Respectful Insolence

Earlier this month, I was remiss in not noting an update to a story about which I had written before, a story of domestic terrorism carried out by so-called “animal rights” advocates who are utterly opposed to the use of animals in research. The series of attacks began with an intimidation campaign against a UCLA researcher named Dario Ringach that succeeded in frightening him to the point where he gave up doing primate research. Against Ringach himself, the campaign consisted primarily of harassment by phone and other means. However, Ringach was spooked by a botched attack on another UCLA researcher named Lynn Fairbanks. In a classic example of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, the animal rights terrorists put a Molotov cocktail on the doorstep of the wrong house, that of an elderly neighbor. Fortunately, the device didn’t detonate, but the intent was clear. The incident would have been a hysterically funny example of the incompetence of these clowns were it not for the very real danger of injury or death to an innocent bystander.

The next incident I wrote about was that of Edythe London. The Animal Liberation Front flooded the home of primate researcher Edythe London and issued a risibly self-righteous and hypocritical “communique” justifying their actions in which they claimed their first choice was fire but that they didn’t want to risk starting any brushfires that might kill animals. As is common after such attacks, ALF mouthpiece, whom I like to refer to as Dr. Jerry “Sgt. Schultz” Vlasak (“I see nothing. I hear nothing. I know nothing.”) for his ability to spout justifications for the ALF actions while denying any knowledge of who carried out the attacks or any foreknowledge that they were going to occur, popped up dutifully to spout the ALF party line. Earlier this month, animal rights terrorists struck again, setting a fire at London’s house. So serious has the threat become that the Director of the NIH spoke out about it.

It’s time to cue the Twisted Sister CD, because Edythe London wrote a passionate defense of her research, which studies the mechanisms behind nicotine addiction, and UCLA’s not going to take it anymore, and it’s about time:

UCLA is suing extremists to stop a campaign of terrorism, vandalism and menacing threats directed at faculty and administrators who conduct or support research involving laboratory animals.

A hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 21 in Department A of Los Angeles County Superior Court in Santa Monica, when a judge will formally receive the complaint and hear arguments on a temporary restraining order. A hearing on a preliminary injunction is expected in two to three weeks. The lawsuit names three groups and five individuals as defendants and seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction prohibiting them from harassing UCLA personnel or facilitating their harassment. The University of California Regents, which oversees all 10 UC campuses, is serving as the plaintiff of record on behalf of UCLA.

These are the defendants:

The defendants are groups known as the UCLA Primate Freedom Project, the Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade, as well as several individuals believed to affiliate with these groups. The suit alleges that these groups and individuals have promoted and facilitated unlawful activities directed against UCLA faculty and administrators. The Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade have in some cases claimed responsibility for unlawful activities directed against UCLA personnel and their homes.

The UCLA Primate Freedom Project maintains a Web site displaying the photographs, home addresses and phone numbers of targeted UCLA personnel, and the Animal Liberation Front press office regularly posts anonymous communiqu├ęs about the Animal Liberation Brigade’s unlawful activities. The FBI has identified the Animal Liberation Front, which publicly advocates violence to advance its aim of discontinuing the use of lab animals in research, as a top domestic terrorism threat.

Several of the individual defendants named in the lawsuit have recently been the subjects of temporary restraining orders and injunctions prohibiting them from harassing employees affiliated with the City of Los Angeles and private institutions.

Personally, I hope UCLA goes after Dr. Vlasak big time. That sleazy little slimeball clearly qualifies as someone who’s more than believed to associate with these groups and is a disgrace to surgeons everywhere. He’s also gotten away far too long with his little game of being a spokesman for the ALF but playing all innocent and claiming no knowledge of any of its operations and no responsibility for its actions, even though his over-the-top rhetoric is inspirational to acts of violence. After all, this is a man who has in the past openly advocated the assassination of animal researchers and stated that there is a “use for violence in our movement,” which he characterized as “morally acceptable” and an “effective strategy.” Given Vlasak’s long history and association with ALF, his disavowals strain credulity to the breaking point, and the litany of intimidation and threats with which his group has been linked is long:

On three occasions since June 2006, Molotov cocktail-type devices have been left near the homes of UCLA faculty who conduct or oversee research involving animals. In addition, their homes have been vandalized and they have received threatening phone calls, e-mails and, on at least one occasion, a package rigged with razor blades. Extremists have appeared at residences in the middle of the night, worn ski masks to conceal their identity and used megaphones to shout threats, obscenities and epithets.

