legislative branches of government (it is significant indeed to note that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) co-sponsored the AETA).[1] For what we have witnessed in the post-9/11 era is a sea-change in political thought and practice, one that is rapidly constructing an authoritarian society where we are neither secure nor free.


The Politics of Fear 

9-11 was a tragedy for America, but it was a blessing for the Bush administration (and every other dictatorship) for it provided the perfect justification to create a tyrannical state and world empire run by and for corporations. A motley crew of cold-war hawks, oil barons, evangelical Christians, and dogmatic neocons, the Bush team seized advantage of the new climate of fear, intensified it in every way they could (through lies, hyperbole, false threats, and manufactured incidents), and declared a phony “war on terrorism.” In the name of Homeland Security, they crafted a new legal framework known as the USA PATRIOT Act.

This 342-page tome was rapidly pushed through Congress. In the urgency of the moment, few politicians read it and fewer still dared to challenge it, fearful of being labeled as weak or unpatriotic in dire times – intimidation policies still fully in effect. Democrats caved in and handed Bush a political blank check. The mass media, compliant and uncritical, peddled propaganda, spread fear, and championed an ill-conceived and illicit war that incomprehensibly morphed from battling the Taliban in Afghanistan to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Amidst a spasm of jingoism and anti-Arab sentiment, the public cheered on Bush, and there was never a national debate on the real causes of 9/11, or any significant analysis of its immediate political aftermath. Colin Powell was dispatched to the United Nations with a suitcase full of lies. Bush and Condoleezza Rice warned against allowing the “smoking gun” evidence of Hussein’s alleged nuclear weapons program to bloom into a deadly “mushroom cloud.” Bush proclaimed to the world that, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” and averred that that the US either fights terrorists in the deserts of Iraq or in the streets of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. His administration and conservative media denounced critics of the Iraq war as traitors, and in 2006 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared them to Nazi “appeasers.” The Masters of War did everything in their power to confound the facts and manipulate the public into believing that Iraq, not Al Qaeda, attacked America, and that the epicenter of the war against terror was in Bagdad and surrounding cities. 

Overnight, the US became a full-fledged police state whose enforcers had virtually unlimited powers matched by zero accountability. No one was spared. Thousands of foreigners were rounded up, jailed, and/or deported without evidence of wrongdoing or legal rights. Thousands more abroad were corralled into compounds such as Guantanamo Bay where they were tortured and languished in legal limbo. Like many foreign prisoners, at least two US citizens were designated “enemy combatants,” and thereby detained indefinitely with no right to legal council. Torture policies were drafted, approved, and enacted, as the CIA built secret torture camps throughout Europe. International treaties like the Geneva Convention were flouted. At home, massive surveillance systems (such as employed in the “Total Information Awareness Project”) were built to monitor the communications and activists of every single citizen, with Big Business fully cooperating with Big Brother.   

Laws and agencies used to monitor suspected foreign spies and criminals were redeployed to surveil citizens. Bush rejected even the most minimal review laws as obstacles to catching terrorists, and ordered illegal, warrantless wiretaps on the communications of every American. Demonstrators and activists of all kinds became targets of surveillance and persecution, and dissent was criminalized. Where he did not outright ignore the Constitution, he used so-called “signing statements” hundreds of times to disregard selected provisions of the laws that Congress passed and he signed. The government launched the “Operation TIPS” program that urged people to monitor fellow citizens and report suspicious behavior. The state worked with airlines to compile passenger information and placing many citizens on a “no fly” list. While demanding open access to citizens, the government also cloaked itself in secrecy, by withdrawing presidential papers and historical records from the public domain and restricting what citizens can learn about its functioning through the Freedom of Information Act. In October 2006, the Bush administration cajoled the Republican-dominated Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act, which gave the Bush administration unlimited powers to detain and torture suspect non-citizens without fair trial and habeas corpus rights. 

All forms of dissent have been targeted, and a broad pattern is emerging with undeniable boldness and clarity, alerting us to the systematic and full-scale assault the government has waged against the Bill of Rights. Recent documents obtained by NBC News, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other organizations show that the Defense Department, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Department of Homeland Security, and local police forces have unleashed a dragnet of surveillance on all manner of protest groups, from anti-war activists to vegetarians, from children to grandmothers. Whether in the streets, military recruiting centers, classrooms, or churches, the government has monitored dissenting individuals and groups; they follow peaceful citizens, write down their names and license plates, and enter their information into massive databases, all organized under the rubric of security threats and terrorists. 

