Congress passes animal terrorism bill
Legislation gives additional legal protection to scientists and companies that provide services and support for animal research
At the start of its post-election "lame duck" session, the US House of Representatives has passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (S 3880)
, a bill that expands protection for scientists by outlawing economic damage against "animal enterprises," including organizations involved in academic and commercial research and testing. President Bush is expected to sign the bill soon.
The House adopted by voice vote on Monday the legislation that the Senate passed
by unanimous consent in September. The measure provides a graduated scale of prison time and fines for people found guilty of harassing, intimidating, trespassing against or vandalizing the property of anyone associated with animal research. The bill also affords protection to so-called "tertiary" targets: third-parties such as customers, bankers, accountants, insurance providers, and other service providers, who have been targeted by militant animal rights activists in the US and UK.
"It's terrific," said Frankie Trull, president of the National Association for Biomedical Research
, which supports responsible use of animals in research. "This bill was desperately needed because a number of researchers have been under significant attack. The original law needed to be updated and improved," she told The Scientist
The original law, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act
, was passed in 1992 and expanded in 2002 to equate acts of harassment and intimidation with terrorism. The first prosecution came in September, when a federal judge sentenced
six animal rights activists associated with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA Inc. (SHAC-USA) to up to six years in prison for crimes against employees and officers of Huntingdon Life Sciences in East Millstone, NJ.
Between January 1990 and June 2004 SHAC, the Animal Liberation Front
, and other extremists committed more than 1,100 acts of terrorism, causing more than $120 million in damage, said Rep. John Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) during debate on the House floor. Current federal law "is inadequate to address the threats and violence committed by animal rights extremists," he said.
The new bill makes it a crime to trespass, harass, vandalize, or otherwise threaten anyone associated with an animal enterprise, including scientists and their families. Similar legislation was enacted
in England last year. To address First Amendment concerns, the new bill specifically permits peaceful picketing, demonstrations, and "lawful boycotts" against animal enterprises. "This bill does not satisfy everyone, but it does represent a reasonable compromise," said Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va).
Links within this article:
"Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act" (S 3880)
T. Agres, "Science bills head to lame duck session," The Scientist
, Nov. 9, 2006
National Association for Biomedical Research
Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992
T. Agres, "Animal activists sentenced," The Scientist
, Sept. 13, 2006
Animal Liberation Front
T. Agres, "Fighting back against terror," The Scientist
, Sept.12, 2005