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Animal rights activist groups target student vivisectionists

By Emily Liu

October 23, 2014 2:00 am

Animal rights activists are offering money in exchange for information on student researchers involved in animal experiments at universities in the U.K. and the U.S., including UCLA.

Though no incidents have been reported at UCLA so far, university police sent a cautionary email last month alerting faculty and students to keep an eye out for anyone who approaches them for information, said UCPD Lt. Mark Littlestone.

“Having contrary viewpoints is all well and good, but these folks have agendas that can cause harm to research, especially for a research university like UCLA,” Littlestone said.

The campaign, organized by the U.K. group National Operation Anti-Vivisection and the U.S. group Negotiation is Over, targets vivisectionists, which refers to individuals who conduct surgery on animals for experiments.

“Animals are burnt, poisoned, forced-fed toxic chemicals, gassed, psychologically distressed, deliberately caused brain damage and killed,” according to the campaign website.

The campaign aims to deter student researchers from entering a field that involves experiments on animals, according to the website. The campaigners encourage individuals to shame their peers involved in animal experiments and to monitor students’ research undercover. Campaign organizers did not respond by press time.

“Students should be made aware of the level of controversy surrounding animal experiments and given a taste of the peaceful protests and public pressure they are going to experience for the rest of their lives should they pick animal abuse as a career,” the website said.

Stanley Thomas Carmichael, a professor and vice chair for research and programs in the Department of Neurology at UCLA, said he disagrees with the method of protest used by the activists because it disrupts the safe learning environment of the university.

“This is a perversion of the process to protest or complaint in our society,” Carmichael said. “To pay somebody to steal data is a real abomination of what students are about, especially at a university where everyone is here to learn.”

Carmichael, who conducts neurology research with mice, said he thinks the activists hold outdated notions that are no longer relevant today.

“’Vivisectionist’ is an old-fashioned term purposely used by these groups to connote an obsolete way of dissecting animals,” he said. “They’re trying to leave a visual impression of something that is no longer the real world anymore.”

In recent years, the animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now! has held multiple protests at UCLA to rally against the animal research done at the university.

Last December, the group filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents, demanding that UCLA release documents regarding its animal use in research. The request was denied by UCLA, which said release of such information in the past had endangered university researchers.

University police asks anyone who is approached by members of the campaign or observes any suspicious behavior to report it to UCPD.

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