The bogus “war on terror” has served as a highly-effective propaganda and bullying device to ram through Congress and the courts a pro-corporate, anti-environmental, authoritarian agenda. Using vague, catch-all phrases such as “enemy combatants” and “domestic terrorists,” the Bush administration has rounded up and tortured thousands of non-citizens (detaining them indefinitely in military tribunals without right to a fair trial) and surveilled, harassed, and imprisoned citizens who dare to challenge the government or corporate system it protects and represents.


“The Animal Enterprise Protection Act” 

While dissent in general has become ever-more criminalized in the dark days of the Bush Reich, animal rights activists especially have been caught in the crosshairs of state repression, targeted by “anti-terrorist” legislation that subverts First Amendment rights to protect the blood money of corporate exploiters. This is become the animal rights/liberation movement is not only one of the most dramatic forms of resistance alive today (such as evident in the dramatic raids, rescues, sabotage, and arson attacks of the Animal Liberation Front, a global movement), but also as an economic threat to postindustrial capital which is heavily rooted in science and research, and therefore dependent upon (it believes) animal experimentation. 

In 1992, a decade before the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, animal exploitation groups such as the National Association for Biomedical Research successfully lobbied Congress to pass a federal law called the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA). This legislation created the new crime of “animal enterprise terrorism,” and laid out hefty sentences and fines for any infringement. The law applies to anyone who “intentionally damages or causes the loss of any property” of an “animal enterprise” (research facilities, pet stores, breeders, zoos, rodeos, circuses, furriers, animal shelters, and the like), or who causes an economic loss of any kind. The AEPA defines an “animal rights or ecological terrorist organization” as “two or more persons organized for the purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity intended to obstruct or deter any person from participating in any activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources.” The act criminalizes actions that obstruct “any lawful activity involving the use of natural resources with an economic value.”[2]  

Like the category of “domestic terrorism” that is a keystone in the USA PATRIOT Act attack on civil liberties, the frightening thing about the AEPA is its strategic vagueness that subsumes any and every form of protest and demonstration against exploitative industries to a criminal act, specifically, to a terrorist act. Thus, the actions of two or more people can be labeled terrorist if they leaflet a circus, protest an experimental lab, block a road to protect a forest, do a tree-sit, or block the doors of a fur store.[3] Since, under the purview of the AEPA, any action that interferes with the profits and operations of animal and environmental industries, even boycotts and whistle-blowing could be criminalized and denounced as terrorism. On the sweeping interpretations of such legislation, Martin Luther King, Mahatmas Gandhi, and Cesar Chavez would today be vilified and imprisoned as terrorists, since the intent of their principled boycott campaigns was precisely to cause “economic damage” to unethical businesses. And since the AETA, like the legal system in general, classifies animals as “property,” their “theft” (read: liberation) is unequivocally defined as a terrorist offense. 

There already are laws against sabotage and property destruction, so isn’t the AEPA just a redundant piece of legislation? No – not once understands its hidden agenda which strikes at the heart of the Bill of Rights. The real purpose of the AEPA is to protect animal and earth exploitation industries from protest and criticism, not property destruction and “terrorism.” The AEPA redefines vandalism as ecoterrorism, petty lawbreakers as societal menaces, protestors and demonstrators as domestic terrorists, and threats to their blood money as threats to national security. Powerful economic and lobbying forces, they seek immunity from criticism, to intimidate anyone contemplating protest against them, and to dispatch their opponents to prison.


Free Speech on Trial: The SHAC 7 

Hovering over activists’ heads like the sword of Damocles for over a decade, the AEPA dropped in March, 2006, with the persecution and conviction of seven members of a direct action group dedicated to closing down the world’s largest animal-testing company, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). Exercising their First Amendment rights, activists from the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign ran a completely legal and highly effective campaign against HLS, driving them to the brink of bankruptcy.[4] Since 1999, SHAC activists in the UK and US have waged an aggressive direct action campaign against HLS, notorious for extreme animal abuse (torturing and killing 500 animals a day) and manipulated research data. SHAC roared onto the historical stage by combining a shrewd knowledge of the law, no nonsense direct action tactics, and a singular focus on one corporation that represents the evils of the entire vivisection industry. From email and phone blockades to raucous home demonstrations, SHACtivists have attacked HLS and pressured over 100 companies to abandon financial ties to the vivisection firm. By 2001, the SHAC movement drove down HLS stock values from $15/share to less than $1/share. Smelling profit emanating from animal bloodshed, investment banking firm Stephens Inc. stepped in to save HLS from bankruptcy. But, as happened to so many companies before them, eventually Stephens too could not withstand the intense political heat and so fled the SHAC kitchen. Today, as HLS struggles for solvency, SHAC predicts its immanent demise. 

