Terra Sigillata

I just received this news from Americans for Medical Progress with a link to the Santa Cruz Sentinel reporting on the home invasion last evening Sunday of a UC-Santa Cruz breast cancer and neurological disease researcher:

UCSC researcher targeted in attack – animal rights activists believed to be behind home invasion
26 February 2008 0645am Eastern

The news is disturbing, and if indeed the violent fringe of the animal rights movement is behind the attack, it represents a serious and criminal escalation in its tactics used to harass researchers. AMP joins others in the research community in condemning this home invasion and attack. We will continue to monitor the situation and report as developments occur.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has related stories on its website, including coverage of the police raid on a home of some believed involved in the attack. The newspaper is certain to update its coverage as the day goes on: www.santacruzsentinel.com. The University of California Santa Cruz has issued a statement, as you will read below, but as of this writing it has not been posted to its website: www.ucsc.edu .


Tom Ragan at the Sentinel filed this report late last night:

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. . .
. . .Santa Cruz police Lt. Rudy Escalante said investigators believe three UCSC students were involved in the home invasion. The investigation is continuing and Escalante said he would have more information today.

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. . .

. . .A friend of the students who were inside the Riverside home told the Sentinel the incident was related to animal rights and SHAC. A group, called SHAC7, includes six activists and a corporation, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA Inc. They were found guilty of multiple federal felonies for their role in shutting down an animal testing lab, Huntingdon Life Sciences. SHAC7 has an office in San Francisco. Attempts to reach them Monday were unsuccessful.

More later. But in the wake of the targeted actions against UCLA’s Edie London and other harrassment of California research university researchers by animal rights terrorists, we in the US may be reaching the situation experienced in the UK where conducting life-saving biomedical research for the greater good is itself life-threatening.

As these attacks appear to be increasing in frequency, it will be interesting to learn how the 2006-amended Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act will be applied in prosecuting these cases.

Addendum #1: Michael Stebbins, Director of Research at the DC-based Foundation for Biomedical Research, has just sent out a missive that includes these three links to activist sites:
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/02/25/18481563.php (activist site)
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/02/24/18481449.php (activist site)
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/02/25/18481511.php (activist site)


Addendum #2:

AMP CONDEMNS ATTACK ON UCSC SCIENTIST’S FAMILY AND HOME

Contact: Jacquie Calnan, Americans for Medical Progress E-mail

703 836 9595 x100

February 26, 2008, Alexandria, VA – Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) is greatly concerned by news that police believe animal rights militants are responsible for Sunday’s home invasion and attack on a member of a University of California Santa Cruz researcher’s family. (News coverage may be found in the Santa Cruz Sentinel at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_8360836.)

Following is a statement by AMP’s president, Jacquie Calnan:

“If members of the violent fringe of the animal rights movement are indeed behind the attack, it represents a serious and criminal escalation of the tactics they use to harass and threaten scientists across America.

“Biomedical researchers, and their loved ones, are targeted simply because of the work they do. This is terrorism, and it must be stopped.

“There is an ominous upward spiral of violence against researchers. Threats and crimes by animal rights militants have been horrific realities for two generations of scientists, from the earliest of laboratory break-ins and animal thefts in the 1980s, to booby-trapped letters in the 1990s, to recent firebombings and night-time protests at scientists’ homes. With the attacks increasing in intensity, it may be only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.

“The humane use of laboratory animals is crucial to biomedical research that leads to new drugs, therapies and cures. Thus, animal rights campaigns against scientists who work with animals also endanger the health of us all.

“The UCSC community is not alone in condemning Sunday’s heinous attack. Standing in unity with UCSC are patients who await new medical treatments and cures, scientists around the world, and each and every one of us who find the tactics and justifications of the criminal element of the animal rights movement reprehensible and against every precept of civil society.”

Americans for Medical Progress is a national non-profit organization that analyzes and counters animal rights campaigns against biomedical research. It is supported by universities, medical schools, private research institutions, health advocacy groups and individuals who seek continued advances in medicine. See www.amprogress.org.


Comments

  1. #1 Paul
    February 26, 2008

    The Santa Cruz Sentinel article can now be accessed at:

    http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_8360836

    It has a comment facility so you can vent your spleen there if you wish.

    I’d like to disagree with Pharmboy on one point, he says that:
    “we in the US may be reaching the situation experienced in the UK where conducting life-saving biomedical research for the greater good is itself life-threatening.”

    The UK has seen a huge decrease in attacks by AR extremists on researchers and other targets.
    http://www.abpi.org.uk/press/press_releases_06/060726.asp
    http://www.abpi.org.uk/press/press_releases_07/260707.asp

    This decrease has been mainly due to tough anti-extremism legislation and more effective action by the police and courts.

