In the UK, the government is heralding new laws which target AR extremists, the goal being to protect animal research companies and those associated with them (suppliers and clients) from intimidation and coercion, tactics that have proved remarkably successful for AR terrorists:
Animal rights extremists found guilty of harming research laboratories will face up to five years in prison under tough legislation announced by the Government.
The laws will protect animal research companies as well as firms that supply and deal with the laboratories.
Police will be given powers to arrest anyone protesting outside the home of laboratory workers and stop demonstrators gathering near an employee's house for three months.
The legislation will be introduced under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and will make it a criminal offence to cause "economic damage" through intimidation.
As well as covering laboratories and their suppliers, it will protect firms that are considering working with companies that test medicines on animals.
The Bill is being tabled in response to a series of attacks on centres such as Huntingdon Life Sciences and a guinea pig farm in east Staffordshire.
Newchurch farm at Darley Oaks suffered 450 incidents between February 2003 and last month after being targeted by animal rights protesters.
One of the most serious attacks involved the desecration of the grave of Gladys Hammond, the 82-year-old mother-in-law of the farm's owner, Chris Hall.
Hundreds of attacks have also been carried out on the homes of workers at Huntingdon Life Sciences in a four-year campaign of intimidation.
The attacks included three masked thugs beating Brian Cass, the company's managing director, with baseball bats.
Last month the firm BOC, which had supplied Huntingdon with bottled gas, withdrew from its contract after being targeted by activists.
The Government has defended using animal testing by saying that it will advance treatment of diseases such as Aids, cancer and Alzheimer's.
However, ministers are divided over whether new laws proposed to tackle international terrorism could be used to combat animal extremists.
Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, said plans outlined last week for terror suspects to be put under house arrest could also be applied to animal rights activists.
But Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, said international terrorism was a "completely separate issue" from animal rights' violence.
Human rights' campaigners have criticised the new laws to protect laboratories by saying that they could be used to halt legitimate and non-violent protests.
Predictably, AR groups oppose the law. They claim it will be used to violate human rights, that it is redundant and that it will be ineffective:
Campaign group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty said today the new crackdown on animal rights protestors was unjustified and would drive many protestors underground, worsening an already polarised situation.
SHAC's Greg Covan told politics.co.uk the proposed new measures "completely missed the point" as the types of action they were targeted at were already illegal. It showed Prime Minister Tony Blair was "dancing to the tune of big business". He added: "Tony Blair is the biggest recruiting sergeant ever for the animal liberation front… if you bring in draconian laws and you trample over peoples legitimate right to protest, you will drive a lot of people underground." Mr Covan warned: "They [the Government] are trying to kid [animal researchers] Huntingdon Life Sciences that this will all go away, but that is not going to happen."
Now, I am, of course, always worried about Government violating civil liberties, so I'm a bit sympathetic to those like Patricia Hewittand and even the hyperbolic Mr. Covan, both of whom raise concerns about the potential for the law being abused.
Their concerns are well founded, especially where animals are concerned.
Consider, for example, the provisions — the "5 freedoms" — that are codified in the new Animal Welfare bill working its way through parliament.
So — laws that couldn't do other than trample civil liberties are fine when it comes to furthering the AR agenda.
But laws that have the potential to violate civil liberties are to be avoided if they curtail the people who would use violence, intimidation and coercion to achieve the AR goal. Go figure.
Moving on . . .
Where would we be without PeTA's input, which is to be found in a Reuters report?
LONDON, Jan 31 -- Britain proposed jail sentences of up to five years for animal rights protesters who obstruct experiments, widening its crackdown on extremists it says threaten vital medical research.
The measures seek to protect all firms associated with animal experimentation, from suppliers like building contractors to couriers and cleaners, by outlawing attacks at any point along the supply chain.
[ . . . ]
Researchers welcomed the move but animal rights campaigners said new bans would push activists towards extreme measures.
