Animal Liberation Front Claims Responsibility for University of Iowa Attack

The Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility this week for extensive damage at a University of Iowa animal laboratory on November 14.

In a lengthy e-mail communique, the Animal Liberation Front said,

The Animal Liberation Front is claiming responsibility for the liberation of 401 animals from the University of Iowa in the early hours of November 14th, 2004. All animals on the third floor of the UI psychology department — 88 mice and 313 rats — were removed, examined and treated by a sympathetic veterinarian, and placed in loving homes.

Additionally, two animal labs and three vivisector’s offices were entered and all contents relating to animal research were destroyed.

These are:

4th Floor – Spence Labs:
Vivisector Ed Wasserman’s lab entered. Dozens of computers and devices used in experiments on live pigeons were destroyed.

Basement – Spence Labs:
Lab of vivisector Mark Blumburg and others entered. Surgical equipment and small animal stereotaxic devices, as well as “shock boxes” and other instruments of torture destroyed.

4th Floor – Seashore Hall
Primate researcher Joshua Rodefer’s office entered. Computer discs, hard .drives, paperwork and photos showing Rodefer’s work confining drug addicted primates in small glass boxes removed. The remaining paperwork detailing his monstrous work addicting primates and rats to narcotics was soaked in acid and the computer destroyed.

1st Floor – Seashore Hall
Primate researcher Amy Poremba’s office entered. Computers destroyed, documents removed, and the remainder soaked in acid.

This raid was carried out to halt the barbaric research of the UI Psychology Department’s 7 primary animal researchers: Professors Poremba, Freeman, Blumburg, Johnson, Robinson, Rodefer and Wasserman.

This was not thoughtless vandalism but a methodical effort to cripple the UI psychology department’s animal research. Only equipment in rooms where animals were confined and tortured were targeted. Only computers belonging to or used in the work of vivisectors were destroyed. Only documents of animal researchers waere doused in acid. The acid a deliberately chosen paper dissolving agent. Our goal is total abolition of all animal exploitation. Achieved in the short term by delivering the 401 animals from UI’s chamber of hell. And in the extended term by shutting down the labs through the erasing of research and equipment used in the barbaric practice of vivisection. The entire raid was a careful and deliberate 5-pronged assault on UI’s animal research.

Behind the laboratory doors we found drug addicted rats, rats subjected to stress experiments involving loud noise, rats undergoing thirst experiments, unanesthetized rats with protruding surgical staples and oozing wounds, and mice and rats affixed with grotesque head implants. Inside the labs of UI’s Psych Department, we found a bloody torture chamber showcasing the cruelest whims of our earth’s sickest minds. Professors Freeman, Poremba, Rodefer, Johnson, Robinson, Blumburg, and Wasserman are monsters. Tonight 401 animals are spared their reach.

Our deepest sadness is reserved for the animals on the 4th Floor kept from our arms, those we were unable to save, including hundreds of mice and rats, pigeons, guinea pigs, and 8 primates.

No animals were released into the wild. All 401 were placed in comfortable, loving homes.

No mention was made in the e-mail about the animals which University of Iowa researcher Mark Blumberg said had ended up being drowned at the laboratory as a result of the attack. There’s also something a bit fishy about the claim that the activists were able to house all of those animals humanely. As Wayne Stollings points out in this site’s discussion forum,

If you take this article as a base the minimum (outdated) laboratory requirement for this group would be 21910 sq in for the rats and 1320 sq in for the mice for a total minimum area of 23230 sq in or 161.3 sq ft. or about a 13ft X 13ft room. If you take the UK minimum for rats . . . of 700 cm2 X 18 cm (108.5 sq inches) you have 219100 cm2 or 33960 sq in or 236 sq ft. as a laboratory minimum. The on line cage calculator for pets gives 225 sq in for rats and 36 sq in for the mice for 70425 sq in and 3168 sq in respectively for a total of 73593 sq in or 511 sq ft, the size of a typical apartment. Given, you can stack the cages to halve the square footage needed, you then have to be more careful in the care as the higher cages may get hotter than the lower ones. So how many people do you believe gave up entire rooms in their homes for these rats?

University of Iowa President David Skorton released a statement in response to ALF’s statement that read,

Today we have learned that anonymous members of the Animal Liberation Front are claiming responsibility for the violent attacks on laboratories and offices in Seashore Hall and Spence Laboratories on our campus on Sunday, Nov. 14. We have shared that message with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies and hope that it will help in the effort to solve this criminal case.

Reasonable people do not resort to violence and vandalism and then follow those acts with further threats of violence. Reasonable people can and do disagree about when and how using animals in research is appropriate ethically and/or scientifically. But make no mistake: the message from the perpetrators of this crime, which identifies not only the home addresses of our researchers, but also names family members, can have no other purpose than to intimidate. But we will not be bullied. I have directed our University of Iowa Police Department to work with other law enforcement agencies to take action to help ensure the safety of our faculty, staff, students and their families. Just as importantly, we will take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard the laboratories and offices of our colleagues who have dedicated their lives to the discovery of new knowledge.

At a time like this, when one of our core values is being questioned, it must be said that the University of Iowa is committed to the pursuit and discovery of knowledge that contributes to society’s general welfare.

The knowledge gained from biological research involving animals has come to be valued highly by society because it promotes the health and well-being of humans and animals. The majority of Americans endorse the use of animals to advance medicine and science when there are no non-animal alternatives, and when it is done in an ethical and humane way.

When the use of animals is necessary, the University of Iowa does everything in its power to ensure animal well-being and responsible animal care and use. The University Animal Care and Use Committee is charged with reviewing and approving all University activities related to the care and use of animals in research. In addition, caretakers under the close supervision of veterinary staff provide husbandry to the animals every day.

I call on our entire University to reach out to the members of our community who have been directly attacked, as well as those who have been cut off from their work and forced into temporary quarters by these unconscionable acts.

In closing, I want to strongly reiterate what I said previously: We will
emerge from this incident with an even stronger commitment to continue our scholarly and creative endeavors.

Of course not everyone within academia thinks terrorists are such a bad thing. The Iowa City Press-Citizen quoted University of Texas-El Paso philosophy chair as saying,

They [ALF] want every researcher to know no one is safe from attack. What (researchers) do to animals is not just a threat, it’s a threat that’s carried out.

One of the odd upshots of the ALF attack is that it has apparently created a chilling effect among local animal rights activists. A newly formed group, Citizens for Animal Rights of Eastern-Iowa, had been planning protests at the University of Iowa, but now its president, Kira Pfeifle, is not so sure they’re gong to go ahead with the protests,

I’m afraid to do it now. I don’t want my members to get investigated.


Animal groups worry about effects. Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 20, 2004.

FBI investigates university vandalism. KWWL, November 16, 2004.

ALF says vandals likely its members. Mike McWilliams, Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 18, 2004.

Skorton responds to ALF claim. Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 18, 2004.