Let’s get one thing straight here and make no mistake about this: Animal rights extremists like the ALF are not just against research that they consider cruel. They are not just against research on primates. They are against all animal research. Make no mistake about this, too: Biomedical research would grind to a halt if animal research were to cease. Contrary to the lies (and, yes, I do consider them lies because I don’t believe that animal rights activists are ignorant enough to believe these falsehoods when they say them) claiming that animal research is unnecessary, that computer models and tissue culture eliminate the need for it. Although it is true that various models have reduced the need for animals, it is not possible using current technology to model the incredibly complex physiology and molecular interactions that occur in a living vertebrate animal accurately enough to dispense with animals, and animal research has led to huge advances in surgery, transplantation, cancer treatment, and far, far more. In fact, my area of interest in research is a great example of why animal research is necessary. A new target for cancer therapy that would never have been discovered without animal research is tumor angiogenesis, or how tumors stimulate the ingrowth of new blood vessels to provide themselves with nutrients and oxygen.

Moreover, animal rights activists like to paint scientists who use medical research as though they were “little Mengeles,” only with animals. Although there probably was a time in the past where concern for alleviating suffering was inadequate and experimental animals may have been abused, but that was before I entered the biomedical research field. Since I’ve been in the field, I’ve seen only increasingly strict regulation. Indeed, the pendulum in some cases may have swung too far in the other direction to the point where the regulations have become excessively burdensome. I’ll give you an example from my own personal experience. Last year, I was renewing an animal protocol, because our institution requires us to rewrite and resubmit our animal protocols every three years. Part of the protocol required giving a medication to mice bearing human tumors by “gavage,” or gastric lavage, which is just a fancy way of saying sticking a small tube into the mouse’s mouth and squirting the drug into the back of the throat so that the mouse swallows it. It’s really no different than how liquid medication is given to dogs and cats, only on a much smaller animal. Guess what? The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at our institution complained, saying that giving a medication by gavage would be too painful. I kid you not. It had to be explained to IACUC that the drug is an oral drug and that that’s the way humans would be taking it, not to mention the fact that the only other alternative would be to give the drug by daily intraperitoneal injection. So am I saying that we should loosen our regulations on animal research? No, although a little common sense would be in order (I suspect this was just an example of an overzealous IACUC misinterpreting the regulations). My point in telling you this anecdote is that animal research is highly regulated, far above what it was before, and that IACUCs have become almost as strict in regulating animal research as Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) have become in regulating human research. The stereotype of the cruel “vivisectionist” that ALF and its fellow radicals like to promote just isn’t true.

Perhaps someday we will achieve the ideal world where animals are not needed for research, but that day is not today. In considering the need for animal research, you should ask yourself this: Would you want treatments and drugs only tested in cell culture and by computer modeling to be used on you? Or your children? Or your parents?

I suspect that even animal rights activists, if they’re being honest with themselves, would answer that question with a resounding “No!” If they wouldn’t answer “no,” then I would propose putting that answer to the test by proposing that they volunteer their children to have new drugs tested in them that haven’t been tested even in animals.

Comments

  1. #1 coz
    February 21, 2008

    Haven’t these people seen ’28 Weeks Later’…leave the angry chimps where they are.

    I hope some good comes from this, and it quietens the nutters down.
    This is one of my favourite posters.

    http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/upload/2007/08/23YearsPoster_lg.jpg

  2. #2 outre
    February 21, 2008

    I wonder how many of those over the top animal rights activists would refuse a drug treatment to control/cure their diseases because animal testing had been involved. I’ve ask similar questions to anti embryonic stem cell research folks and they mum up quickly or claim they’d never take the treatment. Right…

  3. #3 Paul
    February 21, 2008

    I’ll start by saying that I’m glad to see that UCLA has gone on the offensive, it’s about time.

