WHY OPPOSE AETA

It was railroaded through as a non-controversial bill, despite massive opposition.

Far from being non-controversial, AETA was opposed by more than 160 groups and thousands of constituents. The opposition includes such influential groups as the National Lawyers Guild, American Civil Liberties Union (belatedly), New York City Bar Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Humane Society of the U.S., and American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

It is excessively broad and vague.

The Act defines an animal enterprise very broadly to include any enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products. It also covers any person or entity having a connection with an animal enterprise. This combination includes virtually any enterprise. The Act does not specify that the interference be conducted for the purpose of protecting animals, so it applies to any form of advocacy. Moreover, the Act punishes mere attempts at interference as well as mere communication with individuals who attempt such interference. The net result is that almost any interference with virtually any institution across state lines could be charged under the Act. This may well include sending an e-mail across state lines that calls for picketing of a soft drink company that sponsors a rodeo. "Animal Enterprise" includes virtually every retail business in the United States. Nearly every retailer "sells ... animal products for profit." That includes grocery stores (meat/dairy products), shoe stores (leather shoes), clothing stores (wool sweaters), restaurants (meat/dairy products). That means anti-pornography activists who target adult bookstores selling leather attire may be terrorists.

It imposes disproportionately harsh penalties.


Section 43(b)(1) of the Act provides a fine and imprisonment up to a year for actions that do not instill fear of bodily injury or death or cause any economic damage. Other penalties under the Act greatly exceed the 2005 federal sentences for comparable offenses reported by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. AETA’s exceptionally severe penalties do not fit the crime. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, in 2005 the median sentence in federal courts for larceny was 4 months; for embezzlement, 4 months; for sexual abuse, 4.5 years; and for manslaughter, 3 years. Instead, AETA proposes up to eighteen months for an offense involving no threatened or actual economic damage or bodily harm, or up to life imprisonment for economic damage!

It brands animal advocates as ‘terrorists’ and denies them equal protection under the law.


Despite its broad and vague wording, the Act clearly intends to single out animal advocates for ‘terrorist‘ branding and severe federal penalties, although no one has been killed or seriously injured in the name of animal advocacy. Individuals charged with terrorism face years of ostracism and hardships. An honest citizen may not know if they are acting within the law because AETA is overbroad and vague. AETA may tar honest citizens wrongfully charged with the terrorist smudge. Whether or not they triumph in court, their reputation may be irreparably damaged. If AETA were law many years ago -- the suffragettes and civil rights leaders -- including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi -- may have been disgraced as terrorists.

It brands civil disobedience as ‘terrorism’ and imposes severe penalties.


The Act provides severe penalties for nonviolent illegal activities like civil disobedience, which has been the most effective tactic of the civil rights and other social justice movements. Civil rights activists who crossed state lines to sit in at “white only” lunch counters could have been branded ‘terrorists’ and charged under the Act.

It has a chilling effect on all forms of protest by endangering free speech and assembly.

The prospect of costly fines and long prison terms is likely to deter many social justice and life affirming activists from engaging in protest activities, because most of their target enterprises fall within the Act’s broad definition. For example, students protesting low wages or high tuition at a university could be charged under the Act, as the university is an “academic enterprise that uses animals for education, research, or testing.”

It interferes with investigation of federal law violations by animal enterprises.


Many of the biomedical enterprises that promoted the Act are repeat violators of federal laws. Much of the evidence leading to these citations has been procured through undercover investigations, or whistle blowing, which are outlawed under the Act. Several corporations that support AETA are repeat offenders. They have been cited for numerous animal welfare violations. These corporations would have a vested interest in silencing lawful dissent.

It detracts from prosecution of real terrorism against the American people
.

Since the tragedy of 9/11, U.S. law enforcement agencies have been remarkably successful in preventing additional terrorist activities. Yet, their resources are taxed to the extent that they are unable to adequately monitor our borders, ports, trains, chemical plants, water purification plants, and other potential sources of terrorist activity. Monitoring social activists imposes an unnecessary and misdirected burden on these agencies that threatens their continued success.

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