There has been a low-grade terrorist war in the US that gets little attention, and the shadowy group has attacked again. Several cars have been firebombed, and an animal rights group is behind the attacks.

Don’t expect much publicity about the attacks, because the attackers are so called animal rights protesters, a group beloved of the Hollywood featherbrained and other elites.

But scientists are worried. In the past, much research has been destroyed by attacks on research laboratories, but now the attackers are targeting homes and cars with bombs.

The latest was on a scientist whose research into brain disorders require the use of primates. The research is vital: What part of the brain is involved in eating disorders? The research involves investigating deep brain stimulation of various areas: an area of research that has implications in basic research (i.e. what does this part of the brain do?) and in treatment (will implants control appetite in syndromes involved with massive obesity and compulsive eating disorders). His laboratory also is doing research into Parkinson’s disease.

But this is not the only scientist who has been targeted. The LATimes reports that in August 2008, two Santa Cruz researchers had their houses firebombed, and that this was merely the latest of a series of attacks:

In June 2006, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for an attempt to firebomb a UCLA researcher’s home; it placed the bomb at the wrong house. In June 2007, a group called the Animal Liberation Brigade took credit for placing a firebomb under another UCLA researcher’s car. Fortunately, the bombs in both cases failed to go off. Last October, the Animal Liberation Front said it was behind the flooding of a UCLA researcher’s home with a garden hose, causing up to $30,000 in damage. In February, an incendiary device charred the front door of that same researcher. Also in February, six masked activists demonstrating at a UC Santa Cruz researcher’s home pounded on her door and allegedly assaulted her husband when he confronted them.

These attacks are not the only ones: other attacks on research facilities have set back medical research and cost millions of dollars.

There have been attacks in Portland Oregon, Utah,

Websites call the scientists “vivesectionists” and “torturers”, listing the scientists names and addresses, and encouraging their readers to hate the scientists: ignoring that in many cases there are no other alternatives to doing research.

But what makes the movement more frightening is that although these terrorists are not officially supported by more “mainstream” groups like PETA, nevertheless at least one PETA spokesperson has supported threats of violence to scientists in the research community:

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wasn’t named in the suit and hasn’t been part of the UCLA protests, but when asked to comment, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk says she does not support firebombings, but she supports protests at researchers homes and worries that the new limits abridge free-speech rights. “I think it’s a freedom-of-speech right to say [to researchers] ‘You better watch what you are doing’,” Newkirk tells NEWSWEEK.

The real danger is that such threats, like those of the Unibomber, will kill or intimidate scientists from doing research into illnesses, and as a result ordinary people will die of diseases that otherwise could be cured.

But as a (minor) bioethicist, I worry that their agenda, i.e. that sees animals as coequal with human beings, is more dangerous.

Sorry, but when PETA demonstrates in Manila for fishies’ rights (i.e.against keeping fish in zoos), while down the street poor people are living in squatters towns or sheltered beneath underpasses, and when rural folks commonly eat dogs not as a delicacy but because they literally can’t afford to feed the animals, then I wonder what their priorities are.

Of course, these self righteous bigots might point out that they are protesting the rights of primates, not dogs or pigs. Ah, yes. The same type of person who cries when gorillas or monkeys are killed to be eaten as “bush meat” by poor people in Central Africa, but ignore the four million dead humans killed in tribal wars in the same area.

Silly me. I realize that these are rich people who have nothing better to do, but some of us are silly enough to think human babies are more important than laboratory rats or little fishies.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. she writes medical essays at HeyDocXanga blog

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