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When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World

What a sick world we live in where Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, two individuals so passionate about the lives of the earth’s most vulnerable, must fight for their own lives for having the courage to act on their convictions. But in a world where justice has become a scarce commodity, should we be surprised when counter-terrorists like Buddenberg and Kissane are labeled terrorists?

Buddenberg will soon begin a two year prison sentence after accepting a plea deal, rather than face trial, over conspiracy charges brought under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Kissane also accepted a plea deal, and will be sentenced in June. It should be noted that, as with most AETA cases, defendants are offered opportunities to rat out fellow activists or become informants in exchange for lighter sentences. Buddenberg and Kissane declined to do so, and they deserve praise for this. Their non-cooperation will allow others like them to continue saving lives, while risking their own.

So what exactly did the pair do that’s earned them the dishonor of being branded terrorists? Simply put, they saved the lives of thousands of confined and brutalized animals. Rather than settle for the slow-drip “humane economy” reforms that aim at improving the conditions of animal confinement and reducing the barbarity of their slaughter, Buddenberg and Kissane took the direct route — they staged prison breaks — freeing the inmates and leaving messages for the prison wardens. They defaced or destroyed the property of the wardens, either to send a message or to ensure their property would never again be used as weapons of mass destruction.

Some of the freed inmates were minks, stuck in horrible, cramped cages awaiting death. The minks would soon be gassed, suffocated, poisoned, or have their necks broken, prior to having their skin ripped from their bodies — all so that people could wear their fur as coats, jewelry, eyelashes and eyebrows. According to what is alleged to be one of their communiqués, Buddenberg and Kissane powerfully describe the moment of liberation from one of their rescues: “[The mink’s] initial timidity quickly became a cacophony of gleeful squealing, playing, cavorting, and swimming in the creek that runs directly behind the Moyle property. They will live out their new lives along the Snake River watershed.” Their AETA indictments would soon make Buddenberg’s and Kissane’s victories bittersweet, however.

The AETA was passed in the fevered post-9/11 climate at the behest of the animal exploitation industry. Never content to let a good crisis go to waste, the animal exploiters pumped untold millions into Congress to pass a law making those who’d stand up to them domestic terrorists. While many constitutional experts claim the AETA is unconstitutional (and it most certainly is), its constitutionality is of little import to those like Buddenberg and Kissane.

To Buddenberg, Kissane, and so many other activists who recognize the utter corruption of the American state and all of its rotten, immoral laws, the Constitution is of no authority, as nineteenth century abolitionist and lawyer Lysander Spooner said. It is merely a tool to fight one’s battles or defend oneself within the system, where it proves useful. But no legal battle can ever have the impact that the direct action engaged in by these two brave souls will have. Theirs will inspire two dozen more like them to do the same, and each heroic act will further destroy the animal exploitation industry.

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Chad Nelson is senior editor at the Center for a Stateless Society. He’s an attorney based out of Providence, Rhode Island and a Fellow at C4SS. He considers himself one of the world’s biggest Pearl Jam fans despite their blind obedience to the Obama administration. Follow him on Twitter @cnels43.

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