Animal-rights activists around the country - at least the most
extreme - are becoming increasingly militant. And law enforcement
officials and lawmakers are stepping up efforts to combat those who
break the law.
These interconnected trends came to a head in New Jersey last
week when an animal rights group and six of its members were
convicted of inciting violence in their campaign to shut down a
company that uses animals to test drugs and other consumer products.
The group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), claims its
actions constitute free speech. But federal prosecutors and the jury
in a Trenton, N.J., courtroom called it harassment, stalking, and
conspiracy - the first such conviction under the 1992 Animal
Enterprise Protection Act. The lab, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS),
the largest of its kind in the world, is based in Britain and New
Antivivisectionists and other animal-rights proponents have been
organized in the US since at least the mid-19th century. But
recently, their most extreme members have become more aggressive.
Much of the focus for animal-rights supporters is on companies
that produce animal products (mainly meat and fur). In their sights,
too, are universities, hospitals, and other institutions that kill
animals for medical research or product development. And they have
been targeting anyone who does business with animal testers -
financial institutions, contractors, and service providers, some
with only a tenuous connection.
Activists' tactics include vandalism, personal warnings by e-
mail and phone message, and other threats directed at family members
- what's called "tertiary targeting."
"There really isn't a week that goes by that I don't hear about
an incident," says Jacquie Calnan, president of Americans for
Medical Progress in Alexandria, Va., which represents universities,
pharmaceutical and biomedical corporations, and research
Most of those engaged in medical science say animal testing is
crucial to find cures for disease and new devices meant to keep
"Virtually every human being in the country has benefited from
animal research," says John Young, a lab animal veterinarian and
director of comparative medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in
For example, recent research (including the human genome project)
established that mice and humans are virtually identical in their
genetic makeup. Specially bred mice are used to investigate ways to
treat human diseases. …