Bruce Bartlett
The nation obviously has been focused very heavily on terrorism for the last three years. Unfortunately, the overwhelming attention paid to foreign terrorist threats has tended to make people complacent about homegrown, domestic terrorism. Those living in the Washington, DC area got a wake-up call on this last week, when an apparent group of environmental terrorists torched a housing development under construction in nearby Charles County, MD.

Law enforcement officials have not yet determined who the perpetrators were and it is conceivable that simple vandalism or other motives were at work.

But the evidence strongly suggests eco-terrorism. The development has been under attack by environmentalists for some time for allegedly disturbing a nearby wetland. Moreover, the arson-and there is no doubt that it was arson-fits a pattern of eco-terrorism that has been seen elsewhere.

The term eco-terrorism has been used to describe two similar yet separate groups of terrorists-those mainly concerned with animal rights and those primarily upset by despoiling of the land and air by technology and development. Both have been targeted by the FBI. Earlier this year, Philip Celestini, who heads up the bureau's eco-terrorism task force, said that ecological and animal rights extremists constitute our greatest domestic terrorist threat.

Of the two groups, the animal rights people are by far the more active and dangerous. They mainly target pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and their employees, because they often use animal testing to determine the safety and efficacy of new medicines. This is viewed as inhumane and unjustified even if it leads to cures for deadly diseases like AIDS.

Animal rights activists also target farmers and those who wear fur, even if the fur came from animals raised exclusively for this purpose. In some cases, however, their efforts have been counterproductive. Last year, for example, a few dimwits set 10,000 mink free from a farm in the state of Washington. Now without food, the mink began attacking various endangered species in the area and even devoured each other. Although most of the mink were recaptured, perhaps 1,000 died as a consequence.

Animal rights kooks have been especially active in Britain, where the government views them as a greater domestic threat than the Irish Republican Army. British pharmaceutical companies now spend $130 million per year on additional security to deal with the threat, and some estimates suggest that as much as $2 billion of investment has been discouraged. Unfortunately, those who die because of undiscovered medicines will never know that their deaths resulted because a few lunatics put animal lives ahead of theirs.

Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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