    I’ve read Edythe London’s piece again and while it was a decent if short defence of animal research and her decision to accept tobacco industry funding (a questionable decision IMHO), it doesn’t really go into enough detail on precisely why she is doing experiments on monkeys as well as on humans. This is a pity since from what I’ve read it seems that much her monkey research is aimed at developing better ways to use non-invasive techniques to assess the effectiveness of drug treatment programs in young adults, in addition to gaining a better understanding of the neurophysiological basis of addiction.
    http://research.mednet.ucla.edu/institution/personnel?personnel_id=45608
    http://ibs.med.ucla.edu/Bios/LondonE.htm

    Prof. London and other neuroscientists could do a lot more to explain the role of animals, and particularly monkeys, in addiction research. There is clearly an information gap through which Jerry Vlasak (I spit upon him) and others can push their poison. I know there will always be those who oppose animal research no matter what but there is a much larger proportion of the population who could be won over by better explanations of what this controversial research is for.

    The good thing is that there are UCLA students (well at least one) who are willing to defend Edythe London’s work http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/2008/feb/14/iuclas-smoking-gun-isnti/
    Hopefully with more information becoming available their ranks will swell.

  4. #4 Skeptico
    February 21, 2008

    Outre wrote: “I wonder how many of those over the top animal rights activists would refuse a drug treatment to control/cure their diseases because animal testing had been involved.”

    We know the answer to that. PETA co-founder and President Ingrid Newkirk takes IV anaesthetics that were tested on rats, rabbits, dogs, cats and monkeys. PETA Vice President and diabetic Mary Beth Sweetland’s insulin was tested on dogs, rabbits and mice.

    These hypocrites continue to enjoy the benefits of animal testing while supporting terrorist acts on the scientists who provide them.

  5. #5 Calli Arcale
    February 21, 2008

    I don’t think these people are thinking straight, personally. Like religious extremists, they have become passionately attached to a cause, so much so that facts become a distraction. They are consumed with the feeling that they must DO something; if they don’t, it means they don’t care adequately about the cause. And why would they need facts? They already *know* the truth. Facts will either be redundant, or, if contradicting what they know, evidence of the massive conspiracy facing them. And that’s a major factor too — they believe that their cause is the fight of a noble underdog against truly vile, despicable, evil opponents who are coordinated and would balk at nothing in their quest to pursue their particular evil.

    And so, the extremists themselves will balk at nothing, and wind up being grossly incompetent because they do not feel they need to bother educating themselves before taking action. Consider the laboratory mice released from the University of Minnesota a few years ago; the vast majority of the mice probably died almost immediately because they did not know how to get food and avoid predators, to say nothing of the mice who were compromised in various ways by virtue of simply being lab mice (albinos do not do well in the wild, for instance). It’s a bit like PETA rescuing dogs only to euthanize them. They are so eager to carry out their plans that they do not even pause to consider the ramifications or whether their plans would even benefit the animals they supposedly care about.

    It’s so ironic that it could almost be a Greek tragedy.

  6. #6 Lilly de Lure
    February 21, 2008

    I wonder how many of those over the top animal rights activists would refuse a drug treatment to control/cure their diseases because animal testing had been involved.

    Well considering that at least one of the PETA head honchos is a diabetic who needs regular insulin injections that were developed using animal testing, my estimate would have to be . . . None, Nada, Zip .

    Charming bunch of hypocrites aren’t they?

  7. #7 ERV
    February 21, 2008

    Biomedical research would grind to a halt if animal research were to cease.

    Grind to a halt? It would stop immediately. I mean, I could still do stuff in the lab without, but it would be pointless.

  8. #8 Jim
    February 21, 2008

    Of course PETA kills animals.
    Sometimes they put them in dumpsters behind grocery stores.
    http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm?headline=2833

  9. #9 jba
    February 21, 2008

    So how much good are these restraining orders actually going to do? These people are already hiding their identities and if it could be proved that they had done these things they would already be in legal trouble, right? (serious question, I really don’t know) One way or another I am glad they are doing something about these extremists. I think Calli is exactly right with this:

    “They are so eager to carry out their plans that they do not even pause to consider the ramifications or whether their plans would even benefit the animals they supposedly care about.”

