attention of the nation is on Kenneth Starr's abuse of the grand jury system and
the 18 month imprisonment on contempt charges of Susan McDougal, a witness in
the Whitewater investigation who has refused to testify, the animal liberation
movement knows all too well what it's like to face the intense focus of a political
witch hunt that can stretch on for years.
In the summer of 1991, following
ALF actions in Oregon and Washington, federal grand juries began investigating
not only the ALF, but the law-abiding activities of animal rights and Earth First!
activists. An ex-girlfriend of one activist was used to gather information; the
friend of another was offered paid tuition to the police academy he planned to
attend; mothers of suspects were singled out for psychological intimidation; homes,
workplaces and storage lockers were raided, physical and electronic surveillance
were used against activists and their families; dozens were called to testify
without attorneys present and 4 people went to jail for 6 months each rather than
cooperate with grand jury inquisitors.
While President Clinton and Hillary
squirm under the scrutiny usually reserved for their constituents, political commentators
are quick to criticize what many agree is an abuse of the legal process in the
Whitewater investigation which has kept alive the grand jury inquiry for over
4 years. Yet there was and is no rush to condemn the very same abuses when they
are used against the animal liberation movement. Not that we should expect true
justice from a legal system built on exploitation of others.
investigation of the ALF in the early '90s failed to produce a single indictment
for 3 years and only after 4 years of investigations and untold millions of taxpayer
dollars wasted in the hunt, did they obtain a conviction of an ALF volunteer and
then for only 4-1/2 years. This political manipulation of the legal system, which
claimed only to be concerned with preventing violent crime, is even more preposterous
when, in the convicted ALF volunteer's plea agreement, the U.S. government itself
admits that in none of the investigated ALF actions were there any physical injuries
or even a threat to humans as all the targets were unoccupied research labs, offices,
fur farms and suppliers. Hardly much of a return on an investment from a justice
system that is, with increasing frequency, being used to prosecute those who threaten
big business and the government itself, rather than violent offenders targeting
women, children and senior citizens.
Now, 7 years after that earlier grand
jury began investigating the ALF for its anti-fur campaign, the Department of
Justice has determined that Utah is the latest breeding ground for ALF activity.
And once again, despite not one person having ever been injured or even threatened
with injury as a result of ALF actions, a federal grand jury in Utah has produced
another indictment that threatens to lock away 19 year-old ALF volunteer Josh
Ellerman for over 30 years. To those who doubt there is a political motivation
behind targeting the animal liberation movement for government harassment and
prosecution, one need only look at the developments made toward fighting "domestic
terrorism" since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
While the federal
government's bureaucracy is supposedly its smallest size since early 1970s, according
to the General Accounting Office, agencies responsible for combating terrorism
have grown. The Department of Justice and the FBI (those federal agencies which
have recently stated that the ALF is a serious domestic terrorist threat) have
requested a record $725 million. That's four times as much money as they spent
on counter-terrorism activities previous to the OKC bombing. Also the FBI now
has 2,600 agents assigned to counter-terrorism, up from just 500 in 1995. This
growth contradicts actual terrorist activity which in recent years has actually
fallen to its lowest level since 1971 according to the State Department's reports.
Then why all the hysteria about the terrorist threat in America?
law-enforcement agencies - such as those which attempt to convince the public
that groups like the ALF are a terrorist threat - battling to justify their growth
and greater intrusion into our constitutionally protected civil rights, they have
learned to capitalize on the emotional outrage expressed at the OKC bombing. By
identifying "terrorist threats" under their jurisdiction, agencies like
the FBI and ATF become eligible to receive the hundreds of millions (of dollars)
being sanctioned by Congress to combat terrorism. In a recent USA Today report,
Larry Johnson, a former State Department coordinator of counter-terrorism affairs
acknowledged the concern that some federal agencies may be citing terrorism to
justify larger budgets for themselves, "When you say 'terrorism,' it makes
you relevant and when you're relevant you can justify added budget."
