Respectful Insolence

It’s happened again, only this time it’s escalated. Sadly, this escalation was predictable.

Remember back in February, when I discussed how animal rights terrorists had been harassing a researcher at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC)? At the time, protesters attempted a home invasion of a researcher, leading to a police response where a home was searched by the police. This time around, however, these thugs have turned violent:

SANTA CRUZ — The FBI today is expected to take over the investigation of the Saturday morning firebombings of a car and of a Westside home belonging to two UC Santa Cruz biomedical researchers who conduct experiments on animals.

Santa Cruz police officials said Sunday the case will be handed to the FBI to investigate as domestic terrorism while local authorities explore additional security measures for the 13 UCSC researchers listed in a threatening animal-rights pamphlet found in a downtown coffee shop last week.

“The FBI has additional resources and intelligence into groups and individuals that might have the proclivity to carry out this kind of activity,” police Capt. Steve Clark said. “The FBI has a whole other toolbox of tools for this kind of investigation.”
The front porch of a faculty member’s home on Village Circle off High Street was hit with a firebomb about 5:40 a.m. Saturday, police said. The bomb ignited the front door of the home and filled the house with smoke, police said. About the same time, a Volvo station wagon parked in a faculty member’s on-campus driveway on Dickens Way was destroyed by a firebomb, police said.

Clark described the bombs as devices, which he said investigators have seen used by animals rights activists in the past, as “Molotov cocktail on steroids.”

Here’s more:

Sophie Salama, who answered the phone at Professor David Feldheim’s home Saturday and said she lived there, declined to describe what police said was a harrowing pre-sunrise scramble down a fire escape ladder with two young children. Feldheim’s name and address had appeared on the flier.

Once more, cowardly animal rights thugs, unable to persuade using ideas, resort to violence. That no one was seriously injured or died is incredibly fortunate. Naturally, this was the culmination of a campaign of intimidation:

This appears to be the latest in a string of incidents targeting UCSC researchers and others in Santa Cruz.

Fliers identifying 13 UCSC scientists, some of whom use mice, fruit flies and other nonprimate creatures in their research, were discovered at a downtown coffee shop Tuesday. The fliers say, “Animal abusers everywhere beware; we know where you live; we know where you work; we will never back down until you end your abuse.” The names, home addresses, home phone numbers and photos of researchers were published on the fliers.

Drosophila? How messed up do you have to be to threaten violence over Drosophila experiments? They’re fruit flies!

Right on cue, as he almost always does, that disgrace to surgeons everywhere, that lying scum of a spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front whom I like to call “Sgt. Schulz” for his amazing ability always to be around or associated with acts animal rights violence but who always claims that “I know nuttink; I see nuttink” when asked if he knows who did it, that man who induces in me a strong urge to vomit every time I see or hear him, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, popped up to spew his venomous hate:

While a spokesman said he didn’t know who committed the act, the Woodland Hills-based Animal Liberation Front called the attacks a “necessary” act, just like those who fought against civil rights injustices. Spokesman Dr. Jerry Vlasak showed no remorse for the family or children who were targeted.

“If their father is willing to continue risking his livelihood in order to continue chopping up animals in a laboratory than his children are old enough to recognize the consequences,” said Vlasak, a former animal researcher who is now a trauma surgeon. “This guy knows what he is doing. He knows that every day that he goes into the laboratory and hurts animals that it is unreasonable not to expect consequences.”

Isn’t he nice? He doesn’t care about anything other than his cause, and if a researcher’s children happen to die in one of his buddies’ attacks, well, to him it’s regrettable but all just collateral damage. Anything for the cause. Indeed, here’s an old quote from him:

I think there is a use for violence in our movement. And I think it can be an effective strategy. Not only is it morally acceptable, I think that there are places where it could be used quite effectively from a pragmatic standpoint.

For instance, if vivisectors were routinely being killed, I think it would give other vivisectors pause in what they were doing in their work – and if these vivisectors were being targeted for assassination, and call it political assassination or what have you, I think if — and I wouldn’t pick some guy way down the totem pole, but if there were prominent vivisectors being assassinated, I think that there would be a trickle-down effect and many, many people who are lower on that totem pole would say, “I’m not going to get into this business because it’s a very dangerous business and there’s other things I can do with my life that don’t involve getting into a dangerous business.” And I think that the — strictly from a fear and intimidation factor, that would be an effective tactic.

And I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many vivisectors before you would see a marked decrease in the amount of vivisection going on. And I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human animals.

