After liberating livestock from factory farms in North Carolina, Utah and California, Wayne Hsiung is facing 85 to 100 years in prison. Hsiung is the leader and co-founder of the controversial animal activist group Direct Action Everywhere. The members have been known for their extremist techniques, such as protesting meat consumption at restaurants, climbing into food cases at grocery stores, and in one particularly grotesque case, one activist covered herself in excrement at a supermarket to protest the conditions of livestock within factory farms (typically these animals live in their own waste).
Most commonly within Direct Action Everywhere, however, are their “open rescues,” which involve stealing farm animals from big factory farms in order to liberate them. Although these “rescues” are criminal acts, the government response is what’s truly absurd.
“Most people would be shocked to learn that animal rights and environmental activists are the number 1 domestic terrorist threat according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” according to Will Potter, a journalist and professor at the University of Michigan.
Potter himself disclosed that through the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to obtain articles from the counter-terrorism unit which indicated that the FBI were monitoring his lectures, media interviews, book and website. This may come as a shock, especially given that, according to the FBI’s archives, most “extremist” groups engage in activity that is “protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech.” And though these activist groups have progressively turned to “unlawful acts,” it seems fundamentally strange that our nation’s Justice Department sees environmental activism as the predominant threat.
Most of the time, in fact, animal rights activists protest without committing any criminal acts. According to the FBI’s online archives, it is estimated that “the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front (two large activist groups under investigation) have committed around 1 thousand criminal acts over the course of almost 30 years.” In comparison, according to CBS News, in 2019 alone, there were “more mass shootings across the U.S. than there were days in the year.” Essentially, this means that in a year alone, we saw almost half the amount of “criminal activity” in the form of mass shootings than we saw in 30 years of environmental “rescue missions.” The two shouldn’t even be comparable.
But, animal rights activists were charged with creating damages at approximately $110 million over that span of time. So, even though they don’t threaten our lives the way mass shooters do, environmental activists threaten to expose the meat and dairy industries, and jeopardize corporate profits (which are known to be tied to politics and government funding). That’s the real reason these activists are targeted as “domestic terrorist threats.” And if you ask me, there’s something fundamentally wrong with that picture.
Samantha Bertolino is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org