UW researchers targeted by animal rights group

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    Researchers around the country, including several at the UW, were the surprise recipients of letters containing razor blades at the end of last week.

    The letters were sent by an extremist animal rights group calling itself the "Justice Department," and were postmarked from Las Vegas. The group has a Web site, which listed 80 researchers around the country targeted to receive the letters.

    Four UW researchers received the letters, and four more were among those slated to get them. The letters contained not only the razor blades, but warned the researchers they would be the objects of more direct methods if they continued to work in primate research.

    "You have been targeted and you have until autumn of 2000 to release all your primate captives and get out of the vivisection industry," the letters stated, according to wire reports.

    Researchers at Emory, University of Wisconsin, Harvard, Yerkes, UC-Davis, UC-San Francisco, Stanford and Oregon Health Sciences were also recipients of the letters. The Federal Bureau Investigation, which has taken over the investigation, won't say how many people were cut by the razors.

    Ray Lauer of the FBI's Seattle office said the perpetrators of the unusual letter campaign would be subject to "domestic terrorism statutes." He declined to comment further about the investigation.

    The London-based Justice Department has sent similar parcels to researchers in England, and to fur farmers in the United States and Canada.

    The Internet warning was posted on the site of an older underground animal-rights group, the Animal Liberation Front. The group's Web site states that it "is a legal organization - it doesn't encourage or fund illegal acts." Members of the group claimed responsibility last week for releasing dozens of animals from a research lab at Western Washington University. The group has not targeted individuals as the Justice Department has.

    Few, if any, researchers were hurt by the letters, probably in large part because institutions had been warned before they received the letters, both by the Web site and by other institutions.

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