Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). This new law will make things tougher on animal rights activists who use threats and violence to intimidate medical researchers, farmers, ranchers, and other Americans who decline to embrace the philosophy of “total animal liberation.

A long list of animal rights groups opposed the bill, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), Farm Sanctuary, and some bona fide convicted terrorists. Most of the opposition centered on the widely reported claim that the AETA would somehow criminalize peaceful protest. It won’t. The bill — click here and see page 7 — specifically (and appropriately) puts freedom of speech out of reach:

Nothing in this section shall be construed … to prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibition by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

PCRM’s opposition is particularly odd. Why would a self-proclaimed “physicians group” be opposed to an anti-terrorism law that only threatens serious lawbreakers? Why would PCRM host a meeting to organize animal-rights opposition to the AETA? Could it be the group’s well-documented ties with the militant animal-rights fringe? PCRM president Neal Barnard, for instance, has co-signed at least one letter with animal-rights militant Kevin Kjonaas, whose federal terrorism prison sentence begins this week.

When Animal Liberation Front spokesman Jerry Vlasak famously commented that medical researchers who use animals should be targeted for “political assassination,” he was listed on the conference program as a PCRM representative.

And John Pippin, PCRM’s current Senior Medical Adviser, staked out a not-too-doctorly position on the AETA when the Senate passed it in late September. Upset over what he called HSUS president Wayne Pacelle’s “lukewarm” opposition to the law, Pippin complained:

[T]his is the organization [HSUS] that publicly congratulated the FBI for hunting down the animal rights “criminals” who liberate animals and carry out other related activities. Without the sometimes illegal actions of true activists, the animal rights movement has no meaningful chance for success … Thank goodness for those willing to take some risks to save the animals.

As the radical animal rights movement expands “acceptable” protest to include arson, death threats, harassment, sabotage — and perhaps even assasinations — the AETA is a necessary tool for federal law enforcement.