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Protecting researchers from animal rights activists

The Sacramento Bee published an op-ed piece by Vice Chancellor Stan Nosek and Dallas Hyde, director of the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, on Saturday drawing attention to the increasing problem of “animal rights” activism and the steps the university is taking to protect medical researchers and their work.

Recent months have seen incidents at UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz including attempted fire-bombings, vandalism, harassment and intimidation. In Santa Cruz, six masked intruders tried to break into a biology professor’s house during a child’s birthday party.

Last month, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front – considered a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI – reiterated past statements that the murder of researchers was “acceptable” in order to stop animal research.

UC is supporting Assembly Bill 2296, which would prevent activists posting the home addresses and telephone numbers of researchers and their families on the internet with the intent to incite harassment or violence. In its original form, AB 2296 would have incorporated much of an existing federal law, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, into state law, but much of this language was removed in committee. The bill has passed its third reading in the Assembly and now goes to the state Senate.

More information about the University’s position on this issue and AB 2296 can be found here.

The Bee’s Carrie Peyton-Dahlberg reported on the issue last week, focusing on public records issues. Chris Patti at the UC Office of the President responded to that article in a letter to the editor published Saturday, noting that UC is highly responsive to requests for information, but:

Unfortunately, experience has shown that disclosure of certain specific information about individual researchers and their work has endangered their personal safety, as evidenced by the fact that UC employees and their families have been the targets of arson, bombings, vandalism and intimidation.

Thus, UC’s responses to requests for information balance the need to ensure the safety of our employees with the public’s right to institutional transparency.

The Bee also published an editorial on that topic today.

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