Animal "rights" activists apparently firebomb home, car

The FBI is upping the ante in relation to recent attacks on scientists working in California, in light of two firebombings over the last few days.(See FBI increases reward in firebombings to $50,000)

I just wish they would stop calling these people "animal rights activists." They are not. They are just nutjobs.

Two University of California, Santa Cruz faculty members and their families were targeted in what local authorities are calling attacks by animal liberationists.

The first incident occurred off-campus on Saturday morning when a faculty member and his two small children were forced to escape from their smoke-filled home, with one family member sustaining injuries and a brief hospitalization, according to a statement released by the UCSC chancellor George Blumenthal.

The second incident occurred shortly afterward when the vehicle of another researcher parked on campus was also firebombed and destroyed.


So, let's see, was this a reasonable exercise of revolutionary activity or a gang of nut cases getting their jollies?

We don't really know yet who did this or exactly what happened. There have been mixed reports but so far no credible source has indicated who has taken credit. However, it is not impossible to imagine an ALF connection, especially considering the following statement:

"It's regrettable that certain scientists are willing to put their families at risk by choosing to do wasteful animal experiments," [ALF] press office spokesman Jerry Vlasak said in [a]statement.


Firebombing scientists homes actually takes you out of the running for being considered an animal rights activist. I mean, we're all for animal rights in some sense. And, frankly, I believe that many of my colleagues in the animal research biz are overly comfortable with the idea that animal research always has benefits that outweigh the costs, and that no animals are being unduly tortured, etc.etc. No, the situation is not under complete control given the present regulations, there are still wild primates being harvested, there is still an "offshore" lab industry. And these things will always be problems and pretending they are not is not helping.

But the fact remains that the position of the groups that advocate blowing people's houses up, breaking into labs and 'liberating' the animals in them, etc. is absurd, even psychotic, and if it was not so unfunny, it would even be comical. Enormous progress has been made using the usual approaches of thoughtful legislation and effective regulation, both from the government(s) and within the industries and institutions. But this seems entirely lost on PETA.

Look at your feet, assholes. You are probably wearing leather shoes.

But, really, let's ask the question: Were any of these researchers waterboarding chimpanzees or carrying out some kind of excessive wastage of bunnies in order to develop improved belly button piercing techniques?

Only one of the researchers' names is mentioned: David Feldheim. Remarkably, the web pages for this person and related research are all getting 404 errors at the University web sites. So there is either some kind of overloading on that part of the internet, or some kind of cleaning up going on. So maybe they are hiring undergraduates at five dollars an hour to bite the heads off gerbils. But I tend to doubt it.

In the end, it will make little difference. Even if Dr. Feldheim was torturing kittens (and I think it very unlikely) to produce a better packaging for Spam, it is unlikely that the PETA nuts care about truthy details.


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Once again, researchers who use animals in their research have been the targets of violence at the hands of animal rights activists. As reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel: In one incident, a faculty member's home on Village Circle off High Street was intentionally firebombed at about 5:40 a.m. […

By insisting on calling these homegrown terrorists 'activists', I'm unsure whether the government secretly likes the arsonists or whether they're just tarring activists as tacit 'terrorists'.

I wish they made their lies clearer, is all.

By Axis of Weasel (not verified) on 06 Aug 2008 #permalink

Umm, just to be clear -- that wasn't PETA. It was self-proclaimed "ALF" activists, who speak for pretty much nobody but a handful of nuts in the animal rights community. I'm a vegan, and while I don't consider myself an animal rights activist, I am interested in the issues and know many activists. The vast majority out there hate ALF. As for PETA, they can be messed up to be sure (again, something you will find many AR activists will agree with), and you point out a way in which their approach to the animals in research question polarizes, and thus can hurt chances to enact change. But they certainly don't advocate blowing up homes.

Also, for what's it worth, PETA does officially push veganism, and aside from practical caveats (keep the shoes you have until they wear out, for instance) they advocate against leather use.

Feldheim's UCSC page was online a couple of days ago, shortly after the attack. From what I recall he does pretty standard neuroscience research using mice (all his papers are still listed in PubMed, so it's not like that's a secret). The site may have been taken offline to shield the names and photos of members of his lab who may (rightly) feel threatened.

