Scientists attacked by violent animal rights activists organize

A group of scientists at UCLA say they’ve formed a new organization to publicly counter opponents of animal research. Some of these opponents have tried to drive home their point with fire bombings, vandalism, and intimidation in several Southland incidents in recent years. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: About a month ago, UCLA psychiatrist David Jentsch awoke before dawn at his Beverly Glen home to find his car engulfed in flames.

David Jentsch: Two days later the Animal Liberation Brigade took responsibility – and threatened to extend their actions to me personally, beyond my property.

Guzman-Lopez: Jentsch conducts experiments on mice and monkeys in the hope he’ll find cures for mental disorders. No animal rights extremists have been charged in connection with the incidents at his home and others. Jentsch says that’s caused many researchers to live in fear.

Jentsch: Nobody, including myself in the past, came out and really made a visible stance. Why? Because you could be next.

Guzman-Lopez: He’s started a group called UCLA Pro-Test. Supporters plan to counter an animal rights rally on campus later this month.

Jerry Vlasak is a Los Angeles physician who defends the extremists’ tactics, serves as their spokesman, and says he doesn’t engage in unlawful actions. He says his side’s argument will carry the day at the rally.

Jerry Vlasak: They’re not likely to get very far because the public will wise up once we offer to debate them. Their literature will be ridiculed once it’s available.

And they’re claiming that they’re going to be doing somewhat of a counter-protest on April 22nd and the word is spreading wide throughout the animal rights community, and it’s really just galvanizing the animal rights community.

Guzman-Lopez: Both agree that society needs a reasoned debate about the benefits of using and killing animals for medical research. They disagree about what might happen when that debate proves fruitless.