Archived: Animal-Rights Activists Like Me Aren’t Terrorists

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I was three weeks away from taking the Law School Admissions Test in 2004 when I was arrested and charged with domestic terrorism.

I hadn’t hurt anyone or vandalized any property. In fact, the indictment didn’t allege that I’d committed any independent crime at all, only that I’d “conspired” to publish a website that advocated and reported on protest activity against a notorious animal testing lab in New Jersey.

In March of 2006, I was convicted of “animal enterprise terrorism,” sentenced to 52 months in prison, and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the lab for increased security, management time spent dealing with protests, and legal fees incurred obtaining injunctions against me and other protesters.

Incidentally, I’d been planning to focus on free speech when I got to law school.

Needless to say, now that I’ve finished serving my sentence at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, I’m more than a little wary of continuing my activism, as I fear that my speech may once again be deemed terrorism.

That’s why, as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in Massachusetts on December 15, I’ve asked a federal court to strike down the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. This law punishes anyone who causes the loss of property or profits to a business or institution that sells animals or animal products, or to any business “connected to” an animal enterprise.

In short, it recasts as “terrorism” one of the primary purposes of protest and provides special protection to a particular class of businesses. This is no surprise. The Fur Commission USA, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, United Egg Producers, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and other pharmaceutical companies — all of which are protested by animal rights activists — lobbied heavily for the AETA.

The campaign I was involved in when I got arrested was enormously successful. Dozens of investors, customers, and service providers abandoned the New Jersey lab. It nearly went out of business several times, due in no small part to vigorous protests around the country.

The speech on our website was indeed controversial. When anonymous activists liberated 14 beagles from the lab, we cheered. When protesters demonstrated outside lab employees’ homes, we applauded.

This is the First Amendment’s strength — not its limit. The First Amendment doesn’t just protect uncontroversial speech. It protects speech that’s unpopular, contentious, and even shocking.

As the Supreme Court recognized more than 60 years ago, speech may “best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.”

The animal rights movement will continue to induce unrest, as have countless other protest movements throughout history, and as the Occupy movement is doing today. But creating unrest isn’t terrorism, Unrest is the growing pain of extending rights, expanding compassion, and creating a better world.

When the government protects powerful corporate interests from powerful social movements, America abandons its high purposes, and we resign ourselves to conditions as they are.

Lauren Gazzola served 40 months in the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut for publishing a website that advocated and reported on protest activity against an animal testing lab. Learn more about the movement to abolish the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act at http://abolishtheaeta.org Distributed via OtherWords.org.

Posted - Copyright © 2022 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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13 Comments

  1. Vegan Hypocrisy 101 on

    Funny, you sure sound like a terrorist to me; that is, one who relies on violence and scare tactics to impose an unpopular belief onto other by sheer force.

    Some idiot named CN lied above and claimed:

    “It’s no coincidence that a movement which has resulted in ZERO human fatalities is labeled terrorism while right-wing extremists advocating murder are not..”

    Animal “Rights” terrorism has resulted in several human gfatalities, actually, the claims to the contrary are complete lies. no doubt you’re one of those lunatics who spenjds their time trolling through youtube videos of the Sea Shepard psycho and insisting that his ramming of boats are really everyone else’s fault.

    “Another example of big business and corporate interests driving social policy”

    Sounds more to me like yet another instance of a totalitarian socialist lunatic and envirocultist terrorist psychopath trying to absolve the horrors of their actions by scapegoating imaginary Corporate Boogeymen.

  2. Shawnna Armstrong on

    I eat meat. I wear fur. I am opposed to violence. I am cognizant of my incongruous behavior and hope to become more evolved. Having said that, I am in full support of Lauren Gazzola and of Shac. After watching the video of an HLS employee lift a crying puppy by the scruff of her neck, legs peddling in the air, and viscously punching her in the face, I am appalled that HLS is allowed to remain in business. Furthermore, I believe that Lauren and Shac should be applauded for exposing the truth. Punching puppies in the face does not further any noble cause. Let’s cut the sanctimonious b.s., and get down to the topic at hand.


  3. It will never surprise me -as to some peoples opinions- as to why it is ok to abuse animals.,murder animals,experiment on animals,butcher animals ect. Clearly we -as a animal race- of humans have not evolved at all. Clearly humans who think they are god like- for get they are labeled as an animal by all scientists- It also does not surprise me when some one says we have all ways eaten animals -when in fact there are documentation as to tribes dating back to the ad-bc time frame- showing evidence of vegetarians. And in fact -it is a blatant falsity- to state we have to eat flesh- in order to live( when documentation clearly shows this is false as well globally . And 100’s of medical doctor’s are now stepping up to state this fact. Now as to labeling some one a terrorist because they run a web site promoting the safety of animals and there well-being ( does not in fact make them a terrorist). And freedom of speech is clearly stated as in our constitution’ , If you define a speech ( whos opinions are not yours) as terrorism, then clearly everyone on this page is in fact a terrorist. Because your speaking out verbally against my beliefs and promoting hostility and inciting others to hold your views in a gang like mentality-that would be deemed as a threat and dangerous to others.. Terrorism is not some thing you throw around lightly out of spit and hate. And as far as medical testing on animals-‘ i do not know of any animal who wants to die . Im sure if you were able to ask them -and understand what they said back to you – when you said im going to experiment on you- in the most violent- and cruel ways- would you give me your go ahead to torture you- tell you die( im sure the response would be -your not touching me and get away from me) The fact that animals do feel pain, they do scream, they do cry with sorrow, they feel and they do remember, and they do think and they are alive gives them a valued placed in this world with all other human animals. I find the…


  4. Thank you for fighting the good fight. It’s no coincidence that a movement which has resulted in ZERO human fatalities is labeled terrorism while right-wing extremists advocating murder are not. Another example of big business and corporate interests driving social policy. This is unacceptable and surely will be undone.


