CHARLOTTE LAWS - DREAM AND ACHIEVE TOGETHER
Adventure Presenting Animal Rights Philosophy to the FBI
April 13, 2006, I received a strange phone call at my Los Angeles home from an
FBI Special Agent Instructor. I’ll call him Andy.
was strange because the FBI had never before contacted me. Did I breach some
obscure statute? I remembered a book of “absurd laws,” which said that in my
neighborhood it was illegal to spit on the sidewalk, drive in a housecoat or
allow animals to mate publicly within 1,500 feet of a school or church. Had my
little, white terrier been committing impure acts at Erwin Elementary?
turned out Special Agent Andy wanted me to fly to Quantico, Virginia (near
Washington D.C.) to lecture law enforcement executives and managers from around
the world about animal philosophy, keeping in mind “the mindset and
methodologies of terrorists and the government’s response.”
was an unusual request—even for an animal rights advocate, such as myself,
with a doctorate in philosophy--so I did what anyone would do: I contacted my
family, friends and criminal attorney.
don’t really have a criminal attorney, but I have a friend who regularly
handles high-profile cases. He furrowed his bushy brow and cautioned, “Don’t
do anything. Let me check this out first. The FBI railroad innocent people all
anxiety multiplied when an animal person said, “only traitors talk to the
government” and a non-animal friend advised me to take a lawyer with me and to
refuse to “name names” when “testifying before the House Un-American
don’t have any names,” I protested, but then remembered a particularly
annoying local journalist who had infuriated much of the Los Angeles community.
Nah, I thought, it would be inappropriate to use the FBI for the purpose of
Los Angeles Police Department friend offered the only encouragement, “It is an
honor to be invited. Don’t worry. I’ll tell them you’re not a subversive
and not to arrest you until after our tennis match next week.” She laughed.
felt the real purpose behind the FBI’s invitation had to do with their
misguided aim to infiltrate the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which cannot be
infiltrated because it is an ideology rather than an organization. There are no
meetings, mailing lists or membership cards. Anybody can claim to be a member of
the ALF when rescuing animals, destroying “tools of torture” (such as
research equipment) or financially depleting a corporation that abuses animals;
as long as he or she does not injure a human or nonhuman in the process.
Congressional Quarterly, Justin Rood argues that the US government is
silencing free speech from the political left while ignoring those on the
radical right, and the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that the
government is attempting to quell controversial ideas by targeting mainstream
animal and environmental groups, peace activists and others who participate in
lawful protest when in fact they “should be investigating real terrorists.”
an animal advocate for the past 25 years, I have only heard of two illegal
animal-related actions, and both were committed by carnivores indifferent to the
animal movement. One contemplated attributing his lawless act to the ALF, and
the other might have done so under the right circumstances.
first “villain” was an elderly attorney, who broke into his own home to
rescue his two, pet pigeons after it had had been padlocked by health department
officials. The man had been told that he would be thrown into jail without the
possibility of bail if he were to set foot on the property. His equally
villainous university professor friend manned the getaway car. Neither were
vegetarians. Neither was young or agile. And prior to this, neither had
committed what the FBI might call a “terrorist act.” They cut off the
oversized padlock and rescued two, healthy pigeons on an autumn night in 2005.
They have escaped arrest to this day, but are not on the run.
second “terrorist” was, in fact, a remorseful vivisectionist who would sneak
animals off the premises before slaughter and place them in loving homes. If his
superior had questioned the disappearance of
“specimens,” the researcher, in order to retain his job, could have
simply pointed his finger at the ALF.
day arrived, and my criminal attorney gave me the flickering yellow light,
warning me that my visit to the Academy would prompt the FBI to open a file on
I plan to open a file on them, too,” I assured him. “But, I promise not to
put any falsehoods in my file if they don’t put any falsehoods in theirs.”
if you want. It’s legit, but take my number in case.”
plan was to serve as an ambassador for the animal rights movement and to convey
through my lecture the truth about how animals suffer under human oppression, as
well as to present philosophical arguments as to why animals are of equal value
to humans and worthy of equal consideration. I wanted my audience to understand
that anti-terrorism resources should be used to combat dangerous groups who fly
planes into buildings, rather than renegade gerbil lovers. It would not be
realistic to suggest that animal-related “crimes” be ignored, but I argued
they be deprioritized in an age when chemical, biological and nuclear warfare
ominous feeling tented the empty road and thick woods in Quantico, and the sound
of guns slammed through the air. I met Special Agent Andy, a fine host for the
FBI, at the first security checkpoint, and he immediately drove me past a sign,
which read, “Danger. Field Firing in Process.” Was this disclaimer the
result of an accident? Perhaps a speaker had been shot in her compact rental
car. I scanned for stray bullets.
took me on a brief tour of the grounds, pointing out a pretend town called
Hogan’s Alley with fake storefronts, including a bank in which actors are
hired at $12.00 per hour to play “robber,” “hostage” or “drug
dealer” with FBI trainees.