And I — you know – people get all excited about, “Oh what’s going to happen when – the ALF accidentally kills somebody in an arson?” Well, you know I mean — I think we need to get used to this idea. It’s going to happen, okay? It’s going to happen.

Early Saturday morning at UCSC, it almost did, and Vlasak (I refuse to call him “Dr.” anymore; he long ago proved himself unworthy of the title) applauded this attempted murder of a researcher and his family in a statement issued by the ALF:

Animal Liberation Press Officer Jerry Vlasak, MD states: “UC Santa Cruz may consider themselves an institution of higher education, but they are also an institution of animal torture and killing. Their research is a colossal waste of taxpayer money, and is considered unethical and fraudulent by most physicians interested in research that might help their patients. These animals are terrified and abused beyond belief in these experiments, and this continued depravity by cruel wanna-be scientists simply cannot be justified any longer in a civilized society. This is historically what happens whenever revolutionaries begin to take the oppression and suffering of their fellow beings seriously, whether human or non human. It’s regrettable that certain scientists are willing to put their families at risk by choosing to do wasteful animal experiments in this day and age.”

No, it’s “regrettable” that Vlasak’s friends are violent, immoral, and stupid scum and that he’s a mouthpiece for terrorists.

Also, comparing animal rights terrorists with civil rights advocates in the 1950s and 1960s is an insult to the memory of those nonviolent protesters who, sometimes at great personal risk, spoke out against injustice. Vlasak’s cowardly little band of animal rights terrorists are far more akin to the Ku Klux Klan and white power rangers who used violence to try to stop the civil rights marchers. They’re far more akin to the criminals who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 and other thugs who tried to stop the civil rights movement through violence and terrorism. They are scum.

Here’s hoping that whoever is responsible for these attacks is found, arrested, and locked up for a long, long time. Even better would be if any concrete link to Vlasak could be found. He’s been clever–very clever–until now, always maintaining a distance from his terrorist buddies, but he’s not perfect. One day he will slip up, and on that day I will be most pleased to see police wipe that self-righteous smirk off of his face by throwing him into maximum security prison with other terrorists.

News stories on the attack:

  1. Police: UCSC researchers targeted in firebombings this morning (Santa Cruz Sentinel)
  2. Firebombs hit home of UC Santa Cruz professor, car of researcher (Contra Costa Times)
  3. Firebombs target UC-Santa Cruz scientists who use animals in research (Mercury News)

The local chapter of ALF gloats while disavowing knowledge:

Home, Auto of UC-Santa Cruz Vivisectors Set Ablaze

Comments

  1. #1 Webkin
    August 4, 2008

    I’ve worked with flies and mice. My colleagues were some of the most conscientious, ethical people I’ve ever met. They bent over backwards to reduce the stress and pain the animals felt.

    I hope these terrorists are dealt with most severely.

    I’ve also wondered when these terrorists will start hitting the food supply.

  2. #2 Kemist
    August 4, 2008

    Many people are pretty ignorant of :

    – Why we *have* to use animal models in medical research

    – The amount of ethical control all researchers using animal models have to conform to.

    I think we could make a huge step by just educating the public about these two points.

    In the meantime, how can we stop using animals for research ?

    Let’s see….How about using animal rights terrorists instead ?

  3. #3 HCN
    August 4, 2008

    Arsonists of this ilk are not usually the sharpest crayons in the box. In our neck of the woods the office of a researcher was fire bombed because they accused him of genetic engineering, when he as actually using plant breeding methods that have been used for centuries:
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw04162006/coverstory.html … “…Professor Toby Bradshaw, used the snakes to explain genetics to biology students, even though his own research involved hybridizing poplar trees. Arsonists had gingerly carted the containers 50 feet from the building, setting them beneath a tree to shelter the reptiles from the blaze — apparently unaware the boxes were empty. The snakes were at home with Bradshaw… Calling the arsonists morons — “and I don’t use the term ‘moron’ lightly” — Friedman argued that the UW fire targeted a scientist whose work was little different from that of the average orchardist. Bradshaw “unleashes no more mutant genes than Mother Nature herself” (without mutation, we’d all be blue green algae now) and uses “the same process humans have used in agriculture for thousands of years.””

  4. #4 Dr. Pablito
    August 4, 2008

    We scientists and concerned academics need to demand a vigorous public relations response from UC Santa Cruz and the other institutions affected by this kind of garbage. This strikes at the core of free inquiry, which is worth defending. While the University may be too cynical to defend something that abstract, they ought to be willing to defend their bottom line — animal based research brings in the grant dollars. So far, I’m sickened by the tepid bleatings from the UC system on this.

