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Animal rights thugs: Researchers’ children are not off limits

Remember Dario Ringach?

He’s the scientist who has endured a prolonged campaign of harassment because of his animal research. I first heard of him in 2006, when, after a campaign of threatening phone calls, people frightening his children, and demonstrations in front of his home, gave up doing primate research. Terrorism and intimidation worked, but who could blame Dr. Ringach? He was afraid for his family. That’s because it was more than just threatening e-mails and phone calls, but rather the campaign of intimidation included masked thugs banging on the windows of his house at night, frightening his children, as they have done more recently at UC Santa Cruz. The last straw was when a group of truly idiotic animal rights terrorists tried to attack a colleague of Ringach’s by leaving a Molotov cocktail on her doorstep; only the incompetents got the house wrong and left their firebomb on the doorstep of an elderly neighbor. This was one of the rare cases where extreme incompetence was a good thing, because the firebomb didn’t detonate, and no one was hurt. But the message had been sent. A year and a half later, in 2008, Ringach’s case and other attacks and threats directed against UCLA researchers, such as when animal rights terrorists flooded the home of another researcher named Edythe London, led UCLA to fight back by suing extremists to stop their campaign of terrorism against researchers.

Last week, fellow ScienceBlogger and ethicist Janet Stemwedel of Adventures in Ethics and Science helped to arrange a dialogue between more moderate animal rights activists and scientists (video here). I must admit that I was very skeptical of what value this might have when I heard of it. Indeed, I had planned on a more direct discussion, although my post about debating denialists was indirectly about this conference. Even though Janet saw her conference as “dialogue, not debate,” clearly that wasn’t how a lot of the animal rights cranks saw it. They saw it as a debate. Those issues aside, Janet’s reward for reaching out was that the looniest of the loony posted her picture, phone number, office number, and e-mail address, along with a rant against Dario Ringach:

The other PRO vivisection MONSTER on the panel is Dario Ringach. His claim to fame was putting primates in restrain devices and then gluing metal coils on to the eye balls in order to study their visual cortex and then killing them (he may STILL be doing these types of experiments and YOU, as a member of the public and one who pays taxes that go to directly to UCLA, have the right to ASK HIM that question at the forum!) Ringach has teamed up with the group ‘PRO-TEST’ in order to go around spreading his message of evil, torture and murder of primates to whoever will listen.

ALLCAPS. It’s always ALLCAPS with these people.

As I said, I had actually planned on blogging my concerns, but other things intruded, namely the whole Andrew Wakefield saga. In any case, I had to give Ringach props for daring to appear in such a forum, given the spittle-flecked level of vitriol animal rights continued to direct his way even after he had given up primate research. Props to Janet, too, for at least trying. Ringach presented a strong defense of the humane use of animals in biomedical research, too. And what was his reward for this?

The crazies have targeted his children again. In a post entitled UCLA February 2010 Wrap-Up: Demos Against Primate Abusers, an animal rights thug wrote:

As you can see from the pictures, Dario has a “rent-a-cop” in front of his home twenty-four seven! This must make his family feel like Dario is a mobster for some drug cartel, (although mobsters don’t commit nearly the gruesome, hideous things to innocent beings as Dario does to primates on a regular basis.) But Ringach is definitely a criminal who perpetrates horrific atrocities on primates, so we assume that his family must be getting used to living with a “rent a cop” outside.

More ominously, the thug continues:

As the pictures indicate, neighbors came out from many of the near-by houses, took leaflets and talked to activists about how much they hate their neighbor Dario for doing “hellish primate experimentation.” One, in fact, gave an activist the name of the school one of his offspring attends! Activists plan on legally leafleting the school in order to educate fellow students what their classmate’s father does for a living.

The pictures to which the anonymous “activist” refers can be found here.

If you want any doubt that these extremists are not about rational debate or changing minds. They are about power, intimidation, and bullying. In fact, more than anything else, they remind me of radical anti-abortion protesters, who also target the children of doctors, showing up at their schools to “yell to all the students that John’s daddy is a baby killer or a child killer.” What these animal rights extremists are doing is no different. It’s bullying and thuggery, plain and simple, followed by a disingenuous disclaimer. Much as quacks think that the Quack Miranda warning will shield them from legal consquences, those responsible for this extremist website conclude several of its post with:

The reposting above is not intended to encourage the violation of any laws. Specifically, it is not “intended to cause another person to imminently use the information to commit a crime involving violence or a threat of violence against the academic researcher or his or her immediate family member .” The above is simply a post forwarded to Negotiation is Over.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s the ticket. We aren’t threatening anything…you know…illegal (although we wouldn’t be in the least bit disappointed if something bad happened to Dr. Ringach). No, no, not at all. And even if the post were threatening anything illegal, it wasn’t us who posted it anyway. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It was a post “forwarded” to us, yeah. Pay no attention to our saying about another researcher David Jentsch, that “what goes around comes around and we’re hopeful that in time his hideous ‘Karma’ will catch up to him and he’ll be forced to receive the final payment he deserves.” Perish the thought that we’re encouraging anyone to do anything bad (although we’d very much like to see Ringach or Jenstsch dead or at least make his life miserable). We’re just telling people where someone we hate lives, where he works, and where his children go to school, all the while telling people what an evil, evil man we think he is and how he deserves horrible things to happen to him. It’d be a real shame if Ringach were to slip and fall and break his skull, wouldn’t it? Or if a “mechanical fault” caused his car to blow up with him in it. (Oh wait. That’d be Dr. Jentsch.) At the very least we want to scare the crap out of Ringach’s wife and children and make Ringach fear for their safety, just as some anti-vaccine activists have targeted Paul Offit in similar ways.

That reminds me: Where were these animal rights “activists” when Andrew Wakefield was torturing baby Macacque monkeys in the name of horrendously bad science designed to be used as a “made for court” study against vaccine manufacturers?

But I digress.

The animal rights activists making the threats may make fun of the “rent-a-cop” guarding Ringach’s house, but if I were Ringach, I’d want a 24 hour armed guard at my house, too. These people are scary and unbalanced. In fact, if I were Ringach, I’d also seriously consider buying a couple of handguns and learning how to use them. I’ve never owned a gun in my life, but if I were in the sites of these thugs, I’d seriously consider changing that situation. They think nothing of invading property and intentionally intimidating people. Some of them have tried to firebomb researchers houses and cars. You have to take that sort of threat seriously.

None of my rant is to be interpreted as meaning that I do not support the humane treatment of animals and oppose inhumanity and cruelty. I do. Very strongly. However, as I’ve discussed before, animal rights activists are not about promoting the humane treatment of animals as much as they are about an ideology that proclaims animal rights to be the equal of human rights. (Which, come to think of it, makes the images of animal rights extremists marching past Ringach’s house with pet dogs on leashes seem rather incongruous–isn’t keeping pets slavery in the view of animal rights activists?)

Animal rights extremists confuse animal welfare, which encompasses the humane use of animals designed to minimize suffering and enhance quality of life, with animal rights, an ideology that states that animals have an intrinsic right not to be controlled by humans. That means no killing, ever, no zoos, no cages, no eating them, no using them in research, no riding–not even keeping them as pets or putting them on leashes, which is why I found the pictures of these animal rights extremists walking dogs on leashes by Ringach’s house so startling. (It didn’t help that the dog reminded me of my poor, late, lamented Echo.) A consequence of this belief is that doing experiments on animals is viewed as no different from a moral perspective from doing experiments on humans, and to them all animal experimentation is “vivisection.” From this flow the allusions to Nazis and the Holocaust and considering their opponents to be murderers and torturers, as they state so baldly in this post about Ringach:

At least intellectually, I think I understand how you are able to commit such despicable atrocities. Like all torture-murderers, you devalue and objectify the victim in order to enjoy the fetishized obscenity. I think the closest comparison I can draw is to David Parker Ray. He imprisoned, restrained, terrorized, and, with masterful precision, sadistically tortured and mutilated his victims — exactly like you. Ray referred to his victims as “packages.” You refer to your victims as “research.” The two of you may have been twins separated at birth. But Ray is dead.

