The Government is Attempting to Take Away Our Freedom of Speech and Something Must Be Done

It was 2002 and Will Potter, a writer for the Chicago Tribune, decided that he wanted to do something good for the environment and in a safe, peaceful way. He hoped it would get his mind off of the recent sadness surrounding the country from the recent 9/11 attacks. So, he decided to join some fellow activists and hang door knockers to help stop animal testing.

That day, they were all arrested and the police took a blurry photograph of Potter holding leaflets as evidence of his “crime.” Two weeks later, Potter was greeted by three knocks on his front door. It was the FBI.

When he opened the door he found himself facing two agents who told him he was to become an informant on other activist for them. If he was to refuse, they would label him as a domestic terrorist threat. Potter refused.

This event was the catalyst in creating one of the most outspoken journalists in the environmental and animal protection movement. Potter has now dedicated his life to making a change in this world.

He wants to bring light to this strange experience and what it can teach others. This means of labeling peaceful protestors as “terrorists,” and reverting to unconstitutional means to convict them for selfish and unethical reasons is something that cannot continue to be swept under the rug. 

Potter has stated, “they are concerned about the money, but they’re also concerned about a lot more than that. I mean, the animal rights and environmental movements, really more than any other social justice movements, at their core question what it means to be a human being.”

What Potter is fighting are two laws in the United States: the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and the “Ag-Gag” law, which prevent journalists from unveiling the truth of the animal agriculture industries.

Why Are People Speaking Out? 

There is much to speak out against when it comes to mankind’s exploitation of animals. There is a never-ending list of ethical issues.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Animals face unfathomable abuse in factory farming, the dairy industry, commercial fishing, pet breeding, clothing industries, cosmetics testing, medicinal testing, as well as many others.

There are health issues related to the consumption of animal products as well. Many studies have linked non-vegan diets to a substantially increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney stones, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer.

Living a vegan lifestyle and eating a whole foods, plant-based diet is often promoted by doctors for curing illnesses, and living the healthiest life possible.

Lastly, the effect of these industries on the planet and their contribution to global climate change are huge reason for activist so speak out. After all, the animal agriculture industry alone contributes to 18% of greenhouse gases – more than all modes of transportation involved. In addition, it’s responsible for 80-90% of the US’s water consumption. For more information, read this article.

So, Why Isn’t This Common Knowledge? 

It may be easy for people to ignore the cruelty going on in factory farms and animal testing facilities, but the effect it’s having on our planet is directly affecting our lives and our future – so shouldn’t we be informed about these facts?

Well, the government is certainly not making the information easy to get a hold of. After all, it would be a threat to our country’s economy if millions of us started boycotting these industries. 

Victoria Carrier, a Junior at Umass Amherst, has recently converted to veganism upon learning the truth about how it affects our planet.


The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act 

This act was passed in late 2006 as an expansion of the previously named “Animal Enterprise Protection Act.” The difference between the original law and the new one is the way in which they define ‘animal enterprise terrorism.’

Potter states in one of his articles that “the new law expands the definition to include so-called “tertiary targeting.” So, the terrorism law not only protects a factory farm, for instance, but now it officially protects any business that does business with the factory farm.”A full analysis of the act and all its proponents can be found here.

Though, what is important to understand is that this new version creates a broader and more vague description as to what “terrorism” really is, in relation to these animal enterprises. It can now involve merely vandalism or the possible threat to the company’s income.

Causing less than $10,000 worth of damage to an enterprise can be punished with up to 6 months in jail. Anything over that may be up to three years in jail. And on top of that, you will spend the rest of your life labeled as a convicted terrorist.

This law was first put to the test on February 19th and 20th, 2009 against a group of 4 activists who were accused of leafleting, chalking and protesting. None of them threatened anyone’s life, none were armed with weapons and nobody was hurt. Yet, the FBI arrested them as “terrorists” for enacting their freedom of speech.


Photo: Vice

A similar story can be found in the case of Kevin Olliff and Tyler Lang who were pulled over for having temporary dealer plates. When the police officer learned they were on a terrorist watch list for their role in animal rights activism, the police got out drug sniffing dogs who apparently smelled something – even though there was not a lick of drugs in the car.

