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Animal rights terrorists endanger science-based medicine

I’m a bit ticked off right now, enough that I thought I’d break with tradition and do an extra post today. Don’t worry; it’ll be brief. It will also be angry, more so than you are perhaps used to hearing on this blog. However, I think my anger is justified, and I hope that Steve Novella–and you–will understand. I view the problem that I am about to discuss to be at least as serious a threat to science-based medicine as any infiltration of woo into medical schools or residency programs.

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 animal rights thugs have turned violent–again:

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.”

That no one was seriously injured or died, especially the researcher’s children, is incredibly fortunate. As in previous cases, these two firebombing attacks were 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.

Fruit flies? Drosophila? How messed up do you have to be to threaten violence over Drosophila experiments? Why aren’t they threatening violence over the trillions upon trillions of E. coli or yeast that die in the name of science in molecular biology labs every day?

Right on cue, that disgrace to surgeons everywhere, that disingenuous spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front whom I call “Sgt. Schulz” for his amazing ability to be always somehow around or associated with acts of animal rights violence but at the same time to always find a way to claim that “I know nothing” about who was responsible for said acts of violence, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, popped up to spew his usual venom:

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.”

To Dr. Vlasak, if a researcher’s children happen to die in one of his fellow travelers’ attacks, well, to him it’s regrettable but all just collateral damage in the service of his 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.

Finally, comparing animal rights terrorists with civil rights advocates in the 1950s and 1960s is an insult to the memory of those nonviolent protesters who, not infrequently at great personal risk, spoke out against injustice. Vlasak’s cowardly little band of animal rights terrorists are far more akin to the criminals who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 and the other thugs who tried to stop the civil rights movement through violence than they are to the civil rights marchers.

Here’s hoping that whoever is responsible for these attacks is found, arrested, and locked up for a long, long time. Make no mistake, the goal of these terrorists is not to improve the lot of animals used in research. The goal of these terrorists is to stop all animal research. If you want to grind progress in science-based medicine to a halt, I can’t think of a better way to do it than to make scientists too afraid to carry out research into potentially life-saving measures.

Thus endeth the rant.

I apologize if it was not as sedate and scholarly as the usual fare here at SBM. However, this is an issue that is of great concern to anyone who does translational cancer research–or translational research of any kind, for that matter. it is also of great importance to any patient who relies on the fruits of medical research; in other words, virtually all of us. There is one little way, however, that you and I can fight back against these thugs. Please donate generously to Americans for Medical Progress or other pro-research groups to help them combat the misinformation promulgated by groups like the Animal Liberation Front.

Posted in: Basic Science, Medical Academia, Politics and Regulation, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (20) ↓

20 thoughts on “Animal rights terrorists endanger science-based medicine

  1. Harriet Hall says:

    It seems to me such statements are overtly inciting to terrorism, violence and murder. Isn’t that illegal? Couldn’t he be prosecuted for such statements? How does the law decide when freedom of speech crosses the line into illegal incitement?

  2. tarran says:

    The animal rights activists are actually making a very serious mistake -> these sorts of violent campaigns invariably backfire.

    Organizations that attack people violently, no matter how justified their cause is, inevitably provide their opponents with a great propaganda opportunity to paint the violent guys as being beyond the pale and a menace to society etc.

    The non-violent civil rights movement succeeded precisely because they eschewed violence, and thus their opponents were made to look bad in the resulting propaganda war. Whenever violence was threatened, the movement met serious resistance from whites who feared upsetting the status-quo.

    If the ALF continues down this path they will marginalize themselves badly. I say this as a member of a political philosophy which made its name a synonym for violence and barbarism from a campaign that was the product of similar reasoning.

  3. David Gorski says:

    It seems to me such statements are overtly inciting to terrorism, violence and murder. Isn’t that illegal? Couldn’t he be prosecuted for such statements? How does the law decide when freedom of speech crosses the line into illegal incitement?

    Brandenburg v. Ohio, that’s how.

  4. Michelle B says:

    Vlasak is a practicing trauma surgeon? For humans? I would not trust a nut like that to use a scalpel on me.

    Wonder if Vlasak is vegetarian? If so, then he is responsible for killing more animals than if he ate chicken, beef, and diary. An huge number of animals are killed in plant-based agriculture, due to harvesting machines chopping up field mice, etc.

    I agree with Harriet, this guy must be breaking the law by uttering his statements.

  5. AntiVax says:

    Animal experimentation is one of the biggest con jobs going quite apart from the animal abuse http://www.whale.to/y/viv1.html

  6. David Gorski says:

    Vlasak is a practicing trauma surgeon? For humans? I would not trust a nut like that to use a scalpel on me.

