Animal-Rights Activists Get Personal in Wave of California Attacks

Article excerpt

The recent fire-bombing of a university professor's car here appears to be part of a trend of animal-rights activists targeting the personal lives of researchers, rather than just the labs or companies where they work. The idea is to scare the scientists into reconsidering using animals in their research work. Despite tightening laws, California saw an uptick in attacks last year with 21 reported incidents - of 36 nationwide - ranging from vandalism to firebombs, mostly targeting University of California researchers, according to data compiled by the Foundation for Biomedical Research. By contrast, the state saw just four or five such incidents the previous two years. "The tactics [of animal-rights activists] have changed. They've gotten very personal," says Frankie Trull of the National Association for Biomedical Research, an organization that advocates for the responsible use of animals in research. The latest incident occurred early last Saturday outside the Westwood residence of Dr. David Jentsch, a neuroscientist at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The professor's vehicle was engulfed in flames and destroyed, though no one was hurt. The Animal Liberation Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack, accusing the professor of addicting monkeys to "methamphetamines and other street drugs." In a press statement, activists warned of more attacks causing "a lot more damage than to your property" if animal experimentation continued. So far, UCLA hasn't backed down. The university added $25,000 to a reward fund last week, joining city and federal agencies in offering a total of $445,000 for information leading to those responsible for five incidents against university researchers. UCLA is committed "to continuing legal and tightly regulated animal research that is critical to the development of treatments and cures for medical conditions," said Chancellor Gene D. Block in a statement. The university has pursued legal remedies to safeguard researchers and their families, said UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton in a phone interview. These include obtaining court orders prohibiting extremists from coming within a certain distance of researchers' homes. …

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