BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — In the hills above the University of California's Berkeley campus, nine protesters gathered in front of the home of a toxicology professor, their faces covered with scarves and hoods despite the warm spring weather.
One scrawled "killer" in chalk on the scientist's doorstep, while another hurled insults through a bullhorn and announced, "Your neighbor kills animals!" Someone shattered a window.
Borrowing the kind of tactics used by anti-abortion demonstrators, animal rights activists are increasingly taking their rage straight to scientists' front doors.
Over the past couple of years, more and more researchers who experiment on animals have been harassed and terrorized in their own homes, with weapons that include firebombs, flooding and acid. Scientists say the vandalism and intimidation threaten not just themselves and their families but the future of medical research. Specialists in such fields as addiction, eyesight and the aging brain have been targeted.
Though no one has been seriously hurt since the jump in home protests, the attacks have drawn the attention of the FBI. The agency has broad authority to investigate animal rights incidents under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006.
"We consider this to be a serious problem, especially when people's lives are being disrupted," said agent David Strange, who oversees a domestic counterterrorism squad at the FBI's Oakland office. "We call it terrorism because it is a violent act violating federal criminal laws that has a political or social motivation to it."
Six members of a Philadelphia-based organization were sentenced to federal prison after they and the group itself were convicted in 2006 of using a Web site to incite threats, harassment and vandalism against people connected with a company that tests drugs and household products on animals.