A Statement From Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has written a statement on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. You may recall that the Act passed unanimously in the Senate earlier this year, and that his was the only voice of dissent in the House when they too passed it, as H.R. 4239, in mid-November. You may also recall that, among other chippings-away at our First Amendment rights, the way it is written makes nonviolent forms of protest targeted at a company’s bottom line–illegal. In fact, it makes me a "terrorist."
Here is Rep. Kucinich’s statement, sent to Animal Person last Friday, in its entirety:
Statement of Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act:
I stand with every Member of the House in defense of the rights of individuals to be free of bodily harm or injury under all and any circumstances. But, the fact of the matter is, existing Federal law already includes any place which does Federal research.
So the question is, why create a new and specific classification here?
We, of course, need to protect peoples’ right to conduct their work without fear of assault. But, a larger question remains yet unanswered by this Congress: How should animals be treated humanely?
There are some specific principles with respect to humane treatment of animals but, these do not go far enough. My concern about this bill is that it does nothing to address the real issue of animal protection but, instead targets those advocating animal rights. This legislation will have a real and chilling effect on people’s Constitutionally protected First Amendment rights.
I am not talking about people who would threaten anyone with death because they don’t agree with them, but there are individuals who love animals, who don’t want to see animals hurt, who have a point and a right to speak out. I think for that reason, this bill has not yet reached its maturity.
I understand what the sponsors of this bill are trying to do, but I don’t think that they will reach the end they are hoping to achieve unless this Congress makes a clear statement about ethical principles with respect to animals and how we treat animals in research and other enterprise.
These are very serious questions that millions of Americans care about. I understand the intent here, but I think that you must be very careful about painting everyone with the broad brush of terrorism who might have a legitimate objection to research with or treatment of animals that is inhumane.
Bringing up a bill like this under procedures that only allow limited debate, and no amendments, no matter how well intentioned, is problematic.
I am not and never have been in favor of anyone using a cloak of free speech to commit violence. The Supreme Court Justice said, your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. No one has the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. We have heard those kinds of admonitions.
I am not for anyone abusing their rights by damaging another person’s property or person, but I am for protecting the First Amendment and not creating a special class of violations for a specific type of protest.
Balancing Constitutional concerns against the protection of people and property is never easy. Unfortunately, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act goes too far in the wrong direction.