Respectful Insolence

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I may have joked a bit about certain surgeons whom, because they say such dumb, pseudoscientific things with alarming regularity, I consider embarrassments to the noble profession that is surgery. Usually, it’s been surgeons who reveal an astonishing ignorance of the science of evolution as they parrot long discredited and debunked canards about evolution while spouting creationist nonsense. You know about whom I speak: surgeons like neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Egnor and general surgeon Dr. Henry Jordan. But, as mind-numbingly dumb as some of the things that, for example, Dr. Egnor has said in the name of defending “intelligent design” creationism have been, at least he hasn’t advocated murder.

Animal rights terrorism apologist Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon in the L.A. area, has before on multiple occasions, and he’s done it again:

At the “Confronting Animal Cruelty” conference in the Salt Lake City Library, 2NEWS Brian Mullahy got a chance to speak with Dr. Vlasak about the measures that activists should take.

Mullahy: Is murder on the table as an option?

Vlasak: Whatever it takes to stop someone from abusing animals is certainly morally acceptable.

Vlasak also said:

“Nothing is more violent and radical than what’s being done to non-human animals in our society,” said Vlasak. “If a researcher won’t stop abusing animals and is stopped physically, whether with the use of force, or is killed, I certainly wouldn’t lose sleep over that idea.”

(There’s also video of the interview with this nutcase at the same link.)

If any surgeon is an embarrassment to the profession, it’s Dr. Vlasak. The above statement is entirely consistent with Dr. Vlasak’s other greatest hits. He’s even said similar things on television and testifying in front of Congress.


Of course, Vlasak talks a big game about murdering animal rights researchers, but when it comes right down to it he won’t get down and dirty with other animal rights terrorists and actually do the dirty work that he advocates. Oh, no, he’s too good and pure for such thuggery. What he does do, however, is to give inflammatory talks full of such apocalyptic imagery and thereby inspire young and impressionable activists with a lot of zealotry but not much in the way of rational thought to do what he advocates. Meanwhile, he stays safe behind a wall of plausible deniability as the “spokesperson” for the Animal Liberation Front, piously being a holy warrior for his cause, as Brian O’Connor pointed out over similar rhetoric by Vlasak a few years ago:

Now, keep in mind that the good Dr. didn’t actually call for the killing of scientists … he just planted an idea, proposed an hypothesis … Should some anonymous useful idiot, entirely unknown to him, test Dr. Vlasak’s hypothesis and cap a few scientists, it certainly wouldn’t be Dr. Vlasak’s fault! And should such a thing happen, I’m sure Dr. Vlasak would be amongst the first to proclaim strongly that he didn’t condone the action, however much he might understand the motives that led to it, and value any chilling effect the killings might have on the activities of scientists.

Exactly.

Rational people may think that Dr. Vlasak is being intentionally over-the-top just for effect or to make a point. That’s mainly because they’re rational people and can’t wrap their minds around openly advocating the murder of scientists or other statements by Dr. Vlasak, such as his statement that “five lives, ten lives, fifteen human lives, we could save a million, two million, ten million non-human lives.” Dr. Vlasak isn’t rational on this score, which is why good and rational people recoil and conclude that he’s exaggerating. After all, he can’t really be serious, can he? they ask. What they forget is that Dr. Vlasak is a fanatic. Personally, I really do believe that Dr. Vlasak means exactly what he says. Once again, though, I emphasize that he himself won’t do any murder, though; he’s way too important to do anything other than give speeches and act as a spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front. It just wouldn’t do for him to risk going to jail. Let some expendable dull-witted cannon fodder do it instead! Dr. Vlasak will then praise him as a martyr while decrying the “horrors” that drove him to it.

