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Animal Rights Terrorism, Redux

Last Thursday’s post on the animal rights firebombing in Santa Cruz earned me a couple outraged comments, so I suppose I did something right. I’m sure they don’t realize it, but they’re comments reflect what I was saying.

That is, commenter Connee said, “[Animal Rights] people value ALL life but have NO problem with destroying the property of people who commit acts of violence against sentient beings.” That would be the words from a supporter of terrorism – “I will hurt you if you get in the way of my extremist ideology.”

Another commenter denied that animal rights activists were terrorists, claiming that they are nonviolent, displaying complete ignorance of recent history, for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) in any case.

People like these implicitly condone violence over the use of animals in biomedical research – including the use of fruit flies and nematodes in research. That’s right – they threaten violence to save the lives of flies and worms for crying out loud. They care not that the welfare and ethical treatment of research animals is looked after, but that they are studied at all. I wonder why these people aren’t bombing livestock farms, pet shelters, pet stores, and generally anyone who owns an animal cage.

No, as has been implied, I do not think that supporters of animal welfare are terrorists – I count myself among them. But animal “liberators” are nuts, and the members of some animal liberation groups (e.g. ALF) are terrorists and terrorist supporters.

Even for the mammals that they get upset over, animal rights terrorists deny the indisposable service that mammalian models of disease perform for medicine, including for veterinarians helping the animals that they value above human life. Speaking of – I would love to know what the SPCA thinks of terrorist groups like ALF. Of course I support bans on the use of animals for cosmetic testing, fashion, etc. Even the SPCA supports this. But no one in their right mind wants biomedical research to come to a screeching halt.

But I digress – as I have said, I urge them and everyone to stop this nonsense, and renounce the use of violence as a political tool. In fact, take it one step further – support biomedical research and encourage informants of these violent acts to come forward to the proper authorities.

More related blog posts on Animal Rights terrorists:

Animals in Research: Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
Book Review: The Animal Research War
Handling Research Animals: Taking Courses and Learning How to be Kind


  1. Mahmoud Kabalan on September 7, 2008 at 3:26 am

    Im with u man, animal rights groups r taking stuff to the extreme. Human life is much more important than animal life. (not implying to treat animals unethically). But, i believe we should focus more on making human life better before focusing on animals. they r babies in africa who die because of lack of water and food. that’s much more important than some mammal or animal

  2. Jim H on August 25, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    ALF isn’t half the problem. The group SHAC is migrating “across the pond” and making a lot of fuss on the East Coast:


    This group is on the FBI’s list of know Terrorist organizations. I can testify personally I witnessed them attempt to disrupt our organization (even though the company I worked for was selling in vitro cell cultures to Huntington, sparing hundreds if not thousands of rats, mice & monkeys)and had the pleasure of having the FBI watch my house.

    Needless to say, I never told my wife and teenage daughters until it was pretty certain the threat had passed.

    I echo every point Dan & Peggy have tried to get across.

  3. Dan on August 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    “You think the aims of scientific discovery and medical advancement justify any suffering the animals might undergo.” – Did you read any of the links that I and the other bloggers that I linked to provided, describing the efforts of researchers to alleviate suffering experienced by animals used in research? No, I thought not.

    You should really read up on the care that animal researchers take in minimizing any suffering in their subjects before you go caricaturing them. I do however appreciate that you can recognize that these acts constitute terrorism and are in no way excusable in our society.

  4. Becca on August 23, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Ok Dan, I was confused by your comment on the other thread (“Acts of violence against animals?! Please.”). I thought you were saying it wasn’t *possible* to commit an act of violence against an animal. Since we agree it’s possible, I think it’s a legitimate question if any given research use qualifies as violence, and if that violence is justified.
    Also, I think we agree that the proper way to ask that question is not firebombing a car!!!
    Ultimately, the entire case is a question of different answers to “what noble pursuits justify violence?”
    You think the aims of scientific discovery and medical advancement justify any suffering the animals might undergo. ALF members think the aim of getting society to define “rights” such that the notion includes animals justifies the psychological suffering (terror) of certain people.

    (personally, I know I disagree with ALF members, but I may also disagree with you)

    I’m perfectly willing to grant that liberating minks might be dumb or counterproductive, I just don’t think it’s terrorism. If I was a mink farmer, and I needed to sell those minks to eat, I might feel differently.
    Also, just putting this out there, maybe the ALF folks knew about mink release effects on ecosystems, but decided that the long-term effects would still be a huge net-positive for animals (by nudging people into being unwilling to mink farm in the first place). I’m just saying, I can see it from either end of the continum… which is what I think is missing here.

