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A legal initiative is underway in Germany to give animal-rights organizations the standing to sue scientists and others who violate animal rights granted in a 2002 amendment to the German constitution. Animal-rights activists argue that the constitution offers no way of enforcing those rights. "Animal experiments have to be 'necessary' and 'ethically justified,' but those are vague legal terms," says Eisenhart von Loeper, an attorney and chairman of People for Animal Rights Germany. "There is almost no help from the courts to work out what this actually means."

To the scientific community in Germany, the initiative is a threat to basic research in their country. "Scientists wouldn't be able to plan ahead any longer," says Heinz Brandstetter at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried. He reckons the chances of animal-rights groups winning court cases are low, but any court action may considerably delay the experiments in...

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