Growing increasingly powerful through high-pressure tactics that take the fight to HLS and their supporters rather than to corrupt legislatures, the SHAC movement poses a clear and present danger to animal exploitation industries and the state that serves them. Staggered and driven into the ropes, it was certain that SHAC’s opponents would fight back. Throwing futile jabs here and there, the vivisection industry and the state recently teamed up to mount a major counterattack.

Alarmed indeed by the new form of animal rights militancy, HLS and the biomedical research lobby commanded special sessions with Congress to ban SHAC campaigns. On May 26, 2004, a police dragnet rounded up seven prominent animal rights activists in New Jersey, New York, Washington, and California. Hordes of agents from the FBI, Secret Service, and other law agencies stormed into the activists’ homes at the crack of dawn, guns drawn and helicopters hovering above. Handcuffing those struggling for a better world, the state claimed another victory in its phony “war against terror.” Using the AEPA, HLS successfully prosecuted the “SHAC 7,” who currently are serving prison sentences up to six years.[5] 

After the SHAC 7 conviction, David Martosko, the noxious research director of the Center for Consumer Freedom and a fierce opponent of animal rights, joyously declared: “This is just the starting gun." Indeed, corporations and legislators continue to press for even stronger laws against animal rights and environmental activism, as the Bush administration encloses the nation within a vast web of surveillance and a militarized garrison. 

In September 2006, the US senate unanimously passed a new version of the AEPA (S3990), significantly renamed the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” (AETA). To prevent critical discussion, the Senate fast-tracked the bill without hearings or debate, and just before adjourning for the election recess. In November 2006, the House approved the bill (HR 4239), and President Bush obligingly signed it into law.[6] Beyond the portentous change in name, the new and improved version extends the range of legal prosecution of activists, updates the law to cover Internet campaigns, and enforces stiffer penalties for “terrorist” actions. Created to stop the effectiveness of the SHAC-style tactics that biomedical companies had habitually complained about to Congress, the AETA makes it a criminal offense to interfere not only with so-called “animal enterprises” directly, but also with third-party organizations such as insurance companies, law firms, and investment houses that do business with them.  

Thus, the Senate version of the bill expands the law to include “any property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.” The chain of relations, like the application of the law, extends possibly to the point of infinity. As journalist Will Potter notes, “The clause broadens the scope of legislation that is already overly broad.”[7] This problem is compounded further with additional vague concepts such as criminalize actions that create “reasonable fear” in the targets of protest, making actions like peaceful home demonstrations likely candidates for “ecoterrorism.” 

As the Equal Justice Alliance aptly summarizes the main problems with the AETA: 

  • “It is excessively broad and vague.
  • It imposes disproportionately harsh penalties.
  • It effectively brands animal advocates as ‘terrorists’ and denies them equal protection.
  • It effectively brands civil disobedience as ‘terrorism’ and imposes severe penalties.
  • It has a chilling effect on all forms of protest by endangering free speech and assembly.
  • It interferes with investigation of animal enterprises that violate federal laws.
  • It detracts from prosecution of real terrorism against the American people.”[8]


ACLU Betrayal 

A sole voice of dissent in Congress, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D–Ohio) stated that the bill compromises civil rights and threatens to "chill" free speech. Virtually alone in examining the issue from the perspective of the victims rather than victimizers, Kucinich said: "Just as we need to protect people’s right to conduct their work without fear of assault, so too this Congress has yet to address some fundamental ethical principles with respect to animals. How should animals be treated humanely? This is a debate that hasn't come here."[9]  

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the passing of this bill was the failure of the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge it. The ACLU did indeed write a letter to Congress about the passing of the AETA, to caution against conflate illegal and legal protest, but the organization failed to challenge the real terrorism perpetuated by animal and earth exploitation industries, and ultimately consented to their worldview and validity. 

