In a DEFINING case, a U.S. Federal Appeals Court found six animal rights activists guilty of terrorism against a NJ research lab.
Oct 2009 | TheDogPress.com
Barbara J. Andrews, Editor-In-Chief
The landmark case redefined animal rights activists as terrorists. Could it provide a basis for a similar suit against PETA and other cyber-terrorist groups? For decades, groups such as ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and ELF (Environmental Liberation Front) have terrorized American citizens with seeming impunity. This case may provide a leg up for defense against PETA and HSUS.
Emboldened by success and prosecutorial failure of an increasingly liberal judicial system, animal rights terrorists employed violent assaults for two decades. In addition to liberating lab animals, the “animal rights advocates” attacked dog shows, opening vehicles and crates, freeing animals from “cruel imprisonment” and allowing disoriented dogs the freedom to bolt into traffic. Dog show fanciers were terrified; afraid to leave one dog unattended in order to exhibit in another.
Today PETA, HSUS and other animal rights groups use the internet to assault the rights of dog breeders, garnering emotional support and hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. Perfectly legal, but the New Jersey Six case defines the line between advocating for a cause and using a web site to incite violence under the guise of protecting the rights of animals.
The Federal Appeals court also accepted evidence of smear tactics against the lab and threats against companies that did business with Huntingdon Labs. These animal terrorists were brought to justice under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act.
The jurists upheld the New Jersey convictions of six animal-rights activists charged under a terrorism statute for using their Web site to incite threats and vandalism against a company that tests products on animals. The 2-1 decision was the first federal appellate court ruling on a constitutional challenge to the law.
The animal rights group was formed to protest the activities of Huntingdon Life Sciences in Franklin Township, N.J. The New Jersey Six case is seen by AR groups as an example of government infringement on free speech. Animal rights activists prefer the lofty term “advocates” because it sounds more like a lobbying effort and terrorist supporters likened the decision to condemning civil-rights activists. Defense council for the six New Jersey terrorist said "The government is always doing the same thing, prosecuting the loud leaders for conspiracy to commit particular crimes that they are not committing, and are not planning to commit."
The Stop Huntingdon defendants were convicted in 2006 for conspiracy to violate the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act which was enacted to protect animal research labs from illegal, sometimes violent protests. Huntington labs became a target of animal rights activists when video footage was telecast in the 1990s. They claimed it showed animal abuse at the United Kingdom laboratory. The New Jersey facility used a small number of dogs and monkeys in addition to mice, rats, and fish.
The terrorists made public the home addresses for Huntingdon officials and even some of the lab’s contractors. Andrew Baker, chairman of a Huntingdon holding company, testified that protesters broke windows, threw smoke bombs into his home, and decorated his daughter's NY apartment with pictures depicting his death.
The animal terrorists kept up a barrage of cyber-attacks on their website which Huntingdon said cost the company nearly a half million dollars in provable damages. Extrapolating that to the losses suffered by The American Kennel Club as a result of unrelenting attacks against breeders, one must ask if the AKC has a case against PETA? PETA has close ties with ALF and ELF and while it does not advocate physical violence against breeders, it attacks dog and cat breeders with unrelenting success.
PETA’s print, billboard, and cyber-attack campaign against breeders has caused incalculable financial damage. Convinced by the emotionally charged concept that buying a puppy from a breeder means the death of a shelter dog, the actions of PETA have been no less damaging to breeders than to the companies which did business with Huntingdon labs.
Judge Julio Fuentes wrote in his ruling "While advocating violence that is not imminent and unlikely to occur is protected, speech that constitutes a 'true threat' is not." Therein lays the difference between freedom of speech and promoting or threatening terrorist attacks. He also noted “"The record is rife with evidence that defendants were on notice that their activities put them at risk for prosecution, including the extensive use of various encryption devices and programs used to erase incriminating data from their computer hard drives."
The single dissenting Judge, Michael Fisher feels that the conspiracy convictions should be overturned for lack of evidence, noting that much of the evidence only proved actions against other companies which did business with Huntington labs.
The Federal Appeals Court accepted evidence and took into consideration that actions by the defendants caused great financial and credibility losses for Huntingdon.
The New Jersey Six were sentenced to up to six years in prison. Defense attorneys are deciding whether to appeal the ruling. If so, it will go to the U.S. Supreme court. This case may directly relate to financial and emotional damage wreaked upon both commercial and hobby breeders and should be watched closely.
We invite subscribers, especially attorneys and Legislative groups defending the rights of hobby breeders, so please COMMENT below.
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