The car was searched and, upon finding suspicious items in the back seat including bolt cutters, were arrested for “possession of burglary tools.” The bail for Lang and Olliff was set at $100,000 and $200,000, respectively, ten times more than the usual amount.

In the end, Lang accepted the plea bargain that the FBI offered, but Olliff was sentenced to 30 months in jail, refusing to accept.

How Can These Laws Exist? 

Originally these laws seemed to have come about for good reason. They were created as a way to deal with the violent acts being committed by the followers of groups like Earth First! and ELF (Earth Liberation Front).

Both groups had loyal followers that would go off on their own, committing acts of arson in the name of the environment, because of the ideas and ideologies being preached by the group as a whole. 

In addition they were “spiking” trees to destroy the chainsaws when lumber workers attempted to cut them down. It ended up being extremely dangerous for the workers who encountered them and often led to injury.

Acts like these started becoming commonplace in the 70’s and 80’s, leading to the development of these “eco-terrorism” labels. So, at first all seemed well and good. It was helping to prevent millions of dollars of damage and protecting the lives of innocent workers. Soon, however, we began to see the misuse of these laws.

Introduction of Ag-Gag Laws 

Ag-gag laws are something entirely different and an even more clear violation of our first amendment rights. These are the laws put in place by states across this nation that are preventing journalists from uncovering the truth about factory farms or animal testing facilities. Even when these facilities are breaking the law we are not allowed to intercede.

The Ag-gag laws state that it is a federal crime to enter an animal facility and record video or take pictures without the consent of the facility’s owner. They were created as a reaction to the several journalists who were going undercover, getting hired at these factory farms, and secretly documenting the crimes taking place. Though, of course, it was the only way to uncover the truth. 


The operations of these facilities are kept so top secret that it would be impossible to uncover the truth without breaking and entering or trespassing. Instead of breaking the law, these journalists chose to do their investigations peacefully, and in hopes of righting the wrong-doings that were being kept hidden.

So many of these cases exist, but none may be so disturbing as the case of the piglets in a Virginia factory farm.

An undercover journalist, working for the Humane Society, documented the incident in which 900 piglets died of an extremely contagious viral diarrhea. The piglets’ bodies were dismembered and fed back to their parents and the other surviving pigs. This is illegal in the state of Virginia and extremely dangerous to not only the pigs being fed, but also the humans consuming these pork products.

When the images from this farm were revealed to the general public by the Humane Society, it wasn’t just the employees at the farm that saw retaliation, but the reporter as well for having gathered the information in the first place.

There have been numerous cases like this, such as Amy Meyer, Amber Canavan, Taylor Radig, and many others – and not only on animal farms! It is clear that the government is willing to go to any length, even removing our freedom of speech and perpetuating clearly unethical practices, in order to protect our economy. 

Even Other Activists are Unaware 

<p><a href=”″>COWSPIRACY Teaser Trailer</a> from <a href=””>First Spark Media</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I recently sat down with Umass Freshman, Kaleigh Keohane, a double major in Journalism and Environmental Science who is also a vegan and environmental activist. She most recently participated in the “Divest the Rest” sit-in at Umass Amherst last week.

She told me that, even though she spends a good amount of time researching about the issues involving animal agriculture, she had never heard of the ag-gag laws or the term “eco-terrorism.” Upon learning more about them she was shocked.

“I think it’s crazy that these laws have been put in place,” she said. “If you suppress people like that, they will be scared to continue speaking up for what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ These laws are just put in place to protect the corruptness because it’s what is most convenient right now. But, in the future, we’re going to realize we should have done something about all of this before it was too late.”

She was right. The biggest problem with these Ag-gag laws and the fear of being labeled an “eco-terrorist” is that they make it close to impossible to educate people on topics that are absolutely necessary to be aware of.

It makes people afraid to stand up for what is important to them. This is a key aspect of what makes America, America. We stand up for what we believe in. We stand up for what is right and against what is wrong.

These activists are often not just speaking up for animal rights – it’s about humans too. It’s about our way of life and the planet we call home. These industries that are being so strongly protected are destroying our planet, using our natural resources, and adding to greenhouse gases at an alarming rate. If people don’t start listening soon, we may find that it’s too late.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s