Have you ever participated in an animal rights protest or demonstration? Have you ever joined an animal rights/liberation group online? Have you ever gone to a supermarket or puppy mill and tried to discourage people from doing business there? Have you ever just handed out a leaflet that promotes animal or environmental causes? If so, then you could be labeled a “domestic terrorist.” Scary, huh? It might sound unbelievable but it’s true.
Honestly, I have never been interested in politics – it always seemed like a mix of money, power and hypocrisy and I suppose I didn’t understand how it really affected me personally. Well, I was right on one count but boy, does it affect me! I started learning on the web site “Green is the New Red” about how animal/environmental activism is being perverted by the government and labeled as terrorist activity and so when Will Potter’s book came out, I bought it right away. Once I picked it up, I didn’t put it down until I was finished.
Will Potter examines the history of animal/environmental activism and how it has been received in the eyes of the law, politics, big business and the federal administrations. According to John Lewis, an FBI official, “The No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement.” The Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 was expanded into the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) which allows for legal prosecution of activists for actions that are supposed to be considered civil disobedience and protected under our First Amendment Rights.
Throughout the book, Potter tells the frightening tales of activists who were arrested and charged with terrorism for actions that should have fallen under their constitutional rights of free speech and non-violent civil protest. The most famous case is probably that of the SHAC-7, a group of animal advocates who were convicted of “animal enterprise terrorism” in a federal court for running a web site that supported the campaign to shut down Huntington Life Sciences. If you have ever gone to a protest, handed out a leaflet or shared your beliefs on a web site, you can’t help but be scared (or terrorized, for a better word) that you too could find yourself in the same shackles as these political victims.
Don’t think for a second (as I did) that you might be bored reading a book about the law and politics. Potter’s writing style is fluid, dynamic and you find yourself flowing through the pages, swept up in the stories, and shocked by what you learn about how bills get passed into law and how people trying to improve the world get scapegoated and persecuted. Mixed into the history and policy is intrigue, suspense, heartbreak, and shock. The book grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go even after you finish the book. It is a thriller of the worst kind because it is real.
Everyone – activist or not – should read this book to learn what can happen, what does happen to those who think they are safe under the First Amendment. This book should be required reading for those who are activists. Will Potter should be commended for his brave, thorough, and honest investigation.