Adventures in Ethics and Science

Again, at UCLA, a researcher has become the target of violence at the hands of animal rights activists.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the firebombing of a vehicle owned by a UCLA neuroscientist who was targeted by an anti-animal research group for using primates in his study of psychiatric disorders.

The March 7 incident involving a homemade incendiary device took place outside the faculty member’s home and caused no injuries, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. …

Eimiller said the investigation of last Saturday’s incident will be conducted by a Joint Terrorism Task Force that includes the FBI, the LAPD, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the UCLA Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives.

The loosely organized animal rights group Animal Liberation Front posted a message on its website Monday from a group that claimed responsibility for the firebombing.

From the UCLA Newsroom:

Chancellor Gene Block strongly condemned the firebombing, the latest incident in an organized campaign of criminal harassment directed at UCLA researchers.

“The actions of extremists who use violent and illegal tactics are utterly reprehensible and beyond contempt,” Block said. “UCLA police continue to work with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to bring to justice those responsible for such unconscionable acts, and I encourage anyone with information to come forward.”

UCLA immediately increased the reward it is offering by $25,000. UCLA, the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Los Angeles police and fire departments are now offering a combined $445,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for five separate acts of violence directed at UCLA researchers.

In a March 9 website posting, extremists claimed to have placed an improvised incendiary device under the vehicle outside the Westside residence of a UCLA researcher. The vehicle was engulfed in flames and destroyed. There were no injuries. The incident occurred in the early morning hours of March 7. The vehicle was owned by a UCLA professor and neuroscientist investigating treatments for various psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, as well as drug addiction and other disorders.

The FBI is leading the investigation and can be reached at 310-477-6565.

This is not an isolated incident. That it is, instead, the kind of thing that happens with alarming regularity is indicated by the fact that the UCLA Newsroom has a “background information” page about animal research at UCLA, allowing easy linking the next time an animal rights group targets a researcher (or someone who lives or parks near a researcher) for violence. From that background information page:

Research involving laboratory animals at UCLA is heavily monitored and subject to stringent and multiple federal laws and university regulations. All requests to utilize animals in research undergo a rigorous review by an independent committee of well-informed scientists, veterinarians and members of the general public to ensure scientific necessity and humane treatment. The review requires an extensive search for alternatives to minimize the use of animals.

For several years, UCLA researchers and administrators have been subjected to an organized campaign of harassment intended to halt the use of all animals in research. This has included the firebombing of a UCLA commuter van, the placing of incendiary devices on the doorsteps of private residences and under vehicles, vandalism, and threatening phone calls and e-mails. UCLA police and the FBI are investigating some of these as acts of domestic terrorism. In addition, anonymous anti-animal research extremists have made multiple unfounded claims of sabotage. …

UCLA condemns in the strongest possible terms the deplorable tactics utilized by anti-animal research extremists. Violence and threats are not free speech.

(Bold emphasis added.)

Clearly, we need to be calling the thugs perpetrating these attacks nonhuman-animal rights activists. After all, they view well-monitored use of animals in experiments designed to minimize their distress and discomfort as an abomination, but apparently they would have no problem with a human being consumed in a fiery explosion.

And where were the animal rights groups like PETA and PCRM who claim they don’t condone violence? Are they helping the FBI and the BATF to find the animal rights extremists who are planting incendiary devices? Are they taking other steps to prevent violence from being used to “further” their argument against the use of animals in research?

If they are, it’s not terribly visible. And that’s a problem.

As a philosophical position, the case for animal rights is not completely empty or indefensible. However, as it’s being propagated “in the wild”, as it were, the case for animal rights is being made with lies and intimidation. Among rational people, this is a bad way to make a case for your position. Thus, it seems to me, people arguing in good faith for the animal rights position need to address the violence and the lies head on, not just disavowing them, but taking serious steps to counter them.

But as long as researchers who are doing research with animals that is legal and also designed to be as humane as possible are made the targets of violent attacks of people who say they are fighting for animal rights, we can’t have a serious conversation about animal rights.

Comments

  1. #1 MarkH
    March 10, 2009

    And where were the animal rights groups like PETA and PCRM who claim they don’t condone violence? Are they helping the FBI and the BATF to find the animal rights extremists who are planting incendiary devices? Are they taking other steps to prevent violence from being used to “further” their argument against the use of animals in research?

