Terrorism is defined as the use of or threat of violence in order to get a government to change its policy
Are PETA pie throwers terrorists?
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Earlier this week, Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was speaking at the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington Ontario. Although the speech was a media only event, a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) managed to sneak in. After Shea began speaking, the woman walked up to her, threw a tofu cream pie in her face and yelled about stopping Canada’s seal hunt. Emily McCoy, 37, of New York City was arrested, charged with one count of simple assault, and held in custody pending a bail hearing. Shea cleaned herself off and continued her speech.
Although there was nothing to suggest that this particular incident was planned and executed by PETA, the animal rights organization took credit for the attack. Following the incident, Gerry Byrne, a Liberal MP from Newfoundland and Labrador told a radio station that McCoy should be investigated under Canada’s anti-terrorism legislation. Since making that statement, Byrne has been derided by everyone from pundits to PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk. So, was the pie in the face an act of terrorism?
Probably, yes. Terrorism is defined as the use of or threat of violence in order to get a government to change its policy. The throwing of a pie does constitute an act of violence albeit low level violence. The people that would laugh at the thought of throwing a cream pie being violent are the same ones who would be shocked if the same amount of force was used on Shea by her husband and it was not labeled as an act of violence against women. And the entire purpose of the throwing of the pie was not to hurt Shea but to get the government of Canada to change its laws and policies regarding the seal hunt. There is no difference between the motives of PETA and the motives of Al Qaeda who commit acts of violence to get Western countries to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. They both resort to violence and threats of violence in an attempt to get governments to change their policies. Although a lot of Muslims think otherwise, terrorism is not something that is confined to the acts of Islamic extremists. In Canada we have been subjected to acts of terrorism by Sikh terrorists and Armenian terrorists and there have been several acts of terrorism committed throughout the world in the name of the animal rights. The pie throwing incident does constitute an act of terrorism.
But McCoy and others of her ilk should not be investigated or prosecuted under terrorism laws. Al Qaeda is a threat to Canada; PETA is just a minor annoyance. It is conceivable to believe that if Western countries are subjected to enough horrific attacks, these countries will change their foreign policy. It is inconceivable to believe that Canada will change its sealing practices because some dozy woman from New York City throws a cream pie in the face of a cabinet minister. To investigate or prosecute the pie throwing under terrorism legislation would diminish what we should and do regard as terrorism. If everything is terrorism then nothing is. Besides, PETA’s main purpose is really to get publicity which they more than adequately accomplished (and a lot more Canadians now know who Gail Shea is than did last week).
Although it should not be treated as an act of terrorism, neither should it be called a “prank” as was described by columnist Mindelle Jacobs in an editorial in the Sun Media. It was a physical attack on our political system and our government. And there is a simple solution to accomplish what Gerry Byrne is trying to do without labeling such incidents as terrorist acts. The Criminal Code already makes certain offences more serious if committed against a peace officer or an internationally protected person. It would be a simple matter to amend the Criminal Code to make it a more serious offence to threaten or assault a Member of Parliament or an MPP or MLA while that member is carrying out his or her duties on behalf of their government or their constituents. Not only would there be increased penalties but it would serve as a special denunciation of those who try to change Canada’s laws by force or intimidation.
And that would leave terrorism investigations for the real terrorists who pose serious threats.