  5. #5 Matt Penfold
    August 4, 2008

    Dr Pablito,

    You could take a look at Pro-Test’s webite. Pro-Test is a UK based group that speaks out in favour of animal testing (subject to suitable regulations and safeguards). It has done pretty well at getting media attention.

    http://www.pro-test.org.uk/

    I am pretty sure they will happily advise anyone in the US who wants to start something similar.

  6. #6 Paul Browne
    August 4, 2008

    Dr. Pablito, I agree with what you’re saying but you’re kidding yourself if you think that a vigorous public relations response by the University will be enough to stop this. In the UK this kind of campaign was a real problem a few years ago but things have been turned around in the past couple of years. What accomplished this change? Well it was partly tough and effective action by the police and courts but also the grassroots campaigning of Pro-Test http://www.pro-test.org.uk/ in response to arson attacks and threats in Oxford.

    When Pro-Test was founded by a group of Oxford Students and a few Oxford scientists the officials at the University of Oxford did nothing to support it, and even advised the scientists and students involved to stop. Luckily they didn’t stop and in February 2006 almost a thousand people marched in support of animal research in Oxford, sending a message of hope and defiance that the news media spread. It changed the mood and sent the message to the ALF that they could not bomb their way to victory.

    You can do the same in the USA by joining groups such as Speaking of Research http://www.speakingofresearch.org/

    Don’t wait around for the government or University authorities to sort the problem out, they can’t do it on their own!

  7. #7 Paul Browne
    August 4, 2008

    Matt Penfold “http://www.pro-test.org.uk/

    I am pretty sure they will happily advise anyone in the US who wants to start something similar. ”

    As I mentioned above there already is, and it’s called Speaking of Research http://www.speakingofresearch.org/

  8. #8 SimonG
    August 4, 2008

    This sort of thing makes me very angry sometimes. It does seem that the best way to tackle it is to demand a proper response from the police at the outset – not waiting for some attrocity – and to mobilise public support; demonstrate that it’s not a popular cause.
    The real arseholes won’t pay attention but it might make the others take pause.

    It also raises an interesting moral question. Is it ever OK to respond with violence? If so, how do you decide which causes justify it? What if there are two mutually incompatible positions? Clearly these “animal rights” thugs think that violence and intimidation are OK, so would they think that other people can/should use such methods in support of their own deeply held views?

  9. #9 D. C. Sessions
    August 4, 2008

    And I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many vivisectors before you would see a marked decrease in the amount of vivisection going on. And I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human animals.

    Hey, if their objective is fruit flies it’ll only take a couple of weeks.

    I do find it interesting, though, that they’re so narrowly focussed on researchers instead of crop dusters, exterminators, etc.

  10. #10 Noadi
    August 4, 2008

    I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to write how I feel about this but it’s just not working. I love animals, I have a chicken in my living room right now recovering from injuries she sustained during a nasty rainstorm last week. These guys lack all sense of perspective and what’s right and wrong. Animals should be treated ethically and with kindness in the lab but animal testing is something that is necessary and we don’t have a reasonable alternative.

  11. #11 Dr. Pablito
    August 4, 2008

    I’m under no illusion that a PR campaign will stop the scumbags who are clearly beyond discourse. What it will do is convince the fence-sitters or less than fully-informed lay public that the animal rights nutjobs don’t have any institutional support. Thank you for the links to Speaking of Research — that looks useful. What I want is for LOUD TALKING from the administration. The UC system put out a nice, calm press release a while back which used the right verbiage. But who reads press releases? I want some PR flacks who ordinarily spend time boosting things like alumni fundraising drives or sporting events. I want to rent a blimp with big flashing letters.

    FIREBOMBING SCIENTISTS SUX!

  12. #12 D. C. Sessions
    August 4, 2008

    How long will it be before the anti-vaccine nutcases get together with these people to protect endangered pathogens? How about a “rescue operation” to liberate varicalla from the lab where it’s being kept against all standards of decent treatment?

    It seems like they are made for each other.

  13. #13 Catherina
    August 4, 2008
  14. #14 Mr Ed
    August 4, 2008

    Don’t lump us in with these loons. These people criticize jockeys for whipping a horse.

  15. #15 Samia
    August 4, 2008

    Fear of being associated with these idiots is why I hesitate to tell people I am interested in animal rights/welfare issues…I hope these criminals are caught and punished. Disgusting.

  16. #16 viggen
    August 4, 2008

    The fellow whose house was firebombed is my boss’s brother. My boss is also faculty, but in Colorado, and we have actively collaborated with his brother. I’ve not seen my boss today, but I have no doubt that this has hit him very hard and I think I can guess why he hasn’t come in to the lab. They are a pretty close-knit family and I hope everyone is doing all right.

