Tag Archives: activism

Animal Rights Hacktivists

A handful of activists (maybe less) have begun to use digital means to take direct actions against those who are involved in animal research. All the hacks below involved gaining control of the website and either defacing the front page, or taking down the entire website. This is likely the actions of one or two lone activists, rather than the thousands involved in high profile distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) – which were used to attack websites like the US Department of Justice in January.

On May 2nd 2012 the BiteBack extremist website reported that Riccó Alete, an Italian supplier of laboratory equipment, and SD Pellicceria, an Italian fur store, both had their websites defaced (apparently) by the notorious hacking group Anonymous.

Two days later, on May 4th 2012, Anonymous targeted  the website of Anlaids, an Italian non-profit organization which aims to tackle AIDS through information, research and funding.

However, this problem is not limited to Italy, or even Europe, on May 10th 2012 an American pet product company website was taken down by activists due to the activities of their sister-organization, Marshall BioResources, who supply equipment for laboratories.

Message left by hackers

Anonymous, for those who are unaware, is a loose collective of hackers from all over the world. Their effectiveness can be gauged from their high profile targets. They have (temporarily) crashed the websites of the Syrian Defence Ministry, the British Home Office, the US Department of Justice, Interpol and even the FBI.

Nonetheless, we should put this on perspective. As mentioned before, the number of anonymous members involved in the attacks on companies linked to animal research is very small – probably just one. The nature of anonymous is that anyone may carry out attacks in their name (it is a front group in this respect) and although they have a history of anti-establishment attacks, they do not have a history of targeting those linked with animal research.



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?



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.


Speaking of Research

Raising Voices: Animal Research Advocacy and Community Engagement

Animal rights groups and extremists have raised a very loud chorus against animal research. Well-funded, media-savvy campaigns and over-the-top publicity stunts ensure that the public receives a biased and negative message about the role and value of animal studies.  As a result of decades of investment in extensive campaigning, these groups have contributed to decreasing public understanding of, and support for, animal research. At the same time, frustration with failing their major goal—to end all use of animals in research—has contributed to an increase in harassment and violence directed against scientists by animal rights extremists.

Yet those of us who engage in scientific outreach and education efforts find that members of the community, including students, welcome opportunities to hear from us and to learn about other views of animal research. The great majority are interested in knowing more about why we believe animal research is essential, how we treat animals in our care, and how our studies may contribute to improvements in human and animal health.  There is no shortage of public interest in learning more about animal research. This is particularly true among the youth that are the targets for carefully crafted campaigns by groups like PeTA.

David Jentsch and Tom Holder give press conference

It is important for scientists to engage the public in the debate over animal testing

The question is not whether the public is interested and can be reached with “our” message, or whether there are ample opportunities to do so. Opportunities for scientists to engage in community outreach and education are not limited.  There are a large number of outstanding educational programs, including those with long histories as well as more recent initiatives, in which many scientists participate.  Interest in issues related to animal research and ARA activity is also reflected in active discussion in venues such as Science Blogs, where bloggers DrugMonkey, Isis the Scientist, and Janet D. Stemwedel have all  engaged their readership in posts and vigorous commentary on issues related to animal research.

The question really is whether more scientists will choose to commit time and energy to animal research advocacy efforts.  And underlying that question are others:  Among all of our obligations and competing pressures for time, why spend time on outreach and education?  What will it achieve?  Why can’t someone else do it?  Don’t animal rights people “win” if I take time away from science to speak out on animal rights issues?

The short answer to all of these questions is that the voices of scientists engaged in animal research are essential to challenge the loud chorus of misinformation rising from animal rights activists and dominating the discussion. In absence of challenge, it seems likely that the current trend towards decreasing public support of animal research will continue. It may well escalate as increasingly effective social media campaigns executed by ARA groups pervade elementary school and onward without effective counter.  The results of decreased public support are obvious, far-reaching, and—ultimately—damaging to public health.

