Respectful Insolence

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…and this time it’s a home invasion.

Abel Pharmboy at Terra Sig pointed me to this incident, which has all the markings of still more animal rights terrorism. This time, the attack occurred at the University of California Santa Cruz and involved a home invasion by masked intruders:

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.”

Santa Cruz police reported that six people wearing bandanas tried to break into a Westside home just before 1 p.m., and that one of the family members, not the faculty member, was attacked before the intruders fled. The male victim had made sure his wife and children were safe in the back of the house before he confronted the attackers. He suffered minor injuries after being hit with an unknown object. None of the other four people in the house were injured.

The name of the faculty member was not released, but UCSC said assurances have been made to protect the faculty member and the family – in addition to other staff and students who have been targeted by animal rights activists in recent weeks, campus spokesman Jim Burns said.

“This represents an escalation, breaking into somebody’s house,” Burns said.

Apparently this was just the most recent incident in a string of escalating harassment against animal researchers:

On Feb. 12, Blumenthal sent a message to staff saying there had been several recent incidents of intimidation to faculty and staff, “purportedly over laboratory research involving animals. The incidents include harassing phone calls and graffiti vandalism at the victims’ homes.

“No claims of responsibility have been made, and police are investigating. These actions come in the wake of dangerous incidents involving researchers at other campuses, including UCLA.”

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As seems to be the case much of the time, these probable animal rights activists were the gang that couldn’t shoot straight–fortunately:

Witnesses to the Westside attack provided police with a license plate of the vehicle the attackers fled in, Escalante said.

Early Monday, Escalante would not confirm a motive or say if the attack was related to animal activists. He could not be reached to comment late Monday.

Earlier in the day, Escalante said of the suspects: “They were wearing bandanas … and were screaming and trying to break into the house. Witnesses gave us information on the suspect vehicle. We tracked it to Riverside Avenue. We obtained a search warrant. We served the search warrant last night. It’s relative to a home invasion and right now the case is continuing. We’ve got evidence we’re processing.”

Seized in the 9:50 p.m. raid were clothes, cell phones and boxes of paperwork, which Escalante said showed evidence of possible other attacks.

I suppose it’s possible that this isn’t related to animal rights terrorism, but it doesn’t seem likely, given the background and some reports from activist websites that seem to admit more or less that there was some sort of protest at the faculty member’s house, characterized as a “legal demonstration that took place on the same morning at the home of a vivisector at UC Santa Cruz.” (Yeah, trying to break into someone’s home and assaulting a family member sure seems “legal” to me.) Indymedia also posted video of the police raid:

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All whining aside from some of the kids on these videos, if activists physically assault someone, as they apparently did at the investigators’ home, it is not unreasonable for the police to act assuming that the suspects are potentially dangerous. On the other hand, although I’m not sure whether the knowledge would have changed their reaction, the kids jeering the police in these videos probably had no idea that an attack had occurred or that the “demonstration” to which they were referring had in fact turned into a home invasion designed to intimidate. In any case, hopefully, more information will be forthcoming soon that will clarify things. Assuming the most likely scenario (that this was indeed animal rights idiots tied to SHAC), as mentioned in the article, it represents a disturbing escalation to direct home invasion when the researcher and family are present. We as researchers who use animals in our work can’t count on animal rights activists being this inept forever. Sooner or later, somebody’s going to be hurt or killed if these clowns aren’t stopped, and, given the number of guns in the U.S., it could be researchers, their families, or the animal rights activists themselves. I’d really hate to see the situation in the U.S. degenerate into what has been occurring in the U.K. over the last several years. The epicenter here at the moment seems to be southern California; it needs to be nipped in the bud now. As I have pointed out many times before, the objective of these animal rights terrorists is not to improve the lot of research animals or insure that they are not subjected to excessive pain or distress, it is to shut down animal research altogether.

One good bit of news from the article that Abel didn’t mention is that the court granted the injunction that UCLA sought (and that I wrote about last week):

Thursday, a Los Angeles County Judge issued a temporary restraining order against animal rights groups and activists accused of threatening UCLA employees and graduate students because they conduct research using animals.

The order by Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg forbids the activists from engaging in acts of harassment and threats of violence, and requires that they stay away from anybody who is known to be a university employee involved in animal research, UCLA’s attorney John C. Hueston said.

