West Side Story: Scientists vs. Activists

The debate over animal research led to protests and shouting matches Wednesday between activists and scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In one corner, was animal-rights activists criticizing the treatment of animals and the spending of money on animal research.

And in the other corner, was UCLA Pro-Test, a group comprised of students, faculty and staff, who support of biomedical research on animals.

Wednesday's protests remained peaceful, despite shouting matches and a pseudo-Jets vs. Sharks vibe.

About a dozen animal-rights protesters showed up on campus, carrying signs depicting medical tests being conducted on monkeys, cats and dogs. A couple demonstrators dressed as primates. One locked himself in a cage.

"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," Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, told The Associated Press.

About an hour later, the Pro-Test demonstrators started to gather across the street. Their numbers grew larger and larger by the minute.


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The two sides shouted back and forth at each other. It was emotional, but not violent. Police stood by, but no intervention was necessary. As the number of Pro-Test demonstrators grew, the animal-rights protesters quickly disappeared.

The Pro-Test group swelled to 750 people by one estimate. They carried signs that read "Say No To Terror," "Stop the Bombing," "Animal Research Cures Cancer" and "Research Benefits Human & Animal Lives."

The Pro-Test group marched across campus and held a rally in front of the Court of Sciences. The crowd cheered and applauded as researchers talked about the medical advances that have been made, in part, due to animal testing.

The rallies "follow this week's unsealing of an indictment of two animal-rights activists on charges of stalking and intimidating university researchers and executives of a juice company," The Associated Press reported.

Although Wednesday's protests were peaceful, violence is a common theme in the fight against animal research at UCLA.

On March 7, a UCLA animal researcher's car was firebombed. The Animal Liberation Brigade claimed responsibility for the bombing outside Dr. David Jentsch's home. A reward of up to $75,000 has been offered in that case.

Jentsch said Wednesday was a turning point for him. The researcher said he was terrorized by the explosion, but comforted to see all the supporters who attended the event.

"Someday there may be alternatives to animal research, but how do you get alternatives? Through research," Jentsch said.

In January, UCLA told van drivers to check underneath their vehicles for firebombs and to be alert for vandalism.

Extremists connected with an animal rights group have posted anonymous warnings that they have placed shotgun shells inside van mufflers to trigger fires in an effort to persuade university researchers to stop using live animals for medical studies, City News Service reported.

"There are roughly 12 (give or take a few, they'll have to find the exact number) of those UCLA vans driving around with unfired shotgun shells in their mufflers," said a anonymous letter e-mailed to several news agencies, including CNS.

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