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    NABR Update

    Here is the latest update from the National Association for Biomedical Research. Lots of information here that you will not necessarily find on internet or on the regular journalistic beat. Many of the groups that are protesting various forms of research are beginning to adopt similar tactics. Thus, the ELF and ALF both are employing similar approaches to harassing universities and researchers, as well as companies that they believe to be damaging the environment. They all use legal tools, such as the Freedom of Information Act, to go after institutions, such as Cornell. A number of ALF and ELF members are in jail.


    The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, ruled on November 7 that Cornell University must relinquish the safety protocols and financial records pertaining to its biotechnology research program. The Scientist reports that the ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed by Jeremy Alderson, a radio reporter, after he supposedly asked in 2000 for documents proving Cornell's claim that the agricultural genetic research they were conducting was not harmful to the food crops in upstate New York. Cornell spokesman Henrik Dullea states that Cornell initially offered to hand over the documents voluntarily, but then balked when Alderson invoked New York's Freedom of Information (FOI) law.

    The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that regardless of Cornell's status as a private institution, it performs a public function administering the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (the school where the research was carried out), and thus has to hand over the documents. This case differs from two earlier lawsuits filed in 1992 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In the first case, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Lab Animal Use Committee (LAUC) at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook is not a "public body," and thus its meetings may be closed to the public. In the second suit, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled that SUNY's LAUC records are not accessible under New York's FOI law since "...the public disclosure provisions of the FOI law...are applicable only to State or municipal entities 'performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state.'"

    "Our legal position has been that Cornell and its state-assisted colleges are all part of a private university pursuing certain state services pursuant to law," said Cornell spokesman Henrik Dullea. "But that does not mean they are covered under the freedom of information law. The allegations made by Ms. Hess, we believe have no basis in fact. We are confident in our animal care and use policies and procedures, and the people who carry them out. Our intent is to vigorously defend the matter."

    NABR maintains a list of lawsuits filed by animal rights groups seeking access to animal care and use committee meetings and records under various state freedom of information laws. If you have any questions on these suits, or would like a copy of the list, please contact NABR vice president Tracy Fortson at


    The Trade and Industry Department (DTI) of the U.K. will be assuming world-wide insurance coverage for Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), as reported by Parliamentary News. Previous insurance needs were provided by Marsh, Inc., an insurance broker. DTI's action was "pre-emptive," said Brian Cass, chairman of HLS. "The DTI has been incredibly supportive of our industry." His remarks were included in The Daily Telegraph. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports that Mr. Cass received his CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, last week. Part of the rationale for the award was the bravery Mr. Cass demonstrated in standing up to the terrorists from the extremist organization Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) after he was attacked with a baseball bat by its members in February of 2001 (NABR UPDATE, Vol. XXII, No. 12).

    DTI had previously agreed to provide banking facilities for HLS in recognition of its "exceptional circumstances," as reported in the Parliamentary News. "Both these actions have been taken to secure Huntingdon Life Sciences Group from the harm caused by the criminal intimidation and assault being directed at its employees, including their families and friends, and also those of its suppliers, customers and other companies," stated Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt. "The Government is determined that animal rights extremists will not prevent companies carrying out legitimate business in the UK and that these companies will be protected from intimidation and harassment."


    The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Jennifer Hess, a veterinarian who worked for just over four months at the University of Wisconsin - Madison (UW) Regional Primate Research Center (RPRC), is suing UW for back pay and benefits, punitive damages and compensation for future lost earnings. In addition, she would like the court to rule that UW violated her First Amendment rights. She alleges that UW fired her due to concerns she raised about the care of rhesus macaques at the RPRC. "The allegations made by Ms. Hess, we believe, have no basis in fact. We are confident in our animal care and use policies and procedures, and the people who carry them out. Our intent is to vigorously defend the matter," stated Terry Devitt, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


    Robin Webb, the British press officer for the radical Animal Liberation Front (ALF) was released on bail from the Somerset County jail on December 9. He was arrested December 1 on contempt and trespassing charges when he violated the injunction restricting protests against the U.S. headquarters of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) to a maximum of 50 people. He was the 51st protestor (the others were members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty [SHAC]), and was there to protest the 50th anniversary of the founding of HLS. On the day of the protest, Michael Caulfield, general manager of HLS, commented on the protest and the protestors' motive. "'s important to remember that the voices of a few dozen activists here are drowned out by the overwhelming majority of Americans who support medical research...The organizers of this rally (SHAC) have been categorized by the FBI as an extremist group, with strong ties to the ALF, which is listed as the country's #1 domestic terrorist threat. Although SHAC's rhetoric states that their target is HLS, in actual fact they are engaged in an unlawful campaign against the whole of biomedical research." Mr. Webb was originally held on $50,000 bond but that amount was first reduced to $25,000 and then to $10,000. On December 9, the Somerset County jail reported that the sitting judge ordered Webb to pay 10 percent of $10,000, and surrender his passport and original birth certificate. The Home News Tribune (a Gannett New Jersey publication) reports that Mr. Webb will be staying with Kevin Jonas, a spokesman for SHAC until his contempt and trespassing charges are considered. The Somerset County prosecutor's office reports that a grand jury will probably convene next month and Mr. Webb's legal status will be determined depending upon the decision of that grand jury.


