Author and independent journalist Will Potter claims that according to a new document uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force has kept files on activists who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms and recommended prosecuting them as terrorists.
According to Potter, the 2003 FBI file details the work of several animal rights activists who used undercover investigation to document repeated animal welfare violations. The FBI special agent who authored the report said they “illegally entered buildings owned by [redacted] Farm.. and videotaped conditions of animals”
The FOIA request for the file was made by Ryan Shapiro, who is one of the activists mentioned, and now a doctoral candidate at MIT.
“It is deeply sobering to see one’s name in an FBI file proposing terrorism charges,”Shapiro said in an email. “It is even more sobering to realize the supposedly terroristic activities in question are merely exposing the horrific cruelty of factory farms, educating the public about what goes on behind those closed doors, and openly rescuing a few animals from one of those farms as an act of civil disobedience”
The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. CCR adds that the plaintiffs are five longtime animal rights activists whose advocacy work has been chilled due to fear of being prosecuted as a terrorist under the AETA.
The case was filed On December 15, 2011, in the U.S. District Court in the District of Massachusetts.
Potter believes the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a coordinated campaign to target animal rights activists who, as one FBI agent noted, caused “economic loss”to corporations. “At the state, federal, and international levels, corporations have orchestrated an attempt to silence political activists, and a key target has been undercover investigators,” says Potter.
Potter adds: “The FBI makes clear that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is not about protecting public safety; it is about protecting corporate profits. Corporations and the politicians who represent them have repeatedly lied to the American public about the scope of this legislation, and claimed that the law only targets underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front.
“The truth is that this terrorism law has been slowly, methodically expanded to include the tactics of national organizations like the Humane Society of the United States.”
This means members of the group Mercy for Animals, who recently uncovered egregious animal abuse and neglect at Sparboe Farms, a McDonald’s egg supplier, could be charged and prosecuted as domestic terrorists.
Members of Mercy for Animals could also be prosecuted as terrorists for making their latest documentary, Farm to Fridge, a 12 minute video narrated by actor James Cromwell that includes material exposing animal cruelty on egg, dairy, and veal farms, fish slaughtering facilities, and poultry slaughterhouses.
Earlier this year, a bill passed by Iowa House legislators sought to criminalize undercover filming of animal farms, making it a misdemeanor or felony offense, with fines and jail time. Animal rights groups such as Mercy for Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have actively campaigned to defeat these bills in every state.