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Animal Rights, You Say?

Novartis has had trouble for years with animal rights activists, and now things are getting nastier than ever:

Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella says the people who burned down his holiday home and defiled his family’s graves are not criminals but “terrorists” beyond dialogue.
In an interview with the SonntagsBlick newspaper, the 55-year-old chief executive said the attacks have changed his life and that more needs to be done to rein in the animal-rights extremists believed responsible for the “wicked” acts.
Last week Vasella’s home in Austria was set on fire. In July his mother’s urn was stolen and his dead 19-year-old sister’s grave was desecrated. Crosses bearing his name and that of his wife were placed in a Chur cemetery. Workers’ cars have been torched and angry graffiti sprayed on walls. . .
“How far do things have to go before you can speak of terrorism?” Vasella told the newspaper.

I’d say that’s far enough, definitely. If that’s not being done with intent to terrorize, then what? One idiotic part of the whole business is that the protesters seem to be trying to get Novartis to stop working with Huntingdon Life Sciences, the British animal testing company. (Similar tactics have been used elsewhere). But Novartis says that they currently have no relationship at all with HLS, and haven’t for several years.
Mere statements of dull fact, though, won’t make a dent in the self-righteousness of the sorts of people who think that spray-painting gravestones is a blow for justice.

27 comments on “Animal Rights, You Say?”

  1. RB Woodweird says:

    Dennis Leary: My fluffy little dog.. He’s so cute- There’s the problem. We only want to save the cute animals, don’t we? Yeah. Why don’t we just have animal auditions. Line ’em up one by one and interview them individually.
    Dennis: What are you?
    Otter: I’m an otter.
    Dennis: And what do you do?
    Otter: I swim around on my back and do cute little human things with my hands.
    Dennis: You’re free to go. And what are you?
    Cow: I’m a cow.
    Denis: Get in the fucking truck, OK pal!
    Cow: But I’m an animal.
    Dennis: You’re a baseball glove! Get on that truck!
    Cow: I’m an animal, I have rights!
    Dennis: (pointing at leather jacket) Yeah, here’s yer fucking cousin, get on the fucking truck, pal!
    Dennis Leary, Dennis Leary: No Cure for Cancer

  2. stuff says:

    Unfortunately, the Swiss media has had little experience of dealing with this kind of story in the past and has reported as fact many of the claims on websites such as SHAC. For example they claim that HLS tests cosmetics on animals, it does not.
    The FT had a very good editorial (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/483a3556-81ea-11de-9c5e-00144feabdc0.html) on the issue last week.
    The industry needs to discuss this issue in an open manner and explain why animals are used. A good example (in a rather poor item on the whole) was on the BBC One Show last week (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00lz9fk/The_One_Show_03_08_2009/ ) where Alzheimers research presented their reasons for animal use in experiments in a clear and easy to understand manner.

  3. a nonie mouse says:

    These people are terrorists, and they should be treated that way.

  4. AR says:

    Some time ago, at a PETA demonstration in front of a medical research building, I was arguing with one of the demonstrators. That’s not something I choose to do these days. So I posed this question out of exasperation: if not animals, how do you test the safety of a compound?
    Her answer: prisoners.

  5. jack says:

    Terrorism is designed to intimidate a people and in doing so either change the policies of the establishment or further their internal political success. They make large groups aware of their own mortality with a hands-on, shocking approach. It is by nature a matter of national security.
    This is not. Terrorists do not target individuals, they do not try to make someone’s life a living hell, they do not go for the symbolic offense. The identity of a particular victim matters little to them, only the successful intimation of fear in the general populace, insofar as it produces leverage for the success of their cause.
    Labeling every coercive or political criminal act “terrorism” is a practice we have to end if we want the term to mean anything at all.

  6. Art says:

    Jack, you are wrong. Terrorist: a radical who employs terror as a political weapon.
    This qualifies.

  7. Compliance Analyst says:

    I would be all for the testing on prisoners….but most of those guys would not be viable for a clinical study….
    Dictionary meaning of terrorist: a person who terrorizes or frightens others. Sounds like they fit the bill. Remember they are only targeting one person right now, but sounds like they gave gone after others.
    I worked for a pre-clinical not-for-profit, and was followed home (along with others in the company) by members of PETA. At that time I was 22 and lived in an apartment and thought it was funny, but not a chance I would take now with a wife and kid.

  8. Steve says:

    Terrorism: n. The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    I most certainly think that this qualifies.

  9. qetzal says:

    Terrorists do not target individuals….

    First of all, yes they do. You can’t target “a people” without targeting individuals who are among those people.
    Second, are you deaf and blind? Do you think the CEO of Novartis is the only person being targeted? What about Huntingdon Life Sciences (which Derek mentioned)? What about the hundreds (thousands?) of other researchers who have been targeted over the past few decades?
    This is most certainly terrorism: an attempt to intimidate a people (animal researchers) through fear and terror.

