Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Anti-Terrorism Scare Tactics Against Animal Activists

Police in New Zealand are increasingly using anti-terrorism laws to go after animal and environmental activists. We're not just talking about ALF or ELF here, but anyone who may by noisy enough to attract the attention of authorities. The U.S., of course leads the way with these kind of tactics. I was a little surprised to learn this was a problem in New Zealand.

On October 2, 2003 World Farm Animal Day a group of young Aucklanders held a protest at the Tegel Foods offices about treatment of chickens. They scattered some hay on the floor of the reception area and 23-year-old school teacher Jesse Duffield delivered a protest letter. Police documents estimate the cost of cleaning up the hay was $111 plus GST.

However, early the next morning, detectives raided Duffield's home. He was arrested roughly and charged with home invasion (maximum 10 years' prison) and intentional damage (maximum seven years' prison). Police opposed him getting bail and later imposed a 9pm-6am curfew. Meanwhile his car was impounded for a week and his house searched by detectives. They seized his computer and mobile phone, plus 100 floppy disks, posters off the walls and a T-shirt saying "GE, you are what you eat." These possessions were not returned for nine months.

The only rational explanation for their actions was intelligence collecting. The police eventually dropped their absurd charges but they'd got hundreds of thousands of emails and texts to build a profile of the animal rights groups. The detective who led the raid, Mike Paki, was not a normal CIB officer, but a police intelligence officer from the Auckland Threat Assessment Unit who was surprise, surprise studying animal rights and other protest groups. It appears police were working their way through activist groups looking for security threats. It's not hard to see where such ideas would come from.

At the same time as Jesse Duffield's case, there were many such raids occurring in the US. One of them, in Philadelphia in 2004, was at the home of a member of the group Hugs for Puppies, which protests against animal-testing. The agents, who made no arrests but seized computers and mobile phones, were from a special FBI unit called the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). US animal rights and environmental groups have never killed anyone but are openly branded as terrorists by the authorities.

Hugs for Puppies? Sounds like a pretty dangerous group. Nothing a little waterboarding couldn't cure...

Photo by InfonewsNZ

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