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The term eco-terrorism is a neologism which has been used to describe threats and acts of violence (both against people and against property), sabotage, vandalism, property damage and intimidation committed in the name of environmentalism. As a pejorative term, "eco-terrorism" has also been used inaccurately to describe legally-protected forms of nonviolent protest by environmentalists, which is generally seen as an attempt to associate this activity with other more contentious acts that can legitimately be labeled as eco-terrorism.

The term is believed to have been coined by Ron Arnold, an executive at the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and author of Ecoterror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature.



While there is no consensus on the exact definition of "terrorism", the word is typically used to describe politically motivated acts of violence, threatened use of violence or the destruction of property with the intention to intimidate governments or civilians. Acts meeting these criteria and committed in the name of environmental causes would accurately be described as "eco-terrorism".

The FBI's Domestic Terrorism Section defines eco-terrorism as "the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims 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."

Other acts, which are nonviolent in nature, cannot be properly referred to as "eco-terrorism" even though they might be annoying or disruptive to others. However, some definitions are raising controversy and civil rights issues by using an all-encompassing definition that could be interpreted to include virtually all environmental protests, even those that would otherwise be legal.

For example, a bill proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) called the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act [1] ( begins with the description, "An act relating to criminal offenses involving acts against certain activities involving animals or involving natural resources and to civil consequences arising from convictions of those offenses." The bill defines 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."

Some critics of the term "eco-terrorism" have argued that it should mean the opposite of its current accepted meaning. They claim that persons, companies and governments engaging in ecologically irresponsible activies such as pollution are committing "terrorism" against the environment. Some critics further claim that the militant environmental groups are actually "eco-defenders". This "counter-definition" is also sometimes used rhetorically to express the environmentalist point of view, or to justify their actions.

Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, for instance, has described the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, as an eco-terrorist for failing to abide by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.[2] (


The three organizations most commonly labeled as “eco-terrorists” within the United States are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and Earth First!. Their websites all openly advocate tactics including arson, graffiti, and property destruction, but publicly disavow harm to humans or animals. Despite their claims of non-harm, however, millions of dollars of homes, equipment, and research (including medical research) have been willfully destroyed by ALF and ELF operations, causing indirect harm. This has gained such groups the label of "fundamentalist" by some, however ALF, ELF, and Earth First! generally target only large corporations. This led the FBI in 2001 to name ELF as the United States' most serious domestic terrorist threat.

Many opponents state that the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been financially linked to eco-terrorist groups[3] (, and has provided financial support to eco-terrorist organizations such as ALF and ELF. This connection has been largely in the form of legal help for convicted activists, and also PETA using footage from ALF raids for their own legal purposes. In fact, during the 1980's, ALF footage helped PETA push for harsher laws which led to more laws. [4] ( [5] ( In addition, several high ranking members of PETA have made statements advocating the use of property destruction.

Ecoterrorism in Fiction

See also

External links

  • Disinfopedia:Eco-terrorism (
  • Eco-Violence: The Record (
  • Ecoterrorism ( history and description of various subgroups, with additional links

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