  10. Hap says:

    The behavior doesn’t seem designed to change the policies of governments on animal rights, but other than that, it seems to fit the dictionary and colloquial definitions of terrorism rather well – the acts are designed to induce fear in the people who may engage in animal research, those who may employ them, and those who may be anywhere near any of the previous two sets of people. Their behavior seems unlikely to convince anyone who doesn’t agree with them, and is isolated enough that it can be dealt with as a series of crimes rather than than requiring sufficient resources to engage political entities, but its aims are congruent with those of effective terrorist entities.
    I don’t think it’s fair to deprive these people of the title “terrorists” just because 1) they seem to believe that they have the sole right to determine what has rights and what does not (rather than attempting to intimidate a government into changing its position) and 2) they seem to have the sensibilities of a twenty-year nihilist on crack who breaks into someone’s house and throws their cat in the oven as “a prank”. It might be giving them too much credit though – let them hang out for a few years with ex-Mob thugs and rapists and they will get to see how real terror works.
    I think this post is double posted though.

  11. Kismet says:

    To me it’s terrorism, plain and simple. And unfortunately it’s happening in my home country. What a god damn shame. Once again it seems we have too much animal rights activism (apparently including acts of vandalism and terrorism) and not enough meaningful dialogue in this country…

  12. Sili says:

    And of course this kind of nutty terrorism – that is what it is – takes attention away from the genuine good work that is being done to ensure animal welfare.
    We’ve had problems with the ALF-nutters here in Denamrk, but I think they’ve mainly ‘liberated’ mink – thus ensuring the destruction of sensitive ecosystems and the eradication of threatened species.
    I believe SDU hired a Dutch professor of ‘Lab Animal Welfare’ (or words to that effect) a few years back. That is of course the only way to defeat these semprinis. Get the narrative on our side. Trouble is that most people in the business are – legitimately – scared of becoming a public face for testing. I hope that the UK Pro-Test organisation (formed by a teenager) is still having success mounting counterdemonstrations and generally getting the churnalists to tell the true story (even if people keep reminding me that ‘Truth is Dead’).

  13. BenHemmens says:

    I made a considerable stink about this stuff to my friends in the Austrian Green party last year. A group of animal rights people spent last summer on remand. The incarceration did not meet proper legal standards (the only offense they were suspected of in the relevant district was much too minor by itself) and the local Staatsanwalt (DA) eventually got ordered to release them again by his superiors.
    The Greens protested about the wrong arrest (which was fairly blatant) and the use of an anti-mafia law (formation of a criminal organization). But what is certainly missing around here is a sense of what these guys’ contacts (or perhaps friends and accomplices: that’s for the courts to decide) have been up to in the UK, USA etc. over the last 20 years or so. And so the **@#*! Greens went the whole hog and basically said these guys were their best friends and they applauded their agenda to reduce animal suffering and blah blah…
    It’s been giving me serious bellyache ever since, because otherwise, the Greens are the only party in Austria – by a long way – who have got things straight on a host of social issues, do good sound stuff on transport, education, the health service etc. and not least have the right attitude when it comes to our little far-right problem (which it often does).

  14. Hap says:

    I think that lends credence to the nihilism angle on ALF, et al (and their enablers withing PETA and other groups) – if they do your cause harm, why do you continue to support and enable them? Unless you really don’t believe what you say and desire raw power over society and the destruction of the current civil society, it makes no sense. In that case, the narrative enables the ALFers, etc., to pretend that their acts are not about dominance and anger, but about the welfare of fuzzy little ones (whose welfare may be harmed by them, but the ideal doesn’t have to reflect reality to be useful as an inspiration). They make better propaganda for people who want to do animal research with few strings and societal inhibitions – it’s us or them!
    I’m wondering if the Clancy solution at the end of Rainbow Six would be appropriate: “You want to harmonize with nature? Go harmonize.” I’m sure the large animals there would agree with their choices, and find them tasty.

  15. BenHemmens says:

    Oh yeah, and I forgot to say: whoever is doing the persistent and violent harassment and intimidation should be doing some major time.
    Terrorism is a big name for it, and I’ve never seen terrorists curl up and go away just because someone called them terrorists – the word is no practical use. But it’s organized, violent crime.

  16. chemgrad says:

    What Stan Marsh was told when he was banished to the PETA commune:
    Yes, life here is good and natural. But now that you know where our compound is, you’ll either have to live with us or be murdered.

  17. gotoutofthere says:

    Anyone who’s worked at that place knows it’s a real piece of work…..