If there’s one damning thing about animal rights groups who claim to be nonviolent, who claim to be shocked–shocked, I say!–over incidents of vandalism, attempted firebombing, and home invasions of scientists’ homes, and who piously claim that they abhor such activities, that shows all such self-righteously deceptive nonsense to be, in fact, nothing more than self-serving nonsense, it’s that they keep inviting Dr. Jerry Vlasak agains and again to give talks and be on discussion panels at their meetings. That’s what they’ve done at the Confronting Animal Cruelty conference in Salt Lake City while, as animal rights groups have done time and time again, claiming with a straight face that they “don’t endorse the opinion of Dr. Vlasak.” Why, then, do they not only invite Dr. Vlasak, but go further than that and whitewash his record? Here is, for instance, the description of Dr. Vlasak for the SLC conference:

Jerry Vlasak, MD is a board-certified surgeon specializing in trauma and critical care. He is a former vivisector who has seen the agony of animals in laboratories. He debates the scientific invalidity of animal experimentation around the world, speaks out about the benefits of a vegan diet and offers lectures on the right of all sentient beings to live free of pain and suffering. His essays and interviews have been published in numerous journals and magazines and he has been interviewed on radio, TV and in print by journalists worldwide regarding animal rights. He resides in Los Angeles.

Nope. Nothing there about Vlasak’s ties with animal rights terrorists or his open advocacy of murder and violence in the name of the cause. They even invited him for a panel discussion on tactics, a “Direct Action Debate,” if you will:

This controversial panel will discuss the strategic and moral implications of breaking the law to achieve social change. Given the sheer numbers of animals abused every year; what price animal liberation? Civil disobedience? Vandalism? Arson? Political violence? The people represented on this panel have extremely differing views on the subject and a lively debate is likely to ensue.

No doubt. That’s about as close the group comes to admitting that Vlasak is about as extreme as it gets, short of actually doing the murder himself. I wonder if anyone on the panel told Vlasak he was a thug and a fanatic for advocating murder. Somehow I doubt it, although I would have loved to have seen it. No, supposedly “respectable” animal rights movement groups and members find Vlasak useful, and I’m guessing that a significant minority agree with him.

Of course, animal rights groups wonder why they aren’t taken seriously when they proclaim that they do not support violence in the name of their cause. Their continued silence about Dr. Vlasak and, even worse, their continuing to invite him to speak at various conferences that they hold, is but one glaring reason why I don’t believe them when they claim that they disavow violence.

Comments

  1. #1 BB
    April 30, 2008

    I’ve been trying to get Vlasak’s medical license revoked on the grounds that being a trauma surgeon advocating violence constitutes a conflict of interest. Anyone else who wants to help in a letter writing or e-mail campaign can contact these folks:
    http://www.medbd.ca.gov/
    Dr. David Thornton is the Executive Director in charge of the appropriate division. I think his e-mail address is dthornton@mbc.ca.gov.

  2. #2 Marcus Ranum
    April 30, 2008

    he’s too important to get his hands dirty

    Same excuse Bin Laden used while he was holing up letting someone else take his heat. I’m not saying right or wrong but – take your own heat.

  3. #3 Sastra
    April 30, 2008

    I think it’s ironic that both animal rights fanatics and pro-life fanatics come from opposite ends of the spectrum, but end up using the same sorts of justifications for the same sorts of reasons. Neither side is able to accept nuances, shades of gray, ambiguous classifications, or moral uncertainty.

    Animals are JUST THE SAME as people. Fetuses are JUST THE SAME as babies. On the one side, all life is sacred, and the same (no special place for humans.) And, on the other side, a special place for humans — and so all human life is sacred, and the same. No degrees, no distinctions, no leeway for legitimate differences of opinion. Case closed, on both sides.

    Thus, experimenting with animals or performing abortions is JUST LIKE what the Nazis did — and each group sees themselves as fighting against terrorism, instead of perpetrating it.

    I think both are examples of what Dawkins has called “the discontinuous mind,” in action.

  4. #4 Cleveland
    April 30, 2008

    It was all over-the-top rhetoric about abortion doctors too, wasn’t it? Right up until some unhinged nutjob shot a doctor in his home, that is. At which point there was a backlash. Can we hope it will not take a researcher actually being killed to turn the tide on the extremists?

    WtF is “political violence” if not “assassination” anyway? Are you telling me that it is actually okay to have a conference on assassination and terrorism in this day and age? And people say our Constitutional rights have been eroded over the past few years….

