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As we’ve seen from recent world events, extremist ideologies never lead to or create anything good. The mantra “everything in moderation” applies to more than just food, sweets and booze these days, as taking an idea too far can also poison a mind. Most notable are radical interpretations of religion. It seems we’ll now have to add “animal rights” to that list as well.
In 2008, a number of University of California animal researchers faced violent harassment from animal rights extremists. After seeing their propaganda campaigns fail, these extremists have taken to more extreme measures, as their label implies. Taking a page from anti-abortion extremists, animal rights extremists have decided to move beyond targeting mere research facilities to going after the researchers themselves. They’ve also taken to going after the researchers’ families and homes, particularly in California. The physical targeting of animal researchers, as with the targeting of abortion clinic workers, is simplified by extremists posting the researchers’ personal information on radical Web sites — ones that encourage members to exact violent retribution and to intimidate animal researchers.
It gets worse. In accordance with the aforementioned tactics, animal rights extremists firebombed a UCLA researcher’s home in Jan. 2008. Likewise, extremists also firebombed the homes of two UC Santa Cruz biologists last August. Aside from firebombing, other forms of harassment have taken place. In February, six masked extremists stormed into a UCSC researcher’s home in the middle of a children’s birthday party and assaulted the researcher’s husband. Reports of harassment included 20 reports of damage to researchers’ homes.
Such tactics are both shocking and disgusting. I myself don’t understand how these animal rights advocates gone wild see domestic terrorism as a solution to be used against people with whom they disagree. We should be glad that the animal rights activists on our own campus are just frighteningly friendly and nothing more.
After the attacks, UC officials decided enough was enough and drafted a bill designed to stamp out this extremism by extending the same protections that abortion clinic workers and elected officials enjoy to UC animal researchers. The bill, known as AB 2296, was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Gene Mullin of San Francisco on May 19, 2008. It banned the online posting of researchers’ and their families’ personal information and pictures, threatened offenders with up to a year of jail time and fines of up to $25,000. It also made it easier to obtain restraining orders and craft lawsuits against those who incite or execute violence against animal researchers.
All in all, it was a fairly solid bill. It floated through the Assembly on a cushy 76-0 vote until it bumped into Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Ellen Corbett, another Democrat from San Leandro, who then proceeded to eviscerate the bill last August. Corbett labeled AB 2296 unacceptable and introduced a newer, emptier version. This version of the bill no longer forbade online posting of researchers’ personal info or calls for violence against them and made restraining orders and civil lawsuits much more difficult to obtain. The only weapon in its arsenal against extremists was the allowance for trespassing charges to be filed against extremists who go to researchers’ homes, an embarrassing derringer compared to the anti-terrorism cannon of AB 2296. The penalties of the new bill ran as high as a knee-knocking $1,000 fine or – that’s “or,” not “and”– six months of jail time.
What followed was a barrage of media criticism from papers like the San Diego Union-Tribune and the San Jose Mercury-News, which bashed Sen. Corbett for endangering the lives of UC researchers. Corbett’s fellow lawmakers, as well as the head of the U.S. Humane Society, also offered a substantial amount of scathing criticism of the California senator because it was readily apparent that a simple $1,000 penalty or half a year in jail wouldn’t do jack-diddly to dissuade animal rights extremists from continuing their terror campaign. The media knew it and they knew Corbett knew it. After enough criticism, a bill similar to the original AB 2296 finally reappeared some months after Corbett’s destruction.
These cases of human degeneration are always interesting. I don’t just mean these animal rights extremists, but our own Sen. Ellen Corbett. It is disconcerting that there are still people in this modern, Western day and age who will still ignore the safety of others simply to further their own agenda. As for the extremists – the ones who bombed researchers’ homes, assaulted their families and stalked them – they’re no better than the nutty extremists who committed the recent Mumbai atrocity.
While kindness to animals is important, their methods to save Bambi from Alzheimer’s experiments cannot be justified. Extremism, be it animal rights or religious, is pure destruction. Firebombing researchers’ houses and terrorizing their families is not the way to help animals. It’s just going to make you look bad and turn you into the subject of lame jokes. If you want change, you take it to the political lobbies, like we as a human race have evolved and learned to do, so that you don’t set us back 500 years. Consequently, there is little difference between extremists of any creed and the animals this particular group of extremists were trying to help.

AE Anteater is a third-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.

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