Animal Rights extremists threaten University of California!
Animal Rights Extremists Target the University of California
Updated: November 30, 2010
A widespread campaign of intimidation and violence by animal rights extremists against University of California (UC) scientists and researchers has been marked by numerous acts of harassment, vandalism and a series of firebombings and attempted firebombings deliberately targeting individuals.
A razor-blade filled package sent to an animal researcher at UCLA in November 2010 is the latest attack relating to the campaign against UC, which began in 2006 and has primarily targeted faculty in response to the use of animal experimentation in UC laboratories.
In a communiqué issued on November 22, a group called the "Justice Department" claimed responsibility for sending razor blades to UCLA neuroscientist David Jentsch (the group's claim that the razor blades were AIDS-tainted has not been confirmed).
The group warned Jenstch, "STOP YOUR SICK EXPERIMENTS OR HELL AWAITS YOU." A second communiqué issued by the group the same week warned animal researchers more broadly, "Mark our words, we will destroy all who fall into our focus."
The "Justice Department," which has mailed contaminated razor blades to animal researchers at other U.S. universities and injured several people using letter-bombs in the 1990s, is an offshoot of Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the most active extreme animal rights movement in the country.
The incident was not the first time Jentsch was targeted by animal rights extremists who oppose his research on primates and rodents; in March 2009, a car belonging to Jentsch was blown up outside his home by a homemade explosive. The Animal Liberation Brigade (ALB), a moniker used by an apparent animal rights extremist cell that has targeted UCLA on several occasions, took credit for the attack against Jentsch in a communiqué the following day. The statement included a message to the FBI, ostensibly in response to recent attempts by California law enforcement agencies to crack down on animal rights extremists' criminal activity. "The more legit activists you [expletive] with the more it inspires us since wer're [sic] the people whom you least suspect and when we hit we hit hard."
Despite some legal efforts taken by the UC system and the state of California, animal rights extremists, who often operate in small and loosely affiliated cells, have continued their activity and most of the attacks remain unsolved.
Radical animal rights and environmental groups have claimed responsibility for hundreds of crimes and acts of terrorism, including arson, bombings, vandalism and harassment during the past two decades, causing more than $175 million in damage.
The Campaign Against UC
Since 2006, University of California (UC) employees involved in animal research across the state, including individuals from UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Francisco, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz have been the targets of a widespread campaign of intimidation and violence by animal rights extremists. In addition to having their homes and cars vandalized, and in some cases firebombed, employees at these universities have been harassed and received death threats.
Incidents targeting individuals and property associated with the UC system include the following:
On November 22, 2010, a group called the "Justice Department" claimed responsibility for sending razor blades to David Jentsch, a UCLA neuroscientist frequently targeted by animal rights extremists for his research on primates. The group's claim that the razor blades were AIDS-tainted has not been confirmed, nor has its claim that it also sent "rusty razor blades tainted with AIDS-infected blood" to Stephanie Groman, a UCLA graduate student working with Jentsch. The "Justice Department," which has mailed contaminated razor blades to animal researchers at other U.S. universities and injured several people using letter-bombs in the 1990s, is an offshoot of Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the most active extreme animal rights movement in the country.
On July 10, 2009, a home and three vehicles belonging to UC Irvine pathologist Michael Selsted were vandalized with paint and paint stripper. ALF claimed responsibility for the act, which included spray-painting "killer" on Selsted's garage door. In its communiqué, ALF noted that "We can only hope that one day someone will make you suffer as much as the animals in the laboratories you work in."
On March 7, 2009, a car belonging to Jentsch was blown up outside his home by a homemade explosive. Responsibility for the act was claimed in a communiqué by the Animal Liberation Brigade (ALB), a moniker used by an apparent animal rights extremist cell that has targeted UCLA in the past and claimed responsibility for setting off pipe bombs at the offices of two companies tied to animal testing in 2003.
On November 27, 2008, a UCLA clinic in Santa Monica was vandalized with red paint and its locks glued shut. In a communiqué, ALF claimed responsibility for targeting the facility, which it described as an "outpost of the murderous UCLA medical department."