    I have less respect for this “Animal Rights” nonsense now than I did before. How do you handle people who think like this? In their manner of thinking, their way is the only correct way, without compromise. And, they are plainly willing to kill to get their way, regardless of whether they are actually right or wrong in their thinking. Should a person who can conceive of this sort of act retain any civil rights at all if they only ever plan to use those civil rights to abuse the rights of other people?

  17. #17 Prometheus
    August 4, 2008

    Let me see if I’ve got this right. There are people willing to kill other people (children included) over the deaths of monkeys, mice and even fruit flies? And they consider themselves the equivalent of the Civil Rights protesters of the 1960’s? I don’t think so.

    I was there during the 1960’s Civil Rights protests and these lunatics are nothing like the people who marched in the streets and actually got things changed. If anything, they are more like the drugged-out, misguided, angst-driven “Symbionese Liberation Army”, the “F-Troop” of domestic terrorists, who accomplished nothing but killing a few innocent people.

    In fact, their mindless addiction to violent rhetoric marks them as being more akin to Theodore Kazinski than Martin Luther King. These folks will continue to externalize their psychological “issues” through violence until they are caught and put in prison.

    I see little reason to try and establish a “dialogue” with them (as UCSC is likely to try), since they have shown that they are not interested in the facts. In that respect, they are also no different from any other neo-Luddite group that has emerged in the past 200 years. They fear that which they cannot understand and try to rationalize their fear by protesting “animal rights” or “ecology” or “genetic engineering”.

    I agree that we, as scientists, much engage the public and educate them about what is at stake if the “animal rights” terrorists succeed. I also think that aggressive criminal prosecution of the perpetrators – and their financial base – is essential to preventing further attacks and loss of life.

    Prometheus

  18. #18 Alex Besogonov
    August 4, 2008

    A good suggestion: maybe we should use animal rights terrorists as research subjects?

    After all, that way less animals will be harmed.

  19. #19 Catherina
    August 4, 2008

    not a good suggestion Alex (and anyone else). Human rights are unalienable, no matter how far removed from sense and reality someone acts.

    I do wonder though, why these activists do not volunteer for drug tests.

    I also wonder how they live with the knowledge that they have killed countless “brothers ant” and “sisters cricket” in their fire bomb attack.

  20. #20 viggen
    August 4, 2008

    Human rights are unalienable, no matter how far removed from sense and reality someone acts.

    At this moment, I’m not so certain I agree with that statement. I think human rights are earned by how you treat other humans and I think they are discarded the instant you treat someone else as less than human. Civil rights: rights of the people who compose a civil structure necessary to make that civil structure operate… in order for those rights to have any meaningful impact on the structure of civilization, they must be given to people by people to whom they have been given. If this is not the case, then the victim of a criminal act has fewer rights than the criminal does.

  21. #21 Catherina
    August 4, 2008

    a dangerous path, Viggen and no, human rights are yours and theirs because we are human. To ever assume that they could be seperated from the human lays the path to Holocaust and the above bombing. See, the above terrorist would also argue that the researchers have forfeited their human rights because of their acts. You cannot argue with that, unless any human under all circumstances has their human rights. It is essential for the prevention of crimes against humans and humanity that human rights do not have to be earned and they can never be lost, completely independently of how that human behaves. Yes, that means that the victim may have been treated worse than the criminal will be treated, but that is what seperates us from them.

  22. #22 D. C. Sessions
    August 4, 2008

    I do wonder though, why these activists do not volunteer for drug tests.

    Well, the Boyd Haley fan club is volunteering their children for uncontrolled experimental evaluation his latest concoction. That’s saving a lot of animals (he told the FDA that there had been no animal trials.)

  23. #23 andythebrit
    August 4, 2008

    I agree that scientists and the universities need to come out and be more outspoken in advocating for their research. Trouble is, the instinct of most researchers is to put their heads down and not speak up, and it can be hard to coax them out of that crouch. Speaking of Research is a very interesting development.

    I think though that Pablito is being a bit harsh on the UC’s response…see Chancellor Blumenthal’s statement here. < http://www.ucsc.edu/news_events/messages/text.asp?pid=2348>

  24. #24 Ace of Sevens
    August 4, 2008

    I think he fancies himself more a John Brown than a Martin Luther Ling Jr.

  25. #25 DLC
    August 4, 2008

    Even animal rights whackos have the right not to be used as experimental subjects against their will. However, they do not have the right to commit crimes in the name of their ideology.
    That their ideology is completely insane only makes their crimes more heinous. As far as I know,no scientist in the United States does research using animals just because they think it’s fun to do so — they use animals only when necessary, and have to get past an ethics screening first.

