Animal-Rights Protests Grow Violent
By Marcus Wohlsen
BERKELEY, California (July 8) - In the hills above the University of California's Berkeley campus, nine protesters gathered in front of the home of a toxicology professor, their faces covered with scarves and hoods despite the warm spring weather.
One scrawled "killer" in chalk on the scientist's doorstep, while another hurled insults through a bullhorn and announced, "Your neighbor kills animals!" Someone shattered a window. [AT A MINIMUM, THESE ACTS CONSIST OF THE INTENTIONAL CIVIL LAW TORTS OF TRESPASS, ASSAULT, BATTERY, DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER & TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE WITH BUSINESS. AT MOST, THESE ACTS CAN RISE TO THE LEVEL OF CRIMINAL ACTS OF TRESPASS, VANDALISM, ASSAULT, TERRORIZING, HARRASSMENT, STALKING, ATTEMPTED BATTERY &/OR BATTERY.]
Animal rights activists are becoming increasingly confrontational, heading right to the doorsteps of scientists. Here, protesters demonstrate outside the home of a University of California professor in Berkeley, Calif., May 31.
...Douglass, an activist who declined to give his full name, yells through a bullhorn while protesting outside the professor's home. The activists are borrowing tactics used by anti-abortion demonstrators, harassing and terrorizing scientists in their homes.
...Graffiti and a broken window mark the doorway of the professor's home. The protesters, upset about the UC Berkeley entomologist's experimentation on animals, scrawled "killer," "murderer," and an obscenity on the entryway before breaking a window.
...An activist confronts one of the professor's neighbors. "What they've decided to do now is make things more personal," said one researcher. A spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front said, "if you had to hurt somebody or intimidate them or kill them, it would be morally justifiable." Source: AP
Borrowing the kind of tactics used by anti-abortion demonstrators, animal rights activists are increasingly taking their rage straight to scientists' front doors.
Over the past couple of years, more and more researchers who experiment on animals have been harassed and terrorized in their own homes with weapons that include firebombs, flooding and acid.
Scientists say the vandalism and intimidation threaten not just themselves and their families but the future of medical research. Specialists in such fields as addiction, eyesight and the aging brain have been targeted.
"It used to be everyone was worried about their laboratories being broken into and their data being destroyed, their animals being taken away," said Jeffrey Kordower, head of the Society for Neuroscience's animal research committee. "What they've decided to do now is make things more personal."
In May 2008, an animal rights group stripped nearly naked before lying down on the floor of a shopping mall in Sydney, Australia. The "die-in" protested the export of live animals....A PETA protester wrapped herself in cellophane and painted her body with fake blood to protest the National Cattlemens Beef Association's Spring Legislative Conference in March 2006. The protesters wanted to persuade the cattlemen that "Meat is Murder."
...PETA launched a campaign in 2004 to try to force DaimlerChrysler to market leather-free vehicles in India. The leather interior of a car can require the hides of up to 15 cows. This protester, dressed as butcher, pretends to slaughter a cow on top of a Mercedes in front of the DaimlerChrysler headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
...An unidentified PETA protester splatters Yum! Brands CEO David Novak with fake blood as he enters a KFC in Hanover, Germany, in 2003. The protest sought to resume negotiations between Yum! and KFC suppliers to improve their animals' living conditions.
...A member of the animal protection group Fauna dressed as a chicken hands out leaflets in Budapest, Hungary, in 2003. Fauna campaigned for increased education in schools about fair treatment for animals. The 33-pound chicken costume circulates among animal rights groups across Europe.
Accompanying the attacks is increasingly tough talk from activists such as Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front press office. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said he is not encouraging anyone to commit murder, but "if you had to hurt somebody or intimidate them or kill them, it would be morally justifiable.
"The Washington-based Foundation for Biomedical Research said researchers were harassed or otherwise victimized more than 70 times in 2003, up from just 10 the year before. The number of attacks has held steady or risen ever since, according to the group.