On November 20, 2008, a car bombing destroyed two vehicles outside a woman's home. Students and Workers for the Liberation of UCLA Primates claimed responsibility for the attack in a communiqué saying the attack was intended for UCLA researcher Goran Lacan. The actual owner of the vehicles, who was mistakenly targeted by the group, was asleep inside the house at the time of the incident. Students and Workers for the Liberation of UCLA Primates claimed responsibility for several other acts in 2008, including vandalizing three cars in the Santa Monica driveway of a UCLA researcher and stealing three UCLA vans from Riverside and Chino Hills.
On August 2, 2008, a firebomb described by authorities as a "Molotov cocktail on steroids" was lit on the porch of David Feldheim, a UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) molecular biologist, causing a fire and a large amount of smoke to spread throughout the home. Feldheim and his family, who had been sleeping inside, managed to escape down a fire ladder. The biologist was one of 13 UCSC faculty members identified on a pamphlet found at a Santa Cruz coffee shop several days before the incident. The pamphlet provided photos and home addresses of the individuals listed, along with a warning, "Animal abusers everywhere beware; we know where you live; we know where you work; we will never back down until you end your abuse." A second firebomb destroyed a vehicle owned by another UCSC animal researcher. A third researcher received a threatening phone message at home the day of the firebombings.
On June 3, 2008, ALF claimed responsibility for the firebombing of a UCLA commuter van parked overnight in a park-and-ride lot in Irvine. Since then, several other vans have been vandalized and stolen by various groups targeting UCLA.
On February 24, 2008, six masked demonstrators attempted to enter the home of a UCSC scientist during her daughter's birthday party. One of the intruders allegedly hit her husband with an unidentified object before running off with the rest of the group. Four individuals were arrested in March 2009 in connection to the incident. The suspects are also accused of harassing and intimidating UC – Berkeley researchers during demonstrations in front of the researchers' homes in October 2007 and January 2008.
On February 3, 2008, a firebomb left at the home of Edythe London, a UCLA primate researcher, ignited and caused damage to her front door. ALF claimed responsibility for the act in a communiqué. ALF took credit for flooding London's home three months earlier. In its communiqué at that time, ALF threatened to return. "It would have been just as easy to burn your house down Edythe. As you slosh around your flooded house consider yourself fortunate this time." ALF has also threatened London and her family and claimed responsibility for sending "blood and rat poisoned covered razor blades" to her home.
On June 24, 2007, an incendiary device was left under the car of Arthur Rosenbaum, the chief of pediatric ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. ALB claimed responsibility for the attempted firebombing in a communiqué, which included the doctor's address and warned: "you need to watch your back because next time you are in the operating room or walking to your office you just might be facing injections into your eyes like the primates, you sick twisted [expletive]." The communiqué also contends that activists must realize that "just demonstrating won't stop this kind of evil." Weeks later, Rosenbaum's wife received a letter with razor blades stating, "If your husband can't stop himself from his obsession to torture monkeys maybe you can. If not then tell him that we will do exactly what he does to monkeys to you."
On June 30, 2006, an incendiary device intended for Lynn Fairbanks, the director of the Center for Primate Neuroethology at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, was mistakenly left outside a neighbor's home. ALF claimed responsibility for the attempted attack in a communiqué, claiming that they had placed a "molotov cocktail" on Fairbanks' doorstep because of her involvement in animal experimentation. Arson investigators said the device failed to ignite, but had it functioned properly, it would have made escape difficult or impossible.
The activity of animal rights extremists in the Los Angeles area in recent years extends well beyond the UC system. For example, ALF has claimed responsibility for acts of harassment vandalism aimed at Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Deputy Mayor Jimmy Blackman and their families. The city's Department of Animal Services and its former general manager, Guerdon Stuckey, have also been targeted.
