"Having the FBI chase you around is not a good thing," says John Lewis, a Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism at the FBI. Lewis is the man charged with stamping out eco-terrorism in the United States.
Lewis says the bureau is aware of over 1,000 attacks and says these groups are considered such a threat is because they have caused over $100 million worth of damage nationwide. He says there are more than 150 investigations of eco-terrorist crimes underway.
He admits they're not in the same league as al Qaeda but he says they're ratcheting up their actions and turning up the rhetoric.
"There have been multiple statements made regarding assassination and/or killing of individuals involved in, for instance, biomedical research and that kind of thing," says Lewis.
Case in point is Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a practicing trauma surgeon in Los Angeles, who also acts as a spokesperson for several extreme animal rights groups. Vlasak has told audiences that it's time to consider assassinating people who do research on animals.
Vlasak has been quoted as saying 'I think for five lives, ten lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, two million, ten million nonhuman lives.'
"I think people who torture innocent beings should be stopped. And if they won't stop when you ask them nicely, they won't stop when you demonstrate to them what they're doing is wrong, then they should be stopped using whatever means necessary," Vlasak replied.
Vlasak says he is not going to do that, pointing out he is a physician. "My role in the movement is not to go out and do that, but to explain to the mainstream media and to the public in general why these people are doing what they're doing."
Asked if Vlasak wants someone to go out there and kill, Vlasak says, "I want people who care about animals to do what's necessary to stop their exploitation, to stop their suffering."
Vlasak says someone who believes that the life of an animal is not akin to the life of a human being is "species-ist."
Species-ists, he says, are akin to racists or sexists. Animals, he says, should be accorded the same rights as human beings, despite their place on the food chain.
"Just like at one time black humans were considered property. Well, dogs, cats and all other animals in our society are still considered property," Vlasak says.
Asked who he thinks is fair game, Vlasak says, "Well, I think anybody that tortures animals for a living or for a profit and who won't stop when they're asked to and won't stop."
Does that include researchers who are testing and performing tests using animals?"
"Animal researchers, slaughterhouse workers, the head of the corporation that slaughters hundreds of millions of chickens every single year for the taste of their flesh," says Vlasak.
Well, people like chicken.
"People liked owning slaves too, okay. That doesn't make it right," Vlasak said.
Vlasak says it's very straightforward in his mind.