Activists say the escalation in tactics results from a frustration that nonviolent methods have failed to stop what they call the needless torture and killing of animals. [TOO BAD!!]
"An animal has as much of a right to life as we do. To take a life without provocation is immoral, it's violent, there's no excuse for it," said Jacob Black, 23, an organizer of demonstrations at the homes of UC Berkeley researchers. "To name and shame these people as morally bankrupt individuals in our society is key."
A Web site aimed at Berkeley lists the names of a dozen researchers and their home, work and e-mail addresses, their photos, and often their home numbers. The roster also includes graphic descriptions of each scientist's purported work with animals.
"This information is here so that others may pressure these individuals with legal protests - we do not participate in or encourage illegal activity," the Web site says.Despite that disclaimer, the late May protest in the Berkeley hills left a window of the toxicology professor's home shattered along with the window of a neighbor, who sprayed demonstrators with a garden hose to drive them away.
Activists say researchers drill holes into the skulls of monkeys and cats in pursuit of esoteric discoveries that will never help anyone.
But scientists say every effort is made to minimize the suffering of animals used in experiments. Rigorous government and university regulations provide detailed protocols for the humane treatment of lab animals. And scientists must show they have exhausted all other options to obtain data before they turn to animals as test subjects.
Many scientists are reluctant to discuss the effect violent incidents have had on biomedical research. They worry that any sign the attacks are succeeding could just lead to more of the same.
But at least one researcher decided the pressure was too much.
In 2006, activists began besieging the homes of several UCLA professors. Masked protesters converged on scientists' homes late at night, banging on doors, throwing firecrackers and chanting, "We know where you sleep," according to court documents.
Threatening calls and e-mails followed. Firebombs were left near homes three times; two failed to go off, while the third charred a front door. One professor's home was flooded when a garden hose was shoved through a broken window.
[ANIMAL PROTESTERS BEWARE! - DEPENDING ON THE JURISDICTION, THE LAW PERMITS USE OF SIGNIFICANT AND EVEN DEADLY FORCE, AS A MEANS OF SELF-DEFENSE, WHERE A TRESPASS THREATENS DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY. SOME JURISDICTIONS PERMIT USE OF SIGNIFICANT OR DEADLY FORCE TO PREVENT THEFT OF PROPERTY.]
During the onslaught, which lasted two years, a UCLA scientist with small children informed protesters he had stopped doing animal research."Effective immediately, I am no longer doing animal research," vision researcher Dario Ringach wrote in an e-mail. "Please don't bother my family anymore."
Though no one has been seriously hurt since the jump in home protests, the attacks have drawn the attention of the FBI. The agency has broad authority to investigate animal rights incidents under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006. [Public Law No: 109-374 , at: http://npl.ly.gov.tw/pdf/5562.pdf ].
"We consider this to be a serious problem, especially when people's lives are being disrupted," said agent David Strange, who oversees a domestic counterterrorism squad at the FBI's Oakland office. "We call it terrorism because it is a violent act violating federal criminal laws that has a political or social motivation to it."
Six members of a Philadelphia-based organization were sentenced to federal prison after they and the group itself were convicted in 2006 of using a Web site to incite threats, harassment and vandalism against people connected with a company that tests drugs and household products on animals.
But otherwise, few activists have been prosecuted, because of free speech concerns and the movement's extreme secrecy.
[See: Economic Sabotage IS Free Speech In The UK; Is It Now Also Free Speech In the US?, ITSSD Journal on Economic Sabotage, at: http://itssdjournaleconomicsabotage.blogspot.com/2008/03/economic-sabotage-is-free-speech-in-uk.html ].
Recently, federal investigators joined a probe into an alleged February assault against the husband of a University of California, Santa Cruz breast-cancer researcher who experiments on mice. Police said masked activists pounded on the family's front door during a birthday party for their young daughter, and one threw a punch when the husband tried to force them to leave.
Afterward, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal backed a proposed state law that would limit activists' access to public information about animal experiments. Blumenthal called acts against animal researchers "the greatest threat to academic freedom that I've seen in the history of this campus."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.