Bolstered by a law increasing federal penalties for committing violence against animal industries, the FBI has begun to pay serious attention to SHAC (“Stop Huntingon Animal Cruelty”).

An FBI spokesman confirmed last week that the Bureau is now “actively investigating” SHAC. This came after the group’s leaders used an Internet website to distribute the social security numbers of nearly two dozen adults, most of whom had never heard of SHAC’s target, a medical research company called Huntingdon Life Sciences.

So why did SHAC target these people? In a bid to put pressure on a stock trader who dared to do business with Huntingdon, SHAC targeted his neighbors. In addition to their social security numbers, SHAC declared its intention to use “e-mail accounts [and] credit card information” in order to coerce this broker’s neighbors to gang up on him.

In a recent magazine interview, Huntingdon Life Sciences marketing director Andrew Gay told the story of how his company and its shareholders have been terrorized by animal rights zealots, both in Europe and in the U.S. During the last two years, for instance, both he and Huntingdon CEO Brian Cass were physically beaten and hospitalized by SHAC thugs. And ordinary investors who had bought shares of stock in HLS were stalked, harassed, and otherwise intimidated in their own homes. “Why,” he asks, “should anyone who’s a shareholder in a legitimate company have to put up with that stuff?”

Today on National Review Online, Discovery Institute senior fellow Wesley Smith writes about the steps being taken to expose what he calls animal-rights “brownshirts.” Huntingdon Life Sciences is not alone in fearing for the safety of its employees, stockholders, and customers. The SHAC reign of terror has grown to include insurance companies, foodservice providers, and even janitorial companies.