Animal Rights Extremists’ Soft Targets

By Matthew Harwood

An animal rights group calling itself Negotiation is Over (NIO) is targeting undergraduate students who perform biomedical research on animals.

The Florida-based militant animal liberation organization, founded around 2009 by Camille Marino, finds its targets by promising $100 cash rewards to anyone who gives it a “vivisection student’s” name, picture, contact information, and evidence of animal experimentation. NIO activists have leafleted the campuses of Columbia University, Florida Atlantic University, New York University, the University of Florida-Gainesville, and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, making students aware of its campaign.

Once they have names, NIO activists contact the students and try to intimidate them into discontinuing their research. In a March 2011 blog post, Marino celebrated NIO’s first success of its “applied persuasion tactics,” which were carried out over a “long night of educational outreach.”

The case involved an undergrad researcher at Florida Atlantic University, who used fruit flies in her research. After constant electronic communication by NIO activists, the student issued a public statement “denouncing animal testing and my involvement in it.”

Marino is unapologetic about targeting biomedical students: “The weakest link in the chain is the student body,” she writes in a blog post titled “Bringing the War to the Student Body: The Soft-Bellied Target of the Vivisection Complex.”

In an e-mail exchange with Security Management, Marino defended her tactics. “The only thing I’m guilty [of] is leafleting and exercising my first amendment [sic] rights,” she wrote. “If I exposed bakers, you would consider it advertising. If I exposed politicians, you would call me a biographer. But I expose animal abusers. They don’t fear me. They fear exposure.”

If NIO’s actions were confined to free speech, Marino would be correct to defend her rights, but the courts have perceived her actions as potentially more serious. In September 2010, the Los Angeles Superior Court granted UCLA researcher Dr. David Jentsch a restraining order against Marino after she referred to Jentsch as Dr. David “Tiller” Jentsch, a reference to a murdered abortion provider, and published his contact information on the NIO Web site. Until September 2013, Marino cannot go near Jentsch, contact him, or obtain information about his whereabouts. She also cannot own or handle a gun. The order was issued because Marino posed “a credible threat of violence” to Jentsch.


Students against extremism

Extremist groups like NIO may want to think that students are the "soft underbelly" of animal research, they may be in for a rude shock.

Already, in response to the targeting by NIO of a cleaner (initally misrepresented by NIO as a student) at a University of Florida affiliated research institute, the UF student newspaper published a very strong editorial against intimidation od students and scientists by animal rights extremists

It is clear that any UF student who does find themselves being harassed by AR activists will find no lack of support from their fellow students, indeed the evidence so far suggests that students are unwilling to send the extremists information on other students in response to "wanted posters".

There is already a very good example of how effective students can be when they unite in the face of extremism. In 2006 students at Oxford University held a rally against animal rights extremism after threats from the Animal Liberation Front, that sent a very strong message that they would not be intimidated and would not allow the extremists to succeed

This anti-extremist - and pro-animal research - campaign, and the support it gained in the news media and from politicians,  undoubtedly contributed to the sharp decline in animal rights extremist attacks in the UK since 2005.



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