    PETA and PCRM = ALF. PETA will not condemn the acts of ALF despite being asked to do so many times. It’s because they are the entry point for extremists to enter the animal rights terrorism movement. From the PETA wikipedia entry:

    Newkirk and PETA have been criticized for providing financial support to Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activists when they were faced with legal action against them. The Observer noted what it calls a “network of relationships between seemly unconnected animal rights groups on both sides of the Atlantic,”[21] writing that, with assets of $6.5 million, and with the PETA Foundation holding further assets of $15 million, PETA funds individual activists and activist groups, some with “links to extremists.”[21] This includes links to the ALF and Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which the Counterterrorism department of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation have named as “special interest extremism organizations” and “as a serious terrorist threat.[27]

    Rod Coronado, a former ALF activist, received $64,000 from the group and two months later another $38,240 as a loan which has never been paid back to fund his legal defense when he was convicted of having set fire to a Michigan State University research lab in 1992. PETA claimed a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service for the donation after the arson took place.[28][21] PETA is also alleged to have donated $1.3 million to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),[21] an organization that promotes the use of alternatives to animal testing, but which has been criticized for its links with the ALF, and in particular with Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon who runs the North American Animal Liberation Press Office.[29] PETA also gave $5,000 to the Josh Harper Support Committee, before Harper was convicted of “animal enterprise terrorism” in the U.S. in connection with the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign[30] and, according to the New York Post, gave $1,500 to the ELF in 2001.[31] Newkirk said of the ELF donation that it was a mistake, and that the money was supposed to be used for “public education about destruction of habitat.”[31] According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, PETA also provided $7,500 to Fran Trutt, convicted of the attempted murder of Leon Hirsch, the CEO of the United States Surgical Corporation.[32]

    In general, Newkirk makes no apology for PETA’s support of activists who may break the law, writing that “no movement for social change has ever succeeded without ‘the militarism component’.” Of the Animal Liberation Front, she writes: “Thinkers may prepare revolutions, but bandits must carry them out.”[20]

    PETA funds these terrorists, you are not going to hear condemnation of violence from them.

  2. #2 Cleveland
    March 10, 2009

    Actually MarkH, they have gotten slightly more clever. Didn’t they issue some token bounty for info on the UCSC firebombers? It’s a no-brainer. Funnel the operational cash to the terrorists off the books or by hiring them in some shell capacity. Fund their legal defense long after the fact. In between, act all pious by issuing some minuscule $25K offer of a reward and claim to be “against extremism”. Keep raking in donations from the deluded majority in the middle who don’t want to believe PETA-ALF is a terrorist organization funded by their donations..

  3. #3 MikeMa
    March 10, 2009

    MarkH
    Thanks for the legwork connecting the dots. I hope this will be useful in turning a few pacifist heads toward the light of PETA’s criminal complicity.

  4. #4 Per
    March 10, 2009

    I’m confused. Why do you say that we cannot have a serious conversation about animal rights? A group has committed a violent act against the property of a researcher. That researcher’s property has been destroyed and he/she may have suffered emotional or psychological stress as a result. Why does this mean that we cannot sit down and have a conversation with another group of people who want to make the lives of lab animals (and farm, circus, and racing animals) better?

  5. #5 Chris
    March 10, 2009

    Per:

    Because every time anyone TRIES to have a serious discussion about it, the whackos come out. And these are whackos who are willing to kill people.

  6. #6 PaulBrowne
    March 11, 2009

    Thanks for bringing this up Janet.

    I have couple of problems with your statement “And where were the animal rights groups like PETA and PCRM who claim they don’t condone violence? Are they helping the FBI and the BATF to find the animal rights extremists who are planting incendiary devices? Are they taking other steps to prevent violence from being used to “further” their argument against the use of animals in research?”

    As MarkH has mentioned above there are a lot of links between groups like PCRM and PeTA and the more extreme elements of the animal rights movement, indeed Jerry Vlasak, who is one of the main cheerleaders for the current terrorism campaign in California, used to be PCRM’s spokesman. As I discussed in a post on the Speaking of Research website yesterday PCRM is mired in anti-scientific and unethical practices.

    http://speakingofresearch.com/2009/03/10/restoring-science-to-its-rightful-place/

    Don’t expect anything positive from them, even if more mainstream groups like HSUS put up money for rewards to catch the terrorists (and only $2,500 out of a budget of $100 million) they are presumably doing it to cover their own asses, not because they care about the scientists who are being attacked.

    The question you should really be asking is “where are the scientists, academics and students whose colleagues are being attacked by the terrorists and extremists? “.

    Better law enforcement and statements of condemnation from UCLA officials are all well and good, but frankly they are not good enough. So long as those who support the scientists who are being bombed and harassed fail to display any concrete public solidarity the extremists and terrorists will be emboldened and continue to attack their isolated victims.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, you need to look at what Pro-Test achieved in Oxford a few years back, by making a strong public show of defiance against the arson attacks and threats made by animal rights extremists that drew widespread support from the media and politicians from the(moderate)left and (moderate) right.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2006/feb/27/leadersandreply.mainsection

    This really helped change the mood about animal research in the UK by making it clear that there were a lot of people out there who supported it and would no longer be bullied. The media needs “good news” stories to cover, it’s up to the scientific community to provide them!

