Will Potter is an investigative journalist who got arrested for simply leaving pamphlets on doorsagainst animal testing. There was no violence or harassment. He just wanted to do something positive to save animals. The charges were dropped, but he was visited by two FBI agents a couple of weeks later. They threatened that if he didn’t spy on other protest groups for them, then he would be on a domestic terrorist list.
He poignantly asks, after his fear abated, How could animal rights and environmental activists, who have never injured anyone, become the FBI’s number one domestic terrorism threat?
A few years later Potter was asked to testify in Congress about his reporting and told of people risking their lives to protect forests, save whales from being harpooned and protesters climbing over barbed wire to save beagles from testing. These brave people were incredibly effective in their efforts. So much so, that opponents made up a new name to vilify them: Eco-terrorists.
Companies such as the Glaxo Smith Kline, National Pork Producers Council, National Chicken Council, Pfizer and United Egg Producers got behind the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and turned activism into terrorism if it caused a loss of profits. Few people had heard of this law. In fact, less than 1% of lawmakers were in Congress when it passed.
Supporters of this law say it is necessary for the extremists. Many companies in multiple countries are now making it illegal to photograph or document animal cruelty on their properties. (I’ve written about these “Ag-Gag Laws” in earlier blogs.)
How is it extreme to document cruelty so that animals can be free to live without pain? How could saving lives possibly be considered terrorism? This is a blatant misuse of power.
Defenders of animal testing will say that this is necessary to further science. That is a lie, pure and simple. Software programs are far superior for testing drugs and chemicals.
These companies that perpetrate animal abuses are not going to police themselves. The only way these voiceless animals have any chance of being protected is through the efforts of undercover investigators and the journalists who expose them. Criminalizing this is not only a serious infringement on our freedoms, but a green light for sustained egregious abuse.
Potter has written articles in the Chicago Tribune exposing the cruelty that led to public outcry. He is now on the counter-terrorism watch list, having his speeches and articles monitored. As he says, these tactics are meant to instill fear and silence dissent. Fortunately, he won’t back down. (see his interesting TED talk).
I applaud Will Potter and hope that he continues to write about all this. We need more people like him who will speak up against violence and cruelty, and refuse to be intimidated.