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Animal-rights activists more aggressive

5/24/2005

COMMACK, N.Y. — Last month, animal rights extremists
followed the wife of a pharmaceutical company executive to her job,
rifled through her car and stole a credit card. They used it buy
$20,000 in travelers checks, which they then donated to four
charities.

A Web site announcement boasting of the act included a more
sinister threat:

"If we find out a dime of that money granted to those charities
was taken back we will strip you bear (sic) and burn your
(expletive). This is OUR insurance policy."

The actions by the radical Animal Liberation Front appear to be
the latest salvo in an ongoing battle pitting scientists,
businesses and labs involved in animal research against those
intent on stopping them — at almost any cost.

The president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, a group
backed by institutions that rely on animal research, said ALF
members operate like terrorists.

"These are unbelievably mean-spirited people who operate under
this delusion that they are on a higher moral ground than the rest
of us," president Frankie Trull said. "They operate in a classic
terrorist organization mode. There are individual cells, and, as we
understand it, one doesn't know what another is doing. Regrettably,
I think this is actually a growing industry."

ALF's credo on its Web site claims the group "carries out
direct action against animal abuse in the form of rescuing animals
and causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through
the damage and destruction of property."

The FBI is investigating a number of incidents over the past
year that ALF claims its members committed against Manhattan-based
Forest Laboratories and its executives. Forest, which employs 3,000
people in several Long Island communities, specializes in medicines
for depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's disease and hypertension.

ALF wants Forest to end ties with the British company Huntingdon
Life Sciences, which it says kills animals in testing. A Huntingdon
spokesman did not respond to requests for comment, but the company
has said it does not violate laws in its experiments. Forest
officials also did not return requests for comment.

Jerry Vlasak, a physician and ALF sympathizer who operates a Web
site in California that posts the group's communiques, said some of
its members claimed responsibility for making the $20,000 donations
with the stolen credit card of a Forest executive's wife.

Vlasak — who said he is not an ALF member, although he supports
many animal welfare initiatives — said the group also has claimed
responsibility for vandalizing a Forest plant in Inwood, on Long
Island, last June.

ALF also claims it used a bullhorn at night for a week last
October to harass a Forest Laboratories executive, glued the locks
on the homes of other company executives in Nassau and Suffolk
counties and spray-painted their homes and cars with words like
"puppy killer" and "murderer."

The Foundation for Biomedical Research on its Web site has a
44-page spreadsheet detailing incidents of vandalism and other
crimes across the country allegedly committed over the past several
decades by ALF and other groups, including Stop Huntingdon Animal
Cruelty.

"The Internet has been a huge boon for their kinds of
activities," Trull said. "You can get people to promote their
messages above ground, and it's easier to coordinate tactics via
e-mail."

The targets don't even need to be directly involved in animal
testing or research, said Tim Horner, managing director of the
international security firm Kroll Inc.

"Their tactics don't just target a CEO or chairman of the
board," he said. "They go after assistants, engineers, lab
technicians … it could be anybody."

Seven people are scheduled to go on trial next month in federal
court in Trenton, N.J., for operating another Web site that
encouraged the terrorizing of Huntingdon Life Sciences and
businesses associated with it.

Prosecutors say the defendants encouraged vandalism in July 2002
at the Meadowbrook Golf Club in Jericho, on Long Island. One of the
players in a charity tournament scheduled there was an executive of
a company that insured Huntingdon.

"There is no question that the fringes of the animal welfare
and environmental rights movements have become increasingly
radicalized," said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty
Law Center's Intelligence Project. "These sectors see themselves
in a war against the entire government and industrial democracy
itself."

Although ALF says it dissociates itself from actions that harm
people, Potok said it's "fairly miraculous" no one has been
injured, noting that some ALF members have allegedly set fire to
homes and factories.

Trull was not optimistic the situation will change soon.

"My fear is that in this climate they have managed to drive
away really brilliant minds from this endeavor," she said. "Is
the next lab they target the one that is about to find a cure for
Alzheimer's or cancer?"