Animal Advocates' Homes Raided
UPI Senior Medical Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Nov 06, 2006
The FBI and the Santa Monica Police Department have raided the homes of several animal rights advocates in California, an indication that law enforcement authorities are intensifying their efforts to crack down on activists at a time when the groups have been increasingly targeting pharmaceutical companies.
Law enforcement authorities would not comment on the raids, but the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) said they confiscated items valued at thousands of dollars from the homes of two of its press officers during the raids on Oct. 31.
NAALPO acts as a clearinghouse for animal rights extremists, distributing anonymous communiques it receives about illegal actions, such as vandalism of research labs, but its press officers say they do not engage in illegal activities themselves.
"They totally trashed the place," Jerry Vlasak, a NAALPO press officer whose home was raided, told United Press International.
Vlasak, who was not home when the authorities conducted the search, said it took his wife and him three days to put everything back in place.
In addition, the authorities apparently raided the homes of four other activists not associated with NAALPO.
Vlasak said that, although the authorities left a search warrant, he was not informed of the reasons for the raid. The warrant was signed by Los Angeles Appellate Judge Paul Turner.
"The police won't tell us anything," Vlasak said. "Nobody's been charged with a crime."
The raids come as the pharmaceutical industry as well as the biomedical research community have been pushing Congress to pass an updated version of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act that they say would improve law-enforcement officials' ability to thwart animal-rights extremists.
Vlasak said he thinks the purpose of the raid was to intimidate animal rights activists and is a sign that their efforts are having an impact on the animal research industry.
"It's a continued harassment and repression trying to run us away, hoping that eventually we'll get tired of their harassment and quit doing what we're doing," Vlasak said. "The more impact we're having on the animal abuse industry, the higher they're going to turn up the heat on us and try to make us go away," he said.
"But we're stronger than they are, there's no way we're going to stop," he added.
Vlasak added that he believes the intensified efforts are being spurred by pressure from the pharmaceutical industry.
"The pharmaceutical industry is driving it, they're the ones who stand to lose profits," he said.
The items confiscated by the authorities included various animal rights pamphlets, flyers and DVDs and a large stuffed dog used during protests of David Diliberto, the commander of the Los Angeles city pounds.
"It appeared to be much more ideological oriented, about what we were reading and thinking," Vlasak said.
The authorities also took his computer and a DVD burner, but he said he had copies of all the information contained on the computer's hard drive.
The authorities also raided the house of Linda Greene, another NAALPO press officer, and the homes of four other activists Vlasak said he does not know. The search warrant listed eight myspace.com Web sites that were of interest and Vlasak said he believes some of people whose homes were raided may have run some of those sites. Many animal rights groups have profiles on myspace, a social networking site that links users around the world.
The authorities, however, did not raid NAALPO's office, Vlasak said.
The FBI declined to comment on the raids.
Special agent Kenneth Smith told UPI the search warrants were executed by the Santa Monica police department but would not reveal any other details.
"We're just not commenting on that," Smith said. He referred UPI to the Santa Monica Police Department, but they did not respond to a request for comment.
The Foundation for Biomedical Research, a group supported by the pharmaceutical industry, said it was gearing up to push for passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act when Congress reconvenes next week.
The Senate has passed the legislation but the House has not yet voted on it.
Janet Flynn, vice president of FBR, called the efforts to get the bill passed "a looming legislating battle important to the medical research community."
Passage of the bill would mean "law enforcement will now have the tools to effectively prosecute animal extremists for violence and threats against animal research enterprises and their families," Flynn told UPI.
Source: United Press International
North American Animal Liberation Press Office
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