By Max Taves

Two weeks after animal-rights extremists fire-bombed the home of a respected primate researcher, UCLA is fighting back—legally, of course. The university is “suing extremists to stop a campaign of terrorism, vandalism and menacing threats directed at faculty and administrators who conduct or support research involving laboratory animals.”

At a Santa Monica courthouse today, the university is expected to seek a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against three animal-rights groups: the UCLA Primate Freedom Project, the Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade, and five individuals associated with these groups.

According to UCLA, “The suit alleges that the defendants have invade researchers’ privacy, interfered with business practices and intentionally caused emotional distress, among other unlawful activities.”

Three times since June 2006, according to UCLA, animal-rights radicals have left explosives near the homes of UCLA faculty, who use or oversee research that uses animals. Last August, the Weekly covered their attacks on Jules Stein Eye Institute researchers (see story), who the radicals claimed – erroneously – were mistreating monkeys during research to combat a severe human eye disorder. The same month, the group claimed its first victory when Dario Ringach, an associate neurobiology professor, quit doing animal research at UCLA out of fear over threats made by the extremists. Ringach, who associates say was pursuing important research of benefit to society and following widely accepted – and legal – protocols for his research, has dropped from sight.

On February 5, a Molotov cocktail-like device charred the front door of Edythe London, a professor of psychiatry and molecular and medical pharmacology. London’s research into the science of addiction has been a lightning rod for animal-rights groups. According to the Los Angeles Times, her study requires that at least six vervet monkeys must be fed liquid nicotine and then killed. UCLA has noted that it follows all protocols and safeguards for handling and euthanizing the animals. The rights groups appear to have targeted UCLA not because the university follows unusual practices in its animal-based research – it doesn’t differ from other major research centers – but because many of the most radical animal rights adherents have congregated in Los Angeles and its suburbs.

Last October, London was terrorized when animal-rights extremists broke her window and inserted a turned-on garden hose into her house, flooding it and sending a ripple of fear through the scientific community, whose homes no longer seem safe. London says the damages came to between $20,000 to $30,000. After that, a typo-filled “communiqué” received and then published by the North American Animal Liberation Press Office promised that the radicals will escalate things to the point of violence:

“One more thing Edythe, water was our second choice, fire was our first. We compromised because we in the [Animal Liberation Front] don't risk harming animals human and non human and we don't risk starting brush fires. It would have been just as easy to burn your house down Edythe. As you slosh around your flooded house consider yourself fortunate this time. We will not stop until UCLA discontinues its primate vivisection programe.”

Chilled by what happened to Ringach, London decided not to run, instead making her case public by arguing in a LA Times op-ed that the use of monkeys was essential and her research socially valuable (see story).

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told LA Weekly earlier this month that there is an ongoing federal domestic terrorism investigation centered on the attacks on UCLA scientists and doctors.

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