Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?
Steven Best, Ph.D., Anthony J. Nocella, II
II am very glad to have read this book. It is an exhaustive and exhausting examination of strategies and policies on violence by the various organisations which make up the animal rights movement. Views examined range from those of the Humane Society of America (which stays within the law) to the Animal Liberation Front (an undercover organisation which does not harm any being, but will destroy property if it is used to imprison or torture animals) through to individuals and organisations who target animal exploiters and will use any means, including fire bombs, to bring that exploitation to an end.
Violence and destruction of property is discussed under several headings: Is it acceptable to harm people who harm animals? Is it ethical to destroy property which is used to exploit animals? Whether or not it is ethical, does the resultant media coverage - good or bad - progress the animal cause? If it is negative coverage - that is it focuses on the violence or destruction rather than on the suffering of the animals - is that BAD bad, or is it still useful, because it brings the issue out in the open and this might have been ignored by the media, had there not been violence or destruction to attract their attention? Is violence/destruction useful no matter what the coverage? Following a violent action, is there not opportunity for more moderate organisations to make their point, riding on the publicity generated by the violence?
None of these questions is easy. The discussion of them by contributors makes this a valuable book, worth enduring the occasional chest-thumping, to read the honed views of some brave and deeply sincere people.
For my money, the three most interesting contributors are 1. Karen Dawn, who plays devil’s advocate to discuss the usefulness of even ‘bad’ publicity. 2. Karen Davis, who persuasively argues the merits of open rescue and 3. an anonymous young woman who conquered her fears to undertake various actions on her own.
The issues raised in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters is given added point at this time by the recent passage of the USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) And in Australia, by the announcement by Minister Warren Truss that he will examine the British laws against ‘terrorists’ with a view to targeting animal rights organisations. The Patriot Act is part of the response of the US Government to the attacks of 9/11. Under this legislation almost any person can be labelled ‘terrorist’. Not only those who undertake the original action, but anyone who speaks favourably of it, peacefully demonstrates to explain the reason for it, and the nature of animal exploitation, or any person who fundraises for the group who performed it. Evidence gathering, such as taking pictures of abuse in factory farms or laboratories is also terrorism . Virtually any protest activity can be deemed criminal terrorism under the Patriot Act.
Animal Liberation NSW - Policy on Violence
Animal Liberation is against the use of violence to any being and also to destruction of property. The disciplined use of civil disobedience is an acceptable strategy - as in the recent blockade of live export vessels at Portland - and A/L also undertakes open rescues.
Under open rescue, activists enter farm animal sheds, video the conditions they find there, take sick animals to the vet (as the law requires) report their findings to the media and then invite the RSPCA and the Police to inspect the sheds. Sometimes the activists are arrested sometimes not.