    David Blenkinsop, allegedly affiliated with the extremist group Animal Liberation Front (ALF), was sentenced to a five-and-a-half year prison sentence for bombings in the U.K. targeting a meat slaughterhouse in Oxfordshire, and the testing facility Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) Cambridgeshire, in May and August of 2000. Blenkinsop was previously sentenced to three years in prison in August of 2001 for his attack on HLS managing director and CBE Brian Cass in February, 2001 in Cambridgeshire. He was also sentenced to 18 months in prison in December, 2001, for admitting to a break-in at a guinea pig farm in Burton, England. Blenkinsop is currently serving the four-and-a-half year sentence, and he will serve the additional five year sentence concurrently.


    Seattle University Law School is now the 22nd law school to offer animal law courses, and the Seattle Post-Intelligence reports that the Washington State Bar Association has started a section devoted to animal law this past spring. The Connecticut Bar Association has also just formed an animal law committee, ostensibly to serve as an information resource for those who wish to learn more about the subject. There are now five state bar associations in addition to the District of Columbia, with animal law sections or committees (District of Columbia, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Texas and Washington); five in the process of forming (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and Pennsylvania); and five regional bar sections or committees (New York city; Chicago; Los Angeles; San Diego and Tulsa). There are also 45 law schools that have Student Animal Legal Defense groups.


    The British Columbia Supreme Court has thrown out the search warrant that allowed the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to enter the home of David Barbarash, an Animal Liberation Front (ALF) spokesman, and seize some of his property this past July (NABR UPDATE, Vol. XXIII, No. 15). "The information to obtain does not contain reliable information upon which to base reasonable grounds for the search warrant," wrote Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett in her decision as reported in The Canadian Press.


    The Associated Press reports that Jacob D.B. Sherman, a 20-year old Earth Liberation Front (ELF) activist from Portland, Ore., convicted of torching three logging trucks in June, 2001 to protest a timber sale, pled guilty in exchange for a 41-month sentence in federal custody. He was facing a 40-year sentence. Mr. Sherman is one of four charged with the arson, and he and Michael Scarpitti, also known as Tre Arrow, are accused of torching three cement trucks in Portland in April, 2001. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has posted an award for $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of Mr. Scarpitti and has featured him on its "Most Wanted" website. ELF activists recently claimed credit for vandalizing fast-food restaurants and sports utility vehicles in Richmond, Va., as well as torching a U.S. Forest Service research lab in Pennsylvania (NABR UPDATE, Vol. XXIII, Nos. 20, 24).


    Last week the mapping of the mouse genome, a feat accomplished by scientists from the United States and England, was published in Nature (NABR UPDATE, Vol. XXIII, No. 16). The scientists hail from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and European Bioinformatics Institute, both in Cambridge, England; the Genome Center at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Ma. Scientists are hopeful that the similarities found between human and mouse DNA will lead to discoveries in the fight against many diseases.


    In a speech on November 21 to the Harvard School of Public Health, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) voiced concern about President Bush's policy on stem cell research. "By executive order, the President has banned the use of stem cells in federally funded research, except under such narrow circumstances that the theoretical availability of federal funds is virtually useless," declared Sen. Kennedy. Many scientists are concerned that President Bush limited federal funding to approximately 60 stem cell lines, and believe that only a few of those lines are currently available for research.

    There are also those in the private sector who believe that unless current U.S. stem cell policy is changed, the brain drain that the U.S. has seen in this field will continue to worsen. "We will see many of our best scientists leave our shores," declared William Haseltine, CEO of Human Genome Sciences. "Stem cell research is the most exciting area of exploration for biologists - are we going to shut that out for a whole generation of scientists?"


    ALF Suspected of Stealing Beagle Puppies, Dogs in Italy - On November 24, a group of about ten activists possibly with the extremist group Animal Liberation Front (ALF), stole a total of 128 beagles from a dog-breeding farm in northern Italy, according to the Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper. The activists spray-painted "Murderers" and "ALF will free all," on the walls of the farm, which is located about 50 miles west of Bologna. The beagles were to be used in scientific studies, as opposed to the other 800 puppies at the farm, which were left alone.

    Main Suspect in Dutch Activist Murder Confesses - On November 22, Volkert van der Graaf confessed to the murder of Pim Fortuyn, a Dutch populist politician. Fortuyn was killed in May and in September Mr. van der Graaf ended a 69-day hunger strike protesting the conditions of the prison where he was held (NABR UPDATE, Vol. XXIII, Nos. 9, 20). As reported by the Associated Press, he told the Amsterdam district attorney's office that he was concerned about Fortuyn's "prejudiced political ideas" and their effect in the Netherlands. Van der Graaf also divulged that he acted alone and that no one else knew of his plan to murder Fortuyn. Hearings on the case could begin next year and van der Graaf faces a possible life sentence, a relative rarity in the Netherlands.


    NABR Board of Directors Chair B. Taylor Bennett, D.V.M. was a panelist at the Scientists Center for Animal Welfare (SCAW) meeting, held December 9-10 in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Bennett discussed euthanasia issues at the meeting, which was entitled "Challenges in Laboratory Animal Research and IACUC Responsibility." The meeting was also sponsored by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and Tulane University. NABR Vice President Tracy Fortson also attended the meeting during which issues related to federal regulations and guidelines; industry strategies for improving animal welfare; USDA and Freedom of Information Act disclosures; and crisis and emergency planning were discussed.