the economics of stupid

August 5, 2008 at 8:26 am | | news, science and the public

Someone has been firebombing scientists’ homes in Santa Cruz. Probably some antivivisection extremists, because the scientists work on animal research. This really disgusts me, as a scientist, as a vegetarian, and as an environmentalist.

Burning houses is certainly not carbon-neutral (or entropy-neutral)! And the energy that needs to go into repairing the structures and vehicles damaged is harmful to the environment and economy. If you don’t like animal research, why not just write letters and signs on the back of used paper and posters?

But seriously, these events are the result of a perverse philosophy. This is not chaining yourself to a tree, it’s in a different league of black-and-white thinking. Look, I’m an ethical vegetarian—you could even call me an animal-rights advocate—but I know that protecting animals should not extend to threatening or harming humans who disagree with you. Researchers are animals too: animals who think they are doing the best actions they can to benefit the world. Maybe they’re mistaken; maybe I am; maybe we all are. Let’s not kill people over this disagreement.

Antivivisection extremists and their apologists give all ethical vegetarians a bad name, and probably push back many years any rational effort to alter humankind’s tyranny over the animal kingdom. Maybe there could be a reasonable discussion about the need for animals in biomedical research, and more efforts to develop new reliable in vitro tests, but not while people are firebombing each other.


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  1. Yeah, it was the ALF.

    If the the biologists were running their experiments on people, *then* would the firebombing their houses be okay? Would firebombing the *labs* be okay? What about removing the lab animals? What about holding sit-ins? Protests in front of the labs? Is such civil disobedience or direct action ever okay? Where should they draw the line? They didn’t kill anybody, whilst the researchers undoubtedly killed hundreds of animals.

    Ironically, it sure looks like this seems rather black and white to *you*, Sammy boy.

    But okay. I do think ALF took it too far, too. They probably hurt their cause more than they helped it. But when they are left with despair and desperation from their unfruitful past efforts, it’s hard to figure exactly where to direct them.


    Comment by jordan — August 5, 2008 #

  2. civil disobedience using nonviolent means could be justifiable; that’s why i differentiated these people’s actions from “chaining yourself to a tree.” trying to kill people is not an acceptable means of debate.

    and that is what we should be having: a debate. vivisection is a complex case: the pain and suffering of millions of creatures is dreadful; but without animal models, progress in biomedical science would be drastically slowed. both sides play the black-and-white card, calling the other side anti-science or torturers, respectively. the truth is somewhere in between, but we’ll never find it with people firebombing each other.

    Comment by sam — August 5, 2008 #

  3. oh, and what if the ALF started firebombing meat-eaters and restaurants? that would put many of my loved ones at risk.

    but, arguably, slaughtering an animal for a yummy meal is far worse than what animal researchers do. slaughterhouses don’t worry about undue suffering or minimizing the use of animals; on the contrary. but i don’t think ALF firebombs slaughterhouse workers’ homes or Burger King employees.

    shit, i shouldn’t give them that ideas…

    Comment by sam — August 5, 2008 #

  4. For sure kill people as “discussion strategy” can be usefull only among Mafia and similar organizations; so shame on whom do not hesitate to kill for terrorize people.
    About vivisection is difficult mostly because the animals are under hazard threatment (i do not speak about stupid test like “how many kilos of chocolate can eat”!) and because of this they can suffer.
    I eat meat without problem, I could also kill an animal (quick and fast), but hunting and make an animal suffer is against my ideas. An example that I say many times about this is: “Think you are living in a so cold place that you cannot grow any crop. Do you really thinks that meat is such a bad solution?” (BTW the last article I read about vegetarian is here )
    What can disgust is the quantity of tests done for idiot things like beauty cream, rimmel, or something closely related just to our life style.
    As all the science there are good and bad ways to make research; unfortunately for some medical tasks no alternative are available but what make me scared is the usual trend; computerized simulation will be available in high developed countries; the rest of the countries will continue to use the old one.

    Comment by MaurizioN — August 6, 2008 #

  5. Conveniently, there exists a word for those that wish to motivate others (or pressure them into action) by threats of extreme violence that arouses a sense of fear or terror in the intended subject.

    Comment by Kyle Finchsigmate — August 6, 2008 #

  6. (My comment didn’t get posted. I try again.)

    Again, ALF didn’t kill anybody and didn’t intend to from what it would appear. They probably agree with you, Sam, that killing people for the sake of protecting animals is a bad idea. Also, they *have* harassed farmers in the past. I vaguely recall them trying to “liberate” some birds awhile back.

    Anyway… vote yes on Prop 2.

    Comment by jordan — August 6, 2008 #

  7. your comment was caught by the spam filter for some reason.

    they started someone’s house on fire while the family was in it (the family had to jump out of a second-story window to save themselves). that’s called trying to kill people.

    dude, how would you feel if someone threw a molotov cocktail at your house or your family’s house? i don’t think you’d call that vanilla civil disobedience. it’s terrorism.

    but prop 2 looks good.

    Comment by sam — August 6, 2008 #

  8. The good people at ALF should just donate their bodies to science, if it meant fewer animals would die for the sake of science. Practice what you preach.

    Comment by excimer — August 7, 2008 #

  9. The article I read didn’t mention that the family were in the house when it was bombed. That’s truly horrible. Thanks for pointing it out, Sam.

    Comment by jordan — August 8, 2008 #

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