As I've pointed out before, I believe that the AR extremists in the UK are perfecting techniques of intimidation, coercion and - yes - terror that will be exported to the US and other countries, not just for use by other AR extremists, but by ideological extremists of any political color. Which is why I'm keeping my eye on developments in the UK.
With that in mind, this appears promising:
New laws making the presence of animal rights protesters outside people's homes an arrestable offence are expected to be announced by the government this week, as it looks to crack down on militants terrorising company bosses.
[ ... ]
Speculation yesterday suggested Home Secretary was to introduce a specific criminal offence of protesting outside someone's home in an intimidating way and to make it an arrestable offence to return to someone's home after being found guilty of aggressive behaviour. There were also suggestions last night that there could be changes to anti-stalking legislation so protesters could be targeted.
The Home Office is leading a cross-departmental strategy to tackle animal rights militants, who have cost the economy a reported £1bn in lost investment. The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is using 43 specialist prosecutors, one for each criminal justice area in England and Wales, to try to prevent people working in animal research being terrorised at home.
The clampdown comes as the chief executive of Britain's biggest pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline, Jean-Pierre Garnier, condemned activists as "despicable cowards" and said his company was spending tens of millions of pounds on protecting staff and buildings from militants.
"This is money that could be spent on research and development on new drugs," Mr Garnier told The Daily Telegraph. . . .
And then, there's this:
The Labour MP who chairs the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, Ian Gibson, said yesterday he had refused to go on BBC2's Newsnight on Monday to talk about reports of a crackdown because he and his wife feared being targeted. Mr Gibson, the MP for Norwich North and a scientist before he was elected, said violence by animal rights extremists was terrorism and the Home Office should treat it as seriously as other such threats.
Mr Gibson, told BBC Radio 4 about the Newsnight offer: "I spoke to my wife and said, 'No way'. We've been through this before; we've had to look under our car, we live in fear. I don't think people deserve to live like that just because they have strong beliefs one way or the other."
Mr Gibson spoke of people being "beaten over the heads with baseball bats, loud noises outside their houses and so on. I think they've not taken it seriously because it's not happening to them. If it happened to ministers it wouldn't be tolerated for one minute". . . .
Protesters harassing and threatening human targets by demonstrating outside their home, and vandalizing their property, is a large problem, but not the only the only one - not by a long shot:
. . . Concern has also been raised that some militants have sent letters to neighbours of scientists involved in animal testing, accusing them of being paedophiles.
In recent months, companies indirectly involved in testing, such as contractors building a new research laboratory at Oxford University, have also been targeted.
Construction company Montpellier and concrete producer RMC have pulled out of involvement with the lab after threats. . . .
This is the problem in a nutshell: the AR radicals don't need to directly target a company or an individual scientist. In fact, their indirect techniques are far more effective: which is why, among other things, they send out letters defaming a person (falsely accusing him of being a paedophile) or send out hoax letters to shareholders of targeted companies to drive down share prices and make the company go bust.
From a law enforcement/intelligence/prosecutorial point of view, bringing to justice known people - or people with known faces - who break the law is a fairly easy, fairly structured proposition.
But how do you deal with the nut cases - the anonymous people who, unknown even to the AR extremists who themselves "don't advocate violence," are directed to a target and inspired to act violently against him by information and the inflammatory rhetoric posted on a radical AR web site? That's the big problem.
Actually, the government may have happened onto an effective strategy - adapt anti-stalking laws, as well as anti-terror laws, to cover what the AR extremists do to intimidate, coerece and terrorize:
Ministers were also expected to extend anti-stalking legislation so it can be used to protect a group of employees, rather than just a named individual, as at present.
That sounds promising (I can imagine how that might work), and the optimistic angels in my heart are hopeful. But plans, new laws, additional resources, firm pronouncements and clever use of existing laws are by themselves not enough: the government needs to prove that it understands what it's up against and has the will to act, and act firmly.
For the time being, I'm skeptical. I've been disappointed too many times: it seems like every time I allow myself a measure of hope, I get slam-dunked. Nor am I reassured by this comment - I think the government and I see issues differently:
"We are looking at dealing with people targeting homes, because that affects the family as well as the scientist concerned," said the spokesman.
Color me ungrateful, but ... say WHAT??? Is the spokesman intending to imply that a scientist is more legitimate target than his family??? That some innocent people deserve greater protection from intimidation and coercion than another group of innocent people???
I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not confident the government really "gets it" yet . . .
UPDATE: There's more here. AR terrorism is hurting industry big-time, and is discouraging foreign companies from setting up facilities in the UK:
Jean-Pierre Garnier, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithkline, said his company was spending tens of millions of pounds on protecting staff and buildings from militants.
[ . . . ]
Mr Garnier, who lives in Philadelphia, said that members of his staff had faced extreme threats because of their involvement in testing potential drugs on animals.
"I take it very personally," he said. "When your general counsel [the head of the legal department] has to go into hiding in some apartment and has to move out of his house with his young children because he has been threatened, you do take that personally." Mr Garnier was commenting after an academic estimated this week that the the threats from anti-vivisection militants were costing the country £1 billion a year.
[ . . . ]
Animal rights militants have sent leaflets to the neighbours of pharmaceutical executives, accusing the executives of paedophilia. They have also firebombed the cars of scientists and technicians.
Brian Cass, who runs the Huntingdon Life Science research laboratory, was attacked with a baseball bat.
Companies indirectly involved in animal testing, such as the contractors who were building the new animal research laboratory for Oxford University, have also been terrorised.
Montpellier Group, a construction company, and the concrete company RMC pulled out of the project. . . .