Eco-terrorism: Wikis


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Eco-terrorism usually refers to acts of terrorism, violence or sabotage committed in support of ecological, environmental, or animal rights causes against persons or their property.[1][2]

Eco-terrorism is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as "the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature."[3] The FBI has credited to eco-terrorism 200 million dollars in property damage from 2003 and 2008, and a majority of states within the USA have introduced laws aimed at eco-terrorism.[4]

Critics of this use of the term argue that it has been defined in order to try and vilify activists [5] [6], and that the term would be more properly employed to describe the environmentaly damaging activities of corporations.[7][6] [8]


Application of the term

Eco-terrorism is a form of radical environmentalism that arose out of the same school of thought that brought about deep ecology, ecofeminism, social ecology, and bioregionalism.[9] Eco-terrorism is a controversial term.[10]

Eco-terrorism is closely related to civil disobedience and sabotage in the name of the environment, and there is a debate on where to draw the lines between the three.[9] Not all of those who are labeled as eco-terrorists perpetuate violence against humans or animals, but instead against property. This has led to a debate that touches on whether or not to classify these actions as ‘terrorist’. In the United States the FBI’s definition includes acts of violence against property, which makes most acts of sabotage fall in the realm of domestic terrorism.

Sabotage involves destroying, or threatening, to destroy property, and in this case is also known as monkeywrenching[9] or ecotage.[11] Many acts of sabotage involve the damage of equipment and unmanned facilities using arson.

While proponents of the term point to FBI statements in 2005 that “the No. 1 domestic terrorism threat [in the United States] is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement.”[8] opponents of its use claim that it’s main application is not to highlight a high level of serious criminality but to try and criminalise legitimate civil disobedience by associating it with Terrorism.[6]

Environmentalists accused of eco-terrorism have used the term in turn to describe ecological destruction. This is also known as environmental terrorism. Environmentalists have accused ExxonMobil,[12] General Electric, McDonalds, and Japanese whalers of what they call eco-terrorism.[13][14]

Examples of tactics

There are a wide variety of tactics that have been used by eco-terrorists and groups associated with eco-terrorism. Examples include:

  • Tree spiking is a common tactic that was first used in 1984 by members of EarthFirst! Tree spiking involves hammering a small spike into the trunk of a tree that may be logged with the intention of damaging the chainsaw or mill blades.[9]
  • Arson is a tactic most associated with recent activity in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The ELF has been attributed with arsons of sites such as housing developments, SUV dealerships, and chain stores.[9]
  • Bombing is an extreme tactic used by eco-terrorists. One of the most prominent examples of the use of explosives in the name of the environment is that of Theodore Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. Kaczynski’s bombing campaign lasted from 1978 to 1995—he injured 23 and killed 3 people.[9] In 1982, Chaïm Nissim, a radical ecologist militant with links to Carlos the Jackal, fired five rockets at Superphénix, then under construction.

Groups associated with eco-terrorism

Eco-terrorist organizations are generally grassroots organizations, do not have a hierarchal structure, and typically favor direct action approaches to their goals.[15]

Dr. Stefan Leader characterizes these groups, namely ELF, with having ‘leaderless resistance’ which he describes as “a technique by which terrorist groups can carry out violent acts while reducing the risk of infiltration by law enforcement elements. The basic principal of leaderless resistance is that there is no centralized authority or chain-of-command.”[16] Essentially this consists of independent cells which operate autonomously, sharing goals, but having no central leaders or formal organizational structure. Those who wish to join are typically encouraged to start their own cell, rather than seek out other members and jeopardize their secrecy (Leader & Probst, 2005).

Organizations that have been labeled as "eco-terrorists" in the United States include the Animal Liberation Front (ALF),[17] the Earth Liberation Front (ELF),[17]Greenpeace, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Earth First!.[9] The Coalition to Save the Preserves. [18] and the Hardesty Avengers.[19]

Greenpeace generally protests through civil disobedience or sabotage[9] and has also been implicated (and in some cases indicted) in eco-terrorism and associated unlawful use of monies as well as anti-piracy laws concerning unlawful boarding of private vessels on the high seas.[20]

In a 2002 testimony to the US Congress, an FBI official mentioned the actions of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the context of eco-terrorism.[21] The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society protests whaling, seal hunting, and fishing operations with direct action tactics. In 1986, the group caused nearly 1.8 million dollars worth of damage to equipment used by whalers in Iceland.[9] In 1992, they attacked two Japanese ships that were drift-net fishing for squid by cutting their nets and throwing bombs on board the boats.[15]