    One thing I have noticed about the more extreme AR groups is a lack of thinking things through. “We will rescue the lab animals and they will go live in a Disney happy world with singing trees and chipmunks! Yay us! And the evil scientists will have to stop their big bad plans! Boo them!”

  10. #10 Chad
    February 21, 2008

    I say we just sidestep the whole issue and do research directly on animal rights activists.

  11. #11 Eamon Knight
    February 21, 2008

    If they wouldn’t answer “no,” then I would propose putting that answer to the test by proposing that they volunteer their children to have new drugs tested in them that haven’t been tested even in animals.

    Why punish the kids for being born to cretins who think with their glands? Test it on the parents!

  12. #12 Karen
    February 21, 2008

    My cats were ready to agree that gavage is animal abuse… until they realized that mice are involved. :-)

  13. #13 Evinfuilt
    February 21, 2008
    I wonder how many of those over the top animal rights activists would refuse a drug treatment to control/cure their diseases because animal testing had been involved. I’ve ask similar questions to anti embryonic stem cell research folks and they mum up quickly or claim they’d never take the treatment. Right…

    Any time I meet someone of that “persuasion” I ask them to be strict and whenever in need of medical attention to announce that they deny all treatment that had anything to do with Animal research.

    Sadly, I don’t think they can comprehend that they would actually have to make a sacrifice (like their own life.)

  14. #14 JustaTech
    February 21, 2008

    These people make me furious. Thanks to them I have to hide my work in the basement, go through entirely too many security doors and generally live with the threat that they will try to burn down my building. It’s happened once at my university (UW, by the ELF) and they are only now going to trial almost 10 years later. The ELF were looking for GMO poplar trees. In a building. Clearly logical thinking will get you kicked out of the group. (Poplars are, oh, 30 feet tall.)

    If any of these crazies tries to mess with my mice I’ll go at them with a fire extinguisher. Seriously.

    What’s amazing is that the American AR crazies are way less nuts (or at least less active) than the UK ones.

  15. #15 daedalus2u
    February 21, 2008

    I am surprised that the MDs that these terrorists go to are willing to prescribe drugs tested on animals to them, or even to treat them at all.

    If it were me, I would have a very difficult ethical time justifying providing medical care to anyone who was trying to destroy the medical research system.

  16. #16 HCN
    February 21, 2008

    JustaTech said ” It’s happened once at my university (UW, by the ELF) and they are only now going to trial almost 10 years later. The ELF were looking for GMO poplar trees. In a building. Clearly logical thinking will get you kicked out of the group. (Poplars are, oh, 30 feet tall.) ”

    I went to a talk by the researcher they were targeting. He is a very amusing speaker, and he posted a picture of what the main instigator drives: an SUV, yup… a big huge suburban assault vehicle!

    The mental midgets who set the building on fire endangered seeds of endangered species. They also thought that the professor was using genetic engineering, when he was using traditional plant breeding techniques.

    But he has since started to use genetic engineering in his research. He figures if he is going to be targeted for it, he might as well use it.

  17. #17 Inquisitive Raven
    February 21, 2008

    The ELF were looking for GMO poplar trees. In a building. Clearly logical thinking will get you kicked out of the group. (Poplars are, oh, 30 feet tall.)

    Uh, correction, poplars grow to be about 30 feet tall. They start out one helluva lot smaller. If these morons were looking for GMO plants, they would probably have been looking for, at most, seedlings which presumably were germinated in the labs. Although, according to HCN, apparently they actually went after seeds which, in fact weren’t GMO (although the idiots thought they were).

  18. #18 HCN
    February 21, 2008

    Actually, they were going after all of the data, papers, genetic material and such that were part of the poplar tree research.

