This federal law defends farmers and ranchers against deceptive animal rights operations

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and Undercover Employees

Posted by Fox Rothschild, Animal Law Update

By Sarah Phillips on July 10, 2019 Posted in Agroterrorism, Animal Agriculture

In recent years, farmers and ranchers have been increasingly targeted by animal rights groups trespassing on their properties, stealing farm animals, and other acts of vandalism. The frequency with which undercover animal rights groups infiltrate farms, ranches and other animal enterprises as undercover employees is increasing. In light of this increased activity, farmers and ranchers are searching for new ways to guard their property and protect their animals, especially after a breach of privacy. Although some state legislatures have attempted to regulate the release of video or photographs taken at an animal enterprise without permission, much related legislation has been successfully challenged on constitutional grounds.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), 18 U.S.C. § 43, is a federal law that protects against the potential damage and harm caused by members of animal rights groups.

For example, in Animal Legal Defense Fund, et al. v. C.L. Butch Otter and Lawrence Wasden, No. 1:14-cv-00104-BLW (D. Idaho Aug. 3, 2015), the court held that legislation which targets journalists or activists, who may be critical of animal enterprises, could violate the constitutional right to freedom of speech. While that ruling protects filming and the subsequent release of a video, there still may be legal remedies that farmers and ranchers can seek against those who enter their operation under false pretenses to harm their animals and business.

Pigs, Chickens, Farm, Eat, Agriculture, Cattle, Pasture

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), 18 U.S.C. § 43, is a federal law that protects against the potential damage and harm caused by members of animal rights groups. The AETA prohibits individuals who have traveled in interstate or foreign commerce, or used or caused to be used the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, from damaging the property of an animal enterprise, or intentionally putting the owner of an animal enterprise in fear of death or serious bodily injury. An individual found guilty pursuant to the AETA faces a range of penalties, including fines and imprisonment depending on the severity of harm and economic damage caused.

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