Securing Research Facilities against Activist Attacks

Article excerpt

MOST PEOPLE are genuinely concerned about animal welfare. Years ago, zoos were filled with animals in cramped and spartan cages. A trip to most zoos today will show that times have changed thanks in large part to the activities of animal rights activists. Animals are now generally treated with the utmost care and are housed in a more humane environment. Despite every appropriate precaution, however, the fact that these animals still do not live in their natural environment is just one of many issues for animal rights groups to contend with.

It is unknown how many animal rights groups exist in the world today. If three people share a common goal and adopt a name for their belief, it becomes a cause. In Wisconsin, twenty-nine known animal rights groups have been identified. Among the better known groups are Alliance for Animals, Friends of Wolves, the Animal Protection League, the Animal Rights Team, and Citizens for Animal Resources.

To deal with issues that might arise relating to the activities of these groups, corporations and institutions should establish an in-house animal safety committee to review policy and procedures concerning research animals.

The University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison has had an animal safety committee for many years. UW-Madison is a world-renowned medical research institution and, as such, is a potential target for animal rights activists. The committee includes faculty, staff, and researchers. Its goal is to ensure that the guidelines and regulations in relation to animal research are strictly followed.

Members of the animal safety committee meet monthly to review proposed procedures and discuss these proposals with the requesting researcher. The committee must first approve a procedure prior to it being performed on any research animal. If a proposal is not approved by the committee, the researcher has two weeks to resubmit the request showing compliance with suggested changes. The committee also conducts unannounced inspections of research facilities on campus to ensure that all criteria are being met.

Institutions that are potential targets for such activists should also familiarize themselves with the tactics of these groups, both violent and nonviolent. An awareness of their methods will highlight potential areas of vulnerability.

ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS are composed primarily of people whose only link is a shared concern for the welfare of animals. A major issue for members is the use of animals for research at universities, institutions, and corporations. The type of research conducted at these facilities is irrelevant. The use of animals for any research whatsoever is adamantly opposed by all animal rights groups.

Trapping, hunting, and fishing, while all legal activities, are also targets of animal rights activists. According to their beliefs, the hunting of any animal or fowl should be outlawed. Opening day of hunting season has been the scene of many recent disturbances in which animal rights activists have interfered with hunters. These incidents, which have increased in occurrence, usually take place on public hunting lands or in state and national parks during posted hunting seasons.

Nonviolent groups. The majority of animal rights groups are nonviolent. Their goal is to draw public attention to universities, institutions, and corporations where animals are used in research. These groups consider themselves watchdog organizations. Several of the nonviolent groups assist law enforcement by providing information concerning suspected animal abuse cases, which are then investigated by the police. Members of these groups consider it their moral obligation to be vigilant in the protection of animals.

Nonviolent animal rights groups use a traditional approach to the monitoring of animal treatment throughout the world. One strategy these groups use is to send letters to universities, institutions, and corporations that use animals in research. …