When Do Animal Rights Activists Agree with Animal Experiments?

Although animal rights activists claim animal research is wrong and inaccurate, when it is self-serving to do so, they will cite such research. This short bit from the e-mail newsletter of Americans for Medical Progress illustrates something that I see happen a lot:

Activist Benefits (Rhetorically) From Animal Research

Always eager to make the case against eating meat, virulent animal rights activist Adam Weissman (who was arrested last week at a demonstration at Huntingdon Life Sciences in New Jersey) cited animal studies to prove a link between “mad cow disease” and a human brain wasting illness.

Today’s post on AR News was of an April 7 Reuters newswire article citing a study published last week in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, dealing with the behavior of prions — the distorted proteins blamed for causing BSE and its human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) — in monkeys.

That pesky animal research sure has a way of coming in handy when you want to make a case. 🙂

Primate Freedom Tour

The Primate Freedom Tour is
rolling through the United States, spreading misinformation about medical
research involving primates and generating a fair amount of controversy
even within the animal rights movement.

The tour travels across the
United States stopping at primate research facilities long enough to protest
and grab a bit of media attention. In large measure, however, the tour
has backfired on its sponsors due to the tactics they have adopted.

Along with the typical animal
rights tactics — one protester locked himself in a cage for three days
outside of a Coulston facility — members of the Primate Freedom Tour
have protested outside the homes of researchers working at primate facilities
and released the home addresses of their targets in press releases. In
several cases police have come close to arresting primate tour members
and a University of California of Davis researcher was arrested recently
for allegedly assaulting protesters outside his home.

Such tactics have garnered
the tour a wave of negative publicity, helped out by press releases form
the tour itself that emphasize the group’s militant stand and tactics.
By July 1, Suzanne Roy and Eric Kleiman, program director and research
director respectively at In Defense of Animals, had enough and issued
a “Personal statement against certain tactics of Primate Freedom Tour”
attacking the militant tactics which, Roy and Kleiman correctly perceive,
only work against the animal rights movement.

As Roy and Kleiman write,

A number of years ago, the A[merican] M[edical] A[ssociation]
developed an action plan for neutralizing the animal rights movement.
Its strategy was to portray animal rights advocates as extremists and
terrorists … We believe the Tour is certainly making the jobs of A[mericans
for] M[edical] P[rogress] and other similar groups easier. Their attempts
to portray all animal advocates as extremist fanatics, engaged in a terroristic
‘jihad’ that must be constrained by the police … are certainly being facilitated
by the Tour’s organizers.

Roy and Kleiman are certainly
right about the ethics and media effect of home protests, but their own
statement itself belies the claim that animal rights activists are being
falsely painted as extremists and terrorists by the AMP and AMA. The fact
is that most animal rights activists and organizations are extremists
as evidenced by the fact that Roy and Kleiman had to release their comments
as a “personal statement” and make very explicit that their views don’t
reflect that of In Defense of Animals, which is one of the sponsors of
the Primate Freedom Tour. Since the Tour began, Roy and Kleiman are the
only two individuals to my knowledge to issue such a statement and no
animal rights organization has come out with any statement containing
anything but praise for the Primate Freedom Tour.

This silence is deafening
and yet Roy and Kleiman would have us believe that the extremists who
would protest at a researchers home represent a small minority of animal
rights activists and the rest of the movement is unfairly associated with
this tiny fringe of the movement. Please, give it a rest already. This
is as believable as the constant refrain that the Animal Liberation Front‘s
acts of destruction don’t represent the animal rights movement, even though
all but a handful of animal rights groups refuse to condemn such actions
and most express their sympathy with the terrorists.

Does the "Nuremberg Files" verdict have any implications for laboratories and animal enterprises?

In two separate trials over
the past several months, anti-abortion activists have been held accountable
in civil trials for their advocacy of violence under laws that may be
exploitable by those trying to stop animal rights violence.

In a Chicago trial last year,
Planned Parenthood and other groups won millions of dollars in awards
from activists who never actually committed acts of violence but did make
(often vague) statements supporting or inciting such violence. In the
recently concluded “Nuremberg Files” case, a jury delivered a
guilty verdict against an antiabortion web site that displayed “wanted
posters” of abortion doctors, along with personal information such
as addresses, phone numbers and even the names of the doctors’ children.

So what dos that have to do
with animal rights violence? A lot actually. In both cases lawyers relied
heavily on the civil provisions of the |Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations| (RICO) law. The RICO law was originally passed to allow
prosecutors to go after legitimate businesses that had been taken over
by the mob and used to hide criminal activity.

