The threat of Ecoterrorism


Terrorism is commonly defined as the organized use of terror as a means of intimidation either for religious, political, environmental or ideological reasons committed by extremist groups that believe to be fighting for a good course. Eco-terrorism can, therefore, be defined as the acts or threats of violence exercised in support of ecological, environmental or animal rights causes against a person, an organization or their property (FBI, 2002). These acts of violence are carried out by activists who are angered by the state’s failure to protect the natural environment from destruction by man, in addition, there are animal rights activists who oppose the use of animals in medical laboratories and other forms of activities they believe to be animal torture. Eco-terrorists are associated with damage and civil disobedience in the name of protecting the environment. There are environmentalists who have in turn used the term eco-terrorism to mean ecological destruction thus in their opinion the eco-terrorists are the people or institution that contribute to environmental degradation through acts such as exposing toxic waste to the environment.


According to FBI (2002) eco-terrorist and other environmental extremists use a range of tactics in their operations such as tree spiking, arson, bombing and severing and entering in the case of animal activists.These groups have no chain of command their only link is that they have common goals. Other terrorist groups such as religious terrorist are somewhat different from the eco-terrorists based on how they run their operations. In religious terrorism the groups use religious scriptures to rationalize their actions and to gain recruits. There is a chain of command in these groups with the clerical figures involved in the leadership responsibilities; they also believe destruction to be a necessity in their activities. This is to show that the two groups, that is eco-terrorists and religious terrorists are very different based on their structure and actions as it is evident that the aims of the religious terror groups are to cause as much destruction as possible while for the environmental activists it is a few extremists who are involved in violent acts.

There are various groups indicted of eco-terrorism in the United States an example is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) which is an activist group for animal rights. Although at first it started with nonviolent crimes to rescue animals that were being experimented on in medical laboratories with time its members have been accused of taking extreme measures such as planting bombs in institutions they consider to be violating animal rights (FBI, 2002).

Gore (2008) points out that trying to compare which of the two terrorists is worse is a very tricky thing, this is because as discussed above the intention of the eco terrorists groups when they were created was not to engage in violent acts nonetheless we have experienced situations where violent acts are carried out by these groups leading to loss of human life. In the other group of religious terrorism, their acts are based on using violence as a way of fighting the institutions they consider not to be in accordance with their believes Example is the Islamic suicide bombing in America which are as a result of the Muslim extremists considering the Americans to be infidels. Looking at the two I deduce that none of the two is better than the other because at the end of it all human life is lost due to the actions of both terrorist groups.

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In consideration of the motivations, intentions and causes of both terrorist groups I can say that those of eco-terrorists are somewhat nobler than those of religious terrorists. Eco-terrorist groups fight for the conservation of the environment and this is quite important because regardless of whom you are or your religious affiliations if the environment is degraded we will all suffer (Gore, 2008). As for the religious terrorist groups, they attack people who do not share their beliefs, this is ridiculous because at no one point will all people believe in the same thing. Moreover, it is a human right for each individual to have freedom in choosing what they believe.

The issue comes up with the acts carried out by the groups, thus as noble as the motivations of the eco-terrorists are when they harm human life then they are no different than the religious terrorists (Long, 2004). Take for example a group that bombs an organization because they are doing medical experiments on animals they are no different than a suicide bomber because their acts lead to loss of life and to some extent others believe these experiments should be allowed because these experiments are so that they can help in human life and realistically it is better to do a test on an animal than a human being.

Chalecki (2010) observes that whether one type of terrorism is more forgiving or not depends on the acts carried out by the two groups. If the eco-terrorists can fight for their course without any violence as they should then that would be more forgiving besides their efforts to save the earth will benefit all people in the world thus in some way their course is more justifiable than the religious terrorists.

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