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2-19-03; Longview, Texas

Local lawyer says animal rights bill is ridiculous'

By GLENN EVANS

A bill moving through the Texas House smacks of tyranny, a Longview attorney and animal welfare advocate said Tuesday.

House Bill 433, dubbed the Animal Rights and Ecological Terrorism bill, makes it illegal for two or more politically motivated people to obstruct "activity involving animals." Those activities include hunting, food preparation or clothing production, medical research and entertainment/recreation, according to the bill by Grand Prairie Republican Ray Allen.

The representative was not available for comment Tuesday, but legislative aide Tedrah Hutchins said Allen's intent is "to differentiate between politically and personally motivated acts and declare animal and ecological terrorism as terrorism."

Attorney Kelly M. Heitkamp, who draws a distinction between herself and more radical animal rights activists, said Texans should be wary of this bill regardless of their stance on animal issues.

"This is about freedom of speech, freedom of assembly," Heitkamp said. "I don't know if anyone here cares. There are some pro-lifers here. It could be you tomorrow. ... this is a ridiculous bill."

HB 433 outlaws obstructing the use of animals or natural resources, damaging them or holding them for ransom. It also forbids two or more "terrorists" from damaging the places where animal activity occurs, disrupting their operation or taking photos or videotape to defame the facility or its owner.

Conviction can bring up to two years in a state jail. Offenders would be required to register their names, addresses and recent photographs on a data base available on the Internet.

The bill was sent to the House Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations committee on Feb. 10. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, is a committee member, but his aide, Dennis Suiter, said Tuesday that Merritt has not taken a position on HB 433. Suiter said Merritt's staff is analyzing the measure.

"We're looking into it and seeing what it does," Suiter said, adding that Merritt will be concerned both with protecting Texans' property and their freedom of speech and assembly. "We'll just have to see if there is a (committee) hearing on it."

Heitkamp, who describes passing out pamphlets at a circus while she was in college as her foray into protesting, is a member of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. She describes the group as "a very middle-of-the-road group of people in the state of Texas."

Allen's aide said he took the bill from the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, which says on its Web site it is pushing the bill state-by-state beginning with Texas.

"The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act specifically recognizes animal and eco-terrorism as forms of domestic terrorism," the Web site says. "(It) increases penalties for persons participating in politically motivated acts of animal and eco-terrorism and creates specific penalties for those who encourage, assist or finance these acts of terror."

Association Vice President Rob Sexton, who is listed as the contact for the bill, was not available for comment Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Heitkamp said the bill is unnecessary.

"There are laws already protecting people against violence, against vandalism and trespassing," she said. "It's a scary, scary bill. It robs you of all your rights to protest. It's frightening. ... It hurts me that they think the best way to deal with us is to shut us up."

Glenn Evans can be contacted at [email protected].
 

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You know... I also think this bill is unnecessary.

I think its just another set of laws created when existing ones are not enforced. Damaging property is a crime already. I hardly see the need for an entire bill to essentially accomplish the same thing. This Bill seems to take it pretty far and, reading between the lines, it seems almost directed towards the ALF and PETA specifically.

"...creates specific penalties for those who encourage, assist or finance these acts of terror."
 

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I'm with Robert.

I'm particularly concerned about the part pertaining to photographs.

If someone sneaks into a puppy mill to take photos of the atrocious conditions to try to get the place shut down, they are a terrorist?

>_<
 

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I agree with Robert, too (for once!- JK) anyway, that it specifically mentions animals and not other kinds of political unrest is what bothers me most. If they are so concerned that activists are getting out of hand, why not increase existing penalties and enforcement of laws across the board, regardless of issue?

And what qualifies as "obstruction"? and once again, why should it apply only to AR? and not all protestors who "obstruct"?

Oh, wait, it may apply to anti-abortion protestors, don't want that.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by kpickell

"This is about freedom of speech, freedom of assembly," Heitkamp said. "I don't know if anyone here cares. There are some pro-lifers here. It could be you tomorrow. ... this is a ridiculous bill."
Yes, it's absurd.

What's next?

Will they forbid people to post critical post on boards like VB?

If people don't protest against this, this will happen sooner or later.

I've got a RIGHT to protest, and that right doesn't change when there are two people standing next to me who think the same............
 

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I totally support this bill. It will help authorities identify and prosecute animal rights terrorists, such as hunt saboteurs, animal 'liberators', AR vandals, and the like. I hope my state passes this bill soon.

Legislators in Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin have stated their intent to introduce the bill as well.

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House Bill 433...makes it illegal for two or more politically motivated people to obstruct "activity involving animals." Those activities include hunting, food preparation or clothing production, medical research and entertainment/recreation...
House Bill 433 will recognize animal rights and eco-terrorism as forms of domestic terrorism, increase penalties for persons participating in politically motivated acts of animal and eco-terrorism and create specific penalties for those who encourage, assist, or finance these acts. This is a good thing, IMO.

It should be illegal for ARAs to obstruct legal activities involving animals and they should be prohibited from harassing law-abiding omnivores. This bill targets AR terrorists. So, unless you are an AR terrorists yourself, then you should have no problem with this bill, IMO.
 

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Agreed. Sounds like you'd be breaking the law by protesting a circus or rodeo.

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House Bill 433, dubbed the Animal Rights and Ecological Terrorism bill, makes it illegal for two or more politically motivated people to obstruct "activity involving animals." Those activities include hunting, food preparation or clothing production, medical research and entertainment/recreation, according to the bill by Grand Prairie Republican Ray Allen.
 

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One could argue that protesting is obstructing because it makes those attending the event feel threatened and it may dissuade them from attending.

I'm not exactly sure why this bill is needed when things like trespassing, breaking & entering, poisoning the food supply, arson, property damage, etc. are already illegal (as far as I know).
 

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I think it only means to prohibit activities that are a blatant obstruction and/or harassment, such as standing in front of someone who's trying to legally shoot an animal, blocking the entrance to a rodeo, or vandalizing a medical lab that performs research on animals and such. Yes, these things are technically already illegal, but it will make the identification and prosecution of people who commit these sort of crimes a lot easier and it will stiffen the penalties. Again, unless you condone such acts or have intentions of performing them yourself then I see no reason to oppose this bill. I don't think that peaceful protesting is or ever will be considered an obstruction by the law. The problem is that too many ARAs seem to feel that peaceful methods of protesting are not good enough for them and resort to vandalism, harassment, and/or outright violence against omnivores. This bill aims to curb these antics, not to hinder anyone's free speech or any of their other rights in any way.
 

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"I think it only means to prohibit activities that are a blatant obstruction and/or harassment, such as standing in front of someone who's trying to legally shoot an animal, blocking the entrance to a rodeo"

aren't these peaceful forms of protest?
 

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majake,

Quote:
aren't these peaceful forms of protest?
I don't see how they are. They are blatant forms of obstruction and harassment of law-abiding citizens who are just trying to go about legal activities that they have the right to perform. I don't see how obstructing and/or harassing them could be considered "peaceful" protesting. ARAs who commit such acts are only causing trouble.
 

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Michael,

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See the problem with bills like this, as you've proven, is that anyone that opposes such a thing is labelled as a terrorist.
Um, no. People are still allowed to oppose whatever they want. I don't think that is ever going to change. As the bill states, you just aren't allowed to perform, encourage, assist, or finance acts of terror. What's wrong with that?
 
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