Other countries should follow our lead
An animal rights campaigner who fire-bombed Oxford University was jailed last week for 10 years after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit arson. Mel Broughton attacked Queen's and Templeton Colleges and led a campaign against the University’s new biomedical research laboratory.
Judge Patrick Eccles QC said Broughton was part of a ‘ruthless conspiracy’ which struck fear into those connected with the building of the laboratory. Prosecution lawyer Paul Harrison said Broughton was not a peaceful protestor, as he had claimed, but someone who took an active part in a fire-bombing campaign.
Over the last year in the UK, laws covering conspiracy and blackmail and specific legislation on economic damage against research have been used successfully in prosecutions of animal rights extremists. But this is just part of the strategy to crack down on extremism brought in by government in 2005, which has resulted in a significant reduction in harassment, intimidation and violence.
Other countries are still struggling with the extremist threat and need to take a lead from the UK, whether or not they have laws in place already to deal with this egregious brand of extremism.
Also last week, we heard that Dutch Home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst is investigating ways of protecting the Dutch research community from violent animal rights groups. One of her proposals is to invite animal rights organisations to sign a covenant in which they reject the use of violence, the papers say. But Christian Democrat MP Haersma Buma said, and we agree, that more was needed. The groups which carry out violent attacks are not going to sign an agreement with the government.
In the past five years, the Dutch animal rights organisation Dierenbevrijdingsfront (similar to Britain’s radical Animal Liberation Front) has claimed over 40 incidents including night-time visits to the homes of pharmaceutical company staff, damaging cars belonging to workers, and arson.As in the UK upuntil a couple of years ago, employees live in permanent fear as a result.
In another development late last week, four animal rights extremists were arrested for threats and violence against University of California researchers. The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested the four animal rights extremists on 19 and 20 February. A complaint filed in court alleged they had used force, violence, or threats to interfere with the operation of the University of California in violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. None of them has been charged, however, for the serious August 2008 firebombings at the homes of University of California Santa Cruz researchers.