In an October 30, 2006 letter to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee F. James Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member John Conyers, the ACLU writes that it “does not oppose this bill, but believes that these minor changes are necessary to make the bill less likely to chill or threaten freedom of speech.” Beyond proposed semantic clarifications, the ACLU mainly warns against broadening the law to include legal activities such as boycotts: “Legitimate expressive activity may result in economic damage…. Care must therefore be taken in penalizing economic damage to avoid infringing upon legitimate activity.” [10] 

Thus, unlike dozens of animal protection groups who adamantly reject the AETA en toto, the ACLU “does not oppose the bill.”[11] In agreement with corporate interests, the ACLU assures the government it “does not condone violence or threats.” It thereby dodges the complex question of the legitimacy of sabotage against exploitative industries. The ACLU uncritically accepts (1) the corporate-state definition of “violence” as intentional harm to property, (2) the legal definition of animals as “property,” and (3) the use of the T-word to demonize animal liberationists rather than animal exploiters. Ultimately, the ACLU sides with the government against activists involved in illegal forms of liberation or sabotage, a problematic alliance in times of global ecocide. The ACLU thereby defends the property rights of industries to torture and slaughter billions of animals over the moral rights of animals to bodily integrity and a life free from exploitation and gratuitous violence. 

The ACLU failed to ask the tough questions journalist Will Potter raised during his May 23, 2006 testimony before the House Committee holding a hearing on the AETA, and to follow Potter in identifying key inconsistencies in bill.[12] Does the ACLU really think that their proposed modifications would be adequate to guarantee that the AETA doesn’t trample on legal rights to protest? Are they completely ignorant and indifferent to the fact that the AEPA was just used to send the SHAC 7 to jail for the crime of protesting fraudulent research and heinous killing? And just where was the ACLU during the SHAC 7 trial, one of the most significant First Amendment cases in recent history? Why does the ACLU only recognize violations of the Constitution against human rights advocates? Do they think that animal rights activists are not citizens? Do they not recognize that tyrannical measures used against animal advocates today will be used against all citizens tomorrow?  How can the world’s premier civil rights institution is blatantly speciesist and bigoted toward animals? Why will they come to the defense of the Ku Klux Klan but not the SHAC 7? The ACLU silence in the face of persecution of animal rights activists unfortunately is typical of most civil rights organizations that are too bigoted and myopic to grasp the implications of state repression of animal rights activists for human rights activists and all forms of dissent.


Animal Liberation as a New Social Movement 

Corporate exploiters and Congress have taken the US down a perilous slippery slope, where it becomes difficult to distinguish between illegal and legal forms of dissent, between civil disobedience and terrorism, between PETA and Al Qaeda, and between liberating chickens from a factory farm and flying passenger planes into skyscrapers. The state protects the corporate exploiters who pull their purse strings and stuff their pockets with favors and cash. 

The right to free speech ends as soon as you begin to exercise it. As the politics of nature --- the struggle for liberation of animals and the earth – is the most dynamic fight today, one that poses a serious threat to corporate interests, animal and earth liberationists are under ferocious attack.  The growing effectiveness of direct action anti-vivisection struggles will inevitably bring a reactionary and retaliatory response by the corporate-state complex to crack down on democratic political freedoms to protest, as well as new Draconian laws that represent a concerted effort by power brokers to crush the movement for animal liberation.  

In the “home of the brave, land of the free,” activists are followed by federal agents; their phone conversations and computer activity is monitored, their homes are raided, they are forced to testify before grand juries and pressured to “name names,” they are targets of federal round ups, they are jailed for exercising constitutionally protected rights and liberties. Saboteurs receive stiffer prison sentences than rapists, bank robbers, and murderers. There has never been freedom of speech or action in the US, but in the post-9/11 climate, where the USA PATRIOT Act is the law of the land, not the Constitution and Bill of Rights, activists are demonized as terrorists – not just the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and SHAC, but also completely legal and peaceful groups like Food Not Bombs and vegan outreach organizations. 

The massive police resources of the US state are being used far more to thwart domestic dissent than to improve homeland insecurity. While Big Brother is obsessed with the email, conversations, and meetings of people who know a thing or two about the duties of citizenship, the airlines, railways, subways, city centers, and nuclear power plants remain completely vulnerable to an attack, which, according to the elites, is imminent. 

The contemporary animal liberation movement is an extension of the new social movements, and as such issues “post-materialist” demands that are not about higher wages but the end to hierarchy and violence, and a new relation with the natural world.  

