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Battle of the Beagles
I n case you hadn’t heard, FBI Deputy Assistant Director John Lewis has identified the number one domestic terrorist threat to the U.S. and it’s not radical Muslims. Or right-wing paramilitary types. Or gun-toting pro-lifers. Nope, guess again. It’s animal rights and environmental activists who have never hurt or killed a single person in the U.S. in their 25-year history.
What they have done is cause millions of dollars in damages and even more in lost profits to the logging, construction, SUV, pharmaceutical, and fur industries—all of which (with the exception of the fur industry) are major lobbying powers in Congress.
Among the many opportunistic post-9/11 agendas pursued by the outgoing Republican majority is a drastic increase in funds, per- sonnel, and judicial leeway granted to law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for pursuing grassroots animal rights activists. Some cases in point: in 2002, over 100 FBI agents investigated a single animal rights group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA (SHAC-USA). PATRIOT Act- sanctioned wiretaps of phones and emails of animal activists have become commonplace, as have airport detentions on both domestic and international flights for members of non-profits like Hugs For Puppies and Student Organization for Animal Rights chapters. FBI employees and FBI-backed investigators have engaged in romantic and sexual relationships with activists to try to pry information out of them. Raids on the homes of activists by armed JTTF agents are also a regular occurrence. In November 2006 seven individuals in Santa Monica, California had their homes ransacked by government agents for the “crime” of attending a peaceful demonstration against the POM Juice Company, which funds animal tests. One of these individuals was former child star Pam Ferdin, the voice of Lucy in the classic Peanuts television show. Lucy getting her house raided by the JTTF? It’s enough to make even Snoopy cry.
But not enough, apparently, for the federal government. In a much-touted case, six volunteers with SHAC-USA were each sentenced in September 2006 to up to six years in federal prison for operating a website and newsletter and organizing protests at the homes of pharmaceutical executives. On November 27, 2006 President Bush signed into law the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), a bill which labels as terrorists those who engage in sit-ins, civil disobedience, trespass, or any other crime in the name of animal rights.
To be clear, this bill is not aimed at squeaky clean groups like the Humane Society or even at the controversial People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)— both of which have the financial and legal resources to take on spurious charges. AETA, and the corresponding crackdown, is aimed at grassroots animal activists who lend their weekends and occasional evenings towards speaking out against cruelty to animals. Most have little money, no legal experience, and often belong to informal volunteer organizations.
The nature of the Bush administration’s war on grassroots animal activists bears similarities to that of the war in Iraq. The first is the use of loaded language and fear- mongering to create an easy to loathe enemy. Iraq was part of an “axis of evil” and supposedly had weapons of mass destruction it planned to use against the U.S. Animal activists are “domestic terrorists” out to end scientific research and attack anyone with a piece of meat on their plate. Second is the violation of the civil liberties of a now-marginalized group. Third, the war against this perceived terror threat is being waged even though a majority of Americans don’t see a need for it and don’t want to pay for it. Ask a dozen people on the street to list their top ten safety concerns and you can be sure “animal rights activists” won’t be making it onto any of those lists. They probably wouldn’t even crack the top 100.
The final similarity is that the bottom line is corporate profit. The industries targeted by animal activists are wealthy, influential, and, apparently, very vulnerable. Take, for instance, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a major contract animal testing laboratory based in New Jersey and targeted by animal rights groups like SHAC USA after undercover exposes showed a worker punching four-month-old puppies in the face. Focused protest pressure in the U.S. and abroad has left HLS $100 million in debt, kicked off of every stock exchange in the world, and forced to sell all of its property just to stay afloat. Major pharmaceutical companies like Roche, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and others have been targeted by activists for contracting experiments at Hunting- don; many have responded by cutting their financial support for HLS.
International protest in the UK against Huntingdon Life Sciences —photo from www.indymedia.org.uk
In light of such activist success, it is no wonder the pharmaceutical industry—like the logging, construction, and auto industries—is clamoring for activists to be stopped. Given their lobbying muscle, it is also no surprise that they have been able to push through prosecutions and legislation that civil liberties groups find draconian and unconstitutional. Yet for all the resources poured into this domestic “war on terrorism” and for all its infringement on the civil liberties of law-abiding animal advocates, does the Bush administration at least have tangible success to point to in an attempt to justify its actions? As in Iraq, the answer is an unequivocal no.
Grassroots animal activists, though angered and sometimes scared by the increasing government attention to their movement, have nonetheless carried on as before. Groups like the Animal Liberation Front, which engage in illegal direct action by freeing animals or destroying the property of company executives, have, if anything, been inspired to heightened activity by the government’s actions. The year following the indictment of the SHAC USA defendants saw more illegal actions directed against Huntingdon than in any previous year. Just days after the defendants were sentenced in September 2006, ALF members broke into an animal testing lab in Massachusetts and rescued two dozen rabbits. In the weeks after AETA was signed into law, animal activists seem to have intensified grassroots activity as four separate actions, hundreds of freed animals, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages were claimed by anonymous activists.
Still, the breadth of the animal rights underground should not be overstated. The number of illegal actions claimed each year numbers in the dozens, not the hundreds or thousands. And (this bears repeating) no one has ever gotten hurt. Economic damage has been done, but even the most committed activists don’t come close to the financial thievery perpetrated by the companies they target. GlaxoSmith- Kline, for example, bilked the U.S. public out of $7 billion in taxes by under-reporting its profits, according to the IRS. Their punishment? In September they struck a deal to pay $3 billion, or less than half of what they actually owed. In one year this company has done 50 times more economic damage than animal rights activists have done in the past 25 years.
A s in Iraq, the best solution would be to increase the power that the public has to affect issues that concern them—even if that causes financial setbacks for big corporations. After all, isn’t that what democracy is all about? Yet in the U.S., where 86 percent of the public finds the conditions egg-laying hens are kept in to be unacceptable, any bill to end such practices would be summarily shot down by the agriculture lobby—if it was even lucky enough to get introduced. It is no wonder, then, that in the last year activists have repeatedly broken into chicken, turkey, and egg farms to free animals or collect video documentation of conditions.
Animal activists—perhaps more committed, focused, and willing to sacrifice for their cause than any other grassroots social justice movement today in the U.S.—are not going away. The Bush administration’s response to their issues has been as much a farce and a failure as it has been in the Middle East.
Nick Cooney is the director of Hugs For Puppies, a non-profit animal advocacy organization in Philadelphia. His writing has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer and on PBS television.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.