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A University researcher joined officials from the American Medical Association last week in blasting animal rights groups for hampering vital medical research through a campaign of lies, "terrorism" and character assassination. During a press conference in Washington on Thursday, Veterinary School Professor Adrian Morrison -- who has been targeted by animal rights groups -- helped the AMA launch the counter-attack. Animal rights groups want to end all research involving live animals saying it is unnecessary, but the AMA says that the research is vital to medical progress. Morrison and five other researchers, who were also targeted by the groups, condemned the animal rights activists in an hour-long conference. The researchers described how they live in fear due to harassment and death threats directed at them by the activists. The six researchers also called for passage of a bill that would make breaking into research laboratories a federal crime. "These are evil people," Morrison said yesterday of animal rights activists. "They are misanthropic. If you have a worthy cause, that cause doesn't have to rest on character assassination." Morrison added that the animal rights groups are "dangerous for the well-being of the country" because they are trying to stop research that has resulted in cures for many debilitating diseases and promises to help cure many more. William Jacott, an AMA trustee, said during the press conference that science and medicine will be irreparably harmed if scientists and doctors do not "counteract propaganda spread by misguided people who would place animals before humans." "Contrary to the claims of animal rights groups, the use of animals in research is vital to the health and welfare of the American people," Jacott said. Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) picketed the building where the press conference was being held. PETA and other animal rights groups also conducted their own press conference after the AMA press conference was over. PETA spokeswoman Barbara Hale said that animals are not needed for medical research, adding that "there are many other ways to gain knowledge that is less costly and more beneficial." Over the last year, animal rights groups have targeted Morrison -- who conducts research into sleep disorders using live cats -- and several other University researchers, saying they needlessly torture animals in their laboratories. Animal rights activists have used many tactics in their campaign against Morrison. They sent letters to Morrison's neighbor's describing him as a cat torturer. They staged protests against him on campus and outside of his suburban home. Morrison said he has even received death threats. In January, animal rights activists broke into Morrison's lab. They stole papers, computer disks and video tapes and wrote slogans including "cat killer" on the walls. "It affects you to be harassed and to have your family harassed -- it's spiritually debilitating," Morrison said. "When you receive death threats, that's disturbing. But after a few months, you realize that they are going to keep bothering you anyway, so you just go on." Morrison, who said that he is still being harassed by animal rights groups, added that University researchers are "fed up" with constant attacks leveled against them by animal rights groups. He warned animal activists that in the future, "any activities on this campus will be met with just as vociferous counter-demonstrations." The AMA is planning further press conferences and activities to counter the animal rights groups. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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