NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 17, 2005

Law enforcement officials say the threat of attacks from ecoterrorists has become greater than from the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and right-wing militias.

John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, says his agency has seen an escalation in violent rhetoric and tactics with attacks growing in frequency and size. Harassing phone calls and vandalism now coexist with improvised explosive devices and personal threats to employees. The FBI currently has 150 pending investigations involving 35 agency field offices working with other law enforcement agencies on such cases.

Recent targets of what activists call 'direct action' include laboratories, mink ranches, SUV dealerships, fast-food outlets and new housing developments. Moreover:

  • The growing trend in recent years includes more than 1,200 incidents of arson, bombings, theft, animal releases, vandalism and office takeovers.
  • While no deaths are attributed to ecoterror cases, officials say they had several close calls and physical property damages have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Some of the most radical organizations apparently involved are the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC).

Observers say that while acts of ecoterrorism are prosecuted under existing law, some lawmakers want to make it a federal crime to support such groups, monetarily or otherwise. Several states are considering separate laws aimed at ecoterroism, stiffening the penalty for attacks on university labs, dog food makers, farms where animals are caged and hunting businesses.

For their part, mainstream environmentalists and animal rights advocates are working to separate themselves from groups and individuals that break the law on behalf of their cause. Observers say all of the major environmental groups sent a letter to the Senate Committee strongly condemning all acts of violence, including those committed in the name of environmental causes.

Source: Brad Knickerbocker, "A Troubling Rise in Violence for Green Causes," Christian Science Monitor, June 6, 2005.

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