Arson, Santa Cruz, and crimes against medicine

It began with an animal rights pamphlet in a Santa Cruz coffee shop that listed the names and addresses of 13 researchers who used animals. It ended with two firebombs – one destroying a researcher’s car, the other, at 5:40am, aimed at a second researcher, Dr. David Feldheim’s house, forcing him and his family (including his two children) to escape from a second story fire ladder.

UCSC researcher’s car is firebombed

Read more on this event in the LA Times, Santa Cruz Sentinel and Associated Press.

What becomes apparent from the press reports is that animal rights extremism may be receiving universal condemnation from the press, but that the actual benefits of animal research do not come into the mix. The overriding message needs to change from “AR extremism should be condemned” to “AR extremism should be condemned AND animal research saves lives”.
I was fortunate enough to talk to Debra Saunders from the San Francisco Chronicle who allowed me to try and present both sides of this important message in her article:

“We must not allow a violent minority to dictate the future of medicine,” Holder noted, when cures and knowledge can save so many lives. Too often American universities have tried to downplay animal rights terrorism. Researchers clam up, lest they be next. The harassment campaigns “tend to isolate individuals,” Holder noted. But the terrorists cannot prevail when scientists stand together for their work.

And stand together they have. On Monday over 200 scientists and members of the public held a rally in solidarity to Dr. David Feldheim. Could this event be the turning point in the campaign that sees scientists stand up and speak openly about the importance of research? Perhaps this event will wake people, as the Oxford boat house bombings woke up the Oxford University campus.

The University of California (UC) system, to which Santa Cruz is a member, has been under concerted attack from animal rights activists and extremists for the past few years. Some researchers have quit their jobs, others have been attacked in their homes, or recieved incendiary devices. Medical research is under threat, and every time a researcher quits, it is us, the consumer of medical benefits, who suffer.

UC Santa Cruz carries out basic research, this is the research which brings about the knowledge and understanding of diseases which underpins the applied research which tries to create treatments. Santa Cruz’s big research areas include Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and if researchers continue to be harrassed by animal rights activists, then it is the possible medical treatments to these diseases which is affected. Dr. David Feldheim, who’s house was subject to the recent arson, was working to understand the mouse brain – research that could eventually be used to understand the workings of the human brain, bringing benefit to the future of treatments for neurological pathologies.

In short, we all have a part to play in standing up for use of animals in medical research, and condemn the violence surrounding it.

Jerry Vlasak has also taken the opportunity to preach hate in the name of animals, as he vied for attention:
“If their father is willing to continue risking his livelihood in order to continue chopping up animals in a laboratory then his children are old enough to recognize the consequences”
Anyone impressed by Vlasak’s claim to being a credible trauma surgeon should check out our own expose on the Press Officer for the Animal Liberation Front (an organization deemed “terrorist” by the US and UK governments).

On another note, it was also amusing to hear that HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) have contributed a pitiful $2,500 towards the $30,000 offered by the Santa Cruz authorities to information leading to the arrest of the culprits. I say pitiful but considering it’s more than they give to many humane shelters they support (read: “give token gifts to”), all of which amount to less than 8% of their yearly expenditure) perhaps we should let them off.



p.s. check the Calendar for talks by Speaking of Research in California this week.