Inspired by Edward Abbey, Earth First! began in 1980. Although the group has been credited with becoming more mainstream, its use of tree spiking during campaigns has been associated with the origins of eco-terrorism.[9][22] In 2002, a jury found that FBI agents and Oakland police officers violated constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unlawful searches of two Earth First! organizers accused of a 1990 car bombing. Authorities alleged that the bomb was in the car of one of the accused when it accidentally detonated. The pair sued investigators, alleging false arrest, illegal search, slanderous statements and conspiracy.[23]

The Earth Liberation Front, founded in 1992, joined with the Animal Liberation Front, which had its beginnings in England in 1979.[9]They have been connected primarily with arson but claim that they work to harm neither human nor animal.[9] A recent example of arson that was attributed to the ELF was in March of 2008 concerning the “torching of luxury homes in the swank Seattle suburb of Woodinville".[24] A banner was left at the scene that claimed the housing development was not green, as advertised and was signed ELF.[25]In September of 2009 the destruction of two radio towers in Seattle was also attributed to the ELF.[25] The FBI in 2001 named the ELF as "one of the most active extremist elements in the United States", and a "terrorist threat,"[17] although they publicly disavow harm to humans or animals.[26][27]

The Coalition to Save the Preserves was mentioned in FBI testimony as a group that was responsible for a series of arsons in Arizona. Using similar tactics to the ELF, they have caused more than $5 million in damages.[28]

Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, was an independent eco-terrorist responsible for 23 injuries and 3 deaths through letter-bombs. He called for “the overthrow of the “industrial-technological” system”.[9]

A number of "local" organizations have also been indicted under US Federal laws related to eco-terrorism. These include, among others, the group "Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty."[29]

An ALF raid removing 82 beagles and 26 rabbits from Interfauna in Cambridge on St Patrick's Night 1990.[30]

Another example is the Hardesty Avengers who spiked trees in the Hardesty Mountains in Willamette National Forest in 1984.[19]

Philosophy of eco-terrorism

The thought behind eco-terrorism rises from the radical environmentalism movement, which gained popularity during the 1960s.[9] Ideas that arose from radical environmentalism are “based on the belief that capitalism, patriarchal society, and the Judeo-Christian tradition were responsible for the despoliation of nature”.[9] Radical environmentalism is also characterized by the belief that human society is responsible for the depletion of the environment and, if current society is let unchecked, will lead to the ultimate complete degradation of the environment.[31] Generally, nonviolence is a central tenet of radical environmentalism.[31]

Like deep ecologists, eco-terrorists subscribe to the idea of biocentrism, which is described as “a belief that human beings are just an ordinary member of the biological community” and that all living things should have rights and deserve protection under the law.[15] Some eco-terrorists are motivated by other aspects of deep ecology, like the goal to return the environment to its natural, pre-industrial state.[16]

Despite these generalizations, it should be noted that eco-terrorism encompasses a broad array of organizations, goals, and philosophies.

Government response to eco-terrorism

Spiking trees became a federal offense in the United States when it was added to the Drug Act in 1988.[32]

Under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 it became a federal crime to “cause more than $10,000 in damage while engaged in “physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise by intentionally stealing, damaging, or causing the loss of any property…used by the animal enterprise.”[9] In 2006, this was updated and renamed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act by the 109th congress.[33] The updated act included causing personal harm and the losses incurred on “secondary targets” as well as adding to the penalties for these crimes.[34]

In 2003, a conservative Texas legislative reform group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), proposed the "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" which defined an "animal rights or ecological terrorist organization" as "two or more persons organized for the purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity intended to obstruct or deter any person from participating in an activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources."[35] The legislation was not enacted.

