There has been a great deal of focus on Islamic terrorism in recent years, and with good reason. The FBI's Top Most Wanted Terrorists list is filled with those who have committed acts of terror in the name of Allah. Yet, while Islamic terrorists have made several attempts, they have been prevented from performing any major attack on the United States for a significant number of years. According to the FBI, the most acts of terror in the United States from 2002 to 2005 were successfully committed not by foreign Muslims, but by domestic animal rights and environmental extremists.
The FBI's report Terrorism 2002-2005 states that 23 of 24 recorded terrorist incidents in the United States during those four years were committed by domestic terrorists, and with one exception, "…all of the domestic terrorist incidents were committed by special interest extremists active in the animal rights and environmental movements."
In March 2002, a large hydraulic crane was set on fire at a construction site in Erie, PA, causing $500,000 in damage. Activists from the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) claimed responsibility by fax. They had earlier spray-painted construction equipment at the site with the slogans, "ELF, in the protection of mother earth," and "Stop Deforestation." In August 2002, ELF set a fire at the U.S. Forestry Scientific Laboratory in Warren, Pennsylvania. ELF and ALF also claimed responsibility for releasing 250 mink from a fur farm in Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, and for later setting the farm's barn on fire. These are the sorts of things found in the FBI's report.
In more recent news, on March 19, four animal rights activists pleaded not-guilty to threatening violence against University of California medical researchers in 2007 and 2008. The four are the first to be charged under the 2006 law the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which makes it a crime to interfere in animal-related businesses through violence or threats. Federal prosecutors have charged the four activists with conspiracy after they were linked by video surveillance tapes to protests at the homes of at least nine UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz professors. A larger group of activists allegedly promised violence against the researchers for experimenting on animals at UC campuses. The activists claim the new law violates their freedom of speech.
In one state over, vandals in Tucson, Arizona have also gotten personal. Rather than limiting themselves to businesses, these activists have started to attack the personal property of those they consider a threat to animal rights. A group calling itself "Tucson H.A.A.N.D." or "Hooligans Attack at Night, Duh," claimed responsibility for cementing shut the water valve of a University of Arizona researcher, and for slashing the tires of a mining employee, along with etching her windows with profanity. In January, they also vandalized the home of the former chairman of the Arizona Transportation Board because he had promoted the idea of an I-10 bypass that would cut around Tucson.
No animal-related industry seems to have been pardoned. Farmer, ranchers, pet owners, hunting stores, restaurants, and even circuses and rodeos have been the victims of these kinds of attacks.
While damage to property seems small in comparison with violence against humans, the doses of vandalism together add up to significant financial and emotional disturbances for businesses and individuals. What's more, according to Arlington, Virginia-based Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance), attacks from animal rights activists disrupt efforts to feed the world. The number of attacks on the food industry rose to 220 in 2008, up 42 percent from 155 in 2007. When adding the actions of extreme environmental groups in other countries, Alliance found a total of 640 acts of sabotage, vandalism and arson in 2008.
"There is a huge spectrum of people who are involved in the cause of ensuring the rights of animals and protecting the environment and the vast majority of those people are conducting themselves within what the Constitution envisions and the law allows," said special agent Joe Schadler, who investigated the vandalism in Tucson. But, he said, "There is a fringe crowd that delights in causing havoc and causing damage and causing fear in the course of either attempting to get policy and action changed or simply for the sake of being thugs."They may not be blowing up buildings full of people, but these people are still terrorists. They are terrorists who claim to protect the environment and animals by vandalizing and setting things on fire.
Terrorism 2002-2005 - FBI
Free Speech Or Animal-Rights Terrorism? - SanFrancisco Chronicle
Animal Rights Protesters Plead Not Guilty - Media News
Animal-Rights Activist Remains In Cache Jail - Deseret News
Fringe Group Of Enviros Vandalizing Homes, Cars - Arizona Daily Star
Extremist Attacks on Global Food Chain Increase 42% - AgWeb.com