  26. #26 Leni
    August 4, 2008

    Dr. Pablito wrote:

    What I want is for LOUD TALKING from the administration. The UC system put out a nice, calm press release a while back which used the right verbiage. But who reads press releases? I want some PR flacks who ordinarily spend time boosting things like alumni fundraising drives or sporting events. I want to rent a blimp with big flashing letters.

    I really agree with this. I work for a large contract lab that does toxicology testing, and we sometimes have problems with PETA or other groups. Occasionally someone working for one of the local papers will decide it’s time to do a story on it.

    The last time this occurred they actually gave the writer a tour of the animal facilities- a move which, given the current climate, was really surprising to a lot of people, including myself. Hell, I work there and I can’t even go in! Ultimately, it was the right choice. Transparency is the best weapon we have. That and maybe mentioning antibiotics :)

    Aside from a larger PR effort, I’ve make personal efforts to be an “ambassador”. Not because I’m a corporate whore, it just comes up a lot. I hang around in very liberal circles, once people find out where I work the issue will come up. I don’t get defensive. I acknowledge that it’s upsetting and I tell them that the people who work with the animals are like everyone else. They have pets, some of which are the the same species used in the lab. Nobody likes it, and nobody likes hurting animals.

    I also tell them how tightly regulated we are, how there are cameras everywhere and even yelling at animal will result in immediate termination. And that thankfully this isn’t like the old days. Dogs, for example, do have toys, beds, clean kennels and play time with other dogs. People seem surprised by that- they have it in their heads that we spend our days abusing starving puppies or something. We are the only ones who can change that public image, and if we don’t acknowledge the public fear surrounding animal testing that won’t happen. Frankly, I’m glad people even care. Most people are willing to pop their aspirin, Viagara, and cholesterol medication without a second thought to the animals who unwillingly gave their lives to make it possible. We shouldn’t try to minimize that out of fear of public backlash! We should use it to improve quality of life for people and animals.

    And if I need to pull out the big guns, I’ll mention that they should think about that when they are slathering sunblock all over their children, or when their mother or father is in the hospital with terminal cancer, or when they thoughtlessly buy toxic chemicals and douse their homes in them for the illusion of freshness: these things don’t come without a price. And they don’t happen just so Madonna can have another Botox injection.

    Beyond all that, animal welfare advocates (which I would hope would be all of us, at least in sentiment) could be our best allies. They could help the animals by helping research facilities improve quality of life for the animals (watchdog groups can be very effective!), and they could help researchers improve their public image. We could also work together to shore up support for the development of other testing methods, set industry wide standards and limit imports from countries that don’t meet those standards.

    However the single-minded thugs mentioned above don’t count. They can all rot in Gitmo for all I care. But they are essentially setting the terms of the public debate and that is just not acceptable.

    That said, I think the reason theses thugs go after research facilities is because they are weaker targets than companies like the I work for. If the public can’t tie the research to a practical gain, and they think it’s all Harry Harlow academic hogwash, it’s going to be harder for researchers to present their case.

    They should be reaching out to corporate facilities, local journalists, humane societies, and the broader local communities that support them. Preferably in specific, transparent ways. I worry that the use of PR firms would just cloud the issue further by making it seem as if we needed to “spin it”.

    Wow- that was way longer than I intended. I don’t mean to lecture. The sick fucks who attack the homes of researchers are wholly indefensible and will not respond to rational discourse. But there is so much more we could and should be doing. We could at least use this as inspiration for a more proactive, “humane” approach to the public discourse on animal testing.

  27. #27 NJ
    August 4, 2008

    Catherina commented:

    Human rights are unalienable, no matter how far removed from sense and reality someone acts.

    Not in all circumstances, any more than freedom of speech allows you to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.

    Given the firearms laws in this country, it would appear inevitable that acts of terrorism like this will lead to the homeowner reaching out and ‘double-tapping’ one or more of the participants.

    And there will be no question about the shooting being considered justifiable. The animal rights protesters right to live will be ‘alienated’ by the current, dominant interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

  28. #28 Phoenix Woman
    August 4, 2008

    NJ, the problem is that they WANT to have a couple of martyrs for the cause. Great for getting sympathy — and ironically, for recruitment.

  29. #29 Phoenix Woman
    August 4, 2008

    I don’t think any PETA person has done as much for overall animal welfare as has Dr. Temple Grandin. She would never do something so cruel as to set white lab mice “free” to starve or be messily killed by raptors.

