International security expert Olle Fjordgren discusses why animal rights and environmental extremism will constitute the fifth wave of terrorism.
Olle Fjordgren, CPP, is CEO and a security advisor at GRANIT Säkerhet where he consults European individuals, corporations, and authorities on security measures. He has worked in over 25 countries and has been an advisor to the governments of Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Mongolia. During the 1980s, Fjordgren worked with the Afghan mujahideen as they battled the invading Soviet Union. He is also a subject specialist for the ASIS Council for Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime .
On Wednesday, October 13, at 1:45 p.m., he will present on the threat posed by animal rights extremists and ecoterrorists, which he argues is one of the next waves of terrorism to wash over the world.
What’s the gist of your presentation at seminar?
It’s going to be the history and possible future of ecoterrorism and animal rights terrorism. What has happened and what’s going to happen in the future. As I see it, we’re going into the fifth phase of terrorism. We just passed the fourth phase, religious terrorism. We better be prepared so we’re not as unaware as we were with religious terrorism. If we are better prepared and knowledgeable we might not be in such frenzy and panic as the West was with jihadism.
Why do you call it the fifth phase of terrorism when terrorism doesn’t evolve linearly?
It’s not a linear thing, it’s a wave. I think we can see the waning of the fourth wave of terrorism, which is religious terrorism. Christian terrorism, Judaic terrorism, and Islamic terrorism are all starting to fade out from my point of view.
Who are the main groups in these movements that we should know of? Which is the most destructive and violent?
The Animal Rights Movement (ARM) and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) are the most violent today.
If you had to be attacked by any terrorist, wouldn’t you want it to be by an animal rights or environmental extremist considering the movement’s nonviolence policy?
They are going to be violent. In the United States, the FBI has estimated that ecoterrorism is a larger threat to the population than any kind of religious terrorism. On the FBI’s most wanted list you have one ecoterrorist up there with Osama Bin Laden: Daniel Andreas San Diego
They haven’t killed anyone yet—as far as I know. But they have intimidated, threatened, and hurt people. In Sweden, last year we had some violent crimes in the name of ecoterrorism against food processing, hunting, target shooting, and dog racing. It’s going to get raised to the next level. Now with the discussion over ongoing climate change, it’s going to get more acute.
So you believe we’re going to see a convergence between animal rights, environmental, and climate change activists, with a small fringe choosing violence?
What do you expect from them in the future?
I expect much more violence. I expect that if the societal order doesn’t change as rapidly as they want, they will go violent. They’ll try to close down nuclear power plants in Europe, coal power plants in Germany, and fish farms in Norway—anything that in their point of view harms nature.
Have you see their ideology mutate to where it supports violence against human beings? Like I said, the ideology up until this point has been pretty nonviolent.
Compare it to the Islamic world. If you take the world’s three billion Muslims, maybe you have only 10,000 jihadists. It’s the same thing here. There may be millions of activists, but it’s going to be a small, small, numeric fringe, maybe tenth of a percent, but they’re going to make the difference.
Who is most at risk of being attacked by these extremists?
If you work in a nuclear power plant, a coal power plant, or with genetically altered crops, then you might be in trouble. The average John Q. Smith doesn’t get into trouble but if you work in the business that they want to attack, you might be in trouble.
They may want to attack the backbone of a country—let’s say the power grid. In Sweden a couple of weeks ago, Greenpeace, which I’ve been a member of for many years, attacked Forsmark, our largest nuclear plant
. They attacked it peacefully. But they came within thirty yards of spent fuel rods. If they had taken them, what could have happened? Dirty bombs or what.
Isn’t it a stretch to think that these activists would take spent fuel rod and do that? Or are you worried they may proliferate that material to others?
Absolutely. European power plants have a very low-level guard system that doesn’t respond to these types of attack. They just shut it down and wait for police to arrive 45 minutes later. So not Greenpeace, but some other kind of activist could have taken the spent fuel rods and put it on some dynamite and had their dirty bombs.
Have you ever heard any intelligence where an animal rights or environmental extremists even conceived of a dirty bomb attack?
Nope. But it could have been.
Is this type of extremism merely a threat confined to the West or will it spread to other areas of the globe?
I think it will spread to all countries where the environment and pollution becomes an issue.
Why do you think the threat of animal rights extremism and ecoterrorism will surpass that of jihadist terrorism?
Jihadist terrorism is confined only to a very small part of certain factions of one religion. The environmental and animal rights issues, and the ongoing discussion about our way of processing food and polluting our environment, are relevant across nations, religions, or social strata. It applies to everyone and is accepted all over the planet.
♦ Photo of SHAC protest by TimWilson/Flickr
♦ Photo of Greenpeace protest at Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant by © Johanna Hanno / Greenpeace