An amendment to the Juvenile
Justice Act, approved by the U.S. Senate a couple weeks ago, would strengthen
the criminal penalties of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act as well as make it
a federal felony to distribute bomb making information over the Internet.
The language to strengthen the
AEA penalties was introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) as part of an
amendment co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and approved
by an 85 to 13 margin. The amendment would increase the penalty for raids
against animal enterprises to up to 5 years in prison and fines up to
double the actual damages done. In addition, the FBI would maintain a
database of information about attacks on animal enterprises, greatly increasing
the coordination of investigations of such crimes at the local, state
and federal level.
In a press release Jacquie Calnan,
president of Americans for Medical Progress, said, “We are grateful to
Senator Hatch for taking a leadership role in protecting biomedical research.
When research laboratories are attacked, the ones who lose most are those
of us who are living with a disease or who are watching a loved one cope
with a devastating illness.”
In a related development, a
bill passed the Minnesota legislature which allows victims of animal rights
activists to recover damages up to triple the actual damages done.
Both bills represent an opportunity
that opponents of animal rights need to seize. Although the increase in
prison terms and fines included in the Hatch/Feinstein amendment would
certainly be welcome, it appears unlikely the Juvenile Justice bill will
survive in a form that President Bill Clinton will sign. In the House
of Representatives, a similar bill is being bogged down with dozens of
proposed amendments as well as a storm of controversy over proposed gun
control measures. It is still possible the amendment might become law,
but it is a long shot.
On the other hand, the 85 to
13 vote demonstrates the support is there in Congress for taking more
serious action against the growing incidence of animal rights violence.
Opponents of animal rights should use the visibility created by the recent
attack at the University of Minnesota to push Congress to pass Hatch’s
amendment in its own right or attached to some other less controversial
piece of legislation.
Preferably such legislation
would not be burdened with Feinstein’s ban on distribution of bomb making
material over the Internet, which is clearly unconstitutional. Some of
the animal rights bomb making material found on places such as the Animal Liberation Front Information Site may itself be actionable in a civil
lawsuit, but Feinstein’s blanket ban is just the latest manifestation
of her anti-Internet hysteria and would never pass muster with the Supreme
US Senate Acts on Animal Rights Terrorism” Americans for Medical Progress press release, May 18, 1999.
Defend Frontline, the ALF and Free Speech! Frontline Information Service press release, May 20, 1999.
Juvenile Justice Bill Used to Target Activists. No Compromise, press release, May 25, 1999.
Anti-ALF Bill Passes Minnesota Legislature. Frontline Information Service press release, May 21, 1999.
Senate blasts bomb-making info on Net. Courtney Macavinta, News.Com, May 19, 1999.