The FBI has stated that “since 2005…investigations have resulted in indictments against 30 individuals.” In 2006, an FBI case labeled ‘Operation Backfire’ brought charges of domestic terrorism to eleven people associated with the ELF and ALF. “The indictment includes charges related to arson, conspiracy, use of destructive devices, and destruction of an energy facility.”[36]

In 2008, Eric McDavid was convicted of plotting to attack several targets including a fish hatchery, a dam, power stations, and cell phone towers. An undercover FBI agent exposed the plan. In addition to McDavid, two others were also convicted for aiding with the plot.[37] On March 6, 2008 Eric McDavid was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “conspiracy to damage or destroy property by fire and explosive.”[38] United States Attorney McGregor Scott stated: “Today’s severe punishment of nearly 20 years in federal prison should serve as a cautionary tale to those who would conspire to commit life-threatening acts in the name of their extremist views.”[38]

See also



Individuals accused of eco-terrorism


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation - Congressional Testimony
  4. ^ "Style Weekly" article
  5. ^ REBECCA K. SMITH "Ecoterrorism"? A critical analysis of the vilification of radical environmental activists as terrorists. Published in Environmental Law 22 march 08 and reproduced
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ “the real eco-terrorism is being committed every day by corporate America" Paul Watson quoted in Eagan, SP. From spikes to bombs: the rise of eco-terrorism. Studies in conflict and terrorism 19 (1996): 1-18. Print. Page 2
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Long, Douglas. Ecoterrorism (Library in a Book). New York: Facts on File, 2004. Print. Page 19-22, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 154, 154, 48, 49-55.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Plows, A., Wall, D. & Doherty, B., (2004) ‘Covert Repertoires: ecotage in the UK’ in Social Movement Studies, vol. 3, iss. 2, pp. 199 – 219
  12. ^ [1] Jonathan Paul talks about his sentence and views on eco-terrorism]
  13. ^ [2] "Wade's War," Style Weekly, February 6, 2008]
  14. ^ [3] Infoshop News - Jonathan Paul: "Will The Real Eco-Terrorists Please Stand Up?"]
  15. ^ a b c Eagan, SP. From spikes to bombs: the rise of eco-terrorism. Studies in conflict and terrorism/eco terrorism 19 (1996): 1-18. Print. Page 2
  16. ^ a b Leader, Stefan H., and Peter Probst. THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT AND ENVIRONMENTAL TERRORISM. Google. Web. 23 November 2009.
  17. ^ a b c Congressional Testimony Testimony of James F. Jarboe, Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division, FBI before the House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health at February 12, 2002 "The Threat of Eco-Terrorism"
  18. ^ Terrorism. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
  19. ^ a b Wyant, Dan. "Spike Hunt is Battling a Deadline." The Register-Guard [Eugene, Oregon] 28 Oct. 1984. Print.
  20. ^ Levin, Mark. Terrorism in the Name of the Earth. San Francisco Chronicle. 19 Oct. 2003.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Savage, Charlie (January 21, 2006). "Justice Dept. accuses 11 of US eco-terrorism". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  23. ^ Zamora, Jim Herron (June 12, 2002). "After 11 years, jury vindicates Earth First pair FBI, Oakland officers must pay $4.4 million for civil rights abuses Read more:". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  24. ^ "FBI: Eco-Terrorism Remains No. 1 Domestic Terror Threat - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News -" Breaking News | Latest News | Current News - 31 Mar. 2008. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.,2933,343768,00.html.
  25. ^ a b Yardley, William. "The New York Times Log In." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 4 Mar. 2008. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
  26. ^ ALF Credo/Guide
  27. ^ Earth Liberation Front News
  28. ^ Terrorism. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
  29. ^ [4]
  30. ^ "The man, the activist", first published in Arkangel.
  31. ^ a b Dunlap. "Deep Ecology and Radical Environmentalism." American environmentalism the U.S. environmental movement, 1970-1990. Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis, 1992. Print.
  32. ^ Office of the Law Revision Counsel. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
  33. ^ Read The Bill: S. 3880 [109th] -" Tracking the U.S. Congress. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
  34. ^ "FBI Eco-Terrorism - Press Room - Headline Archives 06-30-08." FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation Homepage. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
  35. ^ ALEC - Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act
  36. ^ "Federal Bureau of Investigation - Press Room - Headline Archives - Eco-Terror Indictments." FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation Homepage. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
  37. ^ O-Callagahn, John. "U.S. man jailed for 20 years for eco-bombing plot | U.S. | Reuters." - World News, Financial News, Breaking US & International News. 8 May 2008. Web. 24 Nov. 2009.
  38. ^ a b "ECO-TERRORIST GIVEN NEARLY TWENTY YEARS IN PRISON." Google. Web. 24 Nov. 2009.
  39. ^
  40. ^


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