See what I mean? In the twisted world of animal rights extremists, any scientist who does animal research must be a cackling sadist getting his rocks off on the suffering and killing of animals. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most of us don’t even like doing animal research that much; we do it because it is the best or only way to obtain the scientific answers we seek. We do it because it leads to treatments that save lives. Moreover, few are the animal researchers who don’t realize that there are difficult ethical issues involved in the use of animals in research, particularly non-human primates. We acknowledge it. Although few people have much trouble with using mice or rats for research, when it comes to dogs, cats, or primates, the ethical issues get thornier. To animal rights extremists, though, it’s all black and white, whether a researcher is using a mouse or a monkey. Moreover, a huge effort has gone into tighter regulation of animal facilities and efforts to minimize the use of animals, particularly primates, in research. Indeed, any time I write an NIH grant, I have to spend several pages justifying the proposed use of animals, detailing how they will be used, justifying statistically the numbers, species, and ages proposed, and explaining how we will minimize pain and suffering. And I only work with mice. The requirements are much

The dehumanization of researchers as sadistic mini-Mengeles, however, is why the animal rights extremists in question consider themselves morally superior to–well, pretty much everyone else–and free to harass and attack Ringach and his family. It’s why idiots like disgraced surgeon Jerry Vlasak, of whom NIO appears to be a big fan, defending him because he is a surgeon even though Vlasak doesn’t appear to have practiced trauma surgery in quite a while, thinks it’s hunky-dory to assassinate researchers to save animals–although, one notes, he apparently doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to do it himself. Instead, he tries to “inspire” young, idealistic, and gullible “activists” to do the dirty work of intimidation and threats. Of course, animal rights extremists often intentionally blur the distinction between animal welfare and their true believes, because most people would consider animal welfare to be a respectable goal. In fact, the NIO website has an article on this very issue, and it is rather amusing how confused its view on animal rights versus animal welfare is:

In direct response to the wretched reformism and opportunism of bureaucratic “welfarism,” a new movement emerged to reconstruct nonhuman animal advocacy unequivocally as a struggle for animal rights, not “welfare”; for the total abolition of nonhuman animal slavery rather than its regulation; and for veganism, not “humane” animal-derived products of any kind. To a significant degree, the new vegan abolitionist movement has been shaped and defined by the work of Gary Francione, professor of law at Rutgers University. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Francione exposed the duplicity of “new welfarists” who use the term “animal rights” but pursue “welfarist” policies. These policies, Francione argues, are incoherent and dilute the meaning of rights; “welfarism” in any form, he insists, works to the benefit of industries and thus increases, rather than decreases, the demand for animal-derived products; it only aggravates, rather than alleviates, speciesism and the plight of nonhuman animals in horrific systems of exploitation.

The animal rights loons who run the NIO website don’t like Francione, actually, but they basically agree with his premise that animals should never be used by human beings. They want to tie animal liberation to a potpourri of radical political causes that sounds as though it is the sort of thing that Monty Python so aptly skewered in The Life of Brian, linking animal rights to removing the “crushing loadstones of anthropocentrism, speciesism, patriarchy, racism, classism, statism, heterosexism, ableism, and every other pernicious form of hierarchical domination.” Help, help, I’m being repressed! Oh, wait. I’m mixing movies. Still, it seems appropriate, given the word salad of “isms” against which our intrepid NIOmeisters rail.

I suppose it’s some consolation that the moderate animal rights advocates who don’t espouse intimidation and violence and agreed to participate in the UCLA panel discussion are apparently catching quite a bit of flak for their decision. For example, Dr. Ray Greek (whose truly awful arguments against animal research I have discussed before) wrote a lengthy defense of his decision to participate in the discussion. Here’s a key quote:

If activists wish to engage in direct action, promote direct action, condone violence in the pursuit of certain outcomes and so forth, so be it. (Now is not the time and this is not the forum for a debate about the ethics of such actions and positions.) But it is disingenuous to simultaneously act in the ways described above and then feign surprise and offense when society does not take seriously their request to participate in an event that functions in the confines of the norms of society. You cannot have it both ways.

I may have trashed Dr. Greek before, but he’s spot on in his assessment above. Animal rights extremists do want it both ways. In any case, their attacks on Dr. Greek for agreeing to dialogue instead of “direct action” support Janet’s assertion that the extremists like those at NIO endanger civil society. They can’t tolerate even squishy moderation. You’re either with them completely, or you’re a heinous, evil beast worthy of whatever they deem you to deserve. Even so, one notes that NIO and the Animal Liberation Front use just words to criticize Greek for not sticking to the party orthodoxy with respect to their demands for “total animal liberation.” Greek doesn’t have to worry about masked thugs coming to his house in the middle of the night to frighten and intimidate his family, as Ringach does, or about mobs of protesters trying to force their way into his house on a Sunday afternoon, as a researcher at UC Santa Cruz did.

Contrary to the stereotype of animal rights extremists, researchers are not “little Mengeles,” only with animals. I have no doubt that there probably was a time in the past when the concern for alleviating the suffering of experimental animals was inadequate, but that was before I entered the biomedical research field as an investigator. Since I’ve been in the field, I’ve seen only increasingly strict regulation. I encounter this every year when I have to renew my mouse protocols and every time I write a grant. Each year, it seems, the amount of detail demanded grows and the objections increase, even for what would have been approved without question a mere five years ago. Animal research is highly regulated, far above what it was before, and that IACUCs have become almost as strict in regulating animal research as Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) have become in regulating human research. The stereotype of the cruel “vivisectionist” that ALF and its fellow radicals like to promote just isn’t true. Animal research is one of the most highly regulated activities that scientists do. It’s not as highly regulated as human subjects research, but it’s getting there.

Of course, animal rights extremists don’t care, because they are not about animal welfare; they are about animal liberation. To them all animal research is torture and “vivisection.” They are also profoundly anti-scientific–Luddite, even. Animal rights activists deny that animal research has ever produced any advances in medicine, a claim that is not just demonstrably false, but risibly, contemptibly false. They claim more than that, namely that animal research is misleading, that it actually slows down medical progress. They argue that computer models and cell culture can substitute for animal research. Would that were true! But that, too, is false.

I have a proposal for the animal rights extremists. Can we make a deal here, animal rights “activists” cum terrorists? Can we just agree to leave the children out of it? Is any cause worth traumatizing children over? Is any cause worth intimidating children, trying to mess up their lives and turn them against their parents? Whatever you think of their parents, children can’t choose their parents, and they don’t deserve having the likes of you drag them into your disagreement with their parents. A six year old does not understand the moral or political arguments you make; he only understands that scary people are telling his friends that his daddy is a murderer. Let me just put it this way. You appear to value animal rights far more than human rights. In fact, I’ll say that you don’t give the proverbial rodent’s posterior about any human rights other than your own, given how you think nothing of violating the rights of children if they happen to be the children of your enemies.

Not that I expect animal rights extremists to see reason in this.

That’s why I join Janet in calling out these thugs. They need to be exposed, their actions. They need to be called out with comments on their blog. Scientists and citizens who support science need to oppose them when they infest various discussion forums and newspaper letters sections. When they protest in demonstrations, scientists need to organize counterdemonstrations, the way Pro-Test and UCLA Pro-Test do. When animal rights extremists launch campaigns to influence legislators, scientists and citizens supporting science need to oppose them. The public needs to be educated about the benefits and fruits of animal research, and the fallacious arguments of animal rights extremists exposed.

In their own way, animal rights extremists are every bit as dire a threat to public health as anti-vaccine activists and their ideology every bit as immune to reason and science as that of any creationist. True, their activities won’t lead to epidemics now, but if unchecked over time their activities will degrade medical research and slow the advance of medical science to a crawl. You and I may not pay the price, but our children and our children’s children certainly will. That is why the time for silent acquiescence, for hunkering down, is past.

