Animal Rights: "A Very Noble Cause" or Terrorism? The State Just Can't Decide

(Photo: Dzīvnieku brīvība)(Photo: Dzīvnieku brīvība)

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On Tuesday, animal rights activist Tyler Lang received a sentence of time served for his role in freeing 2,000 mink from a fur farm and spray-painting “Liberation is Love” on the side of a barn in Morris, Illinois, in August 2013.

The fur farm closed down as a result of the action.

In 2014, Lang and his co-defendant Kevin Johnson were indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) for the mass animal release — an act of protest that the pair’s supporters refer to as a “mink liberation.” On February 29, 2016, Johnson was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the action.

After Lang’s release, a member of his support team, Amanda Schemkes, who does legal and prisoner support work for activists, spoke to Truthout about the nature of the case, Lang’s experience as a defendant and what the future may hold in this realm of direct action.

Kelly Hayes: Could you say a bit about the case itself, what happened and what the prosecutorial response was like?

Amanda Schemkes: Kevin Olliff (aka Kevin Johnson) and Tyler Lang were indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for freeing 2,000 mink from a fur farm, which shut down as a result of their action. Both entered into noncooperating plea agreements through which they pled guilty to violating the AETA. On February 29, Kevin was sentenced to three years; today [March 22] Tyler was sentenced to three months of time served, six months of home detention and six months of community confinement. They also have [to pay] $200,000 in restitution.

Although critical of their actions, during Johnson’s sentencing, Assistant US Attorney Bethany K. Biesenthal described his intentions as “noble,” and today she described Tyler’s beliefs as “a very noble cause.”

Can you talk a bit about how this case falls within the larger push to use the specter of…

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