Tuesday, July 10, 2007


A recent Nature editorial (not available online) argues that Earth Liberation Front arsonists responsible for $120 million in damage are merely "knuckleheaded" activists, not dastardly terrorists:
Equating animal-rights activism with terrorism increases the penalties for offenders and will please many of their victims. But it is not in the interests of science.

Terrorist is not a word you throw around lightly. And it is certainly not a word you apply to anyone with whom you would like to have a civil conversation. A US tendency to apply the label to militant activists who are against animal research or genetic engineering slams shut a door that might be difficult to reopen — to researchers' cost.

In a courtroom in Eugene, Oregon, last week, federal prosecutors asked for a 'terrorism enhancement' on the sentencing of ten environmental activists. The activists have admitted to a string of arson attacks in the western United States in the late 1990s and the start of this decade. They torched places where things were done of which they disapproved, including a lab that they believed was growing genetically engineered poplar trees. If the judge applies the requested enhancement, their sentences could be longer and the conditions of their imprisonment more severe.

They are criminals, to be sure. Their arson cost millions of dollars and destroyed scientific work in progress. But although some of their more knuckleheaded actions could easily have accidentally hurt someone, their ethos was to damage property, never to hurt or kill.
Go here and scroll down to read several reactions from Nature readers.

Let's see, setting fire to things of which they disapprove but not injuring anyone... hey, these guys are activists.


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