  5. #5 Lucario
    April 30, 2008

    All I have to say to Mr. Vlasak is the same thing I like to say to others who advocates the death of a bunch of innocent people for a cause:

    You first.

  6. #6 Jon H
    May 1, 2008

    So does Vlasak refuse to use any techniques or devices which were developed using animal testing?

  7. #7 autism question
    May 1, 2008

    I wonder what Dr. Kenneth P. Stoller thinks about this. Dr. Stoller is an animal rights extremist. He’s the one who recently recommended that people treat their kids with Boyd Haley’s chelator supposedly about to be released for use on cats.

  8. #8 Colugo
    May 1, 2008

    Sastra: “Dawkins has called “the discontinuous mind,””

    On the other hand, Dawkins’ thinking is so continuum-based (namely, the human-ape-other animals continuum) that he is a supporter of the Great Ape Project, which seeks to grant human rights to great apes, and is ambivalent about animal research. Within the community of biologists he is one of the highest-profile sympathizers of animal rights (if not whole hog, and he certainly would never condone Vlasak) that come to my mind, besides Jane Goodall.

  9. #9 beebee
    May 1, 2008

    Apparently Vlasak was banned from entering the Uk in 2004 because of such statements. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/aug/26/animalwelfare.immigrationpolicy

    I think that is right just as for preachers and mullahs who agree with violence

  10. #10 Orac
    May 1, 2008

    I’ve been trying to get Vlasak’s medical license revoked on the grounds that being a trauma surgeon advocating violence constitutes a conflict of interest. Anyone else who wants to help in a letter writing or e-mail campaign can contact these folks:

    Although I’m sympathetic with your aims, unless he does something egregiously wrong in how he treats his human patients, nothing’s going to happen.

  11. #11 Crosius
    May 1, 2008

    Do these people ever attempt to explain how killing a human to save many animals (What they advocate) is justified, but killing an animal to save many humans is a “horrible crime” for which the humans doing the killing deserve death?

    It seems to me they accept the one-to-many ratio when it works in their favour, but then turn around and use it as an example of the barbarity of their opponents.

    Fanaticism always seems to go hand-in-hand with inconsistency.

  12. #12 chris y
    May 1, 2008

    If all animals, including H. sap., have the same rights and duty not to harm each other, and if it is right to kill those who harm members of other species, then logically it is incumbent on us to exterminate all wild predators.

    Get out there with your hunting rifle, Dr Vlasak. There are bears actally killing and eating deer while you read this.

  13. #13 Dianne
    May 1, 2008

    WtF is “political violence” if not “assassination” anyway?

    Terrorism. Trying to change people’s political views with violence is terrorism.

  14. #14 LC
    May 1, 2008

    @Crosius

    Actually if he wasn’t a complete hypocrite, he would commit suicide and solve everyone’s problems. After all every day his immune system kills billions of innocent bacteria (which using his his own screwed up rhetoric makes him worse than Hitler who only killed a few million).

    But I guess he only goes for the fluffy & cuddly animals and not the ‘unmarketable’ ones – like tapeworms, syphilis, malaria mosquitoes, etc.

  15. #15 Ed Yong
    May 1, 2008

    It’s always depressing when one of the Onion’s headlines edges closer to reality: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39180

  16. #16 Dianne
    May 1, 2008

    After all every day his immune system kills billions of innocent bacteria

    Technically, bacteria aren’t animals, so he’s ok there. He probably eats plants too. Although I’d be very surprised if he didn’t swat mosquitoes and step on cockroaches that got in his way.

  17. #17 JustaTech
    May 1, 2008

    It’s never enough, is it? It’s not enough that I offer up years of my life, am thousands of dollars in debt, make half the salary of my non-scientist age cohort, and possibly have sacrificed social interactions in order to save lives. No, it’s never enough for these wackos. I might be trying to save them from HIV, but they would kill me for it.