ADDENDUM: PZ Myers has weighed in, and I note that a few commenters have tried to engage the animal rights extremist on the NIO blog. They have failed, but in the attempt they have shown just how irrational and hate-filled the animal rights extremists are. For instance, a commenter named Rob wrote:

You people are inconsistent. Animal research has helped millions of human beings live better lives. Your moral compass is so out of whack it leads you to believe that animal research is out of line, and yet, blowing up researchers is justice.

He too has a “rent-a-cop” in front of his house twenty-four hours a day, ever since his car was blown up last year. Most everyone agrees that it would have been great if he had been in it!

I don’t know anyone who would agree with that besides some seriously sick-minded individuals. If you have issues with animal testing, this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. Pass legislation, talk to your congresspeople. Blowing up researchers makes you terrorists, and nobody is going to value your cause when it has this kind of sick-minded logic behind it.

NIO’s Camille Marino responded:

no rob,

you are inconsistent!

would you mutilate your dog or cat?

should we have panel discussions with pedophiles?

should we compromise with rapists so that we can come to some happy medium?

if there was no money involved, these sadistic freaks would be plying their trade on neighborhood children in backyard bunkers.

if daddy makes a living bathing in blood, you have to expect some of it to drip off onto junior.

camille

Actually, that’s the reason why I think that it’s pointless to try to engage people like Camille. Should we have a panel discussion of someone who thinks her position so morally superior that she has the right to target innocent children, someone who views us as on the same moral plane as pedophiles and rapists, who places the “rights” of animals above the rights of human beings to the point where she thinks violence against humans is justified in the name of her cause?

I would say: Absolutely not. She has a right to free speech, even speech as hateful as the above. However, jail her when she breaks the law, and throw away the key to the cell door. Also note that Camille says:

And my answer is that I unequivocally support violence if it will stop the violent.

That’s about as clear a statement as you can find, just as clear as Jerry Vlasak’s advocating assassinating researchers to stop animal research.

Does anyone want to make a bet about how long it takes Camille to start deleting comments criticizing her advocacy of targeting children–or any critical comments at all? No doubt NIO won’t like having the light of day shined on its cesspit of irrational hate.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

259 replies on “Animal rights thugs: Researchers’ children are not off limits”

Thanks for the support Orac!

David made some suggestions (see below)on Janet’s blog for anyone who wishes to do something about this situation. I’ll only add a recommendation that you also sign the Pro-Test petition at http://www.amprogress.org/petition

“For those that support research or researchers, I offer a number of possibilities that will allow you to become involved in this struggle:

1) Participate however you can in supporting science and scientists. This may include forceful statements about the values of academic freedom and calls for your University administration to make categorical statements about threats to controversial research. Get ahead of the curve and condemn it on principle, not just because someone in your University is being threatened.

2) Write letters to the editor of your local papers about your position on research. Promote science education and an understanding of biomedical research through presentations about science at your children’s school.

3) Speak to your friends and family members who hold views critical of research. Open a dialogue with them. Compare notes about what you feel the ethical basis for conducting animal research is and why you think it is justifiable. Try to achieve an agreement that they should condemn those in their movement that support “direct action” (which is a barely concealed attempt at rebranding criminal behavior).

4) Write to your Congressperson and Senators and demand that they strengthen and support legislation that increases civil and criminal penalties against activists who go beyond Constitutionally-protected speech and begin resorting to criminal harassment and stalking. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism act is under judicial review. The House and Senate need to consider revisions and extensions now.

5) If anti-research activists show up on campus or in your community with their dated pictures and slogans, show up as well and present your own perspective forcefully but articulately.

6) Foster your own campus dialogues with animal rights activists, but refuse to respond to, engage with or involve persons unwilling to PUBLICLY condemn people that support or apologize for direct action campaigns.”

If animals=humans then humans=animals. Animals eat other animals, therefore humans can eat other animals.

A few quibbles (though I generally agree that these folks are loons; PETA, for example, regularly goes for sexist and racist imagery in its quest for animal lib).

Animal rights extremists confuse animal welfare, which encompasses the humane use of animals designed to minimize suffering and enhance quality of life, with animal rights, an ideology that states that animals have an intrinsic right not to be controlled by humans.

Let’s grant that most of these extremists are confused in any number of ways (e.g., “Animal Mutilator Dario Ringach is extremely rude… he NEVER responds to emails” — Somehow I don’t think “Animal Mutilator” is a Miss Manner’s approved mode of address.) However, I don’t think holding an animal rights ethical view is a confusion of animal welfare with animal rights. Whether you think animals have rights is a substantive ethical position. It may be wrong. It may be wrong to think that every animal rights view entails no experimentation (e.g., most of us hold that humans have rights, but that experimentation on humans is often permissible). But I don’t see how it’s a confusion. If you think that animals have rights (in a strong sense), and, in particular, they have a right to be free of non-consensual, not-for-their benefit pain, and, as is generally the case, animals can’t consent, then, yes, you are committed to banning most experimentation, regardless of the benefits.

It’s possible to find that position loathsome, but it’s coherent.

Similarly, just because animals have rights doesn’t mean that they have arbitrary rights. For example, children have rights, but we’re allow to do things to our children that we aren’t allowed to do to (nonconsenting) adults (e.g., determine their course of treatment).

And of course, you can think that regardless of whether animals have rights, it’s morally wrong to abuse them (to no purpose).

Most of these “animal rights” extremists are just thugs looking for an excuse. Had they lived in Alabama 100 years ago, they would be leading lynch mobs. Had they lived in Germany 75 years ago, they would have been burning Jewish shops. If they lived in modern day Iran, they would be beating up student demonstrators.

Lovely people. I once saw PETA protesters at a March of Dimes rally. They were less bullies and more deluded sheep in this case. They told me that animal research had “not lead anywhere.” As the parent of preemies, I know otherwise. Animal research is one of the reason my kids are alive today. Not to mention one of the reasons those protesters didn’t catch Polio.

Those kids with their stickers could probably be reasoned with, but I’m not sure it’s worth having your family threatened by people that clearly can’t see reason.

And if one of these loonies injures themselves with a faulty bomb, will the evil medical researchers have to sew them back together?

Deer have damaged my yard. Where can I sue them for compensation? With animal rights comes animal responsibilities.

These crumbs make me angry.
Too much so to be polite about it.
Although I agree with hyperdeath @4:
most of these people would just love being football hooligans in Britain. Of course, it’s easy to terrorize a researcher and his family. Six year olds don’t fight back very well, do they?

Given the terrorist nature of many of these people, perhaps something akin to Anonymous could be started (not sure if PRO-TEST is like that or not), so that people could feel at least a little safer protesting them.

And another thought, what is the FBI doing to counter this domestic terrorism?

I am just keeping my fingers crossed that these folks don’t come into the midwest–it’s a scary time to be working with animals. Our dairy farm has had to take many precautions. And our research topic is animal health and welfare!

Don’t these people watch Animal Planet? Animals are assholes. Especially the more intelligent ones. I can’t for the life of me figure where they get the impression that animals are innocent of anything.

Don’t these people watch Animal Planet?

No, they don’t. They don’t know anything about animals. People who spend time with animals and actually like animals join the humane society or become veterinarians or become animal care experts in research labs. These people just like the idea of the innocent animal, as contrasted with the evils of humanity. Fundamentally, they’re luddites.

The logical inconsistencies of these people are kind of staggering. For example, they claim that the natural human diet is vegan, yet it’s impossible to sustain a vegan diet long-term without taking B12 supplements. There’s also the insistence on using synthetic products over animal products even when the animal products are less polluting to the environment and ultimately less harmful to animal populations as a whole. Just nutty all around. I think #10 above nails it–Luddites who don’t actually know anything about animals.

@#12: Anonymouse,you make excellent points. And B12 supplements come from: ANIMALS!!

Excellent, excellent post, Orac. I’ll be spreading a link to it.

If animals have the right to not be harmed, then where are the terrorists animal rights activists protesting around lion prides, alongside the Nile, etc.?

