Blurring the lines between legal demonstrations and underground actions

Late at night on the 14th of August 2013, a car driven by two animal rights activists was pulled over on a rural highway in Illinois. While the traffic stop was considered “routine”, what was found inside the car was anything but . Police reports indicate that the two young men in the car were traveling with:

bolt cutters, wire cutters, muriatic acid, ski masks, and cammo (sic) clothing

The driver and passenger of the car were none other than Kevin (Johnson) Oliff and Tyler Lang.

Kevin Olliff is a troubled young man who has long been involved in criminal stalking and harassment of researchers and others in the Los Angeles area. After a prolonged period of intense, violent and threatening home demonstrations (shouting “burn, baby, burn”) at the homes of UCLA researchers, Mr. Olliff was arrested and eventually sentenced for these crimes. He was released from prison in 2010.

Tyler Lang is a member of the Los Angeles animal activist group and has played a key role in the despicable targeted pickets that occur with some regularity at our homes. He was arrested outside a UCLA researcher’s home in 2010 for violations of focused picket laws; in turn, he and his colleagues filed suit against UCLA and its police force for their arrests. After more than a year of legal wrangling, the Lang et al. entered into an agreement with the district attorney to avoid further prosecution and their lawsuit against UCLA was dismissed with prejudice by a federal judge in Southern California.

Mr. Lang describes his views on the value of home demonstrations that target researchers in a Vimeo clip posted here. After extolling the effectiveness of home demos (he notes that Olliff et al.’s criminal protests led one UCLA investigator to “quit his job” [at 11:30]), he repeatedly drives home his view that protests are “legal” and “should be used” [at 12:45]. Their value, in his eyes, are that they bring an uncomfortable, but legal, message and presence to the target. What he doesn’t say is that his arrest in 2010 – and his subsequent reluctance to plead not guilty and face trial – prove otherwise.

*** NOTE: There used to be an active link to the video here, but the courageous activists who initially put it up have taken it down again, apparently congnizant of the legal trouble that Tyler now finds himself in. I guess they aren’t quite as brave as they were trying to convince eachother they were.***

What he also doesn’t say in his video is that criminal activities during home protests may not be the limit to how far he was willing to go. We don’t know where Olliff and Lang were headed on the night of Aug 14, and we don’t really know what they planned to do with bolt cutters, ski masks, camoflauge clothing and an acid historically used by animal rights activists when vandalizing cars and homes. But I think it’s perfectly reasonable to conclude that these two young criminals were on their way to engage in illegal behavior, and it’s very possible that someone involved in biomedical research was the target.

This reveals the very weak defense of “above ground” activists who conduct demontrations at homes, universities and companies and who claim that they have no knowledge of nor play any role in the illegal activities of their movement (for example, here). In fact, associations and activities like those Olliff and Lang were engaged in Illinois should be a wake up call to everyone that these activists are more than willing to blur the lines between the above ground and underground movement when it suits their purpose.

As a society, we must do everything possible to stop the criminal actions of extremists like Olliff and Lang whenever we can. When we turn a blind eye to their above ground activities, even when those behaviors violate the rule of law, we tacitly encourage them to escalate their psychopathic tendencies.

For now, Olliff and Lang are being held on substantial bail amounts ($100-200K) and are facing upcoming hearings.  Only time will reveal whether this is the end of their slow slide towards violence.


  1. I agree with you. Taking justice into your own hands to impose your point of view is to be condemned and perpetrators of illegal acts need to face the consequences of their acts. The movements that harbor such extremists should be sued as well for covering up or face the consequence of losing their ‘charitable’ status.

  2. The activists views are no longer the minority and with the wonderful technology available today more and more people all over the world are on the side of anti cruelty to animals. It is only a matter of time and the two activists in question will be hailed as heroes. I live in a third world country and believe me even the people here know that the only way to be heard is to be active… and that they are!!!

  3. In case readers are wondering, the VIMEO link above no longer works because the courageous animal activists who posted it made it private. I guess they were not so proud to declare their support for direct action, after all.

  4. Who are the psychopaths? Those who torture animals repeatedly or those who try to stop torture and violence? Cutting and experimenting on live animals is true violence. Stop lying to yourself.

    1. No. I’m afraid that you are very, very wrong. I am a faculty member in one of the leading (top 5) Psychology departments in the world. Our faculty includes the very best psychologists on the entire planet. My colleagues uniformly support the basic and translational neuroscience done in our lab, recognize its importance for human welfare and support myself and my students in our endeavors to make the world a better place through science.

  5. Defending the rights of those who are unable to defend themselves is a heroic act. Bravo, Kevin and Tyler! You are an inspiration.

