Patrick Leahy — Why Bother With Domestic Terrorism?

I was extremely angry today after reading Patrick Leahy’s comments about eco- and animal rights terrorism. The Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing on the topic today and Sen. Leahy decided to turn his remarks into a partisan matter about Abu Ghraib rather than focus on the very real issue of eco and animal rights terrorism,

Today’s hearing was originally noticed under the title, “The Threat of Animal and Eco-Terrorism.” I can understand why that title was abandoned. When most Americans think of threats that currently face this country, we do not mean “animal and eco-terrorism.” Indeed, most Americans would not consider the harassment of animal testing facilities to be “terrorism,” any more than they would consider anti-globalization protestors or anti-war protestors or women’s health activists to be terrorists.

So if you set off a bomb at a research laboratory — as animal rights extremists have done at a number of facilities in the United States — that’s not really terrorism at all. Apparently Leahy would prefer to just sit around waiting for someone to die in one of these bombings before taking stronger action.

In fact, Leahy doesn’t think the Senate should even be holding hearings about the topic,

But I think most Americans would be surprised that we are devoting a hearing today to this issue. I think that most Americans would rather that we address more urgent concerns that really do pose a threat to this country and to the world.

Leahy seems to think that because he and other Senators passed the Animal Enterprise Protection Act a few years ago, that the job is finished. But the reality is that that act is almost never enforced, as Leahy derisively notes, but for a very simple reason — its penalties aren’t nearly strong enough for federal prosecutors to bother with.

And Leahy is dead wrong to believe that animal and eco terrorism do not pose a serious threat. In Great Britain, animal rights terrorism has reached a point where medical research is simply exiting that country for the United States and Asia. Animal rights activists were able to block construction of a Cambridge research facility because the cost of keeping the facility secure against animal rights extremists was simply too high.

How did the UK arrive at that position? Because of the actions of a lot of politicians like Sen. Leahy who dismissed the effects and extent of animal rights terrorism, which lead to such acts of extremism to spiral out of control.

Leahy assumes that since animal rights terrorism is nowhere near as violent or deadly as Al Qaeda that it is not truly terrorism. That makes about as much sense as saying that since the torture and human rights violations carried out by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib are nowhere near as violent or deadly as those carried out by Saddam Hussein, that what happened there is not really torture and that it would be pointless to hold hearings about it.

Eco and animal rights terrorists have different goals, but use similar methods as more traditional terrorists — they use fear and threats of random violence and destruction in an effort to convince researchers to abandon their work in favor of safer venues of inquiry. This sort of terrorism simply cannot be tolerated in a free society.


Statement of Patrick Leahy on “Animal Rights: Activism vs. Criminality”. May 18, 2004.

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