“That reminds me: Where were these animal rights loons when Orac “Andrew Wakefield was torturing baby Macacque monkeys in the name of horrendously bad science designed to be used as a “made for court” study?”

Perhaps crank magnetism also acts as a force field that protects cranks from other cranks.

I suspect the AR extremists took one look at AoA or Generation Rescue and thought “these folk are even more unbalanced than we are…and there are more of them. Lets find an easier target; somebody who is doing ethical and scientifically sound research and doesn’t have an army of cranks to call on”.

And B12 supplements come from: ANIMALS!!

Actually, the supplements use a synthetic form of the vitamin. But still, if your diet requires you to take a manufactured supplement in order to prevent permanent neurological damage, you can’t say it’s a “natural” diet.

Perhaps crank magnetism also acts as a force field that protects cranks from other cranks.

I suspect the AR extremists took one look at AoA or Generation Rescue and thought “these folk are even more unbalanced than we are…and there are more of them. Lets find an easier target; somebody who is doing ethical and scientifically sound research and doesn’t have an army of cranks to call on”.

Actually if you look at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s stance of animal testing of homeopathy its weird. They rightfully complain about the animal testing but ignore the fact that it has no chance of working which makes it even more heinous.

I suggest to take animal rights activists by their word and refuse them anything remotely connected with the use of aniimals.
No wool , no leather and since all surgeons did their fisr steps by dissecting frogs ( I suppose ) no surgery. No medicine that has ever been tested on animals. No cosmetics that has been tested on animals.


I mean if they have convictions they should live* by them. After all if someone was a radical anti-gun activist but kept a dozen guns for private use one would regard him as hypocrite.

Also I wonder where they draw the difference between animals and ‘lower lifeforms’ Are single cell organism animals ? Don’t have cells a ‘right to live’ ?

Once again I’m not going to win the popularity prize here, but I’m not sure that the ends of these “activists” are wrong. At least from a logical standpoint. Their means are absolutely wrong, and if I ever meet one I’m sucker-punching him/her in the throat (Canadian protesters tend to be a bit more moderate – big surprise).

If this is the wrong forum for this discussion, I’ll drop the issue and take it elsewhere.

We can all get behind the maxim “slavery is ethically wrong.” But what if, instead of systematically oppressing a subset of the population because of skin colour, we kidnapped only a handful of them? And what if, instead of putting them to work in the fields, we sedated them and, while taking pains to be humane, attached them to terminal patients to act as human dialysis machines. Furthermore, once the slaves died, we harvested their organs and transplanted them into other people, saving a half-dozen lives per slave. It doesn’t make it any less ethically wrong, just because we’ve contrived a tangible benefit from it.

The analogy falls apart because animals aren’t humans, but that seems a fairly arbitrary division. The criteria for “humanity” seems to be eroding. Some animals have been shown to exhibit self-recognition, abstract reasoning, future planning, tool use – all of which have been cited, at various points, as the essential trait of human-ness. We’d be similarly uncomfortable saying that a person with severe brain damage is no longer human because he cannot perform those same feats. Furthermore, this same argument was used as justification during the era of African slavery.

I guess my difficulty is that there doesn’t seem to be a easily-discernible line between what constitutes a “human” and an “animal”, except insofar as we can arbitrarily show species favouritism. If anyone has heard of a better argument, I’d love to hear it because I recognize the importance of animal research; however, I also recognize the importance of policies being founded on rational, ethical principles even when the consequences are uncomfortable (free speech being foremost among those). Especially if we are going to make the “ends do not justify means” argument, which could, along the lines I’ve outlined above, be turned right back against us.

Okay, so if I’m understanding the animal rights people correctly, if you do as they ask and stop experimenting on animals, your reward will be . . . for them to continue the same campaign of terror and intimidation that they carried on before!!!

So what motivation, exactly, do animal researchers have to stop using animals in their research, if the terrorism will continue regardless? Apart from a faint hope that the crazies will leave them alone?

I think we can indeed have a sane, rational discussion about how best to treat animals. And I believe we need to have that discussion repeatedly, with people there to represent both the point of view of human needs for animals and the point of view of the animals’ needs and wellbeing. The problem is, these people aren’t interested in a discussion. They’re not even interested in the welfare of the animals. They aren’t even thinking about the animals anymore; it’s all just raw emotion. Unthinking rage.

I feel for the “rent-a-cop”. My brother-in-law used to work as a security guard, and it’s a thankless job. Especially in Minneapolis, where the police would rather let private security guards do their job for them. Especially at the University of Minnesota, where he was on duty when the ALF attacked. Fortunately, he was not on duty in the particular building where ALF did their thing. When his turn to watch that building came around a few weeks later, he was on edge the whole time.

First, if any of those thugs come on your property just shoot them down. They pose an eminent danger. Second, stop using animals in research and use these cretins instead. It’ll save animals and eliminate a threat to society. I sure wouldn’t play nice with those idiots.

I really hate to say it, but yes, if I were in this position I’d probably own half a dozen .45 automatics and a large supply of Glaser safety slugs.

I wonder how the law views putting medium animal traps outside ground floor windows. Granted, I’d have no desire to actually trap or injure an innocent animal, so the triggering pressure would have to be substantially increased.

I’m not a violent person and I would much rather this be handled via law enforcement and the legal system, but when a fringe minority has decided the gloves have come off, rational discussion is counterproductive, and concludes they are above the law regarding direct action, I see vigilante defense as a completely reasonable response.

It should never reach that stage but sadly, it often does (see Eric Rudolph, Dr. Tiller’s murderer, Al Qaida, &c.) Public opinion galvanizes around horrific incidents; the problem for the individual is to avoid being the victim of the aforementioned galvanizing incident.

I’ve listened to interviews with Peter Singer, philosopher and author of Animal Liberation, and while I may not completely agree with him, I find his ethical arguments extremely interesting. He does what a good philosopher should; he challenges your assumptions and really makes you think, and he does so in a calm tone of voice with no hyperbole or calls for harrassment or murder. He seems like the last person in the world to firebomb someone’s house or terrorize someone’s children.

I cannot begrudge people a different ethical outlook. It’s through blogs like Orac’s that I’ve learned about ethical protocols for medical and psychological research. It looks like a lot of people are trying to do the right thing, imperfectly navigating very complex ethical waters.

And then there is this small group self-righteous, violent, anti-intellectuals hellbent on terrorizing anyone who doesn’t completely buy into their ideology, akin to a suburban version of the Khmer Rouge. So while I wish this all could be resolved calmly by rationality or rule of law, I’m not so naive to believe that’s possible. If the escalation in violence by the fringe continues, someone is going to get seriously injured or killed. I can only hope that person is not a researcher, family member or bystander. I don’t wish them dead but when they engage in literal violence and terrorism, what choice does an individual have but to pull the trigger in self-defense?

The criteria for “humanity” seems to be eroding.

Only in the eyes of people who have no respect for their fellow humans.

And I’m with Mike here: these unhinged loonies will NOT be deterred by laws or lawsuits. People targeted by their harassment (I’m still a bit reluctant to call it “terrorism”…for now) need to buy guns, become proficient at their use, and, when directly threatened by people who invade their property and threaten their families, shoot to kill. Teh PETA folks will scream, some scientists might go to jail (which may not be worse than living under PETA’s threats), but it’s a pretty safe bet that in the long run, the physical harassment will stop. These people are bullies, and bullies are cowards. (Why do you think they harass rich women who wear fur, but not bikers who wear leather?)

I wonder how animal rights terrorists deal with guard dogs, especially if said victims of human oppression are extracting their dinner from their gluteus maximus. Can you hurt animals if the animals fight on the wrong side?

Ian, I’m not well-versed in the animal liberation ideology, but I do think there is always going to be some arbitrary line drawing when it comes to these arguments, as there is in the abortion debate (cut off period for legal abortion), end-of-life care debate (at what point in a person’s illness is it okay to withdraw food and water) and so on. We’d love to be 100% logically and rationally consistent in all circumstances but it’s pretty much impossible.

