Animal Rights Activism Turns Ugly   4 comments

From the LA Times:

Santa Cruz — Firebombs that struck the home and car of two UC Santa Cruz scientists this weekend were part of an increasingly aggressive campaign by animal rights activists against animal researchers at University of California campuses, officials said Monday.

This attack could very well have easily killed two children (ages 2 and 4), in addition to one of the targeted researchers, David Feldheim. Not that this appears to bother some of the kookier members of the Animal Rights community:

Jerry Vlasak, a Los Angeles physician who runs a website that highlights animal rights activism, blamed the scientists for the violence.

Vlasak, of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office website, said his organization had received no communique from any group claiming responsibility for the Santa Cruz fire bombings. Although he said he had no direct knowledge of the attacks, he also said that “the use of force” is “not unpredictable or untenable.”

“The inconvenience and the suffering of any children or any family members pales in comparison to the suffering and oppression that goes on in these animal laboratories,” Vlasak said in an interview Monday. Feldheim is “putting himself and his family in harm’s way by continuing to abuse animals.”

The problem with people like this is that they fail to recognize that their position is untenable -> if you support this sort of violence, you’re standing in the moral company of anyone who agrees that indiscriminate violence is an acceptable tool against those who believe differently than they do. Even if you assign some sort of moral culpability on the children of animal researchers (a dodgy moral platform if there ever was one), you’re also possibly killing… oh, security guards, cleaning personnel, homeless passerby, or firefighters who have a duty to extinguish the blaze. While a tortured mind may be capable of including the first two in the “morally culpable” category using the same crazy criteria by which they include children, you can’t possibly include the latter two.  Well, unless you really are a terrorist, but more on that later.

By extension, then, it’s perfectly reasonable within Mr. Vlasak’s moral code for someone who disagrees with *him* to go blow up his office. Of course, the same legal system that is trying to catch the animal rights nuts will protect Mr. Vlasak to the best of its ability.

While I respect that it makes sense (from a societal standpoint) to defend free speech, I’ve got to wonder if we’ll ever manage to eliminate the kooks in our society when we encourage them to exercise free speech while defending them from the logical conclusions of their own speech. I suppose not, the nuts are here to stay.

One additional comment on this story: I’m afraid I have to disagree with UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal… this doesn’t qualify as terrorism. I’m certain that the general research community may regard it as such, but that doesn’t make it so. It’s arson, attempted murder, willfull destruction of private property… but it’s not terrorism. As kooky and morally bankrupt as the bombers may be, they’re not bombing random targets in the general populace for political reasons. The Unabomber wasn’t a terrorist, he was a serial killer. While the line dividing the two is very blurry, terrorism deliberately targets general civilians in an attempt to cower an entire populace, which is not what these people are doing.

I say this not to understate the crime, but because the term “terrorism” ought to be restricted to people that deserve the label.

Dr. Free Ride’s take.

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Posted August 7, 2008 by padraic2112 in news, science, security

4 responses to “Animal Rights Activism Turns Ugly

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  1. Thank you for saying that this isn’t terrorism.

  2. Pingback: Pages tagged "activism"

  3. Your article is informed and measured so thank you. However, I don’t see the logic or rationale for asserting that this isn’t terrorism. You are asking for the very precision that you seem to not follow in making this assertion. What is this assertion based on?

    Consider any or all of the following:

    The UCSC researcher who was firebombed on campus does not work with animals.

    The UCSC researcher who was firebombed on campus was not mentioned in the pamphlet found at a cafe just days before that listed animal rights targets.

    UCSC targets listed in the pamphlet were discovered to not work with animals.

    UCSC targets listed in the pamphlet were discover to not work at UCSC.

    And I could go on.

    The point should be clear though with just this much information. If the targets are in fact not animal researchers and not even connected to the university, how can you maintain your assertion that this is not a form of terrorism when by your own definition provided here, it would be?

  4. @ archipelago

    > Consider any or all of the following … [snip]

    None of those informational points (except for the fact that the researcher’s name wasn’t on the “target” list) were included in the LA Times story, or in any of the other articles I’ve read:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/03/MNMI124HSI.DTL&tsp=1
    http://www.usnews.com/blogs/paper-trail/2008/8/4/two-uc-santa-cruz-researchers-victims-of-firebombing.html
    http://www.mercurynews.com/centralcoast/ci_10091237

    I’m not necessarily disputing them, I just can’t corroborate them. Where did you get this information?

    > If the targets are in fact not animal researchers and not even connected
    > to the university, how can you maintain your assertion that this is not a
    > form of terrorism when by your own definition provided here, it would be?

    People who weren’t on the Unabomber’s list of appropriate targets were killed by his explosives; that doesn’t mean that he was targeting indiscriminately.

    Assuming all of your facts are true, it doesn’t mean that the person(s) committing these acts know that they are true. The firebomber may indeed think that the targets are animal researchers… or the animal rights activism theory may be completely incorrect and the true target was Feldheim, in which case this may have nothing to do with whether or not he is an animal researcher.

    My point about terrorism is that terrorists don’t choose *tactical* targets. Real terrorism is targeted at the entire populace, and the targets are chosen to sow fear, not achieve a particular effect direct to their cause. If there was a “real” domestic terrorist who was motivated by animal rights, he or she would be setting off bombs in large populated areas intended to kill or maim as many people as possible, and threatening to continue to do it until animal researchers stopped their activities. *That* is terrorism.

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