Bills Target Attacks by Animal Rights Activists
Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to address the growing issue of attacks, particularly on laboratories, by extremist animal rights groups, which Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) said are having a "chilling effect" on research.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing in May on H.R. 4239, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), sponsored by Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI). The bill would make it a crime to harass, threaten, or intimidate individuals or their immediate family members whose work is are related to an animal enterprise (including academic institutions and companies that conduct research or testing with animals). It would also make it a crime to cause economic disruption to an animal enterprise or those who do business with animal enterprises, an intimidation technique called tertiary targeting. The bill adds penalties and allows victims to seek restitution for economic disruption, including the reasonable cost of repeating any experiment that was interrupted or invalidated as a result of the offense.
Chairman Coble, a cosponsor of the legislation, outlined the key issue of the hearing: the need to balance law enforcement regarding crimes and the protection of First Amendment rights. He announced that an amendment will be introduced at markup that will serve to ensure that the bill doesn't prohibit constitutionally protected activities, even though he believes that the bill already contains such language.
Michele Basso, an assistant professor of physiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, testified about harassment she has received as a result of her research with primates. She said that animal rights activists protest regularly at her home, have signed her up for subscriptions to 50 magazines, and made numerous threatening phone calls. She said that university officials do not provide sufficient security and that she and some colleagues have thought about leaving the field and pursuing other research. …