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Animal Researchers Unite After Extremists' Attacks

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Animal Researchers Unite After Extremists' Attacks


Animal Researchers Unite After Extremists' Attacks

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Law enforcement in California has stepped up its fight against extreme animal rights activists. One activist is the first U.S. citizen on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list. Two others have been charged with harassment by the Los Angeles district attorney.

University of California researchers are often a target of these activists, and this week one UCLA professor said that enough is enough. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: David Jentsch is a neurobiologist at UCLA. He studies the effects of drug addiction and mental illness and uses monkeys in his research. That's made him a target for animal rights extremists, who at four in the morning. Last March 7th, set his car on fire.

Dr. DAVID JENTSCH (Neurobiologist, UCLA): I rose my head up from my pillow and looked out my window, and I saw a glow coming from the window that if you've ever seen, you wouldn't mistake for anything else.

KAHN: Jentsch ran downstairs, out the door, grabbed his garden hose and frantically tried to put out the fire.

Dr. JENTSCH: But at that point, the damage had been done. And I don't mean that the car was unsavable, I mean the terror that tried to be inflicted hit its mark.

KAHN: Jentsch is not alone. In the past few years, nearly a dozen UC researchers have received death threats, had their cars firebombed and their home vandalized. One targeted neurobiologist last year sent an email to an extremist Web site that read, you win, and pledged to give up animal experimentation.

David Jentsch is doing just the opposite.

(Soundbite of chanting)

Unidentified Man and Woman: Stand up for research, stand up for science; stand up for research, stand up for science...

KAHN: Jentsch spoke before hundreds of UCLA medical students, professors and technicians rallying in Los Angeles to support animal researchers.

Dr. JENTSCH: Whether you participate in animal research or not, we are all a community of scholars and we're standing up today to say that that horrible face that comes in the night can't come anymore. It has to stop.

KAHN: The FBI is hoping a $75,000 reward in Jentsch's case will lead to an arrest.

But not all protestors are terrorists, says Elliot Katz. He came to UCLA to rally against Jentsch. Katz, a veterinarian and president of In Defense of Animals, says he worries that extremists are getting all the attention when Jentsch is the real problem.

Mr. ELLIOT KATZ (Veterinarian, President, In Defense of Animals): He becomes the victim rather than the animals that he's victimizing.

KAHN: Katz says computer or human subjects should be used in research instead of animals. He says what Jentsch's is doing, giving PCP and methamphetamines to monkeys, is cruel and immoral. But Jentsch says his work can't be done without using live subjects. He says it's immoral for him not to do his research.

Dr. JENTSCH: I think it is immoral to turn a deaf ear to addicts and say there's no treatment for you. That's immoral.

KAHN: And Jentsch says he won't stop until he finds that treatment.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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