I don’t often comment of read here but this post caught me eye. It makes me very angry and then very sad. Sometimes I get very frustrated with how people act.

I agree with Paul Browne’s linked suggestions on steps to take, particularly “4) Write to your Congressperson and Senators and demand that they strengthen and support legislation that increases civil and criminal penalties against activists who go beyond Constitutionally-protected speech, etc”

After some soul searching I have to add another step. Always question the use of threats, subversive tactics, incindary talk, violence, sabotaging that may cause harm, regardless of how important or ethical your cause may be. Before you start any campaign set group rules on what you believe is ethical behavior and stick to it.

Around many controversies there are fringes on each side that believe their cause is important enough to warrant these tactics. People get angry and cross a line that they wouldn’t in a different frame of mind. This generates a culture of war that only reinforces the same behavior in opposing and other unrelated groups.

I am sorry to sound Pollyannaish and even sorrier to sound like I’m preaching at a bunch of strangers who are justifiably angry. Mostly I’ve come to the above conclusion to decrease my sadness at how some people behave so badly and to feel that by behaving better myself I could somehow offset their behavior.

The analogy falls apart because animals aren’t humans, but that seems a fairly arbitrary division.

Uh, not really. We abolished human slavery in civilised parts of the world in part at least because human beings demanded their rights. (Granted, the in-group does have to allow the out-group to have its rights.)

I’ll be for that kind of “animal rights” as soon as animals start demanding them. Until then, that’s where I at least draw the line. Anything that’s self-aware and ethically aware enough to ask for freedom and rights — and to assume the corresponding responsibilities — ought to get those freedoms and rights, but most animals aren’t.

How do the animal rights activists propose to stop the pro-vivisection, murderous, monsterous lions in Africa from mutilating, torturing, and murdering gazelles?

These cold, evil animals (likely fans of Joesph Melange) often don’t even wait for their victims to expire before consuming them WHILE THEY ARE STILL ALIVE!

Whenever I’m presented with the “vegan is the natural diet” BS I like to point out all humans have canines, teeth designed for the ripping and tearing of meat, and that evolution is causing us to lose our molars and appendix.

Thanks,Bijan Parsia and Ian, for notably restrained and logical posts, in marked contrast to much of the mud that seems to have been stirred up from the bottom by this rather unbalanced entry.

People who behave in unethical ways can expect to be called to account for their behaviours, however righteous they feel their cause to be: all civil rights protesters, suffragettes and so forth expected and received treatment most of us would hope to avoid in our usually timorous protests against oppression of various sorts.

Whilst in no way favouring causing suffering to human animals in the course of a protest, I wish people would stick to the ethical nitty-gritty of vivisection – it may be expedient, but it’s morally wrong – the famous three R’s go a fair way to admitting this, and they are respected by the entire scientific community.

The right of sentient beings of any species not to be exploited as chattel property merely because they are arrayed against superior technological power is not an extremist view, it is a logically defensible one. The overwhelming majority of those who hold this view abhor violence and cruelty practised in any direction, but they are not to be put off the ethical scent by welfarism or wild accusations of “terrorism” which leave intact the notion that might is right and that the ends justify the means. This is true neither for one side NOR the other.

First, Ian @ 20, thanks for the thoughtful approach to the discussion. I don’t agree with your position, but at least you seem to be someone I can discuss the issue with.

Second, to call these people thugs is to do yourselves a disservice. What’s happening between animal researchers and these groups is a form of combat, so far mostly non-violent, but combat none-the-less.

In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu says:

“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”

The groups are organized in the same way many terrorist groups are, they have a command structure broken into leadership and soldiers. The leaders want power and control. The soldiers are mostly disenfranchised, angry, young people who are unwilling to think for themselves and are easily manipulated.

The people you see at the protests are mostly the soldiers, and shooting them, as some commenters have suggested, only escalates an already bad situation, and gains nothing.

You also need to recognize that logic will not work, extremists of any kind are not driven by logic, they are driven by rage.

Obviously this is a simplification, and some of them are just old fashioned sociopaths, but in general these groups fit the profile of any other terrorist group.

If you wish to combat these kinds of groups, you first have to understand how they work and what motivates them.

Rita: this entry was an attempt to report facts about the behavior of certain “animal rights” thugs, and the consequences of such behavior. Calling such a post “unbalanced” only proves you’re the unbalanced one.

I’m with realinterrobang: animals are nowhere near sentient enough to be able to demand, understand, or exercise “rights” as we humans understand the concept. So giving them “rights” is meaningless and useless. I wanted my cats to be free to roam about outside; but my house is surrounded by streets they couldn’t sensibly negotiate, so they had to stay inside, otherwise they would have been killed by things they were simply not equipped to understand or deal with.

Animals don’t have rights; but humans, as the master race, have obligations toward other species, just as all rulers have obligations toward those they rule. IMHO that means, among other things, no UNNECESSARY cruelty to animals. I support animal experimentation — provided such experiments really are properly done and can reasonably be expected to yield useful information. Not all animal experiments meet that standard.

I have never seen anyone in a wheelchair at the protest in front of my lab, just really heathy people.

Thanks,Bijan Parsia and Ian, for notably restrained and logical posts, in marked contrast to much of the mud that seems to have been stirred up from the bottom by this rather unbalanced entry.

Ah yes, the I’m better than you because I couch my insults in fancy-talk trick.

Of course these extremists are unhinged and dangerous. They are locked up regularly by the FBI as well they should. Having made that clear, I want to say that I am–rationally, I think–opposed to experimentation involving our closest relatives–the great apes. I have worked in support of Jane Goodall’s work to limit the years of service to research that chimpanzees have to give and then be allowed a comfortable retirement. I do not see how we can consider ourselves worthy of some “higher status” when we deliberately cause pain and suffering to creatures that we share so much with. Those who hate racism, sexism, ageism should not embrace specieism. I know the line has to be drawn somewhere, but I am disturbed by some of the comments here that take the view that if a creature can’t “ask for it’s rights” than it doesn’t deserve them or that “responsibilities come with rights”. These things do not apply to human children and chimpanzees are not very different from two-year-old children.

I wonder how the basic beliefs promulgated by woo( with which we’re all *too* familiar)directly or indirectly contribute to this movement in its more radical forms:1.an idealization of the natural world(e.g.plants are “medicines”, animals are “innocent”,the “wisdom” of nature,the “wisdom” of ancient peoples,”organic” farming),2. a demonization of science: scientists,doctors,pharmaceutical treatments, universities(e.g.”medical industrial complex”,the “drug” cartel,”Big Pharma”,”BigFarm”,industrial “toxins”),3.the idea that there is an all-emcompassing “Plan” to overtake and re-structure the natural world and enslave opponents?Certainly, fuel for the fire..

You can’t negotiate or reason with loons. You just can’t. Period. In my country, Texas, we have a way of dealing with threats… And it is fast. And it is painful.

One of the primary failings of these sorts, I think (apart from their unthinking rage), is in their belief that humans have the current ability to duplicate the complexity of a living creature in an artificial construct (e.g., computer models). There is so incredibly much that we just don’t know and wouldn’t even think to account for, that any model we create would be necessarily lacking.

What they seem to forget (or just don’t deem important enough to address) is that this would lead to far greater risk to human subjects involved in research of new medical products. It is not unlikely that we would have many, many more individuals dying or being severely/permanently injured from new prospective products. This, in turn, would likely have a chilling effect on people volunteering to be subjects in research, thus slowing or even halting lines of new development and advancement in medical knowledge and treatment.

They are, quite frankly, idiots.

Some animals have been shown to exhibit self-recognition, abstract reasoning, future planning, tool use – all of which have been cited, at various points, as the essential trait of human-ness.

And quite a number, demonstrably, do not. Mice show no signs of self-awareness on the mirror test, to give one example. I’d be willing to severely restrict research on chimpanzees and other great apes, elephants, and dolphins if animal rights activists would then acknowledge that the animals most often being used really don’t have a lot of mentation to worry about.

