Why fight back against militant direct action? Because IT WORKS!

In a recent post, Steve Best (Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas – El Paso) made a clear statement about his own personal view of the animal rights movement’s more extreme elements.

He titled his post: “Why militant direct action? Because IT WORKS!”

The term “direct action” refers to tactics used by those opposed to animal research in an attempt to stop it. These actions range from attempted home invasions to sending razor blades in the mail to blowing up cars to frightening small children with threats during heinous and illegal home demonstrations.

Masked protesters march back and forth in front of our homes, shouting threats and intimidating neighbors.

To support his claim that direct action “works”, Best cites Susan Paris – who he refers to as “President of the pro-vivisection group Americans for Medical Progress”. AMP is a public advocacy group, but Ms. Paris hasn’t been President of AMP since 1997. Nevertheless, he quotes her as saying:

Because of terrorist acts by animal activists, crucial research projects have been delayed or scrapped. More and more of the scarce dollars available to research are spent on heightened security and higher insurance rates. Promising young scientists are rejecting careers in research. Top-notch researchers are getting out of the field.

It appears that Dr. Best has missed more than just Ms. Paris’s departure from AMP in the intervening 15+ yrs. He also missed a sea change in the way that individuals and organizations have dealt – usually quite successfully – with militant direct action from animal rights extremists.

In New Jersey, 7 members of SHAC were convicted on Animal Enterprise Terrorism charges for criminally targeting employees of Huntington Life Sciences.

In Oxford (UK), Laurie Pycroft and a group called Pro-Test staged massive pro-research demonstrations that virtually shut down the local groups opposed to the construction of a new research facility.

In Los Angeles, activists who committed felony stalking and harassment have been handed long sentences. Others, who engaged in targeted pickets at the homes of researchers, have been arrested and handed restraining order after restraining order. My employer – the University of California, Los Angeles – has taken vigorous legal actions to protect its faculty and students, and the direct result is a strong suppression of harassment from these activists.

In Florida, an animal rights extremist who used the internet to harass, threaten and intimidate researchers is on trial for violating the terms of a legal restraining order. I’m pleased to say that I had some role in encouraging the targeted investigator to obtain the order and to seek enforcement of it.

Best goes on to cite the case of Dario Ringach, one of my colleagues who was forced to cease his ground-breaking work on the neuroscience of vision, when his family was ruthlessly targeted by Los Angeles activists, as further evidence that direct action works. Again, Dr. Best misses the fact that – since 2006 – Dario has emerged as one of the most visible and eloquent proponents of the ethical basis of animal research. In the past several years, Dario has published several key points of view, including one of the most sound defenses of the ethics of animal research. In addition, his research continues to be cutting-edge and of exceptional importance.

So, to turn Dr. Best’s story around a bit: Why fight back against militant direct actions from animal rights groups? Because IT WORKS! The research community needs to take a more vigorous and bold stance when it confronts animal rights hooligans. The more we stand up in defense of ourselves, the more the frank obscenity of the behavior of this movement becomes apparent and the safer those who work in research become.


  1. Dr. Best is a joke. Must be nice to be able to make baseless political comment and be treated seriously at all. In the mean time, hard working, legitimate academics will continue to work hard to be objective, fair and productive with what they do.

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