WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- As U.K. and European authorities raided the
homes of animal-rights extremists this week, activists in the United
States were planning disruptions at next week's biotech-industry
meeting in Boston.
Law-enforcement officials in England, the Netherlands and Belgium
arrested 32 alleged extremists Tuesday in a two-year investigation
that is one of the biggest ever conducted against animal-rights
The FBI, which has said it considers animal-rights extremists the
biggest domestic terrorist threat, issued a statement in support of
the raids, suggesting the crackdown is also being intensified in the
However, despite the FBI's efforts and a new law passed at the end of
last year that allows for stiffer penalties, illegal animal-rights
activity seems to be carrying on largely unabated.
In addition to the planned protests at the Biotechnology Industry
Organization's meeting in Boston, animal-rights activists have been
carrying out other legal protests as well as vandalism of labs,
facilities and even the homes of executives of pharmaceutical firms.
The activists largely focus on Huntingdon Life Sciences -- which
conducts animal tests that the advocates consider brutal and
unnecessary -- and companies that do business with it.
"The whole thing is meant to chill free speech," Camille Hankins,
spokeswoman for Win Animal Rights, told United Press International.
Jacquie Calnan, president of Americans for Medical Progress, a group
in Alexandria, Va., that is supported by the pharmaceutical industry,
told UPI she hasn't done a quantitative analysis but hasn't seen a
decrease in the activities of animal-rights activists or an increase
an arrests or prosecutions.
Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, a
group supported by industry, also said she hasn't detected an increase
in underground, illegal activity, but there may have been some
drop-off in the targeting and harassment of individuals who work for
pharmaceutical firms or other companies that are involved in animal
Jerry Vlasak, a spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation
Press Office, which distributes anonymous communiques it receives
about illegal actions committed by animal-rights extremists, shares
Hankins' belief law enforcement are targeting activists who are
seeking to remain on the right side of the law.
Vlasak may be an example of this himself. His house was raided by the
FBI and the Santa Monica Police Department last year, and, six months
later, the authorities haven't pressed any charges and have refused to
return computer equipment, pamphlets, books and other materials they
"They're not rounding up people doing underground actions because they
don't know who they are," Vlasak told UPI.