    I’m not at all sure of your interpertation of non-vertebrate researchers coming under attack. For one thing, it is not necessary to have a spine to have nerves that are capable of registering pain. That matters to a lot of animal rights people, and also some animal welfare folks.
    For another, although claims that animal research is underregulated are pretty bizarre to anyone who works with, e.g., rabbits, they are reasonably true when it comes to invertebrates. Nobody is there to stop you from pulling the wings off butterflys for fun.

  5. Dan on August 22, 2008 at 10:00 am

    “if you really believe what you are saying… that “violence against animals” isn’t even *possible*” — I don’t believe that, and I just got done saying that I support animal welfare groups strongly. Please don’t confuse animal welfare with animal liberation.

    Moreover, be sure to read Peggy’s excellent response to you.

    Beyond the unequivocal support of terrorism and violence by animal liberation groups, I would extend this problem further – a clear disrespect for socially acceptable means of handling these issues. Taking the law into one’s own hands is sociopathic. Yet, that seems to be what you’re advocating, based on your reference to breaking into mink farms. Even with nasty things like mink farming, acting outside the law only strengthens their position and weakens yours.

    Thanks for the contribution, and that’s an excellent perspective to put this and related discussions into. I find it frustrating though that the animal liberation groups and their supporters (those people who would ascribe actual human rights to animals) continually caricature animal researchers as the “crazy people who would willfully torture animals.” You’re right – it is a trade-off, and one that I think few researchers take lightly.

  6. Peggy on August 20, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Becca: While I agree that not all animal welfare organizations are terroristic in nature, ALF certainly is. Firebombing a scientist’s house because he or she uses animals in research is evidence of that (and while there may be no “proof” in the Santa Cruz case, ALF has claimed responsibility for similar acts). I strongly disagree with your rhetoric about “violence” against animals, which seems to include their use for any research or food purposes. I don’t think that animals should needlessly suffer, but there is simply no replacement for animals in biomedical research that will ultimately be beneficial to humans. And the fact that scientists who aren’t even using vertebrates in their research have come under attack demonstrates that at least some of the “activists” have no interest in seeing alternatives to the research that uses rodents, monkeys and dogs. They appear to want an end to biomedical research altogether, which I have no sympathy for at all. Does that mean I value human lives over non-human ones? Yes, it does.

    It’s interesting that you mention releasing minks, since, to my mind, that’s a good example of either the ignorance or love of “action” over actual animals (I don’t know which) of radical animal activist groups. Minks are efficient predators, and their release into the wild can seriously damage local wildlife. I personally don’t like the fur industry, but simply smashing their cages is not the way to go about eliminating it. Not if you actually care about animals, anyway.

  7. Becca on August 20, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Way to totally misrepresent what I was saying, bravo!

    Bottom line: if you really believe what you are saying (that ALF is all about violent terrorism, and that “violence against animals” isn’t even *possible*) you are saying that releasing minks from a farm is an act of violence, but killing animals for food, fur, sport OR research (no matter how they may suffer in the process) cannot be violent. This is so loony sounding I dearly hope it is a strawman. If so, why don’t you clear up my confusion. What constitutes terrorism? What constitutes violence? Do we have the right to do whatever we want to animals, and if not, what should the restrictions be?
    If you are going to write on this ethically complex topic, write something with some actual philosophical thought behind it… not just “These are Bad People” simpleminded nonsense.
    Also “these people don’t agree with me!” or “these people dared ask for evidence about terrorism!” are *not* logically interchangable with “I must be right!” and “These people are Bad People too!” (Bush administration notwithstanding).

  8. Michael on August 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm


    I am a co-author of “The Animal Research War,” for which you provide a link to a review above and a target of animal extremists (about which I write in the book).

    I find it convenient to think of people’s views of animals as a continuum. At one end are crazy people who would willfully torture animals. At the other end are people who would ascribe actual human rights to animals. In the middle are welfarists, like you and I, who believe that, while animals do not have rights like people do, it is our responsibility as humans to care for them, attend to their needs and minimize their pain and suffering. Research is a trade-off: in order to help people (and animals, by the way) with medical advances, we engage in research, but it is our obligation to use the smallest number of animals possible, minimize their pain and suffering and, whenever possible, replace research animals with alternatives. In addition to being an ethical requirement, this is the law (Animal Welfare Act, enforced by the USDA).

    You can read the comments of others on our book, “The Animal Research War,” here: http://www.amazon.com/Animal-Research-War-Michael-Conn/dp/023060014X

    – Michael

  9. Steve on August 20, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Anyone that denies groups such as ALF condones violence to get their point across is simply ignorant (and I don’t use that word lightly). Check their own websiteand see what their own spokesman has to say about violence. Even with an ALF spin on what he says it makes me cringe…

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