    For what it’s worth Wikipedia says he resigned from his position at Loma Linda University in 1998 and hasn’t practiced surgery since then.

  7. quackdoctor says:

    Well I am certainly against anybody hurting anyone else for any reason. There are a lot of animals needlessly killed in research I will say. And also like in professional schools. Like we would sacrifice animals in physiology to demonstrate what we aready knew what would happen. I see no point in that. It is not needed.

    Anhd I think these people need to set their priorities differently. Going after real anomal abuse in a peaceful manner

    I mean abuse like this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueBWi8BL0PQ&feature=related

  8. HCN says:

    http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Scopie%27s_Law

    In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses you the argument immediately …and gets you laughed out of the room.

  9. whitedevil says:

    It may be backfiring already… just today a couple hundred people joined some UCSC faculty in front of campus to protest the actions of these people. Social movements rely on popular support, and they have accomplished the opposite.

  10. DBonez says:

    My favorite example of the animal rights mutants is Mary Beth Sweetland. She is an executive with PETA, yet relies on animal derived insulin to help control her diabetes.

    http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm/headline/1730

    Simply ridiculous and my heart goes out to the researchers and their families for enduring the mindless violence of the animal rights zealots.

  11. quackdoctor says:

    Well the thing is that PETA is very extreme. However the fact that they are should not cause one to disreguard all of their points. As I have said there is animal experimentation that is not needed. And as stated the use of animals in professional health care schools is basically not needed to prove something already known.

    So PETA should be dealing with the most serious abuses. Like in China where animals are skinned and boiled alive and mistreated in ways you would not believe. And this goes on in the USA as well but not to the degree. Things like fur farmas and Amish Puppy Mills are quite bad. And many farms that raise and slaughter animals could be less hurtfull and stressful to the animals.

    So some of what PETA says is valid. They are not always wrong. They have stood up against palmer College of Chiropractic who is killing large numbers of cats for completely invalid ridiculas research on the spine. This research will prove nothing and contribute nothing. But Palmer gets money from the government to do it. So PETA is doing a good service in coming up agaist Palmer for this wasteful abuse of animals.

  12. Visigoth21 says:

    Thanks for mentioning AMP, but there is a new campaign backed by AMP that you might be interested in.

    It’s called Speaking of Research http://www.speakingofresearch.org/ and it was set up recently by Tom Holder of Pro-Test.

    Pro-Test are the group that was established in Oxford in 2006 to combat animal rights extremism there and advocate the responsible use of animals in medical research http://www.pro-test.org.uk/.

    One of Pro-Test’s geatest accomplishments was to organize rallies in support of the scientists and institutions that were threatened by extremism. Though relatively small these rallies got an overwhelmingly positive reception from the press and public, and changed the mood with respect to animal research in the UK.

    The rally in Santa Cruz on Monday night With your help Speaking of Research and similar organizations can achieve in the USA what Pro-test achieved in the UK.

  13. Calli Arcale says:

    A recent entry on Indexed went right to the absurdity of “no animal testing”. It made me laugh, anyway:

    http://indexed.blogspot.com/2008/07/well-my-dogs-not-testing-it-for-you.html

  14. TheCashin says:

    Michelle B on 04 Aug 2008 at 4:32 pm

    “Wonder if Vlasak is vegetarian? If so, then he is responsible for killing MORE animals than if he ate chicken, beef, and diary. An huge number of animals are killed in plant-based agriculture, due to harvesting machines chopping up field mice, etc.

    Where did you come up with this one Michelle?

    May I ask you what these chickens eat?
    May I ask you what these cows eat?
    for a hint, it starts with a PL and ends with an ANTS.

    For every gram of chicken protein you eat, 4 grams of plant protein had to be >>> GROWN and THEN fed <<<< to that chicken in order to fatten it up.
    For the cows, they eat 10-15 grams of plant protein to yield 1 gram of meat protein.
    Kill 10 times as many rodents and bugs with beef as you would if you chose to eat the initial plants instead.

    Heap on top of that the extra toxic environmental damage done by animal waste and antibiotics, and see what you end up with.

    Unless these are photosynthetic animals you speak of, your comment is utter BS.

    Surely everyone grants that large-scale plant agriculture is not a kill-free process.. bugs die, rodents die, habitats are destroyed, pesticides pollute.
    As a vegetarian, i do not deny any of that.
    unfortunately there is no utopian “death-free” food option.

