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ARAs in Boston for Bio-tech Meeting

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 activists.

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 United States.

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.
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"The whole thing is meant to chill free speech," Camille Hankins, spokeswoman for Win Animal Rights, told United Press International.
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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.
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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 research.
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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 confiscated.

"They're not rounding up people doing underground actions because they don't know who they are," Vlasak told UPI.

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full story:
http://www.upi.com/Health_Business/Analysis/2007/05/04/ analysis_animal_activists_persist_in_us/
 

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