NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 13, 2004

The term eco-terrorism has been used to describe two similar yet separate groups of terrorists -- those mainly concerned with animal rights and those primarily upset by despoiling of the land and air by technology and development. Both have been targeted by the FBI. Earlier this year, Philip Celestini, who heads up the bureau's eco-terrorism task force, said that ecological and animal rights extremists constitute our greatest domestic terrorist threat.

Of the two groups, the animal rights people are by far the more active and dangerous, says Bruce Bartlett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis:

  • They mainly target pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and their employees, because they often use animal testing to determine the safety and efficacy of new medicines.
  • Animal rights activists also target farmers and those who wear fur, even if the fur came from animals raised exclusively for this purpose.

In some cases, however, their efforts have been counterproductive, says Bartlett:

  • Last year, for example, they set 10,000 mink free from a farm in the state of Washington.
  • Now without food, the mink began attacking various endangered species in the area and even devoured each other.
  • Although most of the mink were recaptured, perhaps 1,000 died as a consequence.

Animal rights extremists have been especially active in Britain, where the government views them as a greater domestic threat than the Irish Republican Army. British pharmaceutical companies now spend $130 million per year on additional security to deal with the threat, and some estimates suggest that as much as $2 billion of investment has been discouraged. Unfortunately, those who die because of undiscovered medicines will never know that their deaths resulted because animal rights extremists put animal lives ahead of theirs, says Bartlett.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Wild About Eco-Terrorists," National Center for Policy Analysis, December 13, 2004.


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