Animal experimentation, animal rights and persuasion
So… I’m checking out Facebook and an odd vid appeared in my feed. Stupidly, I clicked it and saw this:
Jaw dropping, I know. Those terrrrrible UCLA vivisectors! Those poor innocent activists! The animalllls! The horror!
Then I realized I felt a mixture of emotions: anger, frustration, indignation, horror…
That’s when I paused, realizing whenever I feel a rush of emotions, something’s likely amok.
“Holy cow,” I thought, “I believe I’m being persuaded.”
That’s when I decided to check out the other side of the story.
This past weekend, the animal rights group ‘Progress for Science,’ descended once again on the neighborhood of a UCLA professor with the only intention of harassing her, her family and neighbors, by brandishing their spiteful language, libelous chants, and false imagery.
Such is the treatment some UCLA faculty, their families and neighbors, have endured for many years now. Everyone’s patience has limits and, on this occasion, a group of ~45 members of the UCLA community, including scientists, students, staff, and supporters, welcomed the group with a simple message —
Your harassment, threats and lies are not going to be tolerated any more.
What kind of harassment? According to UCLA, this has happened:
- Improvised “incendiary device” left on doorsteps
- Mailings filled with razor blades/threats to family members
- broken windows
- Birthday party harassment
- Smoke damage in homes
The LA Times has written about this situation as well.
As soon as he heard his car alarm blare and saw the orange glow through his bedroom window, UCLA neuroscientist J. David Jentsch knew that his fears had come true.
His 2006 Volvo, parked next to his Westside house, had been set ablaze and destroyed in an early morning attack March 7. Jentsch had become the latest victim in a series of violent incidents targeting University of California scientists who use animals in biomedical research.
After similar incidents, other UCLA scientists have become almost reclusive as security and public curiosity around them grew. Three years ago, another UCLA neuroscientist, weary of harassment and threats to his family, abandoned animal research altogether, sending an e-mail to an animal rights website that read: “You win.”
A little more:
In the last three years, UCLA has reported at least 10 arsons, attempted arsons and other acts of vandalism against its professors and researchers, along with many unrealized threats. In February, four animal activists were arrested on allegations that they were involved in attacking and harassing animal researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, but no arrests have been made in any of the UCLA cases, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. She said the incidents are under investigation as acts of domestic terrorism.
Granted, this article was written in ’09. I can’t seem to find any stats on the current state between these two groups. But of course, we now have the above vid and this recent blog post concerning the event.
For more than a decade, the streets in front of the homes of UCLA researchers have been the scene of regular, brutal, vitriolic and hate-filled campaigns by animal rights hooligans. With little direct knowledge of the truth, as well as a exceptional willingness to lie and deceive, they show up with signs and dated chants and disrupt our neighborhoods. Their stated goal is to make us and our neighbors uncomfortable in the conduct of these insane and sometimes illegal protests.
Since the inception of these protests, researchers have had little respite and few tools to call upon to address the harm done by these protests.
This weekend, we created a new tool, and it’s one that we plan to use again and again until these demonstrations are over. We have decided to act, with our voices, our messages of scientific progress and – most importantly – with the unity of our community.
Here’s the other side of the event depicted in the video:
When the ironically named animal rights group, Progress for Science, appeared at the home of my beloved and treasured colleague this Saturday evening, they encountered something they neither expected, nor knew how to deal with.
They found 40+ UCLA researchers, staff, students and friends who were waiting on the streets of Westwood. We outnumbered them 4:1, and the look on their faces as we marched towards their meeting site and intercepted them was priceless. It was unregulated surprise and confusion.
As they began to collect themselves, we broke out in our chant:
Progress for Science, LEAVE NOW!
Carol Glasser, LEAVE NOW!
They were, in a word, speechless.
Yup. They were. However, the activists conveniently positioned themselves as victims… which is unfortunate because many will view the Progress for Science video without checking out the researcher’s side of things.
During this current weekend’s demonstration, they took up a position in a normally peaceful cul-de-sac for about 45 minutes, while our group let them know – in no uncertain terms – that they were not welcome. Their lies, threats and hypocrisy (leather shoes, really?) were all addressed, front and center.
In the end, they turned back in the direction that they came and retreated. Determined to make it clear that they were unwelcome in this neighborhood, our members pursued them. When the extremists approached neighbors and people on the street with their rhetoric, our students and researchers swept in and countered the lies at every opportunity. Progress for Science was flushed right out of the area.
Here’s our message to those extremists and to anyone affiliated with them:
This wasn’t the last word.
It was the beginning of the end for you and your tired and useless group.
We are watching and waiting. When you come back, you will find us waiting for you.
The reign of terror you have brought to our neighborhoods is over.
It appears the situation has now escalated.
So… these are my useless thoughts on this situation. First, as a disclaimer, I should mention I’m a long time vegetarian. I know a fair amount about the animal rights movement.
I’m also educated and love science. I understand the need for animal experimentation and do not protest it in any way, shape, or form. Heck, I’m a recent recipient of the fruits of medical science. I’m sure a lot of cancer research has been conducted on animals. Cancer surgeries… I have my hunches about how surgeons practice new procedures.
That said, as a professional persuader, I think it’s exceedingly unfortunate that the researchers, while I’m sure are terribly frustrated, angry, and feeling harassed; attempted to take back their power in a most awkward way.
Sadly, viewers won’t dig for the back story. They’ll just see a vivid image of the brutal “vivisectior” that Progress For Science has skillfully constructed. I’m amazed at how well that group handled that situation. It’s a PR coup that will likely gain wide viewing on the Internet. I’m pretty sure this video will not only empower the online animal activist community, but any communications between the two groups will likely be damaged.
Oh… did you notice the call to action at the end? Progress For Science has already scheduled round two.
I hope the UCLA scientists take a page from this group and are able to tell their version of the story. However, much damage has been done. The images are disturbing… particularly to see highly educated professionals scream, lick camera lenses, name-call, and shout obscenities. Despite the back story, those images are now online.
That said, I don’t know how I’d combat such harassment. Perhaps I’d flood the Internet with our story. I’d show images of people (perhaps children) saved because of our research. I’d take control of my story (as much as I could), and find others to reinforce it.
It’s been my experience that those who tell the most compelling story generally win the latest round. But, clearly the fight is far from over.
Perhaps these scientists, students, and faculty members will better display their point of view next time.