In “Keep Scientists Safe,” neuroscience professor Jeffrey Kordower had the guts to unequivocally identify terrorism in the name of animal rights as the thuggery it is. From his column in the Chicago Tribune:
Black-masked attackers disrupting a child’s birthday party. A firebomb left on a doorstep. In the last six months, biomedical researchers have faced these terrifying attacks and more, with shadowy animal rights groups proudly claiming responsibility. Despite being highly regulated, peer-reviewed, crucial to public health and legal, vital research is increasingly under violent attack by activists using illegal means. It is time for the science, academic and health communities to say “enough” and do something about it. No researcher should experience the trauma of this kind of attack alone, or shoulder the responsibility of trying to address it without support.The problem is, at least in my experience, that those not under immediate risk hide under their desks (metaphorically speaking) for fear that they too will enter the animal rights’ bulls eye zone. That results in a variation of the old Benjamin Franklin bromide that those under attack hang alone because their peers refuse to hang together with them.
This trend will continue unabated unless research institutions, governments, national funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, and the science community unite to defend responsible biomedical research and implement policies to address these threats. With reasonable legal discourse descending to illegal violence and threat, universities can no longer afford to ignore actions that impose danger to their faculty. By taking steps to prepare, pre-empt and respond effectively to anti-research activists, they can support the progress of scientific research, as well as the health and economic well-being of the nation.But it shouldn’t just be the science sector defending other scientists. When attacked with ALF type actions, food industry should protect science, and scientists should come to the aid of the food industry. Entertainment companies that properly use animals should join the cause. If these violent criminals are to be defeated, it will take a coalition of all food industries, government, and yes, animal rights believers who know that, in the end, these terrorists undermine their cause (although I am not holding my breath on that one). And the media should make a much bigger deal about this then they do now.
Funding agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, are making important statements, but they should be encouraged to take an even stronger role in expecting universities to protect NIH-funded researchers.
Part of the problem is that many of the targets of these attacks mistakenly believe that animal rights is just about being nicer to animals, when it is a subversive and zealously held ideology that borders on fundamentalism. Understanding the common enemy is the first step in effectively thwarting its agenda.
P.S. Just imagine Professor Kordower’s hate mail!
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