Keeping protests within the law

December’s editorial in Nature Neuroscience (10, 1501; 2007) describes how law-enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom are acting before trouble develops to protect researchers from threats and harassment by animal rights extremists. Other countries should consider adopting similar policies and tactics.

There has been “a sudden and very marked decline in targeting individual researchers around the country in a personal way,” the director of the UK Research Defence Society (RDS, an organization that monitors such campaigns and receives police briefings) told The Guardian. The RDS website points to an article on Comment is Free, the Guardian blog, about the benefits of animal experiments for medicine.

According to the Nature Neuroscience editorial: “In contrast, Dario Ringach and Michael Podell received little support from law enforcement or their universities in the United States in dealing with sustained campaigns of threats and intimidation, which ultimately led each of them to stop studying animals. The passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act raised hopes that the United States might adopt a tougher approach, but one scientist in Los Angeles said that the situation has not improved. In October, the Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for flooding the house of a local researcher, causing $20,000–40,000 in damage. Because the new federal law applies only to crimes committed across state lines, it has not been effective against extremists who act within a state. To crack down on intimidation of researchers, legislatures will need to pass stronger state laws and the police will need to respond proactively to threats.”


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