On October 20th, animal rights extremists acting under the banner of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) flooded the home of UCLA professor Edythe London. I don’t have too much to say about this latest incident, as it’s just one of a series of destructive actions associated with a movement that seems more interested in intimidation than real dialogue. Since animal rights should be and are a paramount concern to the research community, this is quite an unfortunate situation.
Below, you can compare statements from London and the ALF. Briefly, though, I wanted to point out that I’ve written quite a bit previously about animal research and animal rights here and on the old site (because dealing with the intimidation tactics and property destruction of animal rights extremists is a daily reality at the University of Oxford), so I’d encourage you to take a look at some of those posts. In particular, I’d recommend my account of the time I attended a major animal rights rally in Oxford. Also, check out these two posts about Pro-Test, an organization started by Oxford students and faculty to take a proactive stance against this intimidation. In regards to the current incident, Janet at Adventures in Ethics and Science has more, and Mark at Denialism Blog calls for scientists to blog about their own animal research.
Also, I would like to quickly reemphasize a few key points about animal research:
- Animal research is important and timely, and it can’t be replaced for by other methods.
- Animal rights activists–at least the ones I have talked to in Oxford–are not particularly interested in animal research per se. Rather, they focus on it because it’s an easy and visible target. Their goal is not to make animal research even more humane, but to eliminate it completely. This comes from a deep-seated ideology that humans have no right to use (i.e. enslave) animals for personal (or societal) gain.
- Animal researchers are not sadists. Period. Talk to a few, and you’ll likely find that they approach their work quite reluctantly.
- Scientists are concerned with animal welfare–as they should be. We have made great strides in animal welfare over the past decades, but this is certainly an area in which we should be eternally vigilant. We need to be able to maintain an open dialogue on this issue, but these actions by animal rights extremists only hinder this.
Now, here’s an excerpt from what London had to say about her own work in an Op-Ed published in the LA Times:
I have devoted my career to understanding how nicotine, methamphetamine and other drugs can hijack brain chemistry and leave the affected individual at the mercy of his or her addiction. My personal connection to addiction is rooted in the untimely death of my father, who died of complications of nicotine dependence. My work on the neurobiology of addiction has spanned three decades of my life — most of this time as a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health. To me, nothing could be more important than solving the mysteries of addiction and learning how we can restore a person’s control over his or her own life. Addiction robs young people of their futures, destroys families and places a tremendous burden on society.
Animal studies allow us to test potential treatments without confounding factors, such as prior drug use and other experiences that complicate human studies. Even more important, they allow us to test possibly life-saving treatments before they are considered safe to test in humans. Our animal studies address the effects of chronic drug use on brain functions, such as decision-making and self-control, that are impaired in human addicts. We are also testing potential treatments, and all of our studies comply with federal laws designed to ensure humane care.
Contrast her message with the following communiqué published by ALF activists:
Edythe London, your job as administrator of the UCLA center that addicts primates to methamphetamines is dispicable. You appear to make all of the sick perverted vivisectors who addict primates to meth possible. Have you ever even witnessed the innocent monkeys that your mad scientists have addicted to methamphetamines as they convulse throughtout excrutiating withdrawl symptoms?
You may have the privilege of coordinating all of this pain and suffering from a slight distance, but as people who act out of conscience we will not allow you to simply lurk in the shawdows of UCLA’s labs of torture.
You are now in the spotlight of justice. Your address at [address removed] in Beverly Hills is now publicized for all to see. Until we see the end of primate vivisection at UCLA we will remind you of our presence. Push them to stop Edythe or we keep pushing. We never back down. We always win.
Here’s how we get started. We found your million dollar house in Beverly Hills on the windy night of Saturday October 20, we discovered you weren’t home so we snuck around to your backyard. First we effectively clogged the intake drain of your pool pump. It probably ran dry for a couple of hours and burned itself out. If it didn’t happen, wait for it. It will. Next we smashed a window and inserted your garden hose, turned on to full blast of course. Bet you were surprized when you came home. Edythe do you have flood insurance?
One more thing Edythe, water was our second choice, fire was our first. We compromised because we in the ALF don’t risk harming animals human and non human and we don’t risk starting brush fires.It would have been just as easy to burn your house down Edythe. As you slosh around your flooded house consider yourself fortunate this time.
We will not stop until UCLA discontinues its primate vivisection programe.
We are the ALF
(“We are the ALF… and we do not use spell-check.”)
The official press release from the ALF isn’t much better, and it includes the following wild and unfounded statements:
Primate Vivisector Edythe London was added to the roster of animal abusers at UCLA targeted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) for her role in torturing non-human animals to death in outdated and unnecessary experiments. In an anonymous communique received by the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, the ALF claimed to target London for her sadistic procedures addicting non-human primates to methamphetamine; she has also published data on primate addiction to nicotine, and addicting baby lambs to cocaine.
Press Officer Jerry Vlasak, MD states: “London’s research is a colossal waste of taxpayer money, and soliciting money from industry groups to study their retail products is considered unethical by most physicians interested in research that might help their patients. Of course, not being a clinician, London appears to have no interest in helping people, but instead derives pleasure in killing animals to further her own personal goals of academic and monetary enrichment. Why the people of California allow this abuse to continue at their expense is truly a mystery to me.”
By resorting to destruction and lies (particularly these repeated charges of sadism) and not offering any alternative, the ALF certainly cannot claim the moral high ground, and it is likely just accelerating its further decline into irrelevancy.