Friday, December 29, 2006

Ecoterrorism? Environmental Activism? Oh, and online community

Police blotter: Web at heart of ecoterror lawsuit is an interesting view into environmental activism that probably went too far. It concerns a group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, specifically the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty USA organization based in the U.S.A.

SHAC USA was targeting Chiron, a biomedical research company in the SF Bay Area. While Chiron has a history of developing nice and useful medicines, they must have also been having a history of medical research that's cruel to animals, and probably has outsourced some of their research to Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Their activism went well over the line of civility to include vandalism of corporate properties, posting home addresses, home phone numbers, and other personal contact details of high ranking Chiron employees, and vandalism of some of the homes of those Chiron employees. This was posted on the SHAC USA web site, and part of the legal action referenced above caused the SHAC USA web site to be shut down.

It would be one thing to post a call for action against individuals .. and then innocently say that any later action against those individuals are independent decisions by the people who perpetrated those actions. But SHAC USA clearly posted plans concocted by SHAC USA to vandalize certain homes, and when people showed up at those homes they were carrying banners giving the SHAC USA web site address.

Hmm... I say that political activism, environmental activism, etc .. those are valid and worthy activities to engage in. It helps raise awareness and garners some attention. But when these actions cross the line to causing actual damage they start being a criminal act.

A friend told me a useful analogy. "Your right to swing your fists stops at my nose". Applying that analogy here, their right to make protests, to raise awareness, to do activism, all that stops when they cross the line into private property and start causing damage.

An interesting thing here is the use of an online message board to discuss issues, make announcements, etc. This occurred on the SHAC USA web site, but we can no longer see that site because it's been taken down. However the Internet Wayback machine has the history for us.

For example their Jan 19, 2005 web site has links to several articles of criminal animal rights activism actions against several people and organizations.