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My Adventure Presenting Animal Rights Philosophy to the FBI

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On April 13, 2006, I received a strange phone call at my Los Angeles home from an FBI Special Agent Instructor. I'll call him Andy.

It was strange because the FBI had never before contacted me. Did I breach some obscure statute? I remembered a book of "absurd laws," which said that in my neighborhood it was illegal to spit on the sidewalk, drive in a housecoat or allow animals to mate publicly within 1,500 feet of a school or church. Had my little, white terrier been committing impure acts at Erwin Elementary?

It turned out Special Agent Andy wanted me to fly to Quantico, Virginia (near Washington D.C.) to lecture law enforcement executives and managers from around the world about animal philosophy, keeping in mind "the mindset and methodologies of terrorists and the government's response."

It was an unusual request""even for an animal rights advocate, such as myself, with a doctorate in philosophy--so I did what anyone would do: I contacted my family, friends and criminal attorney.

I don't really have a criminal attorney, but I have a friend who regularly handles high-profile cases. He furrowed his bushy brow and cautioned, "Don't do anything. Let me check this out first. The FBI railroad innocent people all the time."

My anxiety multiplied when an animal person said, "only traitors talk to the government" and a non-animal friend advised me to take a lawyer with me and to refuse to "name names" when "testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee."

"I don't have any names," I protested, but then remembered a particularly annoying local journalist who had infuriated much of the Los Angeles community. Nah, I thought, it would be inappropriate to use the FBI for the purpose of revenge.

A Los Angeles Police Department friend offered the only encouragement, "It is an honor to be invited. Don't worry. I'll tell them you're not a subversive and not to arrest you until after our tennis match next week." She laughed.

I felt the real purpose behind the FBI's invitation had to do with their misguided aim to infiltrate the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which cannot be infiltrated because it is an ideology rather than an organization. There are no meetings, mailing lists or membership cards. Anybody can claim to be a member of the ALF when rescuing animals, destroying "tools of torture" (such as research equipment) or financially depleting a corporation that abuses animals; as long as he or she does not injure a human or nonhuman in the process.

The FBI has designated the ALF as America's number one domestic terrorist threat, in spite of the fact that those acting on its behalf have never physically harmed anyone. The same cannot be said of unions, who have reportedly instigated 2,193 acts of violence in the last ten years""including near fatal injuries--and anti-abortion activists who have made 13,256 attacks in the past three decades against doctors and clinics, including murders, kidnappings and bombings. By comparison, ALF-attributed actions are quite rare.

In 2003, hate crimes totaled approximately 7,400 and recognized violations of environmental laws by corporations hit 450. Senator Barak Obama says he is baffled as to why the ALF is the foremost target, since the FBI itself has stated that ALF-attributed crimes are on the decline.

In Congressional Quarterly, Justin Rood argues that the US government is silencing free speech from the political left while ignoring those on the radical right, and the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that the government is attempting to quell controversial ideas by targeting mainstream animal and environmental groups, peace activists and others who participate in lawful protest when in fact they "should be investigating real terrorists."

As an animal advocate for the past 25 years, I have only heard of two illegal animal-related actions, and both were committed by carnivores indifferent to the animal movement. One contemplated attributing his lawless act to the ALF, and the other might have done so under the right circumstances.

The first "villain" was an elderly attorney, who broke into his own home to rescue his two, pet pigeons after it had had been padlocked by health department officials. The man had been told that he would be thrown into jail without the possibility of bail if he were to set foot on the property. His equally villainous university professor friend manned the getaway car. Neither were vegetarians. Neither was young or agile. And prior to this, neither had committed what the FBI might call a "terrorist act." They cut off the oversized padlock and rescued two, healthy pigeons on an autumn night in 2005. They have escaped arrest to this day, but are not on the run.

The second "terrorist" was, in fact, a remorseful vivisectionist who would sneak animals off the premises before slaughter and place them in loving homes. If his superior had questioned the disappearance of "specimens," the researcher, in order to retain his job, could have simply pointed his finger at the ALF.

Decision day arrived, and my criminal attorney gave me the flickering yellow light, warning me that my visit to the Academy would prompt the FBI to open a file on me.

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Charlotte Laws, Ph.D. is an author, TV host and renowned activist. She was voted one of the 30 fiercest women in the world for 2013 and is a former politician in Southern California. Her 2015 memoir is called Rebel in High Heels, which tells about her fight as the "Erin Brockovich of revenge porn" (more...)

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