We must reject extremism

 

Today’s Pop Quiz:

 

What kind of social activism involves:

  • Stalking persons at home and screaming “murderer” through bullhorns
  • Issuing “wanted” posters listing home addresses
  • Thinly veiled (or not so thinly veiled) suggestions that their targets should be murdered
  • Razor packed letters and death threats
  • Adherence to the motto “by all means necessary”

And your choices are:

 

A.  Anti-abortion extremists
B.   Animal rights extremists
C.   All of the above.

*drum roll*

If you chose C, you were right!

Animal rights extremists and anti-abortion extremists are now sharing the same play book. Don’t believe us?  Consider the following.

 

Wanted postersOn the left is a wanted poster featuring Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician who was repeatedly targeted by anti-abortion extremists. In 1993, Dr. Tiller was shot five times by a long-time abortion activist. He survived that incident, however he did not survive a follow-up attack in 2009. One Sunday morning while attending church in Wichita, he was fatally shot in the head.

The poster is eerily similar to one recently issued by animal rights extremists targeting two researchers at a research university that also happens to be in Kansas. In this case, we covered the photos because thankfully, the researchers have not been targeted with physical violence. However their names are being been heavily circulated by extremist groups.

 

StalkingWe all support the right to protest…but when do things go too far?

We think the answer is very simple.  Things go too far when you do not have a true public audience, when your acts have nothing to do with explaining the public the reasons behind your activism.   Instead, your main goal is to threaten and intimidate others and submit them to your views by the use of violence and force.

Targeting biomedical researchers at their homes has been a tactic employed in recent years by those opposed to the use of animals in research.  Researchers’ addresses are frequently distributed by extremists along with information portraying them as monsters who must be stopped at all costs, by “whatever means are necessary”.   Sadly, this behavior has achieved its desired effect  – researchers, families and neighbors are frightened.  Are we over-reacting?  Are these empty threats?

Arson

 

No, their threats are not empty.  Home demonstrations are followed frequently by criminal acts that could easily become deadly.Above you can see depictions of clear criminal activity.  Can you tell the difference?

On the top left is a photo of the “New Woman All Women” clinic in Birmingham, Alabama which was bombed on January 29, 1998 critically injuring a nurse. In 2005, suspect Eric Rudolph, also known as the Olympic Park bomber, pleaded guilty to numerous federal and state homicide charges linked to this act and others.  He received five consecutive life sentences.

The other three pictures are all linked to animal rights extremism. The photo on the bottom left is from a security surveillance camera that captured one of two homemade bombs as they exploded approximately one hour apart at a biomedical company that uses animals. Investigators say the second intended to target responding police officers and firefighters. The suspect, Daniel Andreas San Diego remains on the loose.

The next two photos on the right column show a car and home that were firebombed at the University of California Santa Cruz. The researchers were targeted for their use of animals. The family was in the home when the firebomb was tossed at the house. Family members (including two small children) escaped through an upstairs window. It’s easy to see how that case could have been even more tragic. The person or persons responsible for these crimes have never been caught.

The Animal Liberation Front Press Office would like the public to consider such actions as mere “property damage”.  Bombing a family in their sleep is merely attacking property?   Mailing razor blades and death threats is civil disobedience?  Of course not, these are all criminal acts that are encouraged, publicized and applauded by animal rights extremists.

 

Promoting and celebrating murder and hate

 

The rhetoric shared by those opposed to abortion and animal research is disturbingly similar.

 

 I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many … I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives. – Dr. Jerry Vlasak, 2003 Animal Rights Convention presentation

 

“They are persons worthy of defense, like any born person, and they must be defended by any means necessary to protect them, including the death of the assailants, which in this case would be the abortionists and their direct accomplices.” – Rev. David C. Trosch, Roman Catholic priest

 

“It would be great if all the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories and the banks who fund them exploded tomorrow… Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.”  - Bruce Friedrich, PeTA.

 

Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to Dr. Tiller as “Tiller the baby killer” in his show and, of course, quickly moved to abstain himself from any responsibility after the murder.

And the list goes on and on…  Is this what our polarized society has come to?  Is advocating for murder and hate an acceptable way to achieve social change?   Is it truly free speech?

Most animal rights activists reject violence

 

And yet, it is clear that many animal rights activists do not support the activity of these extremists to achieve their social goals.

The same prominent philosophers that have argued for elevating the moral status of animals have argued against such violence, including Tom Regan, Peter Singer and Gary Francione.  It is clear that those that wield firebombs in one hand and a copy of “Animal Liberation” in the other did not pass the cover of the book.

Gary Francione writes:

I am violently opposed to violence [...] the animal rights position is the ultimate rejection of violence. It is the ultimate affirmation of peace. I see the animal rights movement as the logical progression of the peace movement, which seeks to end conflict between humans. The animal rights movement ideally seeks to take that a step further and to end conflict between humans and nonhumans.

