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Collins' Home Targeted by Animal Rights Group

An animal rights group has sent letters to neighbors of US National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and NIH researcher Stephen Suomi that reveal their home addresses and phone numbers and urge the neighbors to contact them, ScienceInsider reports. It adds that critics say that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has gone too far.

"It's irresponsible and dangerous," Tom Holder, the director of the UK's Speaking of Research, tells ScienceInsider. "When you start connecting addresses and giving it to unknown audiences, you're putting someone at risk."

PETA first focused its attention on Suomi's lab in 2014, arguing that his work studying the influence of early environment on behavior in monkeys was "traumatizing." An NIH investigation of the lab, spurred by members of Congress, found no issues with the work.

These new letters, sent to everyone living within about a mile and a half of Suomi and Collins, say the research is akin to torture and child abuse. PETA's Alka Chandna tells ScienceInsider that it's "similar to having a sexual predator in your neighborhood."

The State University of New York at Binghamton's David Jentsch, who has been a target of such groups due to his work studying substance abuse in vervet monkeys, notes this is a serious escalation to the group's strategy. "If you want to have a debate about animal research, it should be done in the public zone," he says. He adds that animal rights groups are "essentially saying to scientists, 'We know where you live.'"

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