I wouldn't call the firebombers "activists", and "nutjobs" dismisses them too easily. I agree with AoW that we should call them terrorists, since they use violence and intimidation to try to further their political goals.

When I saw the news of the attack a couple of days ago, I wrote up a description of a recent PNAS paper on which Feldheim was a co-author. Using mice to study the generation of new neurons in the brain of adults. Though there are cases where attempting to weigh the costs and benefits of animal research may be inconclusive, I would argue that this falls pretty clearly on the side of beneficial work.

Good point about the reason for the 404's.

I doubt that these criminals have "do not medicate or treat medically in any way because mice may have been killed to develop the drug that could save my life" badges hanging around their necks.

Welcome to the world of the 'anti's'. Here in the UK we have had this for years with firebombings, physical assaults and smear campaigns aimed not just at the scientists themselves but at anyone remotely connected with animal testing such as suppliers and even banks and construction companies. There was even a famous case a few years ago when some activists stole a corpse from a graveyard and held it to ransom in an attempt to shut a guinea pig farm. Unfortunately there was no reasoning with this type of person and this has only slowed with the public distaste of the violence which was spiralling out of control combined with much harsher laws on protest.

Yep, they have no problem with medicines so long as they are the ones that need them: The VP of PETA is a type 1 diabetic, (and spews a lot of special pleas when confronted with that little bit of hypocrisy).

As for PETA v. ALF: PETA actively supports the ALF to the point of knowing about ALF terrorist attacks ahead of time and being one of the ALFs main sources of funding.

By Rick Pikul (not verified) on 07 Aug 2008 #permalink

Symball, you're right about AR extremism declining in the UK, RDS recently posted a news item on their website about this

With your point on much stricter laws on protest I think it's fair to point out that the purpose of these laws was to prevent cases of harassment and intimidation (protests outside peoples houses etc) that masqueraded. On the whole these laws have worked well, and have helped reduce incidents of intimidation without preventing legitimate protest. However a more important factor than new laws in the recent successes in arresting and convicting AR extremists has been better policing, and in particular the coordination and intelligence gathering activities of NETCU

Also it's probably worth mentioning that what demonstrated to the AR extremists that campaigns of harassment, vandalism, and violence were counter productive was the Pro-Test campaign in Oxford which organized rallies in support of scientists and animal research.

Pro-Test now has a sister organization in the USA, Speaking of Research If you want to show your support for scientists and science it has plenty of ideas as to how you can do that.

This whole movement is pretty absurd, and tends to have absolutely no basis in reality. The stance I often observe by its proponents is something along the lines of 'Animals are the same as people', and as soon as you bring up their mother dying of cancer they tend to just repeat the same slogan (Similar to ID'ists and 'Teach the Controversy').

You mention that everyone is for animal rights to some extent.

I would amend that to say that everyone is for animal welfare. I can't imagine anyone (sane) wanting animals to be unnecessarily harmed.

But rights? Rights come with responsibilities - it's part of the social contract. Children, for example, do not have the full set of rights that adults have, because they do not have the full set of responsibilities that adults have.

Animals are incapable of handling 'responsibilities' like people are. To paraphrase Penn (& Teller), if we let animals roam free, they'd just piss and shit everywhere, the littler ones would infest our homes and the bigger ones would potentially maul people. We'd have to lock them up in some sort of 'animal prison', or deport them to less-populated areas. Oh wait...

Thus, animals should not have rights, but their welfare should be preserved, with careful consideration. Maybe we could set up some kind of board of people, to review animal experiments. And another agency to look over the treatment of animals for food, perhaps. (Oh wait... again.)

Look at your feet, assholes. You are probably wearing leather shoes.

This comment reveals a disappointing refusal on your part to take five minutes and do basic research before you bloviate. PETA, which doesn't even seem to have been involved in this incident (but you're the one who brought it up for some reason), not only advocates for, but also sells, a wide variety of vegan apparel and accessories.

By Epistaxis (not verified) on 15 Aug 2008 #permalink