  7. #7 AP
    March 11, 2009

    Isn’t this a matter of frame work? I’m not exactly up to date on AFL or their various incanations, but I seem to recall them having an saunch position against the harming of any animals directly at least in a physical sense. Carbombing vacant vehicals hardly qualifies as bodily harm.

    I reject thier tactics as being anything but criminal, but to conflate direct violence to a person with violence to that person’s property just seems a bit disingenuous. Call it what it is so that we can better stop it.

  8. #8 MarkH
    March 11, 2009

    PaulBrowne:

    Don’t expect anything positive from them, even if more mainstream groups like HSUS put up money for rewards to catch the terrorists (and only $2,500 out of a budget of $100 million) they are presumably doing it to cover their own asses, not because they care about the scientists who are being attacked.

    HSUS is not the Humane Society. They’re a PETA astroturf group that takes advantage of your local Humane Society’s good name but is not involved in shelters or animal welfare. They’re an animal rights group that has similarly donated cash to animal rights terrorist organizations. So, yes, covering their ass seems like a likely reason.

  9. #9 Per
    March 11, 2009

    I am honestly taken aback by the claims being made about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

    http://www.hsus.org/

    This is a group that works to write, push, and enforce legislation like Prop 2 that offers animals basic welfare and enforces the rights to that welfare that they already have. They infiltrate underground cock fighting organizations and work with the FBI to investigate cases of extreme animal cruelty. I have not seen any evidence of a link to the ALF ever.

    Furthermore, Chris, the ALF are not willing to kill people. They say specifically in their manifesto that they oppose physical violence against any sentient creature. I challenge you to find a clear case where the ALF has claimed responsibility for a crime (in the United States) that has injured or killed a human being. I’m ready to proven wrong, but I doubt you will find such a case.

    The ALF claims to be violent in response to a lack of action on behalf of animals, 10 billion of whom suffer each year in factory farms alone. They also say that they will stop when legal action begins to happen and when laws protecting animals are enforced as they should be according to the Humane Slaughter Act and Animal Welfare Act.

    I do not condone their violence, but there is no reason not to talk like civilized human beings with others who want desperately to help animals in America achieve a basic level of well-being. To acknowledge their suffering and say that we cannot talk about helping them because of the actions of some extremists is like saying that we should not talk about helping the people in New Orleans because some of the people were looting and hurting people.

    Animals deserve some attention no matter what.

    I realize that this is a long version of what AP posted, but it needs to be said.

  10. #10 padraig
    March 12, 2009

    Per, the HSUS is first and foremost a fund-raising organization. They (and PETA for that matter) have as their first priorities raising enough money from their current activities to pay for their next fund-raising effort. Helping animals is at best secondary.

    To that end HSUS have allowed themselves to be continually confused with local Humane Societies, to which they have no link, and which they do not support.

    They have also taken credit for saving Michael Vick’s dogs and collected millions for animal rescues after Hurricane Katrina. There has been little evidence that any significant portion of the money they collected for those causes went to any direct assistance to animals. I read a long article about the expensive but successful rehabilitation of some of Vick’s dogs looking for a mention of HSUS providing funding. I found no such mention. I find it hard to believe a publicity-seeking group like HSUS would not make any such contribution known.

    Their current director appears to be soft-pedaling the animal rights issue in favor of animal welfare, which would be great. However, their track record invites skepticism.

    If you would like to help much more needy organizations that provide direct help to animals, please contact your LOCAL animal shelters and wildlife rehab centers.

  11. #11 Per
    March 12, 2009

    Padraig, it sounds bizarre to say that the HSUS does fund-raising just in order to get to the next fundraiser. Surely they raise money to pay their extremely knowledgeable employees who work to write legislation and investigate animal cruelty. From my interactions with HSUS employees, I know that they work long hours on specific cases, gathering information, lobbying Congress, and proposing legislation for the protection of animals.

    I don’t know about the “allowing themselves to be confused with local Humane Societies” so I won’t dispute that.

    I also object to the claim that they are soft-pedaling animal welfare in exchange for animal rights. They recognize that the US public and big business (both lab science and the meat industry) are unwilling to take big steps towards animal rights. Instead, they try to make inroads wherever possible. This is nothing but laudable. This is how change was effected in Europe starting in the 1980s and it is the only way change will be made in the United States. It is also the reason why I initially objected to the claim that we cannot sit down and discuss animal welfare/rights with the ALF on the loose. We absolutely can do this and we should.

    Finally, to say that the HSUS was not mentioned in the Vick case is slim evidence that they do not do anything to help animals. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of action.

  12. #12 WhySharksMatter
    March 31, 2009

    There are plenty of animal rights crazies in every field. Recently, when a spearfisherman killed a tiger shark in self defense, the shark conservation group “SharkLife” posted his contact information online and told members to tell him how they felt about this incident.

    We’re discussing this incident on my blog here:
    http://southernfriedscientist.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/spearfisherman-vs-tiger-shark/

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.