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News 196 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Animal rights heating up in 2007

Despite intensified law-enforcement efforts and the passage of a new federal law in the US aimed at animal-rights extremists in 2006, the year ahead looks to be a busy one, with activists especially aiming at pharmaceutical companies.

Earlier this year the FBI, which considers animal activists one of the biggest domestic terrorist threats, helped prosecute and essentially shut down a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty that was focused on financially ruining Huntingdon Life Sciences, a firm that conducts animal research for pharmaceutical companies.

In addition, President Bush signed into law the industry-supported update to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which imposes fines and imprisonment for activists targeting individual researchers and businesses.

But both animal-rights activists and research supporters say these actions will probably not be enough to stifle the diehard extremists in 2007.

"There's going to be a lot of activity," Frankie Trull, president of Foundation for Biomedical Research, a pro-animal research group supported by industry, told United Press International. Trull said she thinks activists will target businesses conducting biomedical research as well as other secondary and tertiary targets. "There are a lot of activities being carried out by activists that, if added up, would have a significant effect on biomedical research," she said.

On the prosecution side, she said she anticipates law enforcement will increase oversight, including using expanded powers of wiretapping, such as monitoring Internet communications of activists, granted under the Patriot Act.

Trull said another campaign that will likely increase is the focus on contract research organizations (CROs), such as the one currently going on in Chandler, Arizona, over Covance's proposed animal-research facility.

The activists' activities could ultimately force pharmaceutical companies and others engaged in biomedical research to relocate their US operations to other countries, Trull said.

However, Jacquie Calnan, president of Americans for Medical Progress, a pro-animal research group supported partly by the pharmaceutical industry, told UPI she's not aware of any evidence that is occurring. "I don`t think you`re going to see any major pharmaceutical company that has a presence here in the United States pack up to go overseas," she said.

Calnan said AETA may not deter extremists, but she hopes it sent a message that they will be held accountable for their actions and that it may make it harder for them to recruit new members.

However, it also might intensify the actions of the extremists.

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