We’d be similarly uncomfortable saying that a person with severe brain damage is no longer human because he cannot perform those same feats.

No, but if the brain damage is severe enough (that is, brain death) we might well call them “dead” and harvest their organs. If the damage is less severe but bad enough that the chances of meaningful consciousness are low, then we feel comfortable letting family members withdraw care, including food, water, and ventilator support. We feel comfortable letting people make statements (living wills) saying that they do not want further care if their brains are close to non-functional. So why the excess worry about killing an animal like a frog that has never had a cortex but comfort with letting a person whose cortex is no longer working die?

Furthermore, this same argument was used as justification during the era of African slavery.

Was it? Not saying you’re wrong, just asking for a citation. I thought the arguments for-and against-slavery in the US tended to be religious, not biology based.

I wonder how the law views putting medium animal traps outside ground floor windows.

Might be a lot like spring guns, which aren’t legal, at least for protecting property against thieves. Go look them up on Wikipedia.

Now, if you accidentally leave a covered pit filled with feces-tipped bamboo spikes and broken glass on your property, you have no duty to protect a trespasser from falling in.

IANAL.

These things do not apply to human children and chimpanzees are not very different from two-year-old children.

What??? Thats is the most assinine thing I have heard in a while. None of the behavior that a grown chimpanzee displyas even comes close to what a two year old would display at its worst.

. I do not see how we can consider ourselves worthy of some “higher status” when we deliberately cause pain and suffering to creatures that we share so much with.

That is the stupidest argument I have heard in a while. So you don’t care about cats,dogs, mice, or any other animals that we use animal testing for?

@36: I am nearly with you on that one. I agree that any research on great apes needs to be as limited as possible, avoid harm to the subjects as much as possible, and provide for the subjects after the experiment is finished, and only conducted if there really is no alternative and the question is of extreme importance.

That having been said, though, I would point out that chimpanzees in particular aren’t exactly nice. Ever seen “Life of Mammals”? There’s one scene where the (male) chimps harass and kill a chimp who isn’t getting along with them well enough. Another in which the (again male) chimps all get together and go out cruising for a vulnerable animal to attack. They end up killing a monkey with an infant if I remember correctly.

Of course, the cruelty of other animals doesn’t imply that humans should be cruel to them. We can empathize with other animals and should use that empathy to prevent suffering as much as possible. But part of treating animals well, whether as wild animals, pets, research subjects, or even future dinners, is understanding and respecting the animals for what they are. Making sure that their needs are met, not our needs or the needs we think that they should have.

Now, if you accidentally leave a covered pit filled with feces-tipped bamboo spikes and broken glass on your property, you have no duty to protect a trespasser from falling in.

Homeowners are routinely found negligent when kids climb their 6 ft fence and drown in their pool. So traps are out. Poorly secured climbing rose bushes around your windows on the other hand …

This is more or less what I posted @ the Ethics blog, as well as Pharyngula, but I felt it might bear repeating. I’m not sure why we’re not stuffing Guantanamo to the rafters with people like this “Camille”.

Domestic terrorism is domestic terrorism.

These “demonstrators” have gone past the point of peacable assembly, and ought to be tried as criminals.

The organizations that back and fund them should be disbanded.

We’d do the same thing with a Taliban cell here in the US. There is no difference in behavior, only in the justification for that behavior.

Homeowners are routinely found negligent when kids climb their 6 ft fence and drown in their pool.

That’s classified under attractive nuisance. It applies to children being attracted to it, which might apply to the pit, but not at all if it’s a trespassing adult who falls into it.

@realinterrobang #28 – the line you’ve drawn between animal and human doesn’t stand up. Your argument essentially boils down to “if they can’t vocalize in order to assert their rights, they don’t have any.” Unless I am completely misunderstanding what you’ve said, that argument can be evenly applied to any non-vocal or non-literate society, or conversely I could say that any sign of struggle is a demonstration of the assertion of “rights.”

As far as the “sentience” argument goes, that seems to be the closest to a coherent, rational basis for the human dominance assertion. It is, of course, problematic because at first we (as humans) said that humans were the ONLY sentient creatures, then we added chimps, dolphins, now elephants… I guess my original point was that animals have been observed to engage in formerly “uniquely human” behaviours so it’s tough to say exactly why we are different.

Maybe along the line of evidence-based medicine, we could say that once a species has been shown to exhibit sentience, it’s no longer ethical to experiment on them? Protesters would have to show credible, controlled studies that give convincing evidence of sentience in members of the species under dispute. That would certainly give “show me the monkeys” a new twist.

@Diane #40

It was. I’ll see if I can dig up a citation if you’re honestly interested in the subject. As a parallel, you can look at the justifications for denying blacks the vote in the Jim Crow era (in Woodward’s “The Strange Career of Jim Crow”). The idea was that since they couldn’t read, they weren’t citizens and therefore didn’t deserve rights. Farther back than that, “scientists” (in quotes because they used no science whatsoever) established that the Negro was a sub-species, quite different in many important characteristics than white people, and therefore inferior. You can check out “http://www.aaregistry.com/african_american_history/2420/Nigger_the_word_a_brief_history” for a brief discussion of this, but it’s, as I say, brief.

(Interestingly, when I do a search for “nigger, science, inferior” on Google, I find that this same reasoning is still alive and well on teh interwebz)

I am not trying to conflate these two positions, but the principle/reasoning behind them is identical even if the scale is not.

I know the line has to be drawn somewhere, but I am disturbed by some of the comments here that take the view that if a creature can’t “ask for it’s rights” than it doesn’t deserve them or that “responsibilities come with rights”. These things do not apply to human children and chimpanzees are not very different from two-year-old children.

Well, a little more common sense and a little less emotional self-righteousness would clear up any “disturbance” here. It is, quite simply, physically and mentally impossible for animals to demand, understand or exercise “rights” as we understand them; or to function as equals within our society according to a code of laws. NO ONE has observed any other species of animals showing any such capability. Pretending to give animals “rights” (and corresponding responsibilities) that they cannot consciously exercise is pure folly, and unworkable.

There’s no point in talking about animal rights; and more to be gained by talking in terms of human responsibilities toward the other species under our power. We will ALWAYS have final control over the animals, whether we want it or not, merely by being a technological civilization.

I am 100% behind the prevention of cruelty to animals, but I can’t even fathom what “animal rights” would look like.

Rights are accompanied – in rational societies – by responsibilities. Most societies recognise that certain members have diminished capacity to carry out these responsibilities and give these people a correspondingly reduced set of right. For example, as a human child in most of the Western world, you have fewer “rights” than adults, but you also have a greatly reduced set of responsibilities.

The problem with granting “rights” to animals is that they – for the most part – seem incapable of holding up the “responsibilities” end of the bargain. In human society, people who don’t meet their responsibilities are – depending on the severity of the infraction – reprimanded, fined, jailed, institutionalised or (in some jurisdictions) executed.

If we decide that animals have rights equal to those of humans – which seems to be the goal of some of these groups – then my cat would probably end up imprisoned for life as a rodent serial killer. This might actually be a good thing, since she would probably be a very easily manipulated voter, given her weaknesses for tuna and catnip.

The “animal rights” groups are talking about giving animals the vote, aren’t they?

For that matter, in the US, animals who were adults and had no criminal record would be allowed to own firearms, which would make deer hunting much more “sporting”.

Prometheus

That’s classified under attractive nuisance. It applies to children being attracted to it, which might apply to the pit, but not at all if it’s a trespassing adult who falls into it.

Generally speaking any kind of trap will still be against the law. It’s a danger to meter readers, the fire department, delivery services, pets, etc. Instead, I’d invest in a hidden outdoor security camera. And a Remington 870.

when i was in grad school, some peta people broke into an animal research lab and stole a bunch of research animals. mainly white rats. they released them into the wild in a nearby park. not all the animals were retrieved, and a majority of the ones that were, were dead. the lab raised animals had no idea how to survive in the wild. i laugh at the stupidity of peta and how they want humane treatment of animals then some of their members are directly responisible for animal deaths. the animals were treated much better in the lab than a feral cat treated them. dumbshits.

