There are plenty of discussions that need to be had about animal rights and environmental issues and about what tactics are appropriate, but in my lectures and in my book I don't devote much time to them. If there is one take away message from my work, it is that the labeling of activists as "terrorists" affects everyone, regardless of your political beliefs.
The campaigns by corporations and politicians against "eco-terrorists" extend far beyond the social movements targeted, in two primary ways.
First, they waste government resources. In my book I document a laundry list of surveillance operations by the FBI and homeland security, including spying on animal rights activists who were leafleting at a HoneyBaked Ham store and attempting to infiltrate vegan potlucks. When law enforcement is surveilling, harassing, and prosecuting animal rights and environmental activists (and, it should be noted, entrapping Muslim community members), they are not pursuing more serious threats.
The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General has warned the FBI about this. In a 2003 audit, the Inspector General advised the FBI to stop investigating animal rights and environmental activists as terrorists and to shift these cases to the FBI's criminal division, in order to "more effectively target its counter-terrorism resources." The FBI, though, has refused to shift focus away from so-called "eco-terrorists."
Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that singling out people based on their beliefs puts far too much power in the hands of the government. It is an erosion of checks and balances on government power and one that sets a precedent for targeting other social movements. To use a very non-eco-friendly analogy, these activists are the canaries in the mine.
The word terrorism has become a malleable brand to attack the enemy of the hour. At the moment, that "threat" may be animal rights and environmental activists, but these court cases, legislation, and scare tactics can easily be applied to other social justice movements.
In my book Green Is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement under Siege, I examine a wide range of cases, and many of them are quite controversial. Regardless of how you may feel about the people involved, what they have said or done, or the issues that motivate them, public fears of terrorism and the tragedy of September 11th should not be exploited to push a political agenda.
Government resources should be used to protect public safety and human life, not corporate profits.