The green scare, a term describing the US federal government’s response to environmental and animal rights activists during the 2000s, invites discussion about the evolution of these movements. Drawing from the “Red Scare” of the 1950s, a period of intense anti-communist suspicion in the United States, the green scare includes the government’s use of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) to address activist actions. AETA’s broad language and potential impact on free speech since its enactment in 2006 have sparked debate among legal scholars and activists.
Corporations and the Green Scare
Corporations were involved in developing and supporting the green scare and AETA. For example, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a company performing animal testing for various industries, faced protests, property damage, and harassment from the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign. In response, HLS and its supporters established an organization to finance legal action against SHAC.
Numerous corporations supported AETA, including the National Pork Producers Association, Pfizer Drug Co., McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and other companies benefiting from animal testing and factory farming. These corporations lobbied for the law’s passage through organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts and promotes corporate-friendly legislation.
AETA’s Impact on Activism
AETA is a federal law that prohibits individuals from engaging in activities that intentionally damage or interfere with the operations of animal enterprises, such as agricultural research facilities, pet stores, and zoos, as well as activities that intimidate or coerce individuals associated with such enterprises. The Act’s criminalization of certain activist activities has raised concerns about its impact on 1st Amendment rights, as it prioritizes corporate property and profits. The Act’s penalties focus on financial damages, with criminal punishment determined in part by the extent of economic harm inflicted on the corporation, as assessed by the corporation. Under AETA, a “terrorist act” is broadly defined. It includes activities that intentionally damage or cause the loss of property used by an animal enterprise or intentionally place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.
Notable Cases and Effects on Movements
The green scare and AETA have notably affected environmental and animal rights movements. Activists have faced convictions and limitations on their activities, as demonstrated by the SHAC 7 case. The defendants were found guilty of using their website to incite threats, harassment, vandalism, and attacks against HLS and its business partners. Consequently, they received a combined 24-year prison sentence and were ordered to pay joint restitution of $1,000,001.00.
The green scare and AETA reveal the intricate dynamics between social movements, corporate interests, and government intervention, shedding light on how corporations leverage government power to safeguard their economic interests against public scrutiny.