Second, it is a postindustrial movement, operating within a global postindustrial society where the primary aspects of the economy no longer center on processing of physical materials as much as information, knowledge, science, and research. Transnational corporations such as Monsanto, pharmaceutical industries such as GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Novartis, and Pfizer, and drug testing corporations such as Huntingdon Life Sciences, show the importance of science and research for the postindustrial economy, and thus the relevance of the animal liberation movement.  

This movement also is an anti-globalization movement in that the corporations it attacks often are transnational and global in scope, part of what I call the Global Vivisection Complex (GVC). The GVC is comprised of pharmaceutical industries, biotechnology industries, medical research industries, universities, and testing laboratories, all using animal experimentation to test and market their drugs. As animals are the gas and oil for these corporate science machines, the animal liberation movement has disrupted corporate supply chains, thwarted laboratory procedures, liberated captive slaves, and attacked the legitimacy of biomedical research as an effective scientific paradigm.  

Fourth, the animal liberation movement is an abolitionist movement, seeking empty cages not bigger cages, demanding rights not “humane treatment” of the slaves, opposing the greatest institution of domination and slavery ever created – the empire of human supremacy over millions of species and billions of animal slaves. 

To an important degree, the historical and socio-economic context for the emergence of the animal advocacy movement (in all its diverse tendencies and aspects) is the industrialization of animal exploitation and killing. This is dramatically evident with the growth of slaughterhouses at the turn of the 20th century, the emergence and globalization of factory farming after World War II, and the subsequent growth of research capital and animal experimentation. To this, one would have to add expanding human population numbers, the social construction of carnivorous appetites, and the rise of fast food industries which demand the exploitation and massacre of ever-growing numbers of animals, now in the tens of billions on a global scale. Along with other horrors and modes of animal exploitation, the industrialization, mechanization, and globalization of animal exploitation called into being an increasingly broad, growing, and powerful animal liberation movement.  

Animal liberation builds on the great abolitionist struggle of past centuries and is the abolitionist movement of our day. Animal liberationists are waging war against the oldest and last form of slavery to be formally abolished -- the exploitation of nonhuman animals. Just as the modern economy of Europe, the British colonies in America, and the United States after the Revolutionary War were once entirely dependent on the trafficking in human slaves, so now the current global economy would crash if all animal slaves were freed from every lab, cage and other mode of exploitation. Animal liberation is in fact the anti-slavery movement of the present age and its moral and economic ramifications are as world-shaking, possible more so, than the abolition of the human slavery movement (which of course itself still exists in some sectors of the world in the form of sweatshops, child sex slavery, forced female prostitution, and the like).  

The animal liberation movement is a profound threat to the corporate-state complex and hierarchical society in two ways.  

First, it is a serious economic threat, as the planetary capitalist system thrives off animal exploitation with the meat/dairy and biomedical research industries. In the UK, for instance, where the animal rights movement has been particularly effective, drug-makers are the third most important contributor to the economy after power generation and oil industries.  The animal rights movement has emerged as a powerful anti-capitalist and anti-(corporate) globalization force in its ability to monkeywrench the planetary vivisection machine and challenge transnational corporations such as HLS, GlaxoSmithKline, and Novartis.  

Second, the animal rights movement is a potent ideological and psychological threat.  The fight for animal liberation demands radical transformations in the habits, practices, values, and mindset of all human beings as it also entails a fundamental restructuring of social institutions and economic systems predicated on exploitative practices. The philosophy of animal liberation assaults the identities and worldviews that portray humans as conquering Lords and Masters of nature, and it requires entirely new ways of relating to animals and the earth. Animal liberation is a direct attack on the power human beings—whether in premodern or modern, non-Western or Western societies— have claimed over animals, since at least the dawn of agricultural society ten thousands years ago.


Total Liberation 

As the dynamics that brought about global warming, rainforest destruction, species extinction, and poisoning of communities are not reducible to any single factor or cause—be it agricultural society, the rise of states, anthropocentrism, speciesism, patriarchy, racism, colonialism, industrialism, technocracy, or capitalism—all radical groups and orientations that can effectively challenge the ideologies and institutions implicated in domination and ecological destruction have a relevant role to play in the global social-environmental struggle. While standpoints such as deep ecology, social ecology, ecofeminism, animal liberation, Black liberation, and the Earth Liberation Front are all important, none can accomplish systemic social transformation by itself. Working together, however, through a diversity of critiques and tactics that mobilize different communities, a flank of militant groups and positions can drive a battering ram into the structures of power and domination and open the door to a new future. 