laughed, “Do the actors ever win?” Andy gave me a stern look, “We take
that very seriously. It is not good to get shot even in playtime.”
had a penchant—as did all the agents I met—for comparing their work with
crime shows and movies. At one point he mentioned, “We (the FBI) are more like
Barney Miller than James Bond. More paperwork than adventure.” In many ways,
the afternoon was a crash course in TV trivia.
presentation room was a small lecture hall with a podium, microphone and display
screen for the speaker, and fixed seats on ascending levels for attendees. I was
told that two FBI psychologists would sit in on my lecture. Although the
psychologists were charming, I felt their aim was to scrutinize me, to learn how
to squash the animal rights movement. I felt the others were there to learn.
presentation began with undercover video footage inside a vivisection lab. It
showed a man in a white coat pounding on a Beagle puppy and forcing tubes down
several dogs’ throats; the animals were clearly in distress. I surmised
cleaning liquids or pesticides would be poured down the tubes since they were
routinely tested at this lab. In another clip, monkeys screamed while their
penises were electrocuted by scientists.
shouted from the back of the room, “The FBI will prosecute this sort of
cruelty if videos like this are brought to our attention.”
pointed out that obtaining undercover video is illegal in itself, even more so
with the advent of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which states that a
person can be prosecuted if he or she causes over $10,000 worth of economic
damage to a corporation that uses animals. Showing undercover video could cause
investors to sell their stocks, decimating profits. Those who unveil the video
could face time in prison and fines.
addition, I told the crowd that it was unlikely the barbarous treatment of dogs
and monkeys in the footage was against the law. And even if it was, prosecution
tends to result in nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Because animals are
property, and the law generally finds it acceptable to use and kill animals for
human gain, imposing prison terms and steep fines on large corporations—who
have even larger lawyers--is rare.
my lecture, I was able to get several law enforcement executives to admit openly
that they would break the law, if necessary, to rescue an animal in distress,
although they did not specifically agree to break into a research lab or factory
farm. This was quite an accomplishment because prior to the presentation, Andy
had privately told me that any FBI agent who did not or could not (for ethical
reasons) uphold all US laws would be fired. My audience was mostly non-FBI so
they surely kept their jobs.
with the FBI’s inception in the early 1900’s, Powers’ book moves through
the FBI’s “witch hunts” against “whomever might be the public enemy of
the day.” There was the “White Slavery Scare,” which was embarked upon due
to a racist fear by Whites about the increasing power of Blacks, the “Adultery
Scare,” and the notorious “Red Scare,” among others.
a substantial number of people feel the Patriot Act is used for political
reasons, and the ACLU charges that the FBI is spying on and examining the
records of thousands of law-abiding US citizens. Andy says these allegations are
untrue and that the Bureau supports free speech and lawful protest. He adds that
simply tapping a phone takes excessive manpower; therefore, would only be
reserved for someone who is a substantial threat.
third suggestion was that law enforcement officers make good “situation
ethics” decisions. Even though Andy insisted laws are not malleable, I know
there is always the exercise of discretion and could tell lecture attendees
agreed by their nodding heads. I pointed out situations in which police officers
have leeway to make decisions that directly affect the life or safety of
example, during the Katrina disaster, some officers allowed people to evacuate
with their animals; others did not. At a burning apartment building in Tennessee
in 2003, police and firefighters refused to allow a man to rescue his trapped
dog who was clawing at the glass of a sliding door. The man eventually ignored
law enforcement’s orders and rescued his dog. He was handcuffed and charged
with misdemeanors, outraging the public and arguably tarnishing the reputation
of local law enforcement. If the man’s two-year-old daughter had been clawing
at the glass, would law enforcement have told him to “stand back and let the
a finale to my lecture, I questioned why the only difference between a criminal
and a terrorist--according to the US Code of Federal Regulations as listed on
the FBI website--relates to the latter’s desire to further “political or
social objectives.” The word “terrorist” evokes the image of an evil
person while the word “criminal” has a less pejorative connotation, even
when the offenses are the same.
can only assume that “furthering political or social objectives” frightens
those in power, who crave to maintain the status quo. Perhaps those who control
society—such as corporations, government entities and media
conglomerates--fear the ideology of an animal liberationist could catch hold and
topple them from their golden thrones, reducing their animal product profits and
a overturning a lifestyle which requires nonhumans be seen as means to a human
end. Is this the true reason behind branding the ALF as “terrorists?”
the lecture, Andy asked me, “Could you come back and speak again?”
doubt it. Unfortunately, I don’t fare well on long plane rides.”
added, “Well, maybe you could give me the name of someone who could.”
grinned and replied, “I knew you’d ask me to name names. I have no choice
but to report this in my secret file.”
Laws authors a chapter of the book, Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense
of Mother Earth (published April 2006) about the Animal Liberation Front and
the Earth Liberation Front.
magazine - published on May 22, 2006.