Law Finally Cages Animal-Rights Guerillas

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA — The scene is reminiscent of a B-list action flick: anonymous masked intruders sneak into some important building, scrawl crude handwritten threats demanding unrealistic accommodations and leave an incendiary device meant to detonate the next morning as employees walk in for their daily shifts, before fleeing into the night.

Unfortunately for many UC scientists and students, situations like these are very real and come at the hands of backward, crazed organizations such as the Animal Liberation Front, which is filled with screwball activists who among other actions advocate the release of lab animals nationwide via intimidating and often frightening guerilla tactics meant to incite fear among researchers.

In fact, several failed fire-bombings aside, high-profile instances of violent backlashes by animal-rights activists against UC personnel within the last few years include the flooding of a UCLA researcher’s home with a garden hose — an action that caused nearly $30,000 in damages — and a terrifying incident in Santa Cruz during which a scientist’s husband was attacked by a group of intruders who interrupted her daughter’s birthday party demanding the researcher cease her lab’s groundbreaking breast-cancer studies.

Letters filled with razor blades, firecrackers set in mailboxes and vandalism are common tactics used by ALF goons to intimidate scientists, and it was just last December that animal-rights operatives called in a bomb threat at UCSD’s Leichtag Biomedical Research Building, a stunt that forced the FBI to evacuate the entire School of Medicine and shut down a large portion of campus before ultimately being deemed a hoax.

The sad reality is that the groups’ extremism is getting progressively worse, with some militants who formerly only protested the use of nonhuman primates and dogs now calling on labs to stop using fruit flies in their experiments.

Responding to these increasingly brazen moves, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law this month a long-overdue measure to shield scientists from attacks by animal-rights activists, finally safeguarding the welfare of hundreds of researchers who use animal subjects in their laboratories and providing more stringent oversight of personal information used by groups such as ALF to carry out the cowardly attacks.

Specifically, the legislation protects statewide academic researchers, which it deems as “any person lawfully engaged in academic research who is a student, trainee or employee of UC, CSU, an accredited California community college or a Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredited, degree-granting, nonprofit institution.”

By granting protection to students in addition to researchers, lawmakers have successfully proved that they are serious about putting a stop to these militant zookeepers, at last shielding the most vulnerable targets — future scientists who might otherwise be scared away from the field — from potential harm.

Moreover, the law forbids the publication of private information about — and physical appearances of — researchers and their immediate families with the intent to commit a violent act or threats of violence, and against trespassing on scientists’ private property to commit such crimes, while also increasing penalties for offenders.

The University of California is an institution driven forward by its scientists, who secure grants and eventually publish their work, in effect branding the university’s name across academia. Animal research is always conducted humanely and only when absolutely necessary, while experimental protocol is strictly outlined by federal government regulations. From antibiotics to joint replacement, the vast majority of modern-day medical techniques dictating the treatment and control of disease are derived from knowledge gained by the results of experiments that used laboratory animals. The new law will permit scientists to continue this important work without worrying about their cars being fire-bombed.

Animal-rights extremists portray scientists as vicious torturers, but that assertion is ludicrous; these researchers have dedicated their lives to finding new medical breakthroughs meant to improve the lives of both humans and other animals. By signing this law, Schwarzenegger has proved his commitment to making sure these vital experiments continue. Hopefully, the lunatics from ALF and similar groups will realize that their pet projects will now lead them straight into the waiting jaws of law enforcement officials.