[Pnews] Is Freeing Minks Terrorism? Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff, arraigned on AETA charges in Chicago

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 30 17:22:43 EDT 2014

    Is Freeing Minks Terrorism? Questions We Should Be Asking Ourselves

Tuesday, 29 July 2014 10:37 By Lauren Gazzola 

Though it received scant attention at the time, with a grand total of 
one Congressperson 
<http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/kucinich-aeta-statement/174/> opposing 
and one witness 
<http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/congressional-testimony/> testifying 
against it, condemnation of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act 
(AETA) has steadily increased since the law was enacted in 2006. 
Together with state-level efforts to enact so-called "ag-gag 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ag-gag>" legislation, which punishes 
undercover investigations and whistleblowing in animal agricultural 
facilities, and the extension of terrorism charges and rhetoric to cover 
acts as whimsical as (unintentionally) sprinkling glitter 
<http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/10/terror-charges-oklahoma-fossil-fuel-protest> inside 
an office building, there is a growing sense that these laws are not 
about animal rights, nor are they limited to animal rights activists - 
rather, they affect everyone's civil liberties. Now, though, a new 
indictment <http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/07/11/MinkIndict.pdf> has 
brought "animal enterprise terrorism" back to its roots. It is an 
opportunity to reflect on what the AETA shows us about ourselves and our 

Criticism leveled against the AETA, including a lawsuit 
<http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/Blum> filed by the Center for 
Constitutional Rights (CCR), has largely focused on the law's 
unconstitutional criminalization of speech protected by the First 
Amendment, which turns a peaceful picket or a boycott into a crime. All 
along, the government has insisted the law is not aimed at speech and 
only punishes illegal activity (which, of course, is already punishable 
by existing law).

And, in the case of Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff 
<http://supportkevinandtyler.com/>, who were arraigned on AETA charges 
in Chicago today, the indictment does allege the kind of activity the 
government claims the law targets: Lang and Olliff are accused of 
freeing 2,000 mink and foxes from Midwestern fur farms last August.

Most readers will easily see the absurdity in saying that freeing 
animals from fur farms is "terrorism." But it is important to realize 
that neither the AETA nor the fur industry is an aberration. While 
critics, myself included 
have pointed to heavy lobbying by animal use industries as evidence that 
the AETA was a gift to corporate interests, we should remember that the 
overwhelming majority of our society supports these industries, which 
encompass <http://old.furcommission.com/resource/pressSFbills.htm> not 
only the Fur Commission USA, but also United Egg Producers, the National 
Milk Producers Federation and the American Meat Institute. Lang and 
Olliff could easily have faced the same charges if they were alleged to 
have freed chickens from an egg factory, cows from a slaughter plant, or 
animals slated to become leather shoes rather than fur coats. These two 
men could have been charged with "animal enterprise terrorism" whether 
they were alleged to have freed animals from a factory farm or a 
small-scale, "humane 
farm, rather than a fur farm.

A society's strongest condemnation tends to be deployed not solely 
against those who commit the most heinous acts, but also against those 
who most forcefully oppose social norms. Sometimes - say, in the case of 
murder - the worst acts and our social values coincide. But when the 
state's most powerful condemnation in the form of criminal law is 
brought to bear against those with unpopular political views, we should 
not only consider the excessiveness of the punishment, but also stop to 
examine those views themselves.

When it is perfectly legal, and often immensely profitable, to use and 
kill animals by the billions for almost any purpose, it should come as 
no surprise that laws would harshly punish even nonviolent actions that 
disrupt or prevent that use. The AETA defends not only corporations - it 
also defends a way of life, protecting our meat, dairy, and leather, our 
Sea Worlds and our animal circuses from those who wish to abolish that 
way of life. This is the inescapable context in which saving the lives 
of minks and foxes becomes a crime.

One thing has become exceedingly clear through the debate over ag-gag 
laws: animal agriculture is unbelievably violent. Every time the 
legislation is debated, the undercover footage it aims to squelch is 
aired. With more than 80 investigations inside animal agriculture 
facilities in the past decade, and notwithstanding the industry's 
attempt to cast particular acts as extraordinary, it is clear that this 
violence is not limited to particular workers or an individual facility 
or a specific industry. Rather, violence is the very nature of raising 
animals for the purpose of killing and eating them - or wearing them, or 
testing on them.

Some of what we now view as the most abhorrent practices in our history 
were once widely socially acceptable - not only protected by law, but 
seen as unproblematic and even socially valuable - by vast segments of 
society. Those who first spoke out against various injustices, including 
those who broke laws protecting those injustices, were not only punished 
by the state; often, they were also ridiculed and dismissed by a society 
blinded by the commonality, the pervasiveness, the sheer ordinariness of 
profound wrongs. Looking back, it is easy to identify with the rebels, 
to see ourselves in those who first espoused - and acted on - beliefs 
that have come to be accepted as norms. Yet social sanctioning 
necessarily means that /most people/ ignore, acquiesce, or remain silent 
on a subject.

Last August, someone risked their own freedom to free individuals they 
would never know and who would never come to thank them, and for glory 
they would only ever see if it came in the backhanded form of 
prosecution (though the seven subsequent fur farm raids that occurred in 
the United States while Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff sat in jail awaiting 
bail suggest at least reasonable doubt as to whether they were the 

If Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff trade their freedom for that of the 
animals who were freed, let it not be in vain. Let us take a good long 
look at ourselves and ask what kind of society allows a fur farm to 
exist anyway. We don't all need to be animal rights activists to condemn 
the terrorism prosecution against Kevin Olliff and Tyler Lang. But maybe 
we should be.

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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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