Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eco-Terrorism: The Old and The New

By Michael-Thomas Marciante

(Right, Animal Liberation Front members releasing cpative Beagles)

As the United States War on Terror continues with soldiers fighting extremist in Afghanistan, there is a form of terrorism that not all are familiar with: Eco-Terrorism. Eco terrorism is one of the largest cells for terrorism in America. For years people have been committing criminal acts in the name of environmental or animal rights, to extremes that it has captured the attention of the FBI. Many have been sent to prison over the events that have shocked the public, and galvanized loyal followers across the world. Today, Eco-Terrorism has taken a new approach, in which activists lean towards the idea of Eco-Activism that’s taken environmental protection to a level matching that of Eco-Terrorism. The Sea Shepherds have not only set the sail to defend marine life from fishermen, but have been notorious for sinking whaling ships. Their example has redefined the word Eco-terrorism and set sail for a new age of an environmentally friendly world, full speed ahead.

In 2002, the FBI provided Congressional testimony entitled, "The Threat of Eco-Terrorism" in which Eco-terrorism is described as one of the biggest threats to United States. Of course at the time, the United States was a little trigger happy about dubbing anyone a threat. The World Trade Center had been attacked a few months before, former President Bush was convincing the nation Saddam Hussein was indirectly connected to the attack, people were scared. Because of this, any form of terrorism was ridiculed and sought after. Eco-terrorism is different from acts committed by Al Qaeda, which is considered international terrorism, eco-terrorism is considered domestic terrorism, which is defined by the FBI as "the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

Eco-terrorism in the United States, like all radical things in America, is a spawn of none other than the infamous 1960’s; a time where millions would gather in protest of the government’s involvement in Vietnam, as free love and free thought captured the masses, while all on LSD. In 1963, a journalist by the name John Prestige covered a hunting event in which hunters would shoot a pregnant deer for sport. Mortified at the idea, Prestige formed Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) and gathered many followers. Later, a HSA activist, Ronnie Lee, formed a group known as Band of Mercy in 1973. This led to the creation of Animal Liberation Front (ALF), in 1976. Their mission statement: To effectively allocate resources (time and money) to end the "property" status of nonhuman animals. Their objective: To abolish institutionalized animal exploitation because it assumes that animals are property." ALF has been sabotaging, burning, and spiking major American companies in the United States who have experimented on animals. ALF’s regime are very strong and very large. They have even acquired "martyrs" and "saints" for their cause. Leaders such as Keith Mann, one of Britain’s leading ALF members, have been imprisoned in 1993 for several incidents of arson. His target was meat lorries, where animals are turned into meat products. The nature and target of the fire insinuates there was political motivation.

Since the 90’s, in which ALF’s popularity had peaked and influenced many followers, Eco-terrorists have taken a new approach. Their message was being heard by the public. Several years ago, a fad known as "Going Green" was taking over many urban, rural, and suburban cultures in America and across the world. Going Green is a systematic way of life in which people recycle, conserve resources, become specific on where their food comes from, etc. This new wave of eco-protection allowed the violent birth of eco-terrorism to evolve into something more productive: Eco-Activism.

One regime of Eco-Activism has captured the attention of the government, it’s people, and fishermen by storm: The Sea Shepherds. Born out of the womb of Green Peace, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is more than just protesting activism. Lead by Paul Watson aboard his boat the "Steve Irwin," Watson and his small crew of sailors take the high seas and hunt down whaling boats and sabotage, vandalize and sink them. They claim to have sunken 15 whaling vessels since their establishment in 1977. Today they have their own television show known as "Whale Wars" on Animal Planet. Their organization is more than what their well funded television show portrays. They were actually created to educate; a volunteer base camp out of Australia teaches aspiring Sea Shepherds about Marine life, their lifestyles, and threats they faced from everyday human interaction. When the fishing vessels were being sunk, their country leaders (e.g. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc.) complained to the U.S. government over Watson’s activity. The U.S. government found no by lines that were being crossed.

In a request for an online interview, Paul Watson declined to answer any questions about the Sea Shepherds objectives.

If you would like to know more about eco-terrorism, visit these sites:

Michael-Thomas Marciante is a junior and avid writer at Ramapo College of New Jersey. His education started in Trenton, NJ then to Burlington, NJ where he attended St. Mary’s Hall Doane Academy. Michael is a Communications major, with a Writing Concentration at Ramapo, and wishes to continue his work after college in both Writing and Journalism.

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