It also ordered the activists and their groups to remove the researchers’ personal information from Web sites that name them as targets of their protest.

“That’s what’s been so distressing for the faculty members,” Hueston said.

Here’s hoping there is ultimately a permanent injunction. It may not be likely to stop the die-hards (and, indeed, that Energizer Bunny of animal rights hypocrisy and advocating violence against researchers who use animals, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, has already predictably popped up to say that the lawsuit wouldn’t deter protesters), but at least it would provide a tool for really throwing the book at animal rights protesters who are caught violating the order, as well as a tool to shut down the websites with researchers’ personal information on it.

ADDENDUM: It looks like a good time for a donation to Americans for Medical Progress.

A few other resources against animal rights extremists:

Comments

  1. #1 NJ
    February 26, 2008

    I’d really hate to see the situation in the U.S. degenerate into what has been occurring in the U.K. over the last several years.

    FWIW, it wouldn’t resemble what has happened in the UK.

    The firearms laws are different here…

  2. #2 Nomen Nescio
    February 26, 2008

    as NJ hinted at, they’re really playing with fire now.

    if i found six young people trying to break into my home while i was inside, i wouldn’t worry about politics or whose ethics my work may have offended; i’d be calling 911 with one hand while loading the shotgun with the other, and letting the criminals worry about whether or not the cops could get there in time to save them from themselves.

    nor do i think i’m really that unusual or strange by american standards. even if these people’s intended victims all happen to be much more pacifistic than i am, the animal rightists have been known to pick on the wrong address before, and even the most peaceful of researcher might have a gun nut for a neighbor — these folks are going to start taking casualties if they keep this up, and that won’t be pretty.

  3. #3 John C. Welch
    February 26, 2008

    My only decision in this case would be: “Shotgun or Bow, Shotgun or Bow…decisions…”

    I’d probably go for the Bow. It’s more quiet, and the peritonitis potential should not be ignored. Plus, the mental damage of laying there with a large carbon fiber stick poking out of you is one you carry all your life.

  4. #4 Calli Arcale
    February 26, 2008

    Shotgun will do more damage, especially at close quarters, and as my husband is fond of pointing out, the ominous sound of a round being chambered is intimidating in its own right. OTOH, there is an SCA tale of a gentleman who defended his castle (well, garden-level apartment) from intruders armed with a katana. Absolutely silent, and if you know what you’re doing, absolutely deadly. (He didn’t kill the intruder, but I understand the guy needed extensive surgery to repair the tendons in his forearm.)

    It’s sad, though, that these things need to be considered. It’s true that the lawsuit won’t stop the activists; they obviously don’t care much for the law anyway (they tend to have a dim view of the government) and have only a tenuous connection to reality in any case. A lot of them seem to think they are invulnerable; it’s probably no coincidence that so many animal rights activists are college age, as people under the age of 25 are far less likely to think about consequences.

  5. #5 Orac
    February 26, 2008

    as NJ hinted at, they’re really playing with fire now.

    True, and in retrospect that’s an aspect I probably didn’t emphasize enough.

    Lots of people own firearms in the U.S., even university faculty. If animal rights activists break into someone’s house while the owner is home, it doesn’t take too much to imagine that an owner who owns a firearm would get it out to defend himself or herself. In such a situation, an animal rights activist could easily be shot or killed or could overwhelm the homeowner and take the gun away, resulting in the injury or shooting of the homeowner. Of course, any casualty among the animal rights activists would become a martyr for the cause, even though it was his or her own damned fault for breaking and entering. Moreover, I don’t know too many juries that would convict a homeowner for shooting first and asking questions later in such a circumstance.

    Escalating to home invasion when the faculty member or family is home dramatically increases the risk of serious violence.

  6. #6 JMK
    February 26, 2008

    Stop calling them protesters. Call them what they truly are: criminals and terrorists.

  7. #7 blf
    February 26, 2008

    I used to live in Santa Cruz, and still have many friends in the area. (I was not, however, educated as UCSC, so I’m not a Banana Slug.) I’m massively appalled at this incident: It happened. For a stupid reason (not that there’s any reason which justifies the actions, but the presumed reason is stooopid!). And in Santa Cruz, a place I know and like.