  18. Bored says:

    When God hit the earth with an asteroid and caused nearly 80 percent of all life on land and in the oceans to become extinct, was that terrorism? Where were the dinosaurs’ rights then?
    Where is the dolphin Constitution? I haven’t seen too many Magna Carta’s written by rats, or chimpanzies for that matter. We should be good stewards of all life, and never cause needless suffering. All life is precious and unique. But animals don’t have any “rights” in a strict legal sense, any more than plants or rocks do… that is unless you are a PETA freak and think the world would be better off without humans.

  19. jigger says:

    My dog has Addison’s. He gets a shot of Percorten every 28 days. Which happens to be made by Novartis. Has a cute picture of a Westie on the box. I assume that at some point in the development process this drug was tested on dogs. So the terrorists are targeting a company that tests drugs that save animals lives, on animals. Wonder if they have thought about the fact that without that testing hundreds of thousands of dogs would die of Addison’s before they are 2 years old. That their actions could actually end up in the deaths of millions of pets world wide, depending on what disease the drug being tested was treating. As usual, they don’t really think things through. Only seeing black and white, when really things are many shades of gray. My dog has been getting shots for 5 years now, and the vet sees no reason he won’t go on living a long happy life. So personally I’m very grateful to Novartis, whatever their development and testing processes. Perhaps I should send those activists a picture of my dog, next to a box of Percorten, with the Novartis name on it.

  20. Anonymous Pharma Researcher says:

    I have had animal rights extremists show up at my doorstep, I won’t go into details but it was very definitely not fun. It is impossible to reason with these people, and I rather doubt when they get sick they tell the doctors “please don’t give me any drugs that were tested on animals.”

  21. riaan says:

    Debating whether or not this is terrorism is silly. this is a crime and that is it. Labeling them terorrists (I think) is an attempt to move the debate away from the real topic.
    Derek, can you explain to the layman (me) two things:
    1. Why is it necessary to test products on animals (in a technical sense – not the so we can save people sense)?
    2. What is done to decrease trauma and pain in lab animals?
    And # 3 just to be a devil’s advocate – if this is about level of “consciousness” or what organism has rights and which does not – why not do the testing on comatose humans who have no prospect of exiting that state?
    thanks

  22. qetzal says:

    riaan,
    Even if we all agreed there were no ethical issues, the number of comatose humans that might qualify is so incredibly tiny that no drug could ever be developed again. Plus, when you read Derek’s post for today you’ll see that a large proportion of animal tests require healthy animals. A comatose human is not healthy.
    As for the terrorism label, doesn’t your argument apply universally? Virtually every act of terrorism is also a crime. By that standard, the terrorism label would always be silly, but in fact, most people do find it useful to distinguish between ‘ordinary’ crimes and crimes of terrorism.
    I also disagree that applying the terrorism label is an attempt to avoid the real topic. I assume the topic you mean is whether animal testing is ever justified, and if so, when and how. I agree that’s a very important topic. But the animal rights terrorists have already abandoned debate on that topic.
    Please note that I do not for a moment equate animal rights activism with animal rights terrorism. The former try to use persuasion and other lawful means to try to achieve their aims, and I have no beef with them at all, even if I may not always agree with them. The latter are thugs who occupy the same moral plane as every other terrorist in the world.

  23. Sili says:

    riaan,
    Re 3, an acquaintance of mine actually had that provision put in his will, despite it not yet being an legal.
    Personally I’d offer up my braindead body for the purpose as well, just as I am now a registered organ donor (if my organs are still useful they take precendence of course).
    So I think ‘human experimentation’ should be on the table, certainly.
    Trouble is that you want people with definable, ‘controlled’ deceases. It’s just too messy to do initial studies in humans. With aninmals you can breed pure-blood lines of knock-out specimens. Critters with little to no genetic variation – that express the problem you’re interested in. It’s simply much more clean to work with. You can better isolate the effect you’re looking for. If you were working in a ‘real’ organism there’d be far too many variables to keep track of. That would mean that you’d have to ‘sacrifice’ far more individuals to find an effect.

  24. Anthony says:

    AR – I believe an Austrian vegetarian had a different answer to that question a few years ago.

  25. veghead says:

    The problem with animal testing, the aspect that is hardly ever talked about, is that it’s lousy science. Animals, even our closest relatives, don’t react to drugs and diseases the same way we do, e.g., chimpanzees and AIDS. So the systematic, institutionalized torment of animals “for the greater good of Humankind” (drum roll here) that scientists engage in doesn’t even result in good outcomes! Sounds like a lose/lose (to human and nonhuman animals) to me. And the reality is that there are non-animal alternatives to this cruelty out there, with more being developed all the time.

  26. neveen says:

    i love all animals and i want too help with so much but i dont know where too even bee gen

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