Bryan Monell and Chris DeRose from Last Chance for Animals:

The animal rights philosophy is based on respect for all life and that extends to our adversaries’ families. LCA is opposed to targeting anyone’s children. This is counterproductive and the antithesis of the animal rights philosophy. Children, like the animals in laboratories, are innocent.

Shannon Keith, Director of Behind the Mask:

I cannot emphasize enough how critical open dialogue is to further a constructive merging of two areas of thought, that will hopefully be a means to assisting in more humane standards for animals used in science, as well as engaging in discussions about the elimination of animals used in medical research and the alternatives readily available.

Knowing that these researchers are willing to engage in peaceful, rational and progressive discussions is very hopeful.

An honest and open public dialogue on the use of animals in biomedical research cannot occur when scientists are fearful of expressing their opinions.

The challenge in front of the broad public is clear.  Are we (the vast majority of people that agree with civil dialogue as the only way to resolve ethical disagreements) going to submit to the will of a few extremists?  Or are we going to find ways to come together to isolate those that reject social norms and civil debate in a pluralistic, democratic society?  For those that welcome dialogue the action is imperative, as one hopes we never have to lament another case like that of Dr. Tiller.

Regards

Speaking of Research

37 responses to “We must reject extremism

  1. I really, really like this entry. As a former student research tech at a R1 primate lab who’s dabbling in animal rights (though, certainly no extremism on this end), I appreciate pointing out the activists who aren’t extremist.

    Additionally, I really liked the rhetorical comparison. This was awesome! Great reading material.

  2. “Rejecting extremism” does not mean that a subset pf animal rights activists can stand idly by and feel good about themselves because they do not engage in criminal behaviors themselves. It’s been too long that some activists have claimed “I don’t personally support violence, but I understand those that feel the need to resort to it.” This position is not tenable. The onus is on the entire animal rights movement to collectively repudiate, forcefully and openly, those that support hateful activities. If they do not, the movement cannot expect to be taken seriously in any bilateral dialogue.

  3. “The onus is on the entire animal rights movement to collectively repudiate, forcefully and openly, those that support hateful activities. If they do not, the movement cannot expect to be taken seriously in any bilateral dialogue.”

    The animal rights movement is not one single entity. Different people have different views. So I guess it can never be ‘bilateral’ because there’s more than 2 views going on. In that sense, all animal rights proponents need to do is put forward their own views. Some (many, probably) may be based on poor understanding of science, or philosophically inconsistent reasoning. Some are based on good science and moral consistency. Similarly, many scientists are not morally consistent. They usually argue on utilitarian (‘greater good’) principles, yet do not follow this through to its logical outcome, and switch to other forms of ethics simply because they feel like it.

  4. This is incredibly superficial. You have established that different movements sometimes employ similar tactics. But this does not mean that those movements are on par in any way or that the morality of employing a particular tactic is the same in both cases.

    You cannot evaluate the morality of a tactic apart from evaluating the end to which it is put.

    • Denis Alexander

      One can be sure that the anti-abortion extremists have the same moral conviction about their position as extreme animal right activists. You may disagree, but that’s not the point. The key question here is how should we, as a society, resolve ethical disagreements.

      • Actually, I agree that many anti-abortion activists have the same degree of conviction. But conviction is not sufficient…nor even particularly relevant.

        If the central claims of anti-abortion activists were true, then there tactics would be just.

        My point is that we cannot brush aside the question of whether the central claims of the anti-abortion movement are true or not if we hope to evaluate the moral permissibility of their tactics.

        Tactics cannot be evaluated in a vacuum as the above article seemingly attempts to do; we cannot draw up a list of tactics that are always acceptable in all circumstances by all parties. Likewise, we cannot draw up a list of tactics that are unacceptable in all instances by all parties.

      • If we’re going to do this fairly we should probably also consider other movements that have used violence to promote their cause.

        Women’s suffrage in the UK, for example.
        Black rights in America is another example: though of course much of this could be argued to be in self-defence, and after their general non-violent message seemed to be ignored, or weren’t making much progress:

        http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/articles/62/the-civil-rights-movement-in-mississippi-on-violence-and-nonviolence

    • Perhaps you can share with us the ethical grounds for their behavior?

      It is obvious that none of these dangerous individuals have ever read any of prominent animal rights philosophers. Otherwise, they would have noted that all have denounced violence. Including Singer and Regan.

  5. Not A Historian

    Now I’m curious. What part of the US Civil Rights era featured personal threats and sustained persecution of individuals in their homes? I mean I remember the church bombings and murders conducted by those who were *against* equality for African-Americans. I don’t recall hearing of the use of such tactics by the Civil Rights side? Perhaps you could enlighten us with some specific incidents?