    In the Santa Cruz I know, there will be protests about the dumbshitefecky of teh mindless dolts who did this…

  8. #8 Phil
    February 26, 2008

    I can’t agree more strongly how stupid this stunt was. They’re lucky they weren’t shot dead.

  9. #9 TheProbe
    February 26, 2008

    Orac said: “…it doesn’t take too much to imagine that an owner who owns a firearm would get it out to defend himself or herself. In such a situation, an animal rights activist could easily be shot or killed or could overwhelm the homeowner and take the gun away, resulting in the injury or shooting of the homeowner.”

    However, it does take a significant effort on the part of the defending shooter to pull that trigger. I know a lot of people like to think that they could play John Wayne, but, the military spends a lot of time training soldiers who are going to war to be able to pull that trigger.I saw a lot of guys freeze up despite that training.

  10. #10 G
    February 26, 2008

    Does anyone know if CA has castle laws? If the jerk-off’s who did this had the balls to try that in, say, Florida, they’d have ended up in a pool of their own blood.

  11. #11 Matt Penfold
    February 26, 2008

    From what I recall here in the UK the animal rights terrorists here tend not to go in for breaking into people’s homes. Instead they have concentrated on sending letter bombs, breaking into labs, arson and in one bizarre case digging up the body of a recently buried relative of the owners of a lab. They have threatened to place bombs in the cars of scientists but I am not aware of any example of this threat being carried out.

    They have also gone in for rather more sophisticated tactics such as targeting those who supply goods and services to labs where animal testing takes place. In the case of a firm called Huntingdon Life Sciences the bankers for the firm withdrew their services after the terrorists started threatening the directors of the bank. Thankfully the Government stepped in and acted as banker of last resort. If I recall correctly the Government has also agreed to act as the insurer for a number of labs after they were unable to get insurance through the normal channels.

  12. #12 UK Skeptic
    February 26, 2008

    There certainly were examples of attempted animal rights car bombings in the UK back in the mid 80s, Matt; see e.g. in the obit for the sadly missed Andrew Blake – a patient who campaigned for medical research – here. The tactics were largely abandoned when one such bomb (in Bristol) injured a passing baby in a pushchair. Like the IRA of yesteryear (at least, like the IRA most of the time), the Animal Righties didn’t want the negative publicity of maiming or killing innocent children.

    They also decided that commercial companies which dealt with Univs and PharmaCos were generally easier targets than Pharmas, Universities and researchers. Not so much easier security-wise, but more that they could “scare” them off by making it a bad business proposition. On the whole, Pharmas, Universities and individual researchers will not stop doing animal work, even under threat – if anything, it makes them more determined. The Pharma may choose to move their research operation to a different country, of course.

  13. #13 daedalus2u
    February 26, 2008

    Since this is obviously a criminal conspiracy and extortion and terrorism are crimes covered under RICO, they could go after them using RICO.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RICO

    That allows for civil damages to be trebled.

    If they got the whole membership list, perhaps the members can be held jointly and severally liable for those treble damages. With all the gung-ho anti-terrorism stuff going on, the Bush administration has to have something to show for it.

    Unless there are some very deep pockets among those members, they could all be put into bankruptcy as well as prison.

  14. #14 LC
    February 26, 2008

    I know a lot of people like to think that they could play John Wayne, but, the military spends a lot of time training soldiers who are going to war to be able to pull that trigger.

    True, but people can panic as well as freeze, especially if they have been wound up by threats/prior events as these ALF idiots seem to be fond of doing.

    As such the armed researcher could panic when confronted – and perforate the intruder, the cat, themselves, and possibly an innocent bystander. Not to mention any litigation (even if they were found innocent) would cost money and time better spent on their research.

    One can only hope that this stupid stunt will make these ‘activists’ realise how stupid they are flirting with home invasion, and step back before someone gets killed. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is likely and things will escalate until they get their martyr.

  15. #15 daedalus2u
    February 26, 2008

    This might be the beginning of the end for them.

    The US Patriot act criminalize providing material support to a terrorist organization. This group is pretty obviously a terrorist organization. So far they may not have killed anyone but they sure are trying to terrorize people. Everyone who donated money to the organization is (in my opinion) one of the co-conspirators (and can get 15 years in prison).