@Raging bee #49

Nobody has observed infants demanding rights either, but we recognize that they DO have rights. Many would argue that unborn children don’t have rights either, since they don’t meet even the basic requirement of sentience. In fact, psychological testing suggests that children acquire sentience at the same time they acquire language, so the argument follows that infants before 18 months don’t have any rights. Your “common sense” appeal is inadequate, and just as unworkable as the animal rights stance you object to.

However, I am in favour of your practical approach of saying that we ought to reorient the argument to that of our responsibility to animals. This doesn’t necessarily preclude animals from having “rights”.

@Prometheus #50

Animals absolutely have responsibilities that they fulfill. The natural world is dependent on bees to fertilize plants, on worms to digest decaying matter into soil, for raccoons to correct the dangerous trend toward upright and full garbage cans. We’d be in a lot of trouble if animals stopped animaling.

By no means am I suggesting that animals are to be considered full partners or achieve the status of humans, but we need to be clear about WHY that is the case. If it’s simply “just ’cause” then we have to be honest and say that, but then we can no longer ridicule those who believe otherwise because their argument “’cause why?” is on equal footing.

Follow-on to Prometheus: rights are based on sentience: having a right to do something means you are ABLE TO CHOOSE to do it, and to use learning, reason and judgement in making such choices, and to understand and accept responsibility for the consequences of your choices. If your actions are entirely dictated by hardwired instincts, and your mind is incapable of planning, understanding, thinking ahead, or overruling instinct when you think the instinctual response might not be right, then you cannot be said to have any “right” to do anything.

Do we try to explain to our cats how to deal with cars and traffic before letting them outside? Do we put them on trial for getting into fights with other animals? Of course not. We all understand that they are simply not sentient enough to make rational choices in these matters, or to understand what we’re punishing them for if we punish them afterwords. Giving them “rights” is nonsense.

I find it interesting that many PETA types can go completely berserk over a crate of feral kittens in Russia or 10 chimps in a lab in Kazoo, but show no concern that people in their own hometown are homeless or starving. They couldn’t care less about the atrocities in Darfur or the ghastly conditions in Haiti. Or the fact that babies are dying by the scores in developing nations from frigging diarrhea.

I guess the people who are born with diseases and disorders who can be saved by animal research should just lie down and die instead, for the animals.

It’s all so easy and comfortable when you’re rich and healthy and have a large amount of spare time on your hands.

Obviously we shouldn’t be torturing and slaughtering animals for no good reason. But I have about had enough of animal “rights” and veganism becoming another religious-type of movement. A hunter knows much more about his prey and the ecosystem that supports it than a PETA nitwit.

We have “animal rights” thugs periodically visiting my university (usually during the spring and summer, when the weather is nicer) and they’ve managed to run off a couple of fine, ethical researchers. What I’ve noticed about these thugs is that they are very “casual” about the rights of the researchers but extremely vigilant about their own.

For example – after breaking into the house of one researcher at night and being confronted with a loaded pistol, they had the chutzpah to try to get the professor charged with “menacing” (pointing a weapon at them).

This is not significantly different from the anti-war protesters who, upon being arrested for disorderly conduct, vandalism and trespassing (which should have been “breaking and entering”), were whining about how an arrest record would “ruin their chances of getting into graduate school”. The strength of their convictions was showing, to be sure.

I strongly suspect that the “extremists” of these organisations – those that make threats and place firebombs – are doing so because they perceive that they are in little physical danger from academics and researchers. You’ll notice that there are few terrorist attacks on ranches, where people tend to be armed and willing to shoot, compared to university campuses, where guns are often banned (and, honestly, how many university professors have ever even held a gun?).

Perhaps, as some people have suggested, the solution may be for the “animal rights” terrorists to get a little skin in the game. I suspect that it wouldn’t take too many dead and wounded terrorists for the ardor to cool.

And perhaps we researchers should take a page (or chapter) from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. He writes about making “the establishment” play by their own rules while the “radicals” don’t (which is classic narcissistic personality disorder, by the way). How about we pull a little switcheroo? What if the researchers firebomb the houses of known ALF sympathisers and harrass their children at school?

I’m not saying that someone should, mind you. But I would understand (wink, wink) if someone did do that.

All hypothetically and academic, of course.

Maybe it’s time to take power away from a vocal and violent elite and put it back in the hands of “the people” – the people who do animal research and the people who benefit from it.

Prometheus

Animals absolutely have responsibilities that they fulfill. The natural world is dependent on bees to fertilize plants, on worms to digest decaying matter into soil, for raccoons to correct the dangerous trend toward upright and full garbage cans. We’d be in a lot of trouble if animals stopped animaling.

wockrassa @#46: These people won’t be seen as terrorists because, as recent events have shown, it’s only terrorism if you’re brown-skinned and have a funny name.

White guys flying planes into buildings because they’re pathetic tax cheats blaming everyone but themselves for their problems? Not terrorism.
Walking into someone’s church and shooting them to advance your cause? Not terrorism.
Threats and violence like in the article? Not terrorism.
But if you’re from some country that doesn’t worship the same Sky-Man as us? Oh, you better believe anything you do is terrorism.

Anyway, I’m thinking we need to resolve these kinds of things peacefully and without malice. And when that doesn’t work, we have them hauled off and locked away forever. If a few of these human-hating terrorists die for their destructive little cause in the process, so be it. They wish to live without regard for human life, so I refuse to have regard for theirs.

Nobody has observed infants demanding rights either, but we recognize that they DO have rights.

No, we recognize that we have obligations toward infants; and we give them rights and responsibilities when they show that they understand them.

Your “common sense” appeal is inadequate, and just as unworkable as the animal rights stance you object to.

Bullshit — my common-sense appeal is applied in the real world every day, and is proven to be workable. (Of course, you have to get out in the real world to see the proof.)

Animals absolutely have responsibilities that they fulfill. The natural world is dependent on bees to fertilize plants, on worms to digest decaying matter into soil…

Again, this is bullshit: animals don’t consciously decide to play their parts in a preplanned order; they all do what their hard-wiring tells them to do to stay alive from day to day, and the “system” that results from it is the unintended, unplanned, unconscious result of all that instinct-driven opportunistic action. It’s not socialism, it’s Thatcherism. And it’s certainly no basis for an animal-rights argument.

@Anonymouse #57

Before we start talking about “absurd extremes”, I just want to point out that you are the one invoking plant rights, which I’ve never once mentioned.

It’s a fair enough retort to suggest that my definition of “responsibility” is incorrect. I went to dictionary.reference.com (if someone can show me how to embed HTML links in comments I’d be most appreciative) and looked up the word “responsible”. There are two candidate definitions:

3. chargeable with being the author, cause, or occasion of something (usually fol. by for): Termites were responsible for the damage.
4. having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable; capable of rational thought or action: The defendant is not responsible for his actions.

The third one seems to suggest that animals CAN be “responsible” for things (although that’s not really the context), but the fourth one is a tautology: If only human beings are rational and moral (which I would argue is not necessarily the case), then only human beings can be responsible. Therefore animals can’t have rights, because they can’t be responsible, because they aren’t human.

Furthermore, if I fulfill my societal obligations not out of conscious and ethical duty, but simply because I like to do them, am I being responsible or am I simply operating out of “instinct”? I really like my job. As an unintended consequence, society benefits from the output of my work and my income taxes. However, I’d still do my job even if there was no benefit to anyone besides me. Does that make me unethical or non-responsible?

Anyway, I think this is one of those things that boils down to a values argument, and could probably go on in perpetuity. I honestly haven’t put a great deal of thought into this issue, but now it’s a bee in my bonnet. I’m going to stop posting on this thread, but if anyone really wants to continue the debate or has new insights, you can e-mail me at crommunist(at)gmail(dot)com.