    • I assume that’s in response to me. Well, the link above gives examples of using guns etc, justified in terms of self-defence, or “fighting fire with fire”. I guess those anti-abortionists and animal rights proponents who use/threaten violence could also claim they were “fighting fire with fire”, but acting on behalf of another party who was incapable of fighting back themselves (i.e human embryo/fetus and animals).

      • Not A Historian

        though of course much of this could be argued to be in self-defence, and after their general non-violent message seemed to be ignored, or weren’t making much progress:

        Right, so your last part here is a neat little lying sleight of hand. It implies that African Americans took up offensive, as opposed to defensive, violent actions because their “message seemed to be ignored” when in fact the record supports no such conclusion. Your link makes it emphatically clear that it was directly in self defense that African Americans fired over the heads of those who were shooting at them.

        So the true analogy would be if the scientists who are under attack by the extremist fringe were to arm themselves.

        Your analogy of defending parties who are incapable of fighting back has more merit and I agree with you that the violent fringe of animal-rights and embryo-rights movements are in tight register. And for the same reason, namely that existing legal and public opinion does not extend personhood to animals or to embryos. Instead of working to redefine personhood, the extremists feel it necessary to jump straight to terrorist intimidation.

        Note that this is in stark contrast to the Civil Rights era in which full personhood of African American’s was the legal standard and those that worked to deny full rights were on the wrong side of the existing legal standard.

        Even if that were not the case, we return to the same problem for your cause- Civil Rights agenda was not advanced by persecution and terrorizing of individuals fighting a rear guard action against the existing legal standard of equality. In fact the dead enders were the ones terrorizing and murdering the side that eventually won out.

        Sorry but your ends do not justify your means. Even if I shared your ends, it still would not justify the means. Claiming the US Civil Rights era as your defense for an ends-justify-means argument is factually inaccurate, tactically shortsighted and morally reprehensible.

  6. The alarmism on this site might be justified if the animal rights movement had the history of violence that the anti-abortion movement does…but it doesn’t.

    Note that not everyone is so shocked by the censored “Wanted Poster” you have above, the Kansas City Pitch published an uncensored version:

    http://blogs.pitch.com/plog/2010/03/animal_rights_activists_put_out_wanted_poster_for_ku_researchers.php

    • Perhaps you missed the fact that a family was bombed in their sleep at UC Santa Cruz. The only reason nobody is dead is chance. So yes, the parallel applies.

    • As does animal research…

      # S: (adj) violent (effected by force or injury rather than natural causes) “a violent death”

      http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=violent

      3.6 million procedures in 2009/10

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jul/27/number-animal-experiments-uk-falls

      (that’s number of experiments, rather than number of animals used, and since the act of breeding a GM animal counts as a procedure, not all of those would count as violent based on the above definition. But still, that must be at least several thousand primates being used. )

      • Of course in the US only 0.3 percent of laboratory animals are non-human primates. 95% of laboratory animals are rodents and yet you almost never hear of the animal rights groups sticking up for the mice and rats. Their posters almost invariably depict primates, dogs, rabbits, etc because they want to elicit an emotional response. Truth has very little to do with their campaigns.

      • David –

        Animal rights activists are concerned with and do object to the use of mice and rats…as evidence see the video produced by PETA at the link below:

      • @Gerald,

        There is so much untruth in that video one hardly knows where to start. The entire video is a pack of lies. For starters, while mice and rats are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act, they are not excluded from the Public Health Service’s Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals

        http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/references/phspol.htm.

        . (sorry, I’m lousy with computers and can’t figure out how to make this a clickable link). Mice also fall under the Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals which can be found in PDF format at

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/picrender.fcgi?book=napp&part=nap12910&blobtype=pdf&blobtype=pdf.

        Next, mice and rats certainly do receive veterinary care which is mandated in both references above. The use of anelgesics and anesthesia is also mandated by the above policies.

        The level of anthropomorphism in this video is astounding. Mice do not form “life long relationships.” A male will breed with any female you put in the cage. You should have it so lucky! Mice that become mothers have an equal chance of eating their own litter as raising it so they’re not exactly “good mothers”.

        If this is the best the AR groups can do then they’re in serious trouble. Of course they’re banking on no one actually pointing out their lies. The truth is very far from this bit of fiction. About the only positive thing about it is the woman doing the voice over has a cool British accent.

      • @Gerald,

        There is so much untruth in that video one hardly knows where to start. The entire video is a pack of lies. For starters, while mice and rats are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act, they are not excluded from the Public Health Service’s Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals

        http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/references/phspol.htm.

        Mice also fall under the Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals which can be found in PDF format at

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/picrender.fcgi?book=napp&part=nap12910&blobtype=pdf&blobtype=pdf.

        Next, mice and rats certainly do receive veterinary care which is mandated in both references above. The use of anelgesics and anesthesia is also mandated by the above policies.

