Activists clash (peacefully) over animal testing at UCLA
On opposite corners of the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue near UCLA, opponents and supporters of the university's experimentation on animals clashed today. Our colleague Larry Gordon at the L.A. Now blog has the details:
About 400 people, including UCLA faculty, staff and students, have joined a pro-research rally on the northwest corner ... just south of the campus. The demonstrators are carrying signs with such slogans as "Animal research saves lives" and "Campus terrorism is not OK."
As numerous police officers stood by, the pro-research group briefly traded slogans across Westwood Boulevard with a smaller, rival rally of about 30 animal rights activists on the intersection’s northeast corner. Opponents of the research contend that UCLA scientists ignore the suffering of primates and other animals used in the experiments.
The anti-experimentation faction turned out in observation of World Week for Animals in Laboratories, an annual event organized by the group In Defense of Animals. A website for World Week for Animals in Laboratories describes animal research as "cruel, unnecessary and outdated." Among the studies it lists as unnecessary are "Nipple preference in nursing infant monkeys," "Effect of high-fat diets on mice sleep," and "Effect of exercise on rat health." (Rats that exercised were healthier, the site notes.)
The rally in favor of the experiments was the first organized by a new group called UCLA Pro-Test and was scheduled to coincide with the planned animal-rights rally. "With over 70% of Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine going to those who have used animals in their research, it is little wonder that scientists believe that such methods are still crucial in helping treat and cure modern diseases," reads a statement on Pro-Test's website.
The Pro-Test group, an offshoot of an Oxford, England-based group founded in 2006, was organized by J. David Jentsch, a UCLA neuroscientist who was the target of a recent attack by anonymous animal-rights activists. In the attack, Jentsch's car was set on fire while it was parked in front of his Westside home. (The FBI recently announced that a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible has been increased to $75,000.) Jentsch, who researches schizophrenia and drug addiction, conducts tests on monkeys. While he acknowledges that some monkeys are killed as part of his research, he maintains that they do not suffer. Jentsch was expected to speak at today's rally.
Pro-Test's hundreds-strong turnout at today's event no doubt received a boost from the Jentsch incident and other recent, violent incidents aimed at University of California researchers who participate in animal testing.
On Monday, two activists, Linda Faith Greene and Kevin Richard Olliff, were charged with conspiracy, stalking and other felonies for incidents involving UCLA scientists and the POM Wonderful Juice Co. Prosecutors allege that Greene and Olliff are part of the Animal Liberation Front, a group best known for sabotaging research facilities that conduct animal tests, often removing or setting loose the animals kept there.
Although the opposing demonstrations were described as peaceful, a substantial police presence was in place to monitor the event.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Tom Holder, a leader of the Pro-Test group, speaks to those gathered at the UCLA campus on April 22, 2009. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times