    1. Yes, defending those in need is a highly meritorious act. That’s why people everywhere recognize the deeply good, noble and responsible acts of biomedical researchers, including those who study animals… We have given our lives to defending people and animals from needless sickness through our research. It’s sad that people like Kevin, Tyler and you would so glibbly ignore these needs.

      1. You mean the deeply misleading, greedy and evil act of biomedical researchers. They give their lives to nothing more but torturing defenseless animals for profit. That’s all there is in it for these ‘researchers’. What a joke.

  6. It’s so typical to persecute and label animal activists. Open your eyes and accept that the real criminals are not those who stand up for the innocent victims. Those who abuse and torture animals, and persecute animal activists, are the ones who should be stopped as they are no longer on a ‘…slow slide towards violence’. They are necks deep in violence and blood of billions of murdered victims.

  7. Yes. These activists are the bad guys. Not people who arrogantly superimpose their delusions onto other living beings. Animals are people too.

    1. Participating in scientific investigation, whose goal and consequence, is the betterment of the welfare of humans and animals alike is the sanest thing I know. It’s responsible. It’s regulated. It’s noble. And it’s the right thing to do.

      Those who have felt the noble and beneficial outcomes of biomedical research, including that using animals, have made clear how important it is.

    1. A former Director of the National Institutes of Health answers your question just about as well as I can, so I include it here. Note the first paragraphs where he clearly states the position of our leading health research authorities on this matter.

      “Animals used in federally-funded research benefit both human and animal health. Recently, domestic terrorists have targeted researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with acts of violence, including firebomb attacks against biomedical researchers and their families. Homes and vehicles were burned. These acts against researchers and institutions who use animals in their research are intolerable. Research using animals funded by NIH is based on the health needs of the nation and is held to rigorous standards. These senseless acts not only threaten the individuals and their families, but endanger the health of the entire nation.

      In order that scientists can provide effective and essential treatments for people who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and addiction—diseases that can devastate patients, families, and communities across the nation—scientists need to study brain function. Sadly, the scientists working on these devastating diseases are the most often targeted by terrorists. These scientists are investigating the underlying complex processes of addiction, impulsive behavior, learning, memory, and attention in animals, in order to help discover treatments and cures. Mental illness and the illnesses of addiction to alcohol, nicotine and illegal substances have a huge impact on individuals, families, and coworkers, costing America more than half a trillion dollars a year in combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact.

      It is important that everyone know that all animals used in federally-funded research, are protected by laws, regulations, and policies to ensure they are used in the smallest numbers possible and with the greatest commitment to their comfort and welfare. The search for cures for devastating diseases depends on cumulative evidence gained from quality research. The appropriate use of animals in medical research has enabled the development of successful therapies and preventive measures for a wide- range of human diseases such as polio, Parkinson’s disease, and hepatitis A and B.

      Federally-supported scientists are accountable, from the time they first plan their research to the time the research is completed, to protect the welfare of animals in their research. NIH insists on the highest standards of animal care and scientific merit in all activities it supports, and oversees federal regulations protecting the welfare of laboratory animals.

      Terrorist acts against our nation’s biomedical researchers, the men and women who devote their lives to biomedical research are unconscionable. The NIH stands firmly in support of the biomedical research it funds to advance the health of the Nation and the world.

      Terrorism is not expression of opinion nor point of view—it is a violation of law. Terrorism at its most obvious and visible immediately destroys life and property. However the more subtle but devastating toll will not be realized for some time—if more scientists, fearing for themselves and their families, leave their research. Irretrievable time will be lost in finding as yet undiscovered treatments and cures.”

      1. Come on, seriously? I truly boggles my mind that anyone can believe that spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (actually I’m sure it’s many MILLIONS of dollars, when you take into account all the drug studies done across the country) on addicting ANIMALS to street drugs is going to ever help humans–and if it somehow miraculously DID help humans, it would be infinitesimal compared to the amount of people who would be helped if all those millions of dollars were instead directed toward rehabilitation and prevention programs, which we KNOW work. Or how about studying actual…I know this is crazy talk, but hear me out…studying HUMAN BEINGS who are ALREADY addicted to drugs, rather than forcibly addicting animals (who have not an iota, OBVIOUSLY, of the societal and genetic and psychological factors that contribute to drug abuse).

        I would absolutely love, love, LOVE to see how many vivisectors–especially those doing experiments that involve forcing horrific drugs on animals–would do it if their salaries were, say, that of a high school teacher’s, rather than several hundred thousand dollars a year (I can only assume that you make something comparable to Edythe London, who we know had a salary of over $300,000/year as of a few years ago).

        Then we’d see how goddamn ‘humanitarian’ you and your ilk really are. How much money do YOU make a year, David? Over $150,000? Over $200,000? Would you still do exactly what you’re doing if it meant making only, say, $40,000/year? Since it’s SUCH a humanitarian endeavor?

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