2 November 1999

The "Justice Department"

by Kate Melville

In the US an animal rights group called itself the "Justice Department", has recently sent threatening mail to over 80 US scientists. This latest anti science initiative has been described as domestic terrorism by the FBI and Americans for Medical Progress (AMP), a non-profit that works to build public support and understanding for biomedical research, condemns the animal rights group, "This is not a harmless prank. Threats against medical research target all of us. If scientists cannot conduct their research, we will be denied future medical breakthroughs—the treatments and cures we all anticipate," said Jacquie Calnan, President of AMP.

The letters call on scientists to abandon their research within 12 months or, "your violence will be turned back upon you."

AMP has for over a decade been tracking animal rights campaigns against medical research. Ms. Calnan is quoted as saying, "AMP calls upon animal rights groups stand up and join us in condemning those who would use intimidation or violence to get their way. Threats and violence have absolutely no place in a civil discourse on animal research in medicine.

There's not a week that goes by that we don't hear of an individual being threatened, or receiving a 'death wish'. Scientists understand that there is a small, vocal, and sometimes violent opposition to their work. But they will not be deterred from their quest to improve our health and well-being."

The worst part of this story is that the scientific community is not well placed to deal with these sorts of threats. Research money is always scarce and there is none to spare to mount the sort of public education campaigns needed to combat lunatics like the "Justice Department". At Science A Go Go we encourage constructive criticism of science but everyone who thinks science can help humanity should stand up to support scientists from such dangerous terrorists.