  5. I am currently working on my dissertation on the AETA and the effect it has not only on animal rights activism but on what it means for the future of social movement activity in the future. I would love to interview Lauren about her experiences if at all possible. If this comment could find its way to her it’d be greatly appreciated.

    Wes Shirley
    wshirley@uoregon.edu
    Dept. of Sociology
    University of Oregon


  6. Ever heard of the RICCO act? Well you broke the law by working with or organizing for those who did break the law. You do not have the right to take people’s property and you do not have the right to claim or give animals rights. Biology requires that humans eat meat to secure the ACTIVE form of VB12. Without this specific active VB12 along with other essential amino acids the human brain becomes irrational and overly emotional in response. This is the problem that all animal rights proponents ignore and their gross misrepresentation that you don’t need to eat meat is the biggest lie of all. The idea that (raw) veganism (or even vegetarianism) is your “natural” diet is not in accord with scientific evidence. The recent scientific information (post-1970) that confirms that apes eat animal foods as part of their natural diets is becoming more generally known. Additionally, the fact that our evolutionary diet indicates that humans are–and always have been–natural omnivores/faunivores only began receiving wide attention in the scientific journals in 1985, with first dissemination to the public at large (via a popular book) in 1988. The vegetarian movement is very small in the U.S. prior to 1970 and research was scant. Thus vegan gurus could populate the web with their so called cures by pushing a vegan diet. But this is no different than pushing drugs. It is only now that the potential long-term results of veganism are becoming clear. The vegan movement tries to divide the world into “us” (good vegans) vs. “them” (bad meat-eaters). There is much that is still being discovered about nutrition, and given that vegen diets are not the kind of diet that the human species evolved on, and knowing that there are dietary factors, particularly micronutrients, that don’t measure up on diets that significantly deviate from our natural one thus trying to force this diet on all human beings is terrorism. What we do know is that many needed elements necessary for good…


  7. How does the First Amendment create a public communal interest in other people’s property in laboratories such that a person can damage the laboratory without consequences? Who teaches that? Speech is speech, vibrations in the air that do not result in damage to private property. Is private property a unique American right? What importance does the private development of natural resources in minerals, animals and plants have in creating and maintaining a country as a world power? How important is keeping America a world power? Do animals think as humans do? If so, did you know that is a discredited theory that has never been proven and cannot be proved? If it is proven, can you cite the proof? BTW, I’m sorry you got in trouble. Do not neglect your health. Do you know or have you read of Lierre Keith?


  8. > As the Supreme Court recognized more than 60 years ago, speech may
    > “best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates
    > dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.”

    But not to violence. “Liberating” animals is a crime (and mostly harms the animals), as is harassment of researchers, firebombing their cars and homes (as was done in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz). There are limits to the disquieting purpose of your protest, as laws that prohibit “incitement to riot” show.


  9. While Lauren Gazzola thinks that animal rights radicals inciting violence against legitimate businesses, scientific research and agricultural enterprises is not terrorism, I would have to disagree. When university professors are threatened, bombs are placed at their doorstep, their cars are set afire in the driveway, brake lines are cut on their vehicles, and groups with loudspeakers scream about them on the street where they live, that is indeed terrorism. For some reason, animal rights radicals believe their “mission” of “no animal use” somehow separates them from all the other terrorists. This is a cult belief system no different from the followers who traveled to Jonestown and swallowed the poisoned koolaide. Followers, activists and spokespersons for these radicals do create terrorism in the US with their words and their actions.


  10. Sorry for her plight but let’s look at the other side of the story – animal rights extremists have no compunction about destroying the lives and careers of others.
    Ask the dog breeder in the NE who got criminal charges for a barking dog and will never be able to use the psychology degree she borrowed $50,000 in student loans to get.
    Ask the breeder in WA state who had all of her dogs confiscated for “animal cruelty” and when the court ruled that there was NO animal cruelty and the dogs should be returned the AR extremists who had the dogs not only refused to return the dogs but informed her employer about the charges without saying the charges were dismissed. She lost her job.
    Ask the lady in Louisville who ran into the horrendous AR inspired laws there and was told that since she “trained” dogs she had to have a class C kennel license on her HOME even though she taught training classes elsewhere. She was charged with criminal charges. She lost her home, her job and has been turned down for two jobs recently.
    There are two sides to this coin and when someone joins a movement that works to DESTROY instead of improve the lives of others, you have to expect some blowback. Its called KARMA – what goes around comes around. This woman’s website was advocating the destruction of someone else’s life and career because she thinks they were being “cruel” to animals. I have very little sympathy for her or patience for her whining. How many lives has she helped destroy?
    Federal Law requires testing on animals and I for one would rather that testing was done on an animal before it is done on a HUMAN. But that is because I value human life over animals. And before any of you start screaming “animal abuser” know this – I have done rescue, worked in shelters and vet offices. I have worked for the WELFARE of animals for 45 years and probably done more in any one week of my life than most of the blowhard “animal rights” extremists have done in their entire…

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