By Lorinda Toledo
Posted: 04/22/2009 07:53:25 PM PDT
Updated: 04/22/2009 07:53:26 PM PDT
LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of supporters and opponents of animal
research held rallies today at the University of California, Los
Angeles, where authorities say scientists have been the targets of
stalking, threats and arson attacks.
Advocates of animal research wore T-shirts with the slogan "Stand up
for science" while foes across a street chanted and held signs such
as "End the animal holocaust." Each group then moved to separate
areas under police watch.
Proponents of animal testing cheered David Jentsch, a UCLA
psychologist and neuroscientist whose parked car was targeted in a
March 7 firebombing for which a group called the Animal Liberation
Brigade claimed responsibility.
"Six weeks ago when I looked out the front window of my living room,
I saw what I believed was truly one of the worst faces of humanity
looking back at me," Jentsch told the crowd. "But now as I look out
and see your faces I see what I believe is the best face of humanity
looking back at me."
The rallies came just days after the unsealing of an indictment
charging two animal rights activists with conspiracy, stalking and
other crimes against researchers at UCLA and a juice company.
Federal and other agencies also announced Wednesday a reward of up
to $75,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in
the firebombing of Jentsch's car.
Jentsch, 37, said in an interview that despite having his car
incinerated and a continuing series of obscene e-mails he is
"particularly emboldened" by the advancements law enforcement has
made in recent weeks.
"I'm not going to move, change my life or quit my research. I am
going to persist," he said.
He said the rally provided the campus with a sense of relief that
people do not have to fear for their lives.
Jentsch does research on rodents and primates to study the impact of
drug addiction on the brain.
"Someday there may be alternatives to animal research, but how do
you get alternatives? Through research," he said.
Among supporters was a researcher who works for Jentsch. She spoke
with a reporter on condition that only her first name, Stephanie, be
used because she fears being attacked or having her car firebombed.
"I owe science a debt of gratitude for saving my parents' lives,"
she said, explaining that one had survived leukemia and the other
cancer because they were treated with chemotherapy developed through
research on animals.
The animal rights protesters brought signs showing research animals
and slogans such as "Animal experiments scientific fraud" and "I am
not a research tool." One protester wore a gorilla suit; another
dressed as an orangutan set up a cage and sat in it.
ill Ryther, who is on the board of the Animal Law Society at UCLA,
said she wanted discussion, not violence.
"I think that I would like to see nothing more than an organized
debate where doctors are debating both sides. ... I think the more
violent acts are unfortunate. It's distracting from the more
important issues. Those kinds of tactics have no place here," she
Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now,
said he was trained in animal research and was turned off by what he
"I've seen what happens to these animals when the testing drives
them insane and causes them to rip out their own flesh. That only
confirms my belief. Animals are not objects," he said.
Asked if he condones aggressive tactics to intimidate people from
doing animal research, he said that as long as people were using
their constitutional rights he was in favor of it.
The $75,000 reward in the March 7 firebombing was offered by the
FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, UCLA
and the city of Los Angeles.
That reward brings the total offered to $475,000 for information on
six separate incidents, including two attempts to set fire to
researchers' homes, four vehicle fires and vandalism caused by
putting a garden hose in a broken window to flood a home.
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