    Another factor discouraging extremism has been the increased willingness of scientists and others to speak out in favour of medical research, the prime example being the student lead Pro-Test campaign in Oxford which acted as a catalyst for increased support in the media. Many anti-vivisectionists can now see that “direct action” tactics had backfired.

    Scientists need to do a lot more to communicate to the public why they do the animal work they do; what information it provides, why this information cannot be gained by other methods, and why they think it is morally acceptable (or even imperative). All too often the explanations given to the public are too superficial and leave gaps that the anti-vivisectionists can exploit with misrepresentation and lies.

    Supporters of medical research also need to do much more to demonstrate their backing for the scientists who are under attack, rallies and meetings may seem a bit populist but can be great moral raisers, as well as giving the news media a “good news” story to report.

  2. #2 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    February 26, 2008

    Here’s a comment from that second “activist link”:

    This police presence is a response to a legal demonstration that took place this morning at the home of a known vivisector.

    They seem to be acknowledging the activity, and w shall see whether it is deemed a “legal demonstration” or not.

  3. #3 Abel Pharmboy
    February 26, 2008

    Paul, your point is very well-taken. I was referring more instead to the attacks that occurred earlier this decade. In fact, I have been very impressed with the proactive stance taken in the UK by animal rights supporters and legal authorities. Your mention of the Oxford Pro-Test student movement has actually been covered at ScienceBlogs.com by Nick Anthis (The Scientific Activist), an American student taking his PhD at Oxford.

    I should have followed up on my point by saying that we in the States can learn a great deal from how the British scientific community and public have come out in support of animal research. Thank you very much for adding your comment here.

  4. #4 stebbins
    February 26, 2008

    And here’s the statement from the Chancellor, along with a staff email from last week warning people about the potential threat.

    A Very Disturbing Incident Against UCSC Faculty
    by ucsc email blaster
    Monday Feb 25th, 2008 8:52 PM
    February 25, 2008

    To: UCSC Community
    Fr: Chancellor Blumenthal
    Re: A Very Disturbing Incident Against UCSC Faculty

    One of our faculty members, whose research addresses human disease, was the target Sunday afternoon of a very disturbing incident at the researcher’s residence in the city of Santa Cruz. The faculty member and family were home when six masked intruders attempted to force their way into the family’s residence. After a confrontation that involved a physical attack on one of the faculty member’s family, the six intruders fled.

    This incident appears to be part of a series of recent incidents targeting UC faculty, students, and staff who conduct biomedical research using animals. At UCSC, these incidents included earlier acts of intimidation, trespassing, vandalism, and property damage at the homes of faculty, staff, and students (see http://messages.ucsc.edu/text.asp?pid=1943).

    I want you to know that we have reached out to this individual and others who were harassed earlier, offering them security and other support.

    The faculty, students, and staff engaged in biomedical research on this campus shed light on the causes of breast cancer, neurological diseases, and on the toxic effects of lead and other metals. The work they do is critically important, improving our understanding of the causes and treatment of these and other diseases. Any research that involves animals is regulated by federal and state laws, and monitored by a committee comprising faculty, staff, and citizens from the Santa Cruz community.

    Disagreement, debate, and dissent on a range of subjects are all hallmarks of a healthy university community. However, an attempted home invasion by masked perpetrators is not free speech — it is a criminal act that threatens, intimidates, and stifles academic freedom.

    For more than four decades, our faculty, students, and staff have been free to engage in scholarly research that has spanned the sciences, humanities, and arts. Attacks on this cherished freedom, such as the one that occurred on Sunday, should be chilling to each and every one of us.

    Previous message:

    Administrative Message
    February 12, 2008

    To: Incidents of Vandalism and Harassment

    From: Chancellor Blumenthal and Quentin Williams, Chair of the Academic Senate

    Re: Incidents of Vandalism and Harassment
    We are writing to inform you of 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. While property damage thankfully was not major, these events are deeply upsetting to the people involved and their families. We are taking appropriate steps to support them.

    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. Last week, an incendiary device was ignited on the porch of a UCLA professor’s home. Last fall, the same professor’s home was flooded, causing extensive damage.

    Personal attacks and other illegal actions are fundamentally inconsistent with our principles of community and cannot be tolerated. If you have any information regarding these recent incidents, please contact campus police.

  5. #5 Paul
    February 26, 2008

    Thanks, Abel. What I’m saying is that these extremists can be faced down, and just relying on the police and courts to sort it out is not enough.

    It would really be better to show the extremists that their terror tactics won’t work before somebody (scientist or extremist) gets shot.

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