Is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act unconstitutional?

Named plaintiff Sarajane Blum rescuing a duck via GourmetCruelty.com

Last week, the Center for Constitutional Rights (“CRC”) filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (“AETA”).  The suit, titled Blum v. Holder, alleges that the AETA violates the First and Fifth amendments.  The CRC explains —

Passed by Congress in November 2006, AETA is aimed at suppressing speech and advocacy surrounding certain industries by criminalizing First Amendment-protected activities such as protests, boycotts, picketing and whistle-blowing. The statute punishes anyone found to have caused the loss of property or profits by a business or other institution that uses or sells animals (or animal products), or has “a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.”

The five plaintiffs maintain that the statute is too vague and as a consequence, the statute could “be read to criminalize anyone who causes a business to lose profits. Activists from any social movements could be subject to prosecution as terrorists if their advocacy, if their lawful protest, affects the bottom line of a business”  that sells or uses animal products.  [source]

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are animal-rights activists from New York, Minnesota, and Maryland.  They run websites such as Rabbitwise.org and GourmetCruelty.com.

The lawsuit, in my opinion, has a good chance of succeeding.

“One of the ways the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act silences free speech is that if one obtains that footage and then brings that footage to the public about how animals are suffering on factory farms, it might affect the profits of that farm,” explained Ryan Shapiro, one of the plaintiffs.  Plaintiffs Sarahjane Blum and Ryan Shapiro, for example, made a film in 2004 called “Delicacy of Despair,” which documents the farming of ducks for fois gras.   Plaintiffs maintain that “simply bringing that information to the public and trying to educate individuals is now prosecutable as a terrorist act under the law.” [source]

Plaintiffs aren’t the only ones to have raised these constitutional concerns.  Earlier this year the New York City Bar demanded the repeal of the statute arguing that it is both overbroad and vague.

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~ by siouxsielaw on December 23, 2011.

One Response to “Is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act unconstitutional?”

  1. As much as I like eating tastey animals, I am reluctant to restrict the right to free speech. First PETA, then us???

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