Animal rights activists should consider leaving their red paint at home before attending the next PETA protest, as state legislators are now calling for the protection of university animal researchers.
Assembly Bill 2296,authored by State Representative Gene Mullin (D-South San Francisco) and sponsored by the University of California, calls for a limiting of various tactics used by anti-animal research extremist groups that compromise the safety of university professionals.The decision to write the bill was triggered by various attacks,including arson,bombings,vandalism and harassment on researchers both in their homes and at work.
The bill was passed by the California Assembly Judiciary Committee on Apr.17and is headed for the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the next few weeks.
“It’s a helpful measure for university conducted research in these controversial areas,” said Steve Drown,campus counsel at UC Davis.“It will be another tool to protect university researchers and permit the advancement of knowledge.“
The bill states that anyone whopractices intimidation,harassmentorviolence is liable for investigation and persecution.Often when University professionals‘ contact information is released on theInternet,they are the target of vandalism.Violators can receive up to one year in prison or be fined for causing personal threat or danger to animal researchers.
“We are all on the same page with humane treatment of animals.I don’t know a researcher who doesn’t think that,” said Mary Delany,department chair of animal sciences. “They are not going after institutions anymore,they’re going after individuals who are not doing anything illegal.“
While UC Davis researchers are fairly protected and the university does not release the names and addresses of these researchers,extreme acts of violence are occurring at other UC campuses,such asLos Angeles andSan Francisco.In the last year,numerous researchers have been the victims of verbal and physical threats both at their homes and at their work.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to spend time on security when we could be focusing on the care of the animals,” said Victor Lukas,attending veterinarian at theCampus Veterinary Services.“It’s domestic terrorism,and it’s escalating.“
The bill hasstated its intent to protect animal researchers and not prohibitany civilliberties; however,opposition has been met by various civil liberty groups,such as the AmericanCivilLibertiesUnion,who feel that the bill is unconstitutional.
In a letter to Mullin,ACLU Legislative Director Francisco Lobaco expressed ACLU’s concern with the“over breadth of those provisions that prohibit posting truthful,accurate information on theInternet and impose civil and criminal liability for conduct that is commonly related to public protest.“
The Assembly Appropriations Committee will decide between these two viewpoints in the following weeks.
LAUREN STUESSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.