Outlawing Animal Rights Extremism
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA)
In response to the wave of criminal activity against the biomedical research sector, the UK parliament passed the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) in April 2005. The Act contained specific clauses designed to check the rising threat to UK medical research posed by animal rights extremism.
Home visits with the intent to cause alarm or distress were criminalised, and police officers were given the authority to remove perpetrators from the vicinity of a victim’s home for up to three months. An amendment to the Protection from Harassment Act allowed for the recognition in court of individual acts of harassment as being part of a wider campaign.
This legislation and the high-profile arrests in the UK during Operation Achilles forced many extremists to move their activities to mainland Europe. The year before those arrests, the UK leadership of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) had embarked on a series of European tours, sharing tactics and demonstrating outside the buildings of target companies. By 2008, levels of activity in Europe were higher than in the UK. This geographical shift indicates the success of the UK leadership in mentoring their European counterparts to plan and execute direct action independently.
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)
In the US in 2006, the House of Representatives passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), an amendment to the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992. The bill prohibits any conduct “for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise”. It also broadens the definition of the term ‘animal enterprise’, and increased the penalties for crimes against such organisations. In the case of the six members of SHAC 7 convicted under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992, the application of AETA’s conspiracy provisions resulted in a later appeal being dismissed.