Senate Cracks Down on Ecoterrorists

Published July 1, 2004

Testifying May 18 at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Animal Rights: Activism vs. Criminality,” John E. Lewis, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said “The Animal Liberation Front … is our highest domestic terrorism investigative priority.”

In support of the FBI’s stance, Lewis detailed animal rights activists’ use of “improvised explosive devices” and “threats of more, larger bombings and even potential assassinations of researchers, corporate officers, and employees.” In the hearing’s closing moments, Committee Chairman Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) read aloud the full text of a letter from the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), drawing clear lines between underground violence and its above-ground activist support network.

Wide Range of Targets
In addition to the FBI’s Lewis and a United States Attorney from California, witnesses at the hearing included leaders of a restaurant company, a biotechnology firm, and a university biomedical research center. All three have been recent targets of animal rights violence.

“A disturbing current of violence runs beneath the surface of ‘mainstream’ animal rights groups in the United States,” Hatch read from the CCF letter. “And some of these tax-exempt charities are providing ‘material support or resources’ to groups and individuals whose activities fit the U.S. Criminal Code’s definition of ‘domestic terrorism.'”

Hatch called the violence documented in the CCF letter “startling” and insisted that if the claims are true, “action must be taken.” Among the letter’s claims:

  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has donated more than $150,000 to criminal activists–including the terrorist Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and individuals jailed for arson, burglary, and attempted murder. When asked by eight different media outlets to explain the purpose of a $1,500 gift to the ELF, PETA officers and spokespersons gave eight different and contradictory answers.
  • Until last year, when the Center for Consumer Freedom brought it to light, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was quietly funding the operation of an Internet service that distributed official “communiqués” from the terrorist Animal Liberation Front claiming responsibility for criminal activities.
  • Last year at the “Animal Rights 2003” national conference, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) spokesman Jerry Vlasak publicly advocated the murder of doctors who use animals in their research, saying: “I don’t think you’d have to kill–assassinate–too many … I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives.”

PCRM, ELF, and the other groups enjoy federal tax exemptions–perks similar to the status extended to universities and churches. According to CCF, more than 35,000 Americans have signed petitions urging the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the tax-exempt status of eco-terrorist groups.

David Martosko is director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom.

For more information …

The full text of the Center for Consumer Freedom’s letter to Senator Orrin Hatch is available online at

The petition urging revocation of PETA’s tax-exempt status is available online at

Other resources also are available on the CCF Web site at