Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) and the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act (FACE) have some similarities. I began thinking about this after an anonymous comment was left in response to my posts [here and here] about the silliness of the graph published in American Scientist (May-June 2008. p 186.) and the spurious supporting data from the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

Here’s the comment:
Of course, one has to divide the number of attacks by the size of the group under attack and compare to the baseline rate. But the basic point is that people are being targeted because of the (legal) work they do.

If one were to follow your twisted logic abortion doctors should not have been granted any additional protections (as killing people is already illegal.)
Considering the parenthetical point first, the anonymous commentator understood me correctly. Premeditated murder is illegal and carries with it the stiffest of penalties. It makes little sense to me to make the premeditated murder or attempted murder of some people a worse crime than the premeditated murder or attempted murder of other people. Doing so really does seem like twisted logic and seems wholly at odds with notions of equality.

But what about the definitions of the crimes and enhanced penalties spelled out in the AETA? Are these commensurate with the defined crimes and penalties stipulated by FACE?

Consider the AETA:

Offense- “Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or uses or causes to be used the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce-- for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise; and in connection with such purpose-- … shall be punished as provided for…”

Sec. 43 (b) (1): “a fine under this title or imprisonment not more than 1 year, or both, if the offense does not instill in another the reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death and-- (A): the offense results in no economic damage or bodily injury;”

Get that?

If you send a letter to someone (maybe even post to a public blog) and say that you think they should stop addicting monkeys to nicotine and killing them, and some local district attorney construes this to be harassment, even though the recipient of the letter does not fear for their safety and no economic damage is done, you could end up being fined and spending a year in jail.

Same thing if you cross a state line to protest at a puppy mill or slaughterhouse, apparently.

During the Congressional hearings that led to the enactment of the AETA, Republican Thomas Petri of Wisconsin, the primary sponsor, had Michelle Basso testify before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Basso is a primate vivisector at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Basso was, apparently, a prime example of a victim of “animal enterprise terrorism.”

Basso’s testimony can be read here. My rebuttal can be read here. The “terrorism” leveled at her was allegedly unwanted subscriptions to book clubs.

If true, this is harassment. But it pales in the face of anything historically described as terrorism. Here, it seems, because she is a vivisector, special laws have been passed to single her and her ilk out for special protections.

This “terrorism” needs to be placed in perspective. Right now, in bookstores you can read all about creative ways to get even with people you don’t like. For instance:

The classic Getting Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks by George Hayduke (2000).

and the sequel, The Big Book Of Revenge: 200 Dirty Tricks for Those Who Are Serious About Getting Even by George Hayduke (2001).

Spite, Malice and Revenge: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Even (3 Diabolical Volumes in 1) by M. Nelson Chunder (1988).

Sweet Revenge: The Wicked Delights of Getting Even by Regina Barreca (1997).

Getting Even: Revenge As a Form of Justice by Charles K.B. Barton (1999)

And on and on. Calling these authors “terrorists” seems a bit of a stretch. Apparently, following the logic of the AETA, if your neighbor offends you and you send him or her a subscription to an unwanted magazine, you might be guilty of harassment, but if you send the same subscription to a vivisector when you learn that they are hurting animals, you are a terrorist.

Now consider the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE.) Unlike the AETA, FACE grew out of multiple premeditated murders, attempted murders, and multiple very serious attacks on clinics. In spite of the lopsided violence on the side of anti-abortion, the penalties stipulated by the AETA are either equal to, or greater than those under FACE. “For an offense involving exclusively a nonviolent physical obstruction, the fine shall be not more than $10,000 and the length of imprisonment shall be not more than six months, or both, for the first offense.”

The first point raised in the comment is interesting: “[O]ne has to divide the number of attacks by the size of the group under attack and compare to the baseline rate.”

According to the 2008 New York Times Almanac, the violent crime rate in 2005 (the most recent year of data reported) was 469.2 per 100,000.

