By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Not to worry, citizen. Fortunately, the Texas Legislature is way ahead of the feds and is taking its own steps to combat "terrorists"--at least those of a particular stripe. The Humane Society of the United States, The National Anti-Vivisection Society and you other pro-bunny jihadists watch out, Texas lawmakers have your number.
Representative Ray Allen, a Grand Prairie Republican, has introduced House Bill 433, a measure intended to curb "animal rights and ecological terrorism." There, feel better now?
The National Anti-Vivisection Society doesn't. That group, along with other pro-animal organizations and civil libertarians, says the activities the bill proscribes--vandalism and trespass, chiefly--are already illegal. This bill is aimed squarely at a certain type of political speech, they say, and that's a constitutional no-no.
"Specifically, this bill targets not all activists but only those speaking out on issues that are uncomfortable to many large business interests," says Marcia Kramer, director of legal programs for the society.
The bill's supporters say it's an attempt to address the more extreme--and already unlawful--protests by environmental and animal protection groups, such as "spiking" trees or destroying research labs. That would be understandable, Buzz thinks, if it weren't such patent bullshit.
Consider this: One of the acts the bill would outlaw is entering a facility "to take photographs or a video recording with the intent to defame the facility or the facility's owner." Surreptitious videos of vile canned hunts or vivisection by cosmetics makers is pretty powerful, persuasive stuff. Just providing money to an organization, if you know that it's going to shoot such a naughty video, could be construed as a violation.
"That's whistle-blower stuff," Kramer says. "That's how whistle-blowers blow the whistle."
It gets worse, maybe: As written, the bill would require the state to maintain an Internet database with names, addresses and photos of offenders. Violate the law, and you have to report your whereabouts to the state for three years, much like convicted sex offenders. (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported last week that the database component is "off the table," though the language remains in the bill. Buzz was unable to reach a spokesman for Allen.)
Buzz is inclined to suggest that the whole bill reeks of political opportunism by lumping animal protests under the rubric of terrorism, but really, what sort of person would use the war on terrorism to accomplish unrelated political...oh, yeah. Never mind.