On March 6, 2009, ALF claimed responsibility for vandalizing the home of Deborah Villar, the sister of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with bottles of red paint. The communiqué issued about the attack listed Los Angeles Animal Services as the target, citing the mayor's refusal "to hire a new manager to stop the carnage of animals in our city." It warned Villaraigosa and his family, "next time we throw bottles, they'll be filled with gasoline." Villar was previously targeted in November 2007, when ALF claimed responsibility for vandalizing her home, stating, "The mayor is the person who can make the killing come to an end. This is why we covered Deborah's black SUV with tons of stripper and poured red paint all over the steps, walkway and fancy ornamental light fixtures. [Mayor] Villaraigosa deserves to be bumped off like the dogs and cats we witnessed with their eyes wide, terrified before they were bumped off. He got off way to [sic] easy."
ALF has also claimed responsibility for acts of vandalism against Deputy Mayor Blackman, including two at his home and one at the home of his parents. The group claimed to have glued locks shut and splattered red paint on the front porch of the Blackmans' home on December 30, 2008, in an effort to "bring attention to the blood being spilled because of their son Jimmy."
In response to the campaign against its faculty, the University of California's Board of Regents obtained a restraining order in early 2008, and later a preliminary injunction, prohibiting five individuals as well as ALF, ALB and the Primate Freedom Project, a group that has used its Web sites to post information about UCLA scientists, from harassing UCLA researchers.
Primate Freedom Project
The Primate Freedom Project (PFP), a group with chapters around the U.S. that describes itself as "dedicated to ending the use of nonhuman primates in biomedical and harmful behavioral experimentation," has had a key role in the campaign against the University of California.
PFP set up a Web site dedicated to ending "the use of primates in biomedical and harmful behavioral experimentation" at UCLA. The Web site included a "target" list of UCLA personnel, along with their photographs and home addresses, but also featured a disclaimer saying that "those who consider themselves part of the Primate Freedom Project UCLA chapter, do not engage in or encourage any illegal activities."
Several of the individuals listed as targets on the PFP Web site have been victimized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the most active extreme animal rights movement in the country, and Animal Liberation Brigade (ALB), a moniker used by an apparent animal rights extremist cell has claimed responsibility for setting off pipe bombs at the offices of two companies with ties to animal testing in 2003.
In spite of the disclaimer stating that it does not encourage criminal activity, PFP has applauded the work of ALF and ALB targeting UCLA personnel identified on its Web site. For example, following the attempted firebombing of the home of Lynn Fairbanks, the director of the Center for Primate Neuroethology at UCLA, on June 30, 2006, a PFP spokesperson said that the director "is riding a gravy train to personal gain, nothing else, and I hope the ALF stops her in her tracks." In addition to posting Fairbanks' address and photo on its Web site prior to the incident, the PFP site had featured a flyer intended for "distribution in her neighborhood."
PFP was named in a restraining order UCLA obtained in early 2008; as a result, the group was currently prohibited from posting personal information about UCLA faculty on its Web site. The site has been taken down.
PFP's presence outside of Los Angeles includes the National Primate Research Exhibition Hall, a museum in Madison, Wisconsin, that likens the treatment of animals in research labs to that of Jews and others who suffered during the Holocaust. The museum's Web site explains, "Like a Holocaust Memorial at the Gates of Auschwitz, the National Primate Research Exhibition Hall makes the clear statement that what is occurring in these labs across the country and the world is wrong and must be stopped."
The campaign against the University of California began several months after an annual animal rights conference was held in Los Angeles. The "Animal Rights 2005 National Conference" featured representatives of the Primate Freedom Project (PFP) and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, a radical animal rights group known for posting on its Web site the names, addresses, phone numbers and other personal information of people who work at companies doing business with its primary target, Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British-based research firm that runs an animal testing laboratory in New Jersey.
Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon in Southern California who co-founded the Woodland Hills-based North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which shares information and statements from extremist cells that commit criminal activity, was also in attendance.