    Dr. Grandin’s insights, ironically enough, are closer to those of the indigenous peoples many anti-testing folk revere for their “natural” lifestyle, in that while we eat animals and other animals eventually eat us, we have a duty not to take more than we need, and a duty to avoid cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.

  30. #30 Blair
    August 4, 2008

    I do not understand why Mr. Vlasak can speak for such a group and not suffer serious societal consequences. Even if he can’t be arrested, he should be renounced within his home community and made a social leper. People should be outside his practice letting his patients know what kind of person he is. Frankly he shouldn’t be allowed to walk down a public street without everyone around him pointing towards him and yelling “shame”.

    In some societies his ilk would be tarred and feathered (if not worse) and run out of town on a rail.

  31. #31 Heraclides
    August 5, 2008

    I’m under the impression that some of these ALF-style groups are little more that the sort of thugs that start riots at football (aka soccer for many of) matches: literally just violent thugs who have found a way to “get off” on their favourite “pastime”.

    I can recall a number of incidents in the UK. In one, the local anti-right lot firebombed a store with coats in (they claimed they have fur in them). “Of course” they didn’t bother figure out that the floor above were student flats… Fortunately the first didn’t spread upstairs, but it illustrates the moronic actions these people take.

  32. #32 Hercalides
    August 5, 2008

    Excuse my not proof-reading first. Distracted by an upsetting local event.

  33. #33 Hercalides
    August 5, 2008

    Excuse my not proof-reading first. Distracted by an upsetting local event (not related to this thread!)

  34. #34 Paul Murray
    August 5, 2008

    “The sick fucks who attack the homes of researchers”

    They are not sick. They are lawless.

    There is a class of people, for instance, who want money and who resent that they can’t just – you know – *have* the money. So they use direct physical means – sometimes even violence against persons – to get it. We call these people “thieves”.

    Much the same thing. These people simply don’t get that the way you accomplish these sort of goals in civilised society is by means of changing the laws, and if you can’t get the laws your own personal little heart desires want, then tough.

  35. #35 yoyo
    August 5, 2008

    well done leni, good resonse and thanks for your efforts. I try and argue the cause but since I dont work in this area I dont have the authority.

  36. #36 Anonymous
    August 5, 2008

    About 20 years ago I was involved in some animal rights activities in the UK. Nothing like this, hurting people would have been anathema to the people I was involved with; pretty much all I ever did was hunt sabotage. In those days I would have unthinkingly condemned any kind of animal research.

    And you know what? This sort of action against people is exactly what drove me (and a lot of my friends from that time) away from the animal rights movement in disgust. To value animal life above human life is just insane. I now recognise the value of animal research.

  37. #37 BB
    August 5, 2008

    Good for you, Anonymous.
    But when major players like Vlasak of ALF applaud and support terrorism, more come out of their hiddey-holes to join.
    I’ll take a page from Alasdair Moody: Eternal vigilance.

  38. #38 Kemist
    August 5, 2008

    Phoenix Woman said: ‘I don’t think any PETA person has done as much for overall animal welfare as has Dr. Temple Grandin. She would never do something so cruel as to set white lab mice “free” to starve or be messily killed by raptors.’

    Even more ironic, consider the fact that many many basic science labs work with genetically-engineered knock-out animal models, or like us, immune-deficient animals (for tumor xenografts). Those animals are bred for lab use and most are totally unable to survive outside the lab, even if you keep them in your confortable home without predators. What good do you accomplish by ‘freeing’ them ?

    Anyway, any scientist who has done serious in-vivo work knows that you gain nothing but trouble by mistreating/overstressing your subjects. Trouble means animals biting you or your staff, dying or developping unrelated complications during protocols, which screws up your data. Knowing the costs of in-vivo studies, I would immediately fire on the spot any animal sadist under my supervision for that reason alone, even if cruelty to animals didn’t disgust me in itself.

  39. #39 Paul Browne
    August 5, 2008

    I’d just like to point out that Jerry Vlasak’s claims to be a practicing surgeon are almost certainly lies. Tom Holder did a little digging and found that the all the hospitals where he claimed to work had either not heard of him or said that he was no longer working there http://speakingofresearch.com/2008/05/06/vlasak-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/

  40. #40 Natalie
    August 5, 2008

    Kemist, you raise a good point re: the types of animals researchers use. Animal liberationists have repeatedly shown that they either don’t understand or don’t care about what happens when a bunch of animals are set free. In 1998, a bunch of ALF folks released 6500 minks from fur farms in the UK. Anyone who knows anything about minks won’t be surprised to hear that they ravaged wildlife in Britain, killing domestic and wild animals, including a few members of endangered species. Of course, the stupid people didn’t learn or didn’t care, so they set 8000 minks free a month later, with similar results.