        The level of anthropomorphism in this video is astounding. Mice do not form “life long relationships.” A male will breed with any female you put in the cage. You should have it so lucky! Mice that become mothers have an equal chance of eating their own litter as raising it so they’re not exactly “good mothers”.

        If this is the best the AR groups can do then they’re in serious trouble. Of course they’re banking on no one actually pointing out their lies. The truth is very far from this bit of fiction. About the only positive thing about it is the woman doing the voice over has a cool British accent.

      • “Next, mice and rats certainly do receive veterinary care which is mandated in both references above. The use of anelgesics and anesthesia is also mandated by the above policies.”

        When you say ‘mandated’, do you mean in the sense of ‘mandatory’ (i.e compulsory)? Because I don’t think using analgesics and anaesthesia is compulsory:

        In the US in 2005, over 84,000 animals were used in studies where pain and distress would not be relieved by anaesthetics:

        http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/downloads/awreports/awreport2005.pdf

        Since these figures apparently don’t even include mice, rats, birds or other invertebrates, one must wonder how many mice and rats were subjected to pain being inflicted.

      • Matt,

        As I explained, mice and rats are covered under the other documents I cited, but not the AWA. Analgesics and anesthesia are mandated in the sense that they are compulsory UNLESS the researcher can provide a justifiable reason for withholding such medications. An example might be if the study involved studying pain or the relief thereof. The IACUC reviews the protocols before the researcher can begin their experiment. No matter what you may think, IACUC’s are not a rubber stamp on research.

        Again, for the slow and dense, the Animal Welfare Act is NOT the only document covering the use of laboratory animals in research. There are others and they do include mice and rats.

  7. Excellent comment Not A Historian.

    I was also interested to read this report that an anti-abortion campaigner whe waged an animal rights extremist style campaign against abortion providers was recently convicted of two counts of stalking.

    http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/2010/11/08/abortion_wanted

    It’s good to see that at least one court understands the difference between legitimate campaigning and intimidation.

  8. @Gerald

    Mice are not given anesthetics?
    Not cared by veterinarians?

    What a bunch of lies… They are nothing more than lies.

    • In the US in 2005, over 84,000 animals were used in studies where pain and distress would not be relieved by anaesthetics:

      http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/downloads/awreports/awreport2005.pdf

      Since these figures apparently don’t even include mice, rats, birds or other invertebrates, one must wonder how many mice and rats were subjected to pain being inflicted.

      Maybe it’s changed in the past 5 years.

      • Your also inaccurate in your reporting. The site you linked does not mention distress only that whether there was or wasn’t pain and/or medication. You don’t know if they were distressed or not. Anything else you’re getting from that data is pure conjecture on your part.

        Also, it doesn’t define pain. Pain medications are not given if the subject is being given an injection because that’s determined to be momentary pain, kind of like you don’t get anything before getting a shot at the doctor’s office.

      • Valid points. I basically paraphrased it from the wikipedia article:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_testing#Pain_and_suffering

        But this article doesn’t actually provide a source to explain why the wikipedia author interpreted the report in the way they did.

  9. Howard Johnson

    The FBI already made the comparison of the Tiller issue and the animal rights activist’s style by confronting the activist with it long before the KU campaign. Snore. Old news.

    Did you miss their posts about the monetary rewards? That has more bite.

  10. “Of course in the US only 0.3 percent of laboratory animals are non-human primates. 95% of laboratory animals are rodents and yet you almost never hear of the animal rights groups sticking up for the mice and rats. Their posters almost invariably depict primates, dogs, rabbits, etc because they want to elicit an emotional response. Truth has very little to do with their campaigns.”

    I’m wondering about this: does the ’95%’ figure include insects? Clearly, the reason campagins are focused on primates etc is because these are the animals that have potential to suffer most, and lose most by being killed for research, as they are more likely to fulfil the criteria for ‘personhood’. If this wasn’t the case, then surely scientists would use far more primates?

    • @Matt,

      Come to think of it I’ve never seen an Animal Rights activist holding a sign saying “Save the Mosquitoes” either. Clearly they are discriminated against. Perhaps there’s a support group for them on Facebook?

      • If the unwillingness to save mosquitoes was merely due to them being a different species, then it would be discrimination. But it’s not. It’s due to them (almost certainly) not being able to perceive anything about its own existence.

      • @Matt,

        Lighten up a bit, it was only a joke.

      • You’d be surprised how often people make that sort of statement as a genuine argument against animal rights.

  11. The 95% does not include insects

  12. I am totally in support of an open, honest discussion. Personally, I’m an animal researcher, and though my institution has never had any attention from extremists, I have colleagues who have had wanted posters hung in their neighborhoods, stalking, the whole bit. This kind of behavior only makes people like me (and really the public in general) turn a deaf ear. I really appreciate this article.