When Extreme Animal Rights Activists Attack
Lawmakers, researchers, and peaceful activists all say they deplore violence committed in the name of animal rights. But laws that may label some protesters as “domestic terrorists” are upsetting activists.
Daniel Andreas San Diego joined Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” watch list in 2009. Bin Laden is gone, but San Diego remains. Listed as “armed and dangerous,” with a $250,000 price on his head, the Berkeley, California, native is only the second U.S. citizen to make this particular FBI list. He is 34, a vegan, and a skilled sailor. His tattoos depict burning, collapsing buildings. On his chest is a burning hillside coupled with the words, “It only takes a spark.”
San Diego is an animal rights zealot. He is under federal indictment for allegedly igniting explosive devices outside two Northern California firms - biotechnology giant Chiron and homecare-product manufacturer Shaklee — in 2003. The FBI says a potentially deadly second explosive at Shaklee, strapped with nails and likely targeted at first responders, was defused.
Frankie Trull, founder and president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, calls these “inexplicable, unforgiveable kinds of actions.”
FBI assistant director Mike Heimbach calls them acts of terror, possibly meant to take lives, destroy property, and damage companies. The FBI has noted an uptick in violent rhetoric by animal activists and a shifting away from the code of nonviolence toward blatant threats and intimidation. Its website asserts that between 1979 and 2008, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front, and other extremist groups have committed more than 2,000 criminal acts and caused $110 million in damages.
In a February 2011 Nature magazine poll, nearly a quarter of the animal research scientists who responded reported being affected by or knowing someone affected by animal rights activists. A little more than 15 percent had changed practices or direction as a result. Whether driven by fear or conscience, some large institutions are responding to calls for animal rights — this week, for example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inked a deal with cosmetic maker L’Oreal that they hope brings them closer to one day using a computerized system to forecast a chemical’s safety instead of using live animals.
Ultimately, as long as biomedical researchers continue experiments using animals, they’re likely to have their own image problems in the war for hearts and minds.