The animal rights radicals may have overreached this time

Yesterday, I learned of how animal rights terrorists are targeting college students as the “soft underbelly of the vivisection movement.” As an example of their new strategy, these thugs gloated over the “recantation” by a Florida Atlantic University student named Alena Rodriguez, who, because of her e-mail to a Negotiation Is Over editor named Ghazal Tajalli rejecting her request to become involved in an animal rights event, was targeted for a campaign of intimidation, smears, and harassment. As a result, Rodriguez was sufficiently terrified that she basically gave the thugs what they wanted: An apology and statement promising not to do animal research. The animal rights loons at NIO had won using logic like this:

Or so it seemed to them.

Perhaps they should not be so confident. Their despicable and cowardly attacks on Rodriguez have mobilized support for her. Also, as Speaking of Research points out, students are not the easy targets that Camille Marino and Ghazal Tajalli apparently think that they are:

Though NIO may refer to students as the “Soft bellied target of the vivisection complex” who “can be shut down with relative ease,” they should study their history. In the winter of 2005, the ALF launched a campaign that targeted students at Oxford University in the UK, declaring them to be “legitimate targets”. Did the students bow to the threats and arson attacks on their facilities? Not a chance! The students responded by launching the Pro-Test movement in support of animal research, and gave the ALF a drubbing which helped to turn the tide against AR extremism in the UK. The hate and lies of the ALF were simply no match for the solidarity shown by students and scientists at Oxford.

Similarly, the extremists at NIO may claim one victory, but they fail to see how much dedication they create at the exact same time.

Moreover, NIO is apparently too deluded or fanatical to realize that threatening college students could backfire on them spectacularly. First off, if NIO ever directly harms a student, it is likely to cause far more revulsion in the very people that Marino and company think they can persuade. Second, such threats are likely to goad universities into action in a way that they haven’t been goaded in the past. As Earle Holland points out :

In recent years, universities have been moving away from a historic role of “in loco parentis,” where the institution served in lieu of parents far away. Students, as well as administrators, are more comfortable now with the notion that students are young adults.

But if Camille or others think that universities will stand idly by while animal rights activists abuse and harass their students, they are sorely mistaken. The fact that institutions have been reserved on this issue in the past isn’t evidence that they will allow acts against students.

Camille’s miscalculation may well awaken sleeping giants.

I certainly hope so. It is not clear how much support FAU has provided Alena. Perhaps it was not enough. Perhaps FAU has never faced a situation like this before. What NIO has done, however, should arouse university administrators at every university that does significant biomedical and biological research. NIO has revealed its hand, and that hand is wearing brass knuckles. Universities need to act now to protect their students before those brass knuckles are covered in blood.

ADDENDUM: Former ScienceBlogger Janet Stemwedel points out the vile nature of Camille Marino’s tactics.