Considering our current political climate, it was bound to happen: an animal rights activist has ended up on the FBI’s list of “Most Wanted Terrorists.” Having the government refer to animal activists as “terrorists” is nothing new, but Daniel San Diego is the first such activist to be named one of the FBI’s 24 most-hunted terrorist suspects.
Daniel is sought for allegedly bombing Chiron and Shaklee offices in Emeryville and Pleasanton, Calif., in 2003. The FBI says Daniel targeted the two companies because of their ties to Huntingdon Life Sciences, the British-based research firm that performs laboratory tests on animals. The blasts caused damage to the buildings, though no one was hurt.
The FBI’s list also features a variety of fugitives mostly wanted for murder or mass murder, including Osama Bin Laden. Daniel, it should be noted, is the only “domestic terrorist” on the list and probably the only one who hasn’t harmed anyone.
I am not defending the use of bombs as a means of advancing the interests of animals. Although I believe the relatively few animal activists who engage in property destruction have deliberately avoided inflicting bodily injury, they’ve been as lucky as they’ve been careful. Frankly, it’s only a matter of time before a fire or explosive device does indeed harm someone, and then the animal-rights movement will have a genuine shit storm on its hands.
What is troubling is that the US has plenty of home-grown criminals perpetrating truly lethal, terrorist-type acts, yet the FBI lists a man who has killed no one alongside members of al-Qaeda. Anti-abortion violence, for example, has killed at least seven people in the US in recent years and resulted in millions of dollars worth of property damage through arson, bombings and vandalism. Many of these cases remain unsolved. And then there’s Bruce Ivins, who allegedly sent weaponized anthrax through the mail — along with letters that declared “Death to America” — killing five people and injuring seventeen more in 2001. He even sent anthrax spores to members of Congress. With all the resources the FBI used looking for the perpetrator of these crimes, which surely fit the description of terrorism, you’d think the bureau itself would have referred to the anthrax suspect as a “terrorist.”
Perhaps if Ivins had been an animal activist, they might have. Or even vegan. In its description of Daniel San Diego, the FBI repeatedly emphasizes that he is “a strict vegan,” apparently in an attempt to marginalize people who avoid exploiting animals. Indeed, veganism has become fertile ground for law enforcement, with FBI agents infiltrating vegan potlucks in the hope of catching terrorists between recipe-swapping and courses of seitan and dairy-free ice cream. Welcome to the post-Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act world, where police even spy on peaceful protest groups.
Incidentally, it’s not just law-abiding vegans and animal activists who should be worried about the government’s disturbing policy of classifying non-violent acts as terrorism. Earlier this month the US Department of Homeland Security declassified a report suggesting that pretty much anyone who voices criticism of the government could be labeled a terrorist.
Remember, US activists: you have a Constitutional right to protest and to voice your objection to animal cruelty. And everyone has the right to be vegan.