    They also managed to get a libary damaged, and lots of other research destroyed:
    http://www.washington.edu/alumni/columns/sept01/merrill.html

    An example of some of the damage they did “For example, approximately one-fourth of the world’s supply of an endangered plant species, the showy stickseed, went up in flames.”
    and “Slides and research material on the recovery of Mount St. Helens after its 1980 eruption were destroyed in the fire.”

  19. #19 Paul
    February 22, 2008

    “What’s amazing is that the American AR crazies are way less nuts (or at least less active) than the UK ones.”

    I’m not sure that I’d agree with that, as far as I know the only major AR figure to openly talk about killing researchers (as opposed to threats in anonymous hate mail) is Jerry Vlasak in the USA. That said AR extremism does seem to be largely a UK export.

    The good news is that such extremism can be beaten. Since 2004 the number of AR extremist attacks in the UK has fallen sharply.
    http://www.abpi.org.uk/press/press_releases_06/060726.asp
    http://www.abpi.org.uk/press/press_releases_07/260707.asp

    This has been without doubt largely due to the passing of tough new laws to counter harassment and intimidation (including “protests” outside researchers homes…a tactic that I’ve only ever seen done by AR and anti-abortion extremists), and a police crackdown helped by the establishment of NETCU, a unit decicated to combating extremism and domestic terrorism http://www.netcu.org.uk/media/news.jsp. Over the pas couple of years a large proportion of active extremists have been arrested, and many are not serving jail time or awaiting trial.

    Another factor in this decrease is probably the increasingly negative press coverage that the AR movement in general has got as a result of extremist campaigns against firms such HLS and Darley Oaks farm, which showed just how nasty the extremists were. This culminated in the founding of Pro-Test http://www.pro-test.org.uk/index.php by students in Oxford, which was a response to ALF threats against students and scientists, and the dishonest and often intimidating actions of the “above ground” SPEAK campaign. The first Pro-Test demonstration in February acted as a catalyst for a large number of articles favourable to animal research in UK newspapers and encouraged many more scientists to discuss their work in public. The result has been a profound change in the public mood surrounding animal research, there are still people who oppose it but it’s certainly no longer the science that dare not speak its name.

    The combination of the crackdown on the extremists themselves, and the increase in open, public support for animal research may have convinced many of the less extreme AR activists seems that “direct action” has backfired.

    Unfortunately in the USA and elsewhere that lesson is yet to be learned.

  20. #20 Paul
    February 22, 2008

    A small correction to my previous post, the first major Pro-Test demonstration was in February 2006, there was another smaller one this February which was more about celebrating of the completion of the new lab than opposing the SPEAK/ALF campaign which has clearly failed.

  21. #21 Paul
    February 22, 2008

    Another small correction.

    “Over the pas couple of years a large proportion of active extremists have been arrested, and many are not serving jail time or awaiting trial”

    should read:

    “Over the past couple of years a large proportion of active extremists have been arrested, and many are now serving jail time or awaiting trial”

    Next time I promise that I’ll preview before posting;-)

  22. #22 vlad
    February 22, 2008

    “giving a medication by gavage would be too painful.” I have a diabetic cat. The injections (developed human animal research, human diabetics got the stuff first) are a lot less painful for me. I feed then shot him. No screaming clawing or problems. The last time I had to give any of them pills it was hell of a lot more painful for me. Ok joking aside I though gavage required implanting a tube surgically. All the screaming about it and it’s the same as syringe feeding new born kittens? I have been mislead.

  23. #23 George Smiley
    February 26, 2008

    http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_8360836

    SANTA CRUZ – A UC Santa Cruz faculty member whose biomedical research using animals sheds light on the causes of breast cancer and neurological diseases was the target of an attack Sunday afternoon, reportedly by animal rights activists.

    UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal confirmed late Monday that an off-campus home invasion by six masked intruders occurred at a faculty member’s home. In a statement, Blumenthal called the incident “very disturbing.”

    I’ll say.

  24. #24 Orac
    February 26, 2008

    I’m aware of that.

    Stay tuned…

    (You can tell I’m off work this week by the increased frequency of blogging and my ability to respond to things rapidly.)

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