Comparing the national rate with the rate of crime committed against vivisectors, even including crimes against those targeted because of their weak associations with vivisection (like most of the “incidences” included in the FBR database related to Huntington Life Sciences) there is virtually no crime committed in the name of animal rights, statistically speaking.

How many vivisectors are there in the US? This is a hard question to answer, but a very conservative estimate can be derived from statistics and estimates regarding the number of animals used. For 2006, UDSA-APHIS reported that there were just over 1 million animals of covered species used in US labs. The most common estimate of the number of rats and mice used annually in the US is 30 million. Let’s round the total to 30 million animals.

If we assume that the average vivisection lab uses 1000 animals a year (some primate vivisectors use less than 10 animals), there are 30,000 labs using mice, rats, and members of covered species. If there are 5 people working in each lab, then we can guess that there are maybe 150,000 vivisectors in the group that we want to compare to the baseline rate. (I suspect that the actual number is much higher; this doesn’t account for the animal breeders, dealers, equipment manufactures, food manufacturers, etc., but here, the conservative estimate will suffice.)

Using the FBR data, in 2005, considering only entries associated with vivisection, there were 34 “incidents,” the highest number ever, according to the FBR data.

Some examples of the incidents tallied by FBR for 2005:
“Over the previous two weeks, automatic dialing machines were used against HLS Investor Dalton-Grenier Company. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11, between 400 and 600 calls were placed every business day to Dalton offices and, eventually, direct to executives.”

“Activists vandalized 6 vans of a company that works with HLS.”

“Activists made home visits to executives at Boston Private, which owns 80% of a company that holds HLS shares.”

“Activists were arrested for giving a police officer fake identities after they were stopped on foot outside the Hoffman-LaRoche facility in Nutley, police said. The activists were later with charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespassing in connection with other vandalism of a home.”

“Activists reportedly contacted the pastor, secretary and parishioners of the church of the president of an HLS client and reported him as a child molester.”
None of the 34 reported incidents would have been included in the serious crime statistics reported in the New York Times Almanac. None.

Dividing the number of attacks by the size of the group under attack and comparing this to the baseline rate, we see there are at the very most 34 incidents per 150,000 vivisectors, or 24 (usually petty crimes) per 100,000 vivisectors compared to 469.2 serious crimes per 100,000 in the general population. (Serious crimes are murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, and motor vehicle theft.)

All of this suggests a certain mania sweeping through the vivisection community. It is in the vivisectors’ interest to fan the flames of fear and further insulate themselves from public scrutiny. Scrutiny leads to criticism and outrage and threatens their livelihood and dark pastimes. Animal rights terrorism is a manufactured myth.


Anonymous said...

Here is another calculation.

If your name is listed under "Targets" in uclaprimatefreedom.com you have a 50% chance that within the next year you will: (a) find an incendiary device under your car, (b) find your front porch on fire, (c) find your home flooded, (d) find a letter filled with razor blades and death threats, (e) find yourself calling the police after 9pm because masked individuals are banging the front door in what they call a "legal protest".

Now you can go back, compare to the baseline crime rate, and explain why they should not be protected.

Anonymous said...

The point is that this is a local very limited matter best dealt with through local authorities and existing laws. It doesn't rise to the level of requiring a federal statute, unless one feels that vivisectors are in a special class.

Anonymous said...

The point is that the problem is spreading all over the place and action is needed to get it under control (visit the ALF web page for a list of actions.)

Admittedly, the new federal and state legislations are a reaction to the work of a handful of AR extremists. Yet, it was the explicit and public support for such actions from some AR activists that have really helped these laws to pass.

Erin said...

Here's a pro-vivisection editorial that appeared in the Sacramento Bee this weekened. This is also full of fear-mongering about vandalism, etc. It is written by Stan Nosek and Dallas Hyde of UC Davis, two individuals with animals blood all over their hands: http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/963136.html