    If the police captured their records, they surely have a list of who donated money. Unless they had a pretty robust cell structure, the terrorist criminality may leak over to a lot of other animal rights organizations.

  16. #16 Paul
    February 27, 2008

    I’ve already commented on Abel’s blog so I’ll keep it short here.

    Legislation and good law enforcement, and injunctions such as that awarded to UCLA, play a vital part in combating extremism. They are however negative/defensive measures and cannot by themselves solve the problem. You need to follow the Pro-Test example and take positive steps to demonstrate support for scientists. We know that a majority of the US population supports animal research and that most even support embryonic stem cell use in medical research. There is a large pro-science population out there that is not being effectively mobilized, and that failure is being interpreted as a sign of weakness by the AR extremists.

    So rather than picking up a gun why not pick up a placard? The paperwork is less tedious and no-one gets hurt!

  17. #17 Lilly de Lure
    February 27, 2008

    One can only hope that this stupid stunt will make these ‘activists’ realise how stupid they are flirting with home invasion, and step back before someone gets killed. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is likely and things will escalate until they get their martyr.

    it’s not so much their martyr we should be worried about. Maybe it’s just me but the first thing that went through my head was the memory of the recent case when they managed to plant a molotov cocktail on the porch of the elderly neighbour of their target (fortunately it did not explode).

    What would have happened if they’d pulled a stunt like this on that house instead? Presumably other researchers live with or near people who are elderly, have medical conditions or are otherwise vulnerable. These idiotic “protestors” could easily wind up killing such a person, purely through the shock caused by six or seven thugs breaking into their house in the middle of the night.

    Or would the AR idiots merely regard such a death as an acceptable casualty (they clearly regard it as an acceptable risk)?

  18. #18 Graham
    February 27, 2008

    It’s worse than that, AR idiots believe that the death of a ‘vivisectionist’ is fully justified if just one fluffy bunny is saved…

    In my opinion there is no difference between Ingrid Newkirk and Bin Laden. Both sit in relative comfort safe from the consequences of what they advocate because they have never given direct instructions to their followers, only carefully worded hints.

    This didn’t work for Henry II when he asked for ‘Someone to deal with that turbulent priest’ and it should not be allowed to work with the leadership of the AR movement…

    When/if someone is killed by the AR movement, it is so much the act that will anger me but rather the congratulatory filth that will spew from people like Dr Vlasak.

  19. #19 GAry Ansorge
    February 27, 2008

    Two other possibilities to consider:
    1) In my Grandmothers’ day, we loaded our shotguns with rock salt. Rarely lethal, but it stings a LOT:
    2) These animal rights activists could well trigger furthur whackos to shoot random animals in protest of the protestors, ie, one researcher impacted, two stray dogs shot,,,violence always escalates,,,

    GAry 7

  20. #20 Dave Briggs
    February 27, 2008

    Stop calling them protesters. Call them what they truly are: criminals and terrorists.

    Posted by: JMK | February 26, 2008 1:56 PM

    Sad to say, I agree, when they cross the line they change their titles!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  21. #21 UK skeptic
    February 27, 2008

    I just can’t work out how Vlasak can reconcile being a trauma surgeon with the animal rights nuttery. How does he think surgical and medical techniques are / were worked out?

    Given some of Vlasak’s reported statements about it being morally justified to kill vivisectors, I’m frankly amazed he still has a medical licence.

    Incidentally, Vlasak and his wife are barred from entering the UK. While all countries have their resident home-grown crazies, most seem more forthright about not admitting other countries’ ones as well.

  22. #22 trollanon
    February 27, 2008

    Dave Briggs: For AR nutjobs to be “terrorists” it is not necessary that they themselves break into a house or even shoot a researcher. It is only necessary that they engage in acts designed to terrorize their opposition into seeing things their way. Ringach was “persuaded” to stop doing animal research without a house break in or being shot at AFAIK. Those who contributed to his state of fear for the wellbeing of his family are terrorists whether they ran around dressed up in black balaclavas or not.

  23. #23 Graculus
    February 28, 2008

    Two other possibilities to consider:

    You forgot my favourite option for “home defense”: A Schutzhund trained Rottweiler. Nothing like the thought of having 140 lbs of predator clamped to your ass to discourage such tresspasses.

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