    In Minnesota some years ago, animal rights people set a bunch of lab mice free. Of course, lab mice are terribly inequipped to survive in the wild, and they were all killed by other animals in a short amount of time.

  41. #41 Calli Arcale
    August 5, 2008

    “Isn’t he nice? He doesn’t care about anything other than his cause, and if a researcher’s children happen to die in one of his buddies’ attacks, well, to him it’s regrettable but all just collateral damage.”

    No, Vlasak didn’t say it would be regrettable if the kids died. He said they’re old enough to understand the consequences.

    In other words, if the kids get hurt, it’s their own fault for not running away from home because daddy does experiments on animals that most people regard as pests.

    Hey, there’s something I never thought of before. Why don’t they go after pest control companies? I’m glad they don’t, but why don’t they? Why is animal research so much worse than food production or pest control? It seems that only animal research and habitat destruction (particularly deforestation) evoke this kind of extreme response, and I wonder why.

  42. #42 BB
    August 5, 2008

    quote: ‘d just like to point out that Jerry Vlasak’s claims to be a practicing surgeon are almost certainly lies. Tom Holder did a little digging and found that the all the hospitals where he claimed to work had either not heard of him or said that he was no longer working there http://speakingofresearch.com/2008/05/06/vlasak-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/

    Wow. I thought his prior claim that he worked at Cedars Sinai was a lie. Why CA doesn’t revoke his license once and for all is a mystery to me.

  43. #43 D. C. Sessions
    August 5, 2008

    Hey, there’s something I never thought of before. Why don’t they go after pest control companies? I’m glad they don’t, but why don’t they? Why is animal research so much worse than food production or pest control? It seems that only animal research and habitat destruction (particularly deforestation) evoke this kind of extreme response, and I wonder why.

    I’m coming around to the idea that it’s because it’s research. Animals are just the excuse.

    Science, and rationality generally, don’t come naturally to humans [1]. The aren’t warm and cuddly. Reason leads to cognitive dissonance. Holding multiple incompatible beliefs isn’t a source of stress if you don’t use reason to do consistency checks.

    They have the annoying tendency to tell us things we don’t want to believe. Such as, “there is no easy way to do a hard thing.” Such as, “if you don’t want emphysema, you’re going to have to quit smoking.” Such as, “your BP is high, you’ve already got 40% coronary arterial blockage, and you’re 30 kg overweight. You’re well on your way to type II diabetes. Magic pills ain’t gonna make all that go away, you’re going to have to clean up your lifestyle.”

    And that’s just the beginning. Reason makes people “bad customers:” they aren’t easily swayed to buy things they don’t need. It makes them “bad voters:” they aren’t easily swayed by nonsense political pitches. It goes on and on.

    So it’s easy to hate science, and it’s also good “business” to encourage irrationality (obvious political implications left as an exercise for the reader.) The bell curve being what it is, don’t be shocked that the latest crop of Luddites focus their hostility on the nasty people who represent the biosciences, which have mostly replaced “nucular science” as the bogeyman of the day.

    [1] “Man is not a rational animal, man is a rationalizing animal.” Robert A. Heinlein

  44. #44 Paul Browne
    August 5, 2008

    “Wow. I thought his prior claim that he worked at Cedars Sinai was a lie. Why CA doesn’t revoke his license once and for all is a mystery to me.”

    Well there certainly isn’t a Vlasak in the Cedars Sinai directory now.

    To be honest I would be surprised if he was working in any hospital now that his views are more well known. Can you imagine having to work with him?

  45. #45 JustaTech
    August 5, 2008

    I’m curious about one thing. If these evil people release, say, lab mice, could you charge them with animal abuse for abandoning a domestic animal? And really, if they claim that these mice and rats aren’t domestic then I’d like to see how they do, dropped naked and alone in the middle of the African plains. I’m pretty sure that, unless they find some kind locals, they’d be just as dead as all those poor mice.

    In truth these people don’t care about *anyone*, not the animals they are “freeing”, not the people who’s lives might have been saved, no one but themselves.

  46. #46 Kemist
    August 5, 2008

    Natalie said : ‘Animal liberationists have repeatedly shown that they either don’t understand or don’t care about what happens when a bunch of animals are set free.’

    I’ll go even further: they dont really care for animal welfare at all.

