Animal Rights Extremists’ Soft Targets

By Matthew Harwood

Jentsch, who experiments on vervet monkeys to understand drug addiction and schizophrenia, has long been a target of militant activists. In 2009, his car was blown up outside his home. The next year, the Animal Liberation Front mailed him razor blades they claimed were infected with AIDS, along with a note. “We follow you on campus,” it read. “One day, when you’re walking by, we’ll come up behind you, and cut your throat.”

Animal rights activists constantly picket Jentsch’s gated home, which is protected by cameras and an armed guard.

Marino does not shy away from the idea of violence as a tactic. “Aspiring scientists envision curing cancer at the Mayo Clinic,” writes Marino on her Web site. “We need to impart a new vision: car bombs, 24/7 security cameras, embarrassing home demonstrations, threats, injuries, and fear. And, of course, these students need to realize that any personal risk they are willing to assume will also be visited upon their parents, children, and nearest & dearest loved ones. The time to reconsider is now.”

Marino is quoted by blogger Rhys Southan as calling on distressed activists to essentially become suicide bombers for the cause. It’s this kind of rhetoric that could persuade a lone wolf to act.

Jacquie Calnan, president and CEO of Americans for Medical Progress, which defends the humane use of animals in research, considers Marino a new and worrisome player in the world of militant animal rights activism. “To threaten students and say we’re going to give you a taste of what scientists receive so you won’t go into this career is evil genius,” she says.

John Beckman, vice president for public affairs at New York University (NYU), calls NIO’s tactics reprehensible. “Intimidation, harassment, and fear as methods for ‘persuasion’ [are] entirely unacceptable and intolerable,” he says.
Jentsch says universities need to take immediate action against militant activists and put them on the defensive. They need to use whatever legal mechanisms—civil or criminal—the system provides, including restraining orders.

The University of Florida (UF) has already done so. Last December the university took out trespass orders against Marino and her associate, Lisa Ann Grossman, after the two disrupted an event on the campus. In July, Grossman violated that order when she walked onto the campus to distribute the NIO flyers that promise reward money. The Florida State Attorney’s Office pressed trespass charges against Grossman, which could carry up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.


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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