As one of the primary spokespeople for the extreme animal rights movement, Vlasak frequently speaks to media in support of acts of violence and intimidation carried out against UC scientists. For example, following the March 2009 arrest of four individuals in connection with incidents of harassment and intimidation against animal researchers at UC-Berkeley and UC-Santa Cruz (UCSC), including an attempted home invasion, Vlasak praised the foursome for the alleged actions: "We applaud anybody who steps up to the plate."
Vlasak regularly advocates killing humans in order to save animals during interviews with print and broadcast media. He has referred to the notion of murdering medical researchers in order to save laboratory animals as a "morally justifiable solution," and has stated that, "if animal abusers aren't going to stop perpetrating these types of atrocities, they ought to be stopped using whatever means necessary."
The tactics and ideology promoted by Vlasak have increasingly been put into practice by animal rights extremists targeting the UC system, and Vlasak blames targeted researchers for any harm done to them.
In response to the firebombings at UCSC in August 2008, Vlasak implied that researchers knowingly jeopardize the safety of their families by testing on animals: "It's regrettable that certain scientists are willing to put their families at risk by choosing to do wasteful animal experiments in this day and age," Vlasak said in one interview.
In another interview, Vlasak said, "If their father is willing to continue risking his livelihood in order to continue chopping up animals in a laboratory, then his children are old enough to recognize the consequences…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." He also stated that, "The inconvenience and the suffering of any children or any family members pales in comparison to the suffering and oppression that goes on in these animal laboratories."
Following the firebombing of a UCLA primate researcher's home in February 2008, Vlasak stated, "This recent attack should come as no surprise to [Edythe] London; I wouldn't be astonished if she remains a target until she stops her heinous experiments upon these innocent and unconsenting primates."
Vlasak made some of his most incendiary comments about animal researchers during an animal rights conference in Los Angeles in 2003, when he told an audience that the assassination of scientists working in biomedical research would save millions of animals' lives. "I don't think you'd have to kill—assassinate--too many vivisectors," Vlasak continued, "before you would see a marked decrease in the amount of vivisection going on. And I think for five lives, ten lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, two million, ten million non-human lives."
College Campuses Targeted Nationwide
The deliberate targeting of university employees involved in animal research is not a new phenomenon, nor is it limited to California. For example, a group calling itself Tucson H.A.A.N.D. ("Hooligans Attack at Night, Duh,") vandalized the home of Katalin Gothard, an animal researcher at University of Arizona's College of Medicine, on February 20, 2009.
Tucson H.A.A.N.D. claimed responsibility for the vandalism and another incident targeting a mining company employee the same morning in a communiqué issued a few days later. The group dedicated both acts to the four individuals arrested on February 20 in connection with incidents of harassment and intimidation against animal researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.
Animal researchers at Wake Forest University in North Carolina were also targeted in February 2009. In a communiqué, the "Justice Department" claimed responsibility for mailing razor blades covered in rat poison to two scientists there and warned, "This is only the start…End the experiments on the primate captives or it only gets worse." The "Justice Department," an offshoot of Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the most active extreme animal rights movement in the country, injured several people using letter-bombs in the 1990s.
A sampling of other college campuses targeted by animal rights extremists, who have carried out acts of vandalism, animal release, arson and other types of property destruction, includes:
Johns Hopkins University, December 2008: Animal Liberation Brigade (ALB) claimed responsibility for sending "special letter bombs" to two animal researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The group accused of Johns Hopkins of being one of the "top violators of the Animal Welfare Act" and promised that while the two researchers were selected at random, "All responsible for the torture and oppression of innocent beings will soon receive the same treatment." ALB is a moniker used by an apparent animal rights extremist cell that has targeted UCLA in the past and has claimed responsibility for setting off pipe bombs at the offices of two companies with ties to animal testing in 2003.
Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), December 2007: Animal Liberation Front (ALF) claimed responsibility for vandalizing cars belonging to OHSU researcher Miles Joseph Novy outside his home in Portland. The group claimed to have taken graffiti and paint stripper to Novy's cars as a response to his reproductive research on primates, and warned that "blatant disregard for the earth, animals and it's [sic] resources shall not go unseen by the ever-watching eyes of the ALF… The only reason why people like Miles Novy sleep at night is because we let them."