    When I was in high school we had some mice and hamsters for mostly harmless experiments like making them walk on ropes with their tails tied on their backs, mazes, and some such. Students who would complain of cruelty to these animals were *not* the ones who would help keep their cages clean (like I did), warn goofy students to stop overstressing them, or take care of the sick ones (sometimes that meant euthanasia). That was ‘yucky’. Most of the animal rights crowd is that way.

    Most of the people I’ve known who work with animals in labs are totally nut animal lovers. I’ve known one who rescued dying baby hares and squirrels, another one who kept an unused lab rat as a pet and even did surgery on it to remove breast tumors. They took some of their own time to go stroke and play with their rats before starting protocols, so as to make subsequent manipulation less stressful. They both have a high opinion of rats (but a little less of mice and above all hamsters), contrary to most people I know.

  47. #47 Natalie
    August 5, 2008

    Kemist, that has been my experience as well, although with pet store animals rather than lab animals. My best friend works at a large chain pet store, which is a target of PETA on occasion. She and her vets provide an excellent level of care, above and beyong the normal standard for a pet store. That does not keep PETAdiots from occasionally coming in and trying to look for “abuse”, regardless of their inability to tell what animal abuse actually looks like.

    Some of these people do think that they truly care about animal welfare, IMO, but they don’t actually have any idea of what nature is really like. Growing up in an urban/suburban environment, with one’s idea of nature largely formed by movies full of anthromorphized animals that never kill each other for food, it’s easy to be ignorant of the many ways animals inflict pain and suffering on each other without human intervention.

  48. #48 blf
    August 5, 2008

    I’m coming around to the idea that it’s because it’s research.

    The Scientific Activist, before joining SciBlogs, got caught up in an animal rights protest/march in Oxford (UK), and blogged about it. He addressed the idea above:

    I also expected that many of the protesters would have a bias against funding scientific research in general, but this was not the case either. In fact, the protesters I talked to seemed worried that animal research was taking away funding from more important research.

    The bit I continue to remember about that blog post (from over two years ago) is this (emphasis added):

    Although I thought I might be able to find some common ground between protesters and researchers, I came away empty handed. By calling animal research “torture” and “vivisection” the protesters preclude themselves from participating in any rational discussion on ways to improve animal research to ensure even further that it is humane. Surprisingly, a common sentiment among the activists is that the researchers actually enjoy hurting animals.

    It other words, they are loonies. Batshite insane. Detached from reality. Whilst there has been, and presumably still are, genuine concerns about the humane treatment and research, that is not what is driving these nutcases. A completely goofy “Mad Scientist” model of research seems to be a powerful driver.

  49. #49 bug_girl
    August 5, 2008

    son of a…

    Damn. I guess I really need to be looking over my shoulder now. That’s scary.

  50. #50 Herclides
    August 5, 2008

    “In fact, the protesters I talked to seemed worried that animal research was taking away funding from more important research.”

    I would think part of this will come from the notion that there exist non-animal means of testing the same things (which is largely not true where animal testing is applied: both the researchers and ethics committees would favour alternatives if available and genuinely addressing the research issue).

    The point is, I think it might be a little naïve to take this statement purely at face value, in that it probably has a false assumption lying behind at least psrt of it.

  51. #51 Leni
    August 6, 2008

    Paul Murray wrote:

    They are not sick. They are lawless.

    There is a class of people, for instance, who want money and who resent that they can’t just – you know – *have* the money. So they use direct physical means – sometimes even violence against persons – to get it. We call these people “thieves”.

    Much the same thing. These people simply don’t get that the way you accomplish these sort of goals in civilised society is by means of changing the laws, and if you can’t get the laws your own personal little heart desires want, then tough.

    Well, that’s a fair enough point, but in my defense “lawless” and “sick fuck” aren’t mutually exclusive :)

  52. #52 pedro
    August 19, 2008

    Although obvious, this cannot be stressed enough:

    These fuckers do not defend sentient-beings rights; if they did, they would not commit this kind of actions. Originally (ages ago) the ALF was an organization that would abort an action if there was the slightest chance it would hurt anyone or any animal (within reason, ants or bugs will probably be stepped on in the dark). That time is long gone, and now they no longer care for humans, only non-human animals, and are NOT, therefore, defenders of sentient beings. Only rabid fanatics.

  53. #53 HCN
    August 19, 2008

    There was some justice today, one of the last idiots to fire bomb a research facility in Seattle was sentenced:
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/375561_elf20.html

    To show how lacking in brains they are, they moved the boxes of snakes away (only the boxes were empty), and they thought their target was using genetic engineering of poplar trees when he was using selective breeding techniques that have been practiced for over ten thousand years.

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