the Cold War now over and thousands of law enforcement professionals seeking an
enemy to vilify, it becomes a matter of their very survival that they should turn
toward investigating and prosecuting movements such as the ALF, who threaten not
human life, but corporate wealth and the government sponsorship of animal abuse
and environmental destruction upon which they are built. Recent economic developments
in the U.S. and other overdeveloped countries have seen the globalization of the
world's marketplace with imperial-like forces pushing to override environmental
regulations and squash domestic resistance to those who stand in their way. Whereas
in the last 50 years U.S. political forces were behind the use of deadly repression
to smash what they claimed was a communist threat, the very same forces now seem
intent on using equally oppressive measures against any movement who oppose their
"New World Order." And that is where the animal liberation movement
comes in, according to the Department of Justice.
It is because of their
desire for self-preservation and to protect its' fast growing globalized economic
policy that we see the forces of the United States now actively targeting our
movement of non-violent resistance to animal and earth abuse. This process of
criminalization of our moral and political struggle is evident in statements made
by Assistant U.S. District Attorney for Utah, Brooke Wells, when she stated during
the 1997 sentencing of ALF volunteer Jacob Kennison that a message needed to be
sent to animal rights activists that, "Violence in furtherance of a cause...is
against the law and must be punished to the full extent of the law."
was given the maximum allowable sentence under federal guidelines of 16 months
and still remains a suspect in other ALF investigations in Utah. In 1995, similar
words were spoken by my sentencing judge when he stated that a "deterrent"
had to be put in place against further ALF action by giving me the maximum allowable
sentence. Rather than serving as a deterrent, federal officials need to realize
that no amount of ALF volunteers in prison will prevent the growth of our movement
as long as institutionalized animal abuse is given minimal consideration when
profits are the objective.
The accusations of the government, industry
and corporate media that we are terrorists are baseless. I am reminded of real
acts of terrorism that took place during the last FBI/ATF investigation of the
ALF in the early '90s. In 1993 both the FBI and ATF were responsible for burning
to death 86 people including 26 children in Waco, Texas. The previous year, an
FBI sharpshooter shot a suspect's wife in the face as she held her baby, killing
her. The suspect, Randy Weaver was later acquitted of all charges, but the FBI
sniper walks free.
And we aren't even beginning to address the terror that
is committed by corporate and other government protected animal abusers behind
locked laboratory doors, factory and fur farms or experienced by animals in leghold
and other cruel traps. For me, separating the real terrorists from the freedom
fighters is as easy as looking to see who has the blood on their hands. While
sustaining the increased imprisonment of ALF volunteers and the animal nations,
we must remember that we will gain nothing substantial for our nonhuman constituents
without our own personal sacrifice. It is unfair, but such has been the fact for
every great moral struggle in modern history. Unfortunately we don't make the
rules - we just play the game. Only through the determination exemplified by our
growing ranks when we refuse to buckle under government repression will our opposition
eventually be forced to reckon with us in a civil manner. When every new animal
abuse enterprise must factor into their prospective budgets the possibility that
they might be targeted by our less passive forces, be they the ALF, demonstrators
or boycott organizers, then and only then will they begin to see the need to change.
Until then, while others are willing to compromise for short-term victories,
we in the grassroots animal liberation movement must remain undeterred by any
price we are forced to pay for total animal liberation. In the meantime, as some
journalists continue to feed from the bloody hands of corporate and government
spin doctors intent on portraying our movement as one that is increasingly violent,
we must remind them that most violent crimes committed by animal and earth abusing
corporations and the government itself rarely ever are investigated with the vigor
used to investigate those responsible for highlighting those atrocities. We know
all too well what the consequence is of letting government sanctioned murderers
walk free while investigating members of a movement innocent of a single loss
of life or injury like ours.
While grand jury inquisitors, FBI and ATF agents
busied themselves with chasing the ALF in the early '90s, U.S. service man, Timothy
McVeigh was awarded with the Bronze Star for his role in killing Iraqi men, women
and children. It continues though, that when we reveal the truth its called propaganda,
but when government and private industries spread their lies its called the news.