[ . . . ]
Scientists, pharmaceutical companies and contract research laboratories have been the target of protests like hate mail, hoax bombs and even the fire-bombing of scientists' cars.
[ . . . ]
Work on an animal research laboratory at Oxford University was halted last year after activists threatened staff and shareholders of contractor Montpellier Group
Campaigners also forced a project to build a Cambridge primate laboratory to be scrapped.
"Pharmaceutical companies will see this not just in terms of removing a key concern about further investment in to the U.K, but also in the drive to develop new medicines for patients," said Richard Barker, director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).
and AstraZeneca , Britain's two biggest drugmakers, have said extremists are deterring investment in the sector.
But animal rights campaigners said the measures -- part of the Serious and Organised Crime Bill making its way through parliament -- will make things worse.
"All this will do is add fuel to the fire," said Simon Butler, campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He said existing laws already banned the kind of behaviour addressed by the new measures.
"Any further curtailment can only lead to people becoming more frustrated and taking matters into their own hands," he told Reuters. "There is no practical reason for this new legislation other than for the government to ingratiate itself with the pharmaceutical industry."
What a surprise! Mr. Butler agrees with Mr. Covan: the law will only, in Mr. Butler's words "add fuel to the fire" (and isn't that a revealing turn of phrase!).
Undoubtedly, both Mr. Butler and Mr. Covan would see the way to stop AR intimidation, coercion and violence to be simple in the extreme: just do what the thugs (whose-actions-we-don't-necessarily-condone-but-won't-condemn) tell you to do! In a word, if you stop using animals in research, all the "unpleasantness" will stop!
After all, it's only common sense that the law itself will be responsible for people "becoming more frustrated and taking matters into their own hands!" The perps themselves, of course, are excused from their future acts, predetermined to be innocent, innocent crusaders seeking only cruelty-free world, driven to intimidation, threats and violence by the "draconian" law to that leaves them no other option than to "take matters into their own hands!"
The real PeTA/SHAC message — as articulated by Messrs Covan and Butler — is yet another effort to instill fear, to intimidate: if you think the actions "frustrated people" took prior to this law are bad, you ain't seen nothing yet!
The fact is that in the UK, the AR extremists have gotten so far out of control that the Government simply must do something to stop them: appealing to their good nature, to reason, to a sense of civilization or community — none of this works, and the Government has finally begun to realize it and act accordingly.
Readers of AC will know that I think that well-crafted laws, the willingness to enforce them, and stiff penalties for those convicted are a "necessary-but-not-sufficient" condition for effectively combatting AR terrorism. So I welcome this show of resolve by the Government.
I now await with bated breath for the scientific and business communities to take the offensive against the AR extremists by mounting the sort of public relations campaign I suggested here:
I remain convinced that while it may be nice for the government to act strongly and purposely to stop AR terrorists by freezing bank accounts and punishing terrorists, the most effective strategy for combatting AR extremists is for the anti-AR community to go on offense, as the CCF recently did.
Question for the National Association of Pension Funds, who say they're interested in combatting "investment terrorism": what, exactly, is the argument against going on offense? Why not stage counter demonstrations, put posters up in the underground and in airports, and take out advertisements in the newspapers? How hard can it be to educate the public and help dry up contributions to AR groups, which may amount to ₤500,000 per year?
If you are considering paying several millions of pounds to catch and convict AR terrorists, why can't you spend a few hundred thousand pounds to attack the ideological precepts underlying AR, reveal AR's violent side, untangle AR lies, explain how animal based research works, highlight the "costs-in-cruelty" of not doing research, and show AR incoherence for what it is?
Not to mention the staggering hypocrisy of a "movement" which sees, and fails to condemn, at least two of its luminaries who accepted treatment for cancer even as they try their best to bring down the research systems that made — and continue to make — their treatments possible and to provide them and millions of others with hope. (I'm talking about the cases of Josh Harper and Janet Tomlinson.)