Furthermore, if I fulfill my societal obligations not out of conscious and ethical duty, but simply because I like to do them, am I being responsible or am I simply operating out of “instinct”?

You are being responsible, because you have a demonstrable ability to understand your actions and choose whether or not to follow your instinct. (And you probably don’t follow your instincts to the same degree in ALL areas of your life.) You’d still do your job if there was no benefit to others, but would you still do it if, say, your paychecks started bouncing or you changed your mind about what you wanted in your life?

Another commenter wrote:

“These things do not apply to human children and chimpanzees are not very different from two-year-old children.”

Except for their propensity for killing and eating the babies of other chimpanzees, oh hey, and human babies as well.

I agree that we should have empathy for other primate species, and for animals of all sorts. But they are not analogous to little humans, and people would do well to remember this, for their own safety.

Ian responds:

“Animals absolutely have responsibilities that they fulfill. The natural world is dependent on bees to fertilize plants, on worms to digest decaying matter into soil, for raccoons to correct the dangerous trend toward upright and full garbage cans. We’d be in a lot of trouble if animals stopped animaling.”

I don’t see the basic survival behaviors – eating, in your examples – as being “responsibilities” that animals perform. If they stopped “animaling”, they would die – a fine motivator for behavior.

One way to distinguish between a responsibility and a natural function is that responsibilities usually involve us either not doing “what comes naturally” (e.g. fighting over mates or urinating on the sidewalk) or doing things that don’t benefit us (or our offspring) directly and don’t “come naturally” (e.g. paying taxes).

You can train some animals to behave in ways that mimic “responsibility” (e.g. house training a puppy), but they do it because we’ve conditioned them – through reward and punishment – to behave that way, not because they understand that peeing on the carpet is “wrong”.

Granted, there are people whose behaviors are similarly based only on operant conditioning, but these folks are usually in frequent trouble with “the law” because they – like even the most intelligent non-human animals – haven’t “internalised” the responsibilities of society.

As for the reason to treat animals with kindness, I can think of no better reason than “because it is the right thing to do”. One thing that separates us from the other animals is that we do eat meat and yet have resolved (beginning thousands of years ago) to kill our prey in ways that minimise their suffering. Watch “Animal Planet” for a few hours if you think that other carnivores or omnivores are at all concerned about the suffering of their food.

One thing that makes me unwilling to accept the “animal rights” activists stated objections to cruelty is that they are willing to be cruel (and even homicidal) toward members of their own species. If cruelty to animals is “dehumanising”, then cruelty to people should be much more so.

Prometheus

@Prometheus

Watch “Animal Planet” for a few hours if you think that other carnivores or omnivores are at all concerned about the suffering of their food.

No kidding. Take a look at hyenas for some prime brutality. Many carnivores will just bleed an animal to death before eating the meat. Hyenas just start eating their prey from the moment they bite.

“In fact, if I were Ringach, I’d also seriously consider buying a couple of handguns and learning how to use them.”

A short-barreled 12-gauge shotgun is a much better choice of home-defense weapon for most people.

Dianne wrote: “That having been said, though, I would point out that chimpanzees in particular aren’t exactly nice.”

Neither are humans. You can find much worse behavior among chimps’ human neighbors. The Lord’s Resistance Army? Killing albino people to use their body parts for ‘magic’? Raping babies to ‘cure yourself of HIV’?

Chimps are chimps. What’s our excuse?

More to the point, do you really want to stoop to the level of brainless “I don’t like snakes they’re nasty kill them all!” or “sharks eat people kill them all!”?

Perky Skeptic: “Except for their propensity for killing and eating the babies of other chimpanzees, oh hey, and human babies as well.”

See above. Why, exactly, should we care that they eat babies?

Regarding the comment of protesters trying to get a professor charged with “menacing” them with a pistol in his own house, there is a legal precedent (I think from Kansas) that while shooting in self defense would have been legal, threatening with a gun (leading to an aborted attack) was not. Several of the “castle doctrine” laws allowing a home owner to not retreat can be read similarly as “shoot, don’t talk”. Stupid, but that’s laws for you.

@Alareth #30

Whenever I’m presented with the “humans have canines” BS I like to point out that many herbivores have canines.

If 2 year olds had the strength and appetites of chimpanzees, can we really say they wouldn’t be killing babies?

I would be keeping a pretty darn close eye on their brothers and sisters, I would think.

Camille Marino said it well. Why should we afford respect to someone who is essentially a criminal – if not legally, then at least morally (a criminal)?

Reading blogs like this, can be depressing. One would think there’s no concern for morality or animal rights out there, but things are getting better:

http://www.njsendems.com/release.asp?rid=906

^^ It is possible, to work through the legislative process to achieve results. Its got to be incremental, but right now we have one of the most progressive administrations nationally. Many Democrats have embraced animal rights, and I believe we are on the verge of a breakthrough nationally. Europe is ahead of us in the evolution of society, and they are much more progressive. There they have gotten a lot of good animal welfare regulations passed. I think we can soon follow suite here.

I’d also like to point out that PETA, at least, is a seriously hypocritical group.

1) Owning animals as pets is a bad thing.
2) Let’s get people to give up their pets so that the animals are no longer subjugated by their human owners.
3) Then let’s kill them all in a gas chamber and dump the bodies in a dump in NC.

They really think the animals are happier dead than living with their human families?

And what about population control? I mean, most responsible pet owners these days spay/neuter their pets. What happens when all the cats and dogs go wild and there’s no neutering?

I personally would never hunt, but I also understand the need for hunting deer in order to control the population. And it’s regulated and whatever, so be it.

I think the hypocrisy of these “animal rights” groups is one of the things that bothers me the most. And by that, I don’t mean just the killing of animals they’ve reclaimed, but the threatenening of human scientists and their families. Do they really think anything can be accomplished through terrorism?

Mu: such laws are not totally stupid. What they seem to be saying (note: IANAL) is that shooting someone in self-defense is okay (though you may have to furnish some proof of a threat), but keeping him in your house so you can continue to hound or otherwise mistreat him, when he’s already disarmed and unable to resist or flee, is not. Not sure where keeping him in your house till the cops come and get him is on that scale…

Although I understand where these choice/free will/sentience explanatory fictions come from but there is nothing behind them to distinguish human animals from non human animals. All behavior is determined. Aren’t we all pre-disposed to science here? That said, this determination is not a pre-determinism and there is much more than the reinforcers and punishers that one experiences that are the causes of behavior. For all animals, there is our phylogenic history that makes up much of what translates into our preferences, predispositions, instincts, etc. However, “instinct” as the term is often used, can be influenced by individual experience. Adapting to dynamic environments is necessary for survival and thus natural selection prepares the organism to be sensitive to reinforcers and punishers (although a better way of thinking of these are appetitive and aversive control – they are not simple processes). There are also socio-cultural influences. Non human animals learn from each other. Some use tools. Some have elaborate “languages.” What makes you think we humans are special?

After leading you down that path, I’ll hazard a guess that we are “different” in that socio-cultural influence and the verbal behavior of humans are more complex. One of these differences is the development of societal rules. That said, one could argue effectively that some animals live under the influence of elaborate societal rules. Nonetheless, how we act is the product of these three levels of influence and are humans different? Yes, in many ways. One of them is probably the depth and complexity of societal influence on the development of each of its members.

As an aside, one way of thinking of choice is that it is the product of many influences but is the expression of the person’s history at the moment the choice is made. How are we to go about analyzing it? I know I would want to know about the individual and would not really care about what others would do in that situation. A psychologist might suggest that to predict the behavior of an individual selecting a snack from a vending machine, we would be well positioned by analyzing the choices of 10,000 people. I’d prefer 100 samples of the individual’s behavior in that situation. I may be wrong in my prediction but I’d be willing to bet a king’s ransom that I’d beat that psychologist’s guesses when predicting the behavior of 100 people and I’ll have collected fewer samples of behavior.

I’m also not an animal rights activist but do favor the humane treatment of all living beings.

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