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News :: Environment : Human Rights : Organizing : Politics
AETA: Congress Strikes a New Blow to Freedom of Speech
14 Nov 2006
On its first day back in session, the House of Representatives yesterday voted in support of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). The AETA is a law that could be used criminalize some of the most important forms of nonviolent animal protection advocacy: civil disobedience, whistle-blowing, and undercover investigations. Over 160 groups registered their opposition to the new law, among them are The Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), New York City Bar Association, and The National Lawyer's Guild. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also issued a statement strongly urging opposition to the bill, but later issued another statement pledging they would not oppose the legislation but urged congress to change much of the language of the bill.
Solidarity w/the Prisoners of the Green Scare
On Sunday evening and early Monday morning, a number of WPI, Clark, and Assumption students were busy calling their representatives in the House, urging them to vote no on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Despite the large number of groups opposing the bill and the calls from Worcester residents, the bill passed with very little opposition. In fact, the bill wasn't even given a formal vote on the floor. Only a “voice vote” was taken, where the chairperson conducts a vote by asking the assembly “Who is in favor? Say yea. Who opposes? Say nay.” In these cases the votes are not recorded and unless a member of the House formally challenges the bill it gets passed. One of the most shocking facts is that when a vote was called, only 6 representatives, of a House made up of 432, were present to vote. The other 426 didn't even bother to attend. Initial reports indicate that James McGovern, the House Representative for Worcester, was not present for the vote. The only dissenting voice came from Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio's 10th District. Kucinich was also among the handful of House representatives who voted against the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001.

In the group's statement opposing the AETA, the Humane Society of the United States wrote, “someone who uses the Internet to encourage people not to buy eggs from a company producing eggs with battery cages could be charged with terrorism for causing the company a loss of profits. Likewise, someone who seeks to “interfere with” the cruel treatment of puppies by filming the brutal conditions at a puppy mill, causing lost profits for the company when the film is publicized, could be charged with terrorism. The very risk of being charged as a terrorist will almost certainly have a chilling effect on legitimate activism.” These concerns were echoed by the 160+ groups who opposed the bill, as well as by a number of Worcester residents.

With less than two months left before the Democratic leadership takes the reigns, the Republican-controlled Congress is trying to push as much right-wing legislation through the legislature as possible. The AETA was put on fast track to shoot through Congress with almost no discussion. Much like the USA PATRIOT Act, the AETA wasn't even given a formal vote on the floor. Many attribute the bill's swift passage to strong lobbying by a number of biotech companies that engage in animal testing. The most alarming suggestion is that this bill is only one example of the trend towards fascism in this country. The passage of this bill makes it clear that our government favors corporate interests and property rights over the civil liberties of its citizens.

Additional Info:
HSUS AETA Factsheet:
See also:

This work is in the public domain.
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