Interesting news story yesterday: “Pie hit should earn PETA ‘terrorist’ label: MP” (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2010/01/26/nl-byrne-terrorism-012610.html). According to the CBC, a protest pie thrown by a member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) at the Federal Fisheries Minister, Gail Shea, in Burlington, Ontario, has sparked an interesting dialogue.
Shea was delivering a speech at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters when Emily McCoy of New York City stood up in the front row, walked up to Shea and pushed the pie, made of soybean curd, into her face. McCoy, 37, has been charged with assault. PETA said McCoy is a member of the group and was protesting against "the government’s ill-advised sanction of the seal slaughter."
However, this does not go far enough for Gerry Byrne, a Liberal MP from Newfoundland and Labrador, who has said that the pie attack should make Ottawa look into whether an animal-rights group should be labelled "terrorist." The reason? That PETA is threatening and intimidating and puts seal hunters at risk. Apparently, PETA has crossed the line for Byrne by attacking a federal minister of the Crown, and the purpose in doing so, to publicly intimidate an office-holder, amounts to terrorism.
In response, PETA’s president, Ingrid Newkirk, says "Mr. Byrne’s reaction is a silly, chest-beating exercise that is unlikely to impress anyone who has a heart for animals or who is bright enough to spot the difference between a bomb and a tofu cream pie.”
So what do you think? Should a pie in the face warrant a charge of assault? Or terrorism? In this instance, the term "terrorist" seems a bit inappropriate. Personally, while funny, I think hitting anyone with a pie, shoe or fist is wrong. It may not cause bodily harm, but it is an invasion of their person and dignity. And for those who argue that it is a political expression, I would suggest that could find other ways of expressing themselves.
But does this amount to a terrorist attack? I would say no, for both theoretical and practical reasons. Canada’s Criminal Code describes a terrorist organization as any group that disrupts lawful activities to commit an act for political, religious or ideological purposes and that causes the public to be intimidated.
While this definition could be seen to fit with the pie attack, as Byrne suggests, I cannot believe that a pie attack is ever intended to “intimidate” the public. It is rather meant as a political statement. Furthermore, the consequences of labeling this type of behavior “terrorism” is that it would put a stranglehold on PETA’s ability to raise money and also severely restrict the movements between borders of PETA members. Consequences that I don’t think fit the crime.
All in all, with so many terrible and actually intimidating things happening in the world, this wouldn’t make the cut for an extremely serious crime in my books. Minor assault, yes. Terrorism? No. What do you think?