    All we can do is minimize the amount of suffering, and minimize the amount of death to the best of our practical ability.

    What you performed is nothing short of a logical debacle.
    Never forget what the animals you eat have eaten, in order to get so large.

  15. Jurjen S. says:

    From the Sentinel article:

    “If their father is willing to continue risking his livelihood in order to continue chopping up animals in a laboratory than [sic] his children are old enough to recognize the consequences,” said Vlasak [...]

    I don’t see how the latter part of that assertion follows from the first. My father started working for a large oil company when I was four years old, and it was several years before I was old enough to understand that there were people who strongly took issue with that particular company’s activities, let alone before I was “old enough to recognize the consequences” in the event that anyone might (hypothetically) have taken issue strongly enough to lob an incendiary device at our house. And even if you are “old enough to recognize the consequences,” it’s not like you’re in a position, and an 11 or 12 year-old, to dictate to your parents what line of work they should (or should not) be in.

    “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.”

    With that line of argumentation, you can justify just about any act of ideologically motivated violence. Let’s see…
    “Black people should know that if that if they openly agitate for desegregation that it is unreasonable not to expect consequences.”
    “Gay people should know that if they work to get same-sex marriage instituted that it is unreasonable not to expect consequences.”
    “Western governments should know that if they allow newspapers to publish cartoons expressing criticism of Islam, that it is unreasonable not to expect consequences.”
    And, of course:
    “Jerry Vlasek should know that if he advocates firebombing children that it is unreasonable not to expect consequences.”

    Yep, with that line of reasoning, you can justify murdering just about anyone who does anything that is objectionable in someone else’s subjective opinion, or is related to such a person, or lives in the same zip code as such a person, etc.

    For instance, if vivisectors were routinely being killed, I think it would give other vivisectors pause in what they were doing in their work [...], I think that there would be a trickle-down effect [and people would be too scared to go into and stay in jobs involving animal research].

    In other words, to coerce people into a particular behavior, it would be an effective tactic to scare them with the threat of violence. It certainly would, but maybe “scare” isn’t quite strong enough word; how about “terrorize”?

  16. Jurjen S. says:

    Whoops, correction to the aforegoing: “and an 11 or 12 year-old” should have read “as an 11 or 12 year-old.”

  17. weing says:

    It is certainly possible that some scientists might decide that these animal rights terrorists be eliminated. They might send them anthrax spores, find ingenious ways of delivering botulism toxin into their bodies, etc.

  18. mike150160 says:

    Not sure the outcome are as clear cut as you make out TheCashin:

    Harvesting of cereals by a combine is unlikely to be as discriminating as a cow in its consumption of rodent and insect life. So in terms of numbers of individual lives I suspect Michelle is closer to the truth than you. This is a tu quoque but I don’t think an invalid one as far as Mr. Vlasak is concerned as he is attempting to take the moral high ground on the basis of fewer animals suffering and I would be surprised if he is not a vegetarian (or more probably vegan) on this basis.

    Secondly although the conversion factor for beef or chicken is high the 9 gram difference doesn’t disappear, it gets shat out the back end where it contributes to the fertility of the soil for more plant growth, increased insect habitats etc. A mixed farm will sustain a greater density of life of all kinds than an arable one.

    No animal gets to live forever so the role of husbandry is to give the animals the best quality of life, and most stress free death you can. This applies as much to laboratory animals as it does to farm animals. And my personal experience is that intensive agriculture has got further to go than the lab has in terms of animal welfare.

    Michelle’s point is completely valid in so far as it indicates (as you acknowledge) that it’s impossible to live your life completely innocuously; both farming and laboratory animal use are attempts to impinge on other animals welfare as minimally as possible while maximising the good that can be derived.

  19. TheCashin says:

    “Harvesting of cereals by a combine is unlikely to be as discriminating as a cow in its consumption of rodent and insect life. So in terms of numbers of individual lives I suspect Michelle is closer to the truth than you.”

    sorry, I don’t understand how you arrive at this.
    maybe you could clarify..
    the cows i speak of do not have limitless grazing area.
    they have very little space and are fed an intensive diet to maximize weight-gain.

    the cereals are harvested the same way in either case. the grains are transported to the farm where they are fed to cows with a 1:10 return on protein, while others are processed a little further and transported to eventually end up in other supermarket foods.

    in both cases, the insects and rodents are killed the same way, which is mainly by harvesting.
    the difference crops up when we look at the #killed per gram of protein output.

    how you arrive at “So in terms of numbers of individual lives I suspect Michelle is closer to the truth than you” is beyond me.

    Explain.

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