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UCLA braces for competing rallies on animal research

April 22, 2009 |  7:06 am

UCLA is bracing today for a pair of dueling rallies over the controversial issue of scientific research that uses primates and other animals. Officials said they are not expecting violent confrontations between the groups but are prepared nonetheless to have a substantial police presence.

The first rally, scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. at the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue and then move on to the campus, is sponsored by opponents of animal research who have long complained that UCLA scientists ignore the animals' suffering. Among the expected speakers is Michael A. Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), an Ohio-based group that is in the forefront of protests timed as part of an annual observance of World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week.

The next rally, scheduled an hour later at the same spot, is more unusual. It is organized by a new group, UCLA Pro-Test, made up of faculty, students and staff who say they support the humane use of animals in research aimed at finding cures for human diseases. The pro-research forces also want to protest against a series of unsolved arsons and vandalism at UC faculty homes and vehicles over the past three years. Among the expected speakers is UCLA neuro-scientist J. David Jentsch, whose car was set ablaze and destroyed last month and who then decided to create the pro-research group. Jentsch uses monkeys in his research on schizophrenia and drug addiction, and although he kills some for postmortem exams, he says the animals do not suffer.

On Monday, authorities announced that two animal rights activists had been indicted for harassing and threatening UCLA researchers, but the pair were not charged with the arsons. UCLA officials said they were pleased that arrests had been made in some of the cases.

-- Larry Gordon