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The Civil Rights of Animal Rights Advocates

Animal advocates provide the public with critical information about biomedical research, genetic engineering, the fast-food industry, and other key topics that are often distorted due to vested corporate interests. Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, when certain interest groups take advantage of heightened public security concerns to unfairly malign activists' work or to wrongly portray animal rights as a theory of intimidation.

We are keenly aware that violence against animals will not cease as long as people encourage acts of intimidation and violence against other humans. Because we envision a society capable of transcending the paradigm in which controlling groups terrorize vulnerable groups, we know that meaningful change must come through peaceful action. Accordingly, we commend groups and individuals who make a commitment to freeing our society from prejudice, oppression, and hate.

At the same time, we object when violence is done to the Constitution. We have opposed state bills that target animal rights and environmental activists, such as the "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" introduced in Texas in 2003. The bill, promoted by the pressure groups U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and American Legislative Exchange Council, and matched by similar bills in New York and elsewhere, could be construed as outlawing verbal criticism of abusive practices against animals or the environment. Wherever such proposals do take hold and harden into law, people must endure lengthy court battles to make law enforcement offices to respect their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech, to undertake peaceful collective action, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Friends of Animals continues to monitor legislative proposals that would restrict vibrant political debate, energetic and positive collaborations for social change, or distribution of important consumer information. We address such proposals straightforwardly, with strong, well-founded legal arguments.