Although there is diversity in unity, there must also be unity in diversity. Solidarity can emerge in recognition of the fact that all forms of oppression are directly or indirectly related to the values, institutions, and system of global capitalism and related hierarchical structures. To be unified and effective, however, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist alliances require mutual sharing, respectful learning, and psychological growth, such that, for instance, black liberationists, ecofeminists, and animal liberationists can help one another overcome racism, sexism, and speciesism. 

The larger context for current dynamics in the animal liberation movement involves the emergence of the neoliberal project (as a response to the opening of the markets  that was made necessary by the continuous expansion of transnational corporations in the post-war period)  which was crucial in the elites’ effort to destroy socialism and social democracy of any kind, to privatize all social structures, to gain total control of all resource markets and dwindling resources, and to snuff out all resistance. The animal rights/liberation movement has come under such intense fire because it has emerged as a threat to operations and profits of postindustrial capital (heavily rooted in research and therefore animal experimentation) and as a significant form of resistance. The transnational elite want the fire crushed before its example of resistance becomes a conflagration.  

Conversely, the animal liberation movement is most effective not only as a single-issue focus to emancipate animals from human exploitation, but to join a larger resistance movement opposed to exploitation and hierarchies of any and all kinds. Clearly, SHAC and the ALF alone are not going to bring down transnational capitalism, pressuring HLS and raiding fur farms and laboratories will not themselves ignite revolutionary change, and are more rear-guard, defensive actions. The project to emancipate animals, in other words, is integrally related to the struggle to emancipate humans and the battle for a viable natural world. To the extent that the animal liberation movement grasps the big picture that links animal and human oppression struggles as one, and seeks to uncover the roots of hierarchy including that of humans over nature, they can be viewed as a profound new liberation movement that has a crucial place in the planetary struggles against injustice, oppression, exploitation, war, violence, capitalist neo-liberalism, and the destruction of the natural world and biodiversity.  

Yet, given the profound relation between the human domination of animals and the crisis – social, ethical, and environmental – in the human world and its relation to the natural world, the animal liberation movement is in a unique position to articulate the importance of new relations between human and human, human and animal, and human and nature.  

New social movements and Greens have failed to realize their radical potential. They have abandoned their original demands for radical social change and become integrated into capitalist structures that have eliminated “existing socialist countries” as well as social democracies within the present neoliberal globalization which has become dominant. A new revolutionary force must therefore emerge, one that will build on the achievements of classical democratic, libertarian socialist, and anarchist traditions; incorporate radical green, feminist, and indigenous struggles; synthesize animal, Earth, and human liberation  standpoints; and build a global social-ecological revolution capable of abolishing transnational capitalism so that just and ecological societies can be constructed in its place. 


[1] For Feinstein’s pathetic capitulation to the Green Scare and her sordid alliance with neo-McCarthyite Senator James “Global Warming is a Myth” Inhofe (R-Okla.), see her press release at:
[2] The text of the “Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992” is available online.

[3] In states such as Oregon and California, related legislation has already passed which declares it a felony terrorist offense to enter any animal facility with a camera or video recorder “with the intent to defame the facility or facility’s owner.” See Steven Best, “It’s War: The Escalating Battle Between Activists and the Corporate-State Complex,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (Lantern Books, 2004), pp. 300-339 (eds. Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II).
[4] For a more detailed analysis of the SHAC struggle in the context of political economy, see Steven Best and Richard Kahn, “Trial By Fire: The SHAC 7, Globalization, and the Future of Democracy,” Animal Liberation Philosophy and Policy Journal, Volume II, Issue 2, 2004,
[5] On the SHAC 7 trial, see Steven Best and Richard Kahn, “Trial By Fire: The SHAC7, Globalization, and the Future of Democracy”.
[6] For the text of S3880, the final bill that passed in both houses, see
[7] Will Potter, “Analysis of Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”.
[8]Why Oppose AETA”.
[9] Kucinich cited in Kucinich also challenged the AETA as being redundant and created a “specific classification” to repress legitimate dissent.
[10] The ACLU letter to Congress is available at:
[11] For a list of animal advocacy groups opposed to the AETA, see
[12] For Potter’s testimony before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security see: