University of Iowa vs. Leana Stormont

In March, the Daily Iowan published an op-ed by Linda Maxson, dean of the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The op-ed was in response to an earlier piece by animal rights activist Leana Stormont, president of the Iowa Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, which complained that University of Iowa officials were unwilling to debate animal rights activists.

Entitled “Setting the record straight on animal research,” Maxson writes,

In her March 23 Daily Iowan guest opinion, Leana Stormont expresses her disappointment that no UI representative has been willing to debate her or others who oppose animal research. Her insistence on debate rather than inquiry is emblematic of the intellectual failure of those who oppose animal research.

Debates are highly stylized performances aimed at scoring “points” for one side or the other of a contentious issue. Debates are not forums for communicating information or achieving understanding. Skilled debaters can “demonstrate” that the Earth is flat by suppressing factual evidence to the contrary.

The UI is dedicated to education, inquiry, and discovery free from demagoguery and intimidation. University administrators, including President David Skorton and Provost Michael Hogan, have attempted to educate and inform the university community about the realities of animal research. Stormont single-mindedly refuses to acknowledge the information readily available to her and anyone else with questions about animal research at this university and other centers of research.

. . .

Concerns for animal welfare are legitimate and are taken seriously by the scientific community, as many protocols and regulations concerning use of research animals testify. Those who wage an illegal and unethical campaign of intimidation and destruction do not advance the cause of animal safety or welfare. On the contrary, they marginalize concerned individuals and trivialize the issues surrounding our relation to animals.

Bravo. Following last Fall’s attack by the Animal Liberation Front, the University of Iowa has really been a model of how institutions need to react to animal rights extremists by taking the rhetorical fight to them rather than cowering behind bland statements and hoping the extremists will go away.

One thing that I would add is that no one should be expected to have to debate those who believe that violence and intimidation are appropriate tactics. Stormont, like many other animal rights activists, is unwilling to condemn violence and intimidation and, as such, is rightly ignored.

As she wrote in a January 2 op-ed in the Iowa City Press Citizen,

As a matter of ethical coherence, I do not believe anyone can condemn the actions at Spence [the laboratory that was attacked by the ALF] without likewise condemning the fact that thousands of animals have been intentionally subject to psychological terror and have lost their lives within the confines of that laboratory. . . .

Stormont then descends in the sort of demagoguery which Maxson notes characterizes her arguments,

As an example that illustrates this inquiry. I do not think there are many who would find fault with the Jewish resistance fighters who destroyed the gas ovens that Nazis used to slaughter so many of their brethren.

I say this is not because I believe scientists who conduct research are Nazis . . . but a genuine attempt to understand the motivation for these actions is necessary for anyone who desires to understand why they happened. It is not difficult to imagine instances where violence might be justified, which is not to say that it is always justified.

Right, she doesn’t intend to suggest researchers are Nazis, she just happened to pull that example out of thin air. Stormont does a good job of talking out of both sides of her mouth, clearly laying down an argument in defense of animal rights violence and intimidation while transparently pretending otherwise.


Setting the record straight on animal research. Linda Maxson, Daily Iowan, March 28, 2005.

Home of the caged. Leana Stormont, The Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 2, 2005.

FBI Releases Sketches of Woman Wanted for Questioning in University of Iowa Break-In

In March, the FBI released a sketch of a woman in her late teens to early twenties who is wanted for questioning in the November 14 raid by the Animal Liberation Front on University of Iowa’s Spence Lab.

According to the FBI, the woman is 5’2″ to 5’6″,

The suspect was last seen wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, light brown khaki pants, white tennis shoes, and a light blue plastic wrist watch. The suspect was also carrying a brown crocheted fabric purse with rope handles and a black nylon wallet with a picture of the animated character Tinker Bell on the side.

Animal rights extremists who broke into the lab stole hundreds of animals and did damage that is currently estimated at $450,000 and could go higher according to University of Iowa officials.

University of Iowa Psychology Department chair Gregg Ogden told the Associated Press that the loss of data on research projects was “much less than we had feared,” however.

The damages are mostly due to equipment destruction, cleanup costs, and the costs of additional security immediately after the break-in.



FBI releases UI suspect sketch. Steve Nicoles, KCRG-TV9, March 17, 2005.

U of Iowa research lab damage tops $450,000. Associated Press, March 18, 2005.

PETA Doesn’t Target Children . . . Except When It Does!

Back in January, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Ray Hinkle repeated Ingrid Newkirk’s lie that PETA doesn’t target children. Hinkle was quoted by the Roanoake Times as saying,

[PETA] never hands out things to children under the age of 13 without parents’ permission.

Hmmm, so why did activists show up at Central Middle School in Waterloo, Iowa, to hand out PETA’s Chicken Chumps cards to the students there. Most of the students at Central Middle School are going to be under 13. Was PETA going to ask for permission slips or identification before handing out its cards? Of course not.

On the other hand, someone at the staff of Central Middle School was on the ball (emphasis added),

[PETA activist Chris] Link contacted school officials ahead of time. They let Link’s three-person team come on school property to distribute the cards and talk to the children.

Apparently the fact that Wednesday is early dismissal for Waterloo students didn’t come up in the conversation. At least not until Link showed up at Central at 1 p.m. to scope out the situation in advance of the 2:25 p.m. event.

That’s when he was told the children would be leaving for the day in about a minute.

Sounds like he needs to be handing out Chris Link Chump cards. Apparently Link did rush back to his car, grabbed the cards, and managed to hand out about 100 of them. No word on how he managed to obtain the parent’s permission for all those kids under 13.

Anyways, the freaks activists then headed to KFC to picket along with a person dressed in a chicken costume holding a sign saying, “I’m not a nugget.” (Not that anyone was going to mistake an idiot in a chicken costume for something as delicious as a chicken nugget).

Finally, lets take a look at PETA’s Elizabeth Cooper’s effort to explain the Chicken Chumps cards, which feature characters like “Sickly Sally” and “Tubby Tammy.” Cooper told The Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier,

They’re not gross, but they are icky.

Sort of like PETA’s claim that they don’t condone terrorism, they just think it’d be great if animal enterprises were sent on fire while they hire individuals who think it’d be great if people working in animal enterprises were murdered.

PETA — they’re not terrorists, but they are gross and icky.


PETA demonstration moves to fast-food restaurant. Jeff Reinitz, Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier, February 24, 2005.

SAEN: Animal Research? Must Be The Money!

Stop Animal Exploitation Now’s Leana Stormont held a press conference at the University of Iowa in February to denounce animal research outside Spence Laboratories.

Spence Laboratories was the site of a much-publicized Animal Liberation Front attack last year, in which animals were stolen and machinery was smashed by extremists.

Stormont held a press conference outside Spence saying that the only reason researchers at the University of Iowa were continuing to conduct animal research was to enrich themselves.

Stormont said,

Barbaric experiments are under way at the University of Iowa. This is not about science. This is about money — attracing hundreds of thousands of dollars to UI’s coffers.

But Stormont seems to have limited knowledge about the research going on at the University of Iowa. The Iowa City Press-Citizen noted that Stormant denounced University of Iowa researcher Gary Van Hoesen research on macaques.

Just one problem, according to the Press-Citizen,

However, Van Hoesen said he has not used monkeys since 1982. He now conducts research on the human brain related to Alzheimer’s disease

Animal rights activists’ compassion is matched only by their accuracy.

Update/Correction: Thanks to Rick Bogle for pointing out that there are serious problems with the Press-Citizen’s reporting above that Van Hoesen has not done any research on monkeys since 1982. Van Hoesen is, in fact, listed as the last author on a number of studies that involve research on monkeys in recent years. Van Hoesen is probably correct that he hasn’t personally done any research on monkeys, and his name is probably being add as the last author due to convention of adding senior researchers and program heads on research that comes out of their department (Van Hoesen is the director of the Alzheimer’s disease program at the University of Iowa). But Stormont was being completely reasonable, in my opinion, in assuming that Van Hoesen was conducting research on monkeys since his name was attached to a number of such studies, and the Press-Citizen and/or Van Hoesen was being grossly unfair and deceptive in depicting Stormont as being ignorant or relying on outdated information. AnimalRights.Net regrets reproducing the Press-Citizen’s deceptive characterization of Stormont.


UI target of animal rights group. Kristen Schorsch, Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 11, 2005.

Group pressures University of Iowa to halt animal research. Associated Press, February 11, 2005.

The Baby Or The Dog: Which Would You Save If You Could Only Save One?

If there were both a dog and a baby dying, and you could only save one, which would you choose?

People are always asking variations on this dilemma in the context of animal rights because for most people the answer is simple — our moral intuitions tell us that regardless of what sort of moral principles or system we subscribe to, the answer is clearly the baby.

Animal rights types tend to disagree. Tom Regan was famously asked if he were aboard a lifeboat and had to throw either a dog or a baby overboard, which one he’d choose. He answered, “(If) it were a retarded baby, and a bright dog, I’d save the dog.”

That was bad enough, but University of Texas-El Paso philosophy professor Steven Best apparently won’t even be bothered with concerns over whether or not the infant is retarded and/or the dog is especially bright.

According to the Daily Iowan, Best recently appeared at the University of Iowa and,

His statements generated a flurry of questions and criticism from the audience, which was made up of doctors, psychology students, animal-rights activists, and medical students. “If you saw a baby dying and a dog dying, which would you save?” one audience member asked.

“You need to be more specific with your question,” Best replied. If a house with his dog and someone he didn’t know was burning, he said he would save his dog, prompting another wave of gasps.

Best was talking at the University of Iowa — and I’m not making this up — as part of that university’s celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. According to the Daily Iowan,

Demanding the “total pursuit of animal emancipation,” he praised the front’s actions and compared the freeing of animals to the Boston Tea Party and the Underground Railroad. Best said no progress can come about without a large movement, even if it means violence, but called death threats toward researchers “problematic.” He contended that the Animal Liberation Front was not violent.

“The animal-rights movement is growing whether you like it or not – it’s unstoppable,” he said in his opening remarks at the IMU. His lecture, “The New Abolitionism: Civil Rights, Animal Liberation, and Moral Progress,” drew an audience of more than 100 as part of the UI Martin Luther King Human Rights Week.

“Real violence is what people do to animals,” he said, acknowledging that his definition differs from King’s. “Violence is not always right – yet it’s not always wrong, either.”

The sad thing is that the people in attendance were apparently shocked that such views are held by people in academia. In fact I’ve had a number of academics complain in e-mail that I’m invoking a straw man when I claim that it won’t be long before you have biologists and others at universities under siege from animal rights terrorists, while across campus animal rights philosophers and others will provide an intellectual defense that such violence is, in fact, peaceful protest.

Hopefully these folks will wake up before its too late.


Animal-rights speaker provokes disbelief. Julie Zare, The Daily Iowan, January 21, 2005.

ALF Sends Video of University of Iowa Attack

The Animal Liberation Front sent videos to a number of media outlets this week showing at three activists plus the camera operator breaking into a University of Iowa animal laboratory.

The video is apparently 45 minutes long and shows three individuals clad all in black entering the animal lab, destroying equipment, and removing animals.

At one point the tape shows one of the masked activists entering a secured part of the lab by using an electronic swipe card, suggesting that at least one of the activists had access to the lab or access to someone who had access to the lab.

The activists are shown removing the mice, rats and other animals housed in the laboratory and placing them in plastic bins of varying sizes.

The video also shows the extremists destroying computers and spray painting slogans such as “ALF,” “Science Not Sadism” and “Free the Animals”.

It curiously omits the extremists dumping chemicals. According to the University of Iowa, the ALF attackers dumped hazardous chemicals in the laboratory. The lab has been closed indefinitely while a team works on removing the hazardous materials.

Another oddity is that the ALF e-mail claming responsibility for the attack claimed that no pigeons were released, but news reports have said that pigeons were also released from the lab.


FBI has video of vandals at UI. Kristen Schorsch, Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 23, 2004.