The firebombing of two biological research scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz undoubtedly represents a novel phase of escalation in the threat level represented by animal rights activists. We are inching forward to the point at which the violent extremists, fueled on by their supposedly mainstream apologists, finally kill a research scientist. It would be very nice if we did not have to reach that point before the underinformed and naive supporter of generic 'animal welfare' (the sensitivities of whom are usually preyed upon by the violent fringe and their front groups to provide cover and support) realizes that there is a time to make hard decisions. A time to confront one's actual priorities and values, in concrete terms instead of comfortable ivory tower "what-ifs". A recent editorial in Science asks for legal solutions before someone dies.
The editorial is penned by three UCSC affiliated faculty and presents the serious underlying problem at hand.
It is of serious concern that these acts of terrorism and their associated incendiary statements were not immediately condemned by our political leaders. There have been no high-profile or unified statements about the incidents, and days afterward, California's governor had still declined to comment.
Gee, ya think? Politicians in leftie-libby California not wanting to touch this during election season?
There is a serious point here which is that legislators think, quite rightfully, that it is dangerous to their careers to come out seriously against actual, evidence based threats of terrorist activity against their own citizens. Nebulous global concerns? Sure. Protecting the handful of humble anonymous laborers for the public health good? Not so much. For example:
A proposed bill in the California Legislature (AB2296), which would extend protection to "animal enterprise workers" similar to that provided for politicians and reproductive health workers, has been much weakened from its original intent. In its original form, it would have prevented the posting of personal information on Web sites with the intent to incite acts of violence or threaten researchers and their families. If passed, the current form of the bill only enacts a misdemeanor trespass law. This is potentially useful in investigating offenders, but does not have stringent penalties.
Why? Why weaken the bill? What is the danger of generating serious penalties for the sort of personal-information publicizing (the back story of the Santa Cruz story, btw) that leads to home attacks? Why would this be controversial in the slightest one wonders? I mean all the public sentiment condemns the home attacks does it not? Questioners condemn the terrorism whilst asking their questions about animal use in research, do they not? So what's the problem?
The editorial closes:
In a 2008 national poll (conducted by Research!America), Americans overwhelmingly supported scientific research (83%). Nearly 70% are more likely to support a presidential candidate who supports research, 75% believe that it is important that the United States remains a leader in medical research, and 90% want the U.S. to train more scientists. Our scientific enterprise lies at the core of our economic success, national security, and our very well-being. This is why all concerned citizens should rally to the call to stop antiscience violence. Our political leaders must reject these criminal acts as forcefully as they reject all other forms of terrorism.
Indeed. Before someone gets killed. (Unless that is what you want, of course)