University of Utah, April 2007: ALF claimed responsibility for vandalizing a vacant home in Riverton owned by neurobiology professor Audie Gene Leventhal. The group caused thousands of dollars in damage by breaking windows, gluing locks shut, and destroying his lawn, according to the communiqué released at the time. ALF has targeted Leventhal on other occasions, including in January 2007 when individuals vandalized his house in South Jordan and destroyed six windows with acid. The communiqué assured Leventhal that "we will be back repeatedly to destroy your property until animals no longer die for your blood money… Until you leave the torture business we'll continue to turn your life upside down."
Louisiana State University (LSU), April 2005: ALF claimed responsibility for breaking into a biology lab at LSU, where they released caged mice, glued locks shut, broke windows and aquarium glass, and spray-painted ALF slogans on walls. LSU's student newspaper received an email with a link to ALF's communiqué about the incident on the Web site for Bite Back magazine, a support publication for ALF and other groups that commit criminal acts on behalf of animal rights. ALF also claimed responsibility for a September 2003 break-in at LSU's School of Veterinary Medicine, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
University of Iowa (UI), November 2004: ALF took credit for pouring acid on research documents, destroying computers and removing more than 400 animals. In the communiqué released afterwards, ALF described the act as "a methodical effort to cripple the UI psychology department's animal research. ALF also sent copies of the video tape of the incident to the FBI and media.
Brigham Young University (BYU), July 2004: Fires burned two tractors and more than 3,000 pounds of cardboard at Ellsworth Farm, an animal husbandry building on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah. In March 2005, Jason Hall was charged with a misdemeanor for his alleged role in setting the fires. Two other men, Harrison David Burrows and Joshua Demmitt, were already serving sentences of 2 1/2 years for their part in the fires, which they admitted setting on behalf of ALF.
University of Minnesota, April 1999: Activists "liberated" 166 animals from the university and damaged and vandalized equipment, causing $700,000 of damage.
Harvard University, 1999: A letter sent to a Harvard researcher and containing razor blades read, "You have until autumn 2000 to release all your primate captives and get out of the vivisection industry. If you do not heed our warning, your violence will be turned back upon you." The "Justice Department" claimed responsibility for the mailing, which was part of an intended act of violence in which 80 researchers at different universities received threatening letters booby-trapped with razor blades.
Cornell University, October 1997: Members of Band of Mercy, an earlier incarnation of ALF, destroyed files, ruined blood samples, confiscated paperwork and release six cows from their stalls at the university's Animal Teaching and Research Unit in Ithaca, NY.
Michigan State University (MSU), 1992: A firebombing of an animal research laboratory at MSU destroyed years of research and caused $2.5 million in damages. The group also vandalized an MSU mink research farm nearby, damaging equipment and releasing animals from their cages.
Rodney Coronado, a longtime spokesperson for the most active extremist environmental and animal rights movements in the U.S. who was involved in the incident, served over three years in prison for aiding and abetting arson.
In an interview with an MSU newspaper in 2004, Coronado defended his activity, including the acts at MSU. "I wish I could do it again, only I wish I could take all of the animals out of the environmental fur farm… I have absolutely no regrets, and I hope the same thing continues to happen at MSU and every other college campus that does animal research."
Coronado also discussed an MSU arson carried out by environmental extremists several years after the 1992 fire. The explosion and fire at MSU's Agriculture Hall on New Year's Eve 1999 caused more than $1 million in damage.
Coronado attributed the continued targeting of MSU by members of the animal rights and environmental rights movements to university practices. "It is not like there are the very same people lurking around the shadows, waiting for the moment to strike," Coronado said. "It is totally determined by what is going on at the university."
University of Arizona, April 1989: ALF claimed responsibility for breaking into university research labs, where they set two fires and released more than 1,100 laboratory animals, causing an estimated $100,000 in damage.
University of California, Davis, 1987: ALF claimed responsibility for an arson at a UC Davis veterinary laboratory that caused $3.5 million in damage.
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