    And the worst part? I’ll keep doing it. And if someone does develop a vaccine, I would gladly give it to these ALF terrorists. Because that’s the right thing to do. They don’t agree, and I’m sure they would never lift a finger to help me, but I will defy their threats to help them.

    Parasites.

  18. #18 Leigh
    May 1, 2008

    Hey, there’s a handy mugshot list of fellow travelers who are happy to share a platform with an advocate of terrorism.
    http://www.confrontingcruelty.com/speakers.php

  19. #19 Chris Krolczyk
    May 1, 2008

    JustaTech:

    It’s never enough, is it? It’s not enough that I offer up years of my life, am thousands of dollars in debt, make half the salary of my non-scientist age cohort, and possibly have sacrificed social interactions in order to save lives. No, it’s never enough for these wackos. I might be trying to save them from HIV, but they would kill me for it.

    Problem is, you did say “wackos”, and therein lies the problem.

    Just so you know, I’m pretty sure that there’s a fundamentalist Christian equivalent that would want you dead for curing “God’s punishment for the Sodomites” just as much as the animal rights woo brigade wants you dead for other reasons. Unfettered irrationality in the name of a loon cause is funny that way, isn’t it?

  20. #20 Chris Krolczyk
    May 1, 2008

    LC:

    Actually if he wasn’t a complete hypocrite, he would commit suicide and solve everyone’s problems. After all every day his immune system kills billions of innocent bacteria (which using his his own screwed up rhetoric makes him worse than Hitler who only killed a few million).

    Funny how it all comes back to science fiction.

    IIRC, Paul Di Filippo’s collection Ribofunk posited a cult that incubated nearly extinct viruses and bacteria in their own bodies to keep them alive. So, hey, if Vlasak is willing and eager to put his cherished beliefs concerning non-human species to work…well, you get the drift.

  21. #21 Paul
    May 2, 2008

    If you want to do something to combat the kind of extremism that Dr. Vlasak represents take a look at the new Speaking of Research campaign at http://www.speakingofresearch.org/

    If you like the idea you should get in touch and invite Tom Holder to speak at your department or college. You may even be able to help the campaign yourself.

    It’s time to confront the lies, distortions and half-truths that people like Vlasak use to justify their campaigns of violence and terror, and to show that such campaigns will not silence the scientific community.

  22. #22 Dr Aust
    May 3, 2008

    “Although I’m sympathetic with your aims [of getting Vlasak’s medical licence revoked], unless he does something egregiously wrong in how he treats his human patients, nothing’s going to happen.”

    Has anyone ever asked Dr Jerry what he would do if a vivisecting scientist fetched up on his operating table after some animal rights crazy car-bombed them and blew their leg off?

    Would be interested to hear his answer.

  23. #23 Skwee
    May 3, 2008

    Sastra:

    There’s this excellent post from Pandagon on the subject:

    http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2007/01/27/is-peta-the-same-group-as-operation-rescue/

  24. #24 Scott S.
    May 3, 2008

    I can’t tell you how many ‘studies’ are conducted that involve killing animals for totally inane and useless purposes. Animal testing to a limited degree I suppose is necessary, but it’s a Faustian bargain and I do love the vivisectionists getting their panties all in a knot over people who oppose casual murder.

    I’ll bet at least 1/3 of medical studies that involve killing animals are useless, pointless, and border on animal abuse. (Let’s face it, 1/3 of all medical ‘studies’ are pathetic and restate the obvious, so I’m totally on firm ground.)

    And no, I don’t think there’s a big difference in pro-life (which I am) and anti-animal testing (which I sympathize with). Both groups value life.

    The casualness that ‘scientists’ take life is breathtaking in its heartlessness.

    I do love to see all of you squirm like a worm on a hook, to be honest.

  25. #25 Natalie
    May 4, 2008

    So why not work to end these studies you think are inane and pointless? Why advocate for the end to all use of animals in scientific research? Why advocate, as most extreme animal rights advocates do, for the end of all animal based foods and keeping animals as pets?

    You are claiming, essentially, that the problem with animal testing is not it’s inherent morality, but rather that some people are using it the wrong way. If that’s the case, put your money where your mouth is.

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