Some people are philosophically committed to a position in which no use of animals, for food, entertainment, research, is morally acceptable. The majority of people, however, do not equate animals’ rights with those of humans.  Many times people confuse animal welfare with animal rights.  Many people do not understand how animal studies contribute to breakthroughs in medicine and why these studies are necessary for progress. People are also often not aware that animal research is conducted humanely and is well-regulated at federal and local levels.

All of these issues are complex.  The success of many animal rights groups’ campaigns depend heavily upon poor public understanding of animal research, uncountered misrepresentations of scientists and their work,  and exploitation of the misconceptions and negative perceptions that many people have of the use of animals in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Unfortunately, for the most part, animal rights groups have also been able to count on launching misinformation campaigns with very little threat of organized, public response from the scientific community.

Scientists can provide an effective counter to animal rights extremism by presenting accurate representation and information, by demonstrating visible and active support for their own and their colleagues’ work, and by engaging in respectful exchange of ideas with those who seek open discussion of the use of animals in research.

Speaking of Research
provides a venue for scientists to speak out in favor of lifesaving research developed with animals.  SR was founded by Tom Holder and inspired by the successful British student movement “Pro-test”. In the UK, Pro-Test’s experiences have shown that an informed public will rally together against animal rights extremism and come out to support scientists in their use of animals in lifesaving biomedical research.

SR aims to challenge animal rights dominance of the issue by participating in talks and debates on campuses across the country and by utilizing web-based communications tools to organize a network that can provide encouragement, information and support to all who care about medical progress. We also challenge ARA campaigns directly when they are based upon misrepresentation.
SR is run by a committee of people who believe that animal research remains crucial to the future of medicine.  Among its successes is the first mass pro-research demonstration in the US in April of 2009 at UCLA, site of a spate of attacks against researchers. Following a car fire attack by animal rights extremists, Professor David Jentsch, founded UCLA Pro-Test and held a rally that drew 700 supporters and demonstrated the strength of active and visible animal research advocacy.

There are many ways to serve as an advocate for animal research. Some are as easy as signing an online petition.  Coordinated efforts and vocal, concerted support is important to all of us and to the future of biomedical research that is essential to improvements in human health.

A member of the SR Committee, I have recently founded the North Carolina Chapter of Speaking of Research (NCSR). NCSR seeks to support scientists in active and visible efforts to provide the public with accurate information and resources about the importance of animal research in medical science. It also serves as a local exchange for news about issues related to advocacy and about local animal rights extremism.  Please join our facebook group or email me at NCSpeakingofResearch@gmail.com for more information.

Allyson J. Bennett, Ph.D.

The views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

ALF shooting blanks – we can only hope!

On the 19th October the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) sent the following communique:

There a roughly 12 (give or take a few, they’ll have to find the exact number) of those UCLA vans driving around with unfired shotgun shells in their mufflers. Some of them may have ignited with the warm weather that we have been having. Most of them will eventually blow the mufflers straight off of those vans, it all depends on when the conditions are just right. The security cameras, the easily timed late night patrols, and the new laws don’t mean a thing to us. We WILL keep coming up with new ways to keep the primate tortures wondering.

A target?

A target?

According to the Daily Bruin,  Nancy Greenstein of the UCPD (University of California Police Department) said the claims are not likely to be true. Admittedly an activist who loses count almost immediately after running out of fingers to count on (they say a dozen, but apparently aren’t sure if the baker was planting them) could be considered unlikely to actually have the planning to pull it off – however the risk to students remains. Hopefully this will turn out to be a case of all-talk-and-no-action. Phil Howard, a UCLA spokesman reported that, “The police department has looked into it and found no evidence to support the claims.”

These terror tactics are reminiscient of the old animal rights reports of tainting medical supplies, such as  in the UK when animal rights activists reported that they had poisoned hundreds of tubes of Savlon cream – a claim that was fortunately another case of words-without-action.

We cannot deny that animal rights extemism is on the rise on the West Coast. Must we wait for the US to peak at the levels of violence that the UK reached, culminating in the grave-robbing of the remains of Gladys Hammond, the grand mother of a family that bred Guinea Pigs. Although the police remain a crucial part in the fight against animal rights extemism, the most important battle is to bring the public behind life-saving animal research and the only way in which this can be possible is through public outreach.