Along with the criminal provisions,
RICO included provisions allowing private individuals to sue groups and
individuals who illegally interfere with the operations of legal enterprises.

In its release after the trial,
the American Medical Association heralded the verdict and specifically
mentioned possible action “on behalf of biomedical researchers
targeted by an extreme faction of ‘animal rights activists.’” Assuming
the verdict in both the Chicago and “Nuremberg Files”
cases holds up on appeal, some animal rights organizations and web sites
could be ripe for similar lawsuits.

The most vulnerable groups would be
those posting Animal Liberation Front materials or materials in support
of ALF actions. There are several web sites that include instructions
on how to build incendiary devices along with the names and addresses of
fur farms and medical researchers. These individuals and groups are exposing themselves to an
extraordinary degree of liability under RICO.

Even the more “mainstream”
animal rights groups might not be beyond successful prosecution. In the
Chicago case, for example, several defendants were convicted based on
the following set of circumstances: a) they made rather inflammatory statements
about abortion doctors or clinics at one point or another, although they
never personally engaged in violence nor directly incited such violence;
and b) they ended up working in a broad coalition of antiabortion activists
that included both groups that condemned violence and groups that
advocated or at least sympathized with violence.

The jury in the Chicago case
agreed with Planned Parenthood lawyers who argued that the coalition of
groups met the standards of a criminal conspiracy under RICO.

I suspect the Supreme Court
may tighten up some of the requirements for such civil violations of RICO,
but it has already affirmed the fundamental tenets behind such suits.
Such laws could possibly be used to shut down animal rights groups and
sites that are clearly advocating violence.


AMA Applauds Verdict Against Web Site That Threatened Violence Against Physicians. American Medical Association, Press Release, February 2, 1999.

Anti-abortion foes vow appeal. Maria Seminerio, ZDNN, February 3, 1999.

Limiting Web speech rights. Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, February 4, 1999.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine mobilizes against March of Dimes

Sometime this year,
the March of Dimes’ Walk America event will reach an incredible milestone
— it will have raised over $1 billion since its inception in 1970. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine could not pass up this opportunity and
is seeking activists to leaflet at upcoming Walk America events to “shine
a spotlight on the dark side of the March of Dimes” (has Neal Barnard
seen Star Wars once too often?)

According to PCRM,
not only has March of Dimes-funded research produced no progress in preventing
birth defects, but in fact the charity has intentionally ignored the
best solutions to solving birth defects (which, of course, do not require
using animals).

This is just the
sort of ridiculous distortion that led the American Medical Association to condemn PCRM in 1991 for “misrepresenting the critical role animals play in research.” Apparently Barnard and company still haven’t figured
it out.


PCRM needs volunteers. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Press Release, January 1999.

Stephen Hawking condemns animal rights movement

British physicist Stephen Hawking
recently denounced animal rights extremists bent on banning the use of
animals in medical experimentation. Hawking author of the best selling
A Brief History of Time, attacked the animal rights movement in
comments before a meeting of the British Association of Science.

Andrew Blake, director of the UK-based
group Seriously Ill for Medical Research, also appeared before the gathering
of scientists to denounce animal rights extremists, saying, “Medical
progress is being threatened by the extreme tactics of those who are seeking
to abolish animal research.”

Both men’s comments were occasioned
by the recent controversy over protests by UK activists against an animal
breeding farm in Oxfordshire. The establishment, |Hill Grove| farm, breeds
cats specifically to be used for animal experiments. The cats are certified
to be free of common feline viruses that might disrupt or distort medical
research. British Association of Science president Colin Blakemore, for
example, studies the cats to find clues to the development of the cerebral
cortex. Blakemore is currently developing a new imaging system for analyzing
the brain that he hopes will later be modified for use in human beings,
possibly greatly enhancing our understanding of how the brain works.

For his efforts, animal rights
activists have rewarded Blakemore with two letter bombs, packages containing
razor blades, and assorted threats over the last 11 years. Activists have
engaged in an unrelenting campaign of harassment against Hill Grove involving
everything from car bombs to rock throwing that has destroyed 80 percent
of the glass panes in the house where |Hill Grove|’s proprietors live.


UK’s Hawking condemns animal rights extremists. Patricia Reaney, Reuters,
Sept. 7, 1998.

Hawking defends tests on animals. Daily Telegraph,
Sept. 13, 1998.