PETA or Medical Research? by Steven J. Milloy

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a campaign last week against a drug testing company for alleged violations of animal welfare laws.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

It’s a smokescreen for animal rights extremists’ real agenda—a complete ban on the use of laboratory animals.PETA claimed at a news conference last week that one of its staffers worked undercover at a biomedical research lab in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Vienna, Va., run by Covance, Inc., allegedly videotaping technicians improperly handling monkeys.Covance, which doesn’t have a history of violating animal welfare laws and regulations, responded in a statement that PETA’s undercover work was illegal and urged the media “not to leap to conclusions about the truthfulness of these allegations, or the authenticity of any videotape and what PETA alleges it depicts,” according to the Associated Press.While the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over the applicable animal welfare rules involved, sorts out fact from fiction, let’s not lose sight of the threat to us all posed by animal rights extremists.PETA flat-out opposes the use of animals in medical research, claiming that “Even animal research that is carried out for ‘medical purposes’ tends to be irrelevant to human health.” This claim is ridiculous.Not only has research with laboratory animals led to countless medical advances for people—including with respect to vaccines, drugs, smallpox, diabetes, heart disease, surgery, organ transplants and much more—but also for animals.“For years, there was basically one way to treat sick pets: Put them to sleep. But today they can live happy, long lives,” says the Foundation for Biomedical Research, an organization “dedicated to improving human and animal health by promoting public understanding and support for the humane and responsible use of animals in medical and scientific research.”The crusade by animal rights extremists against medical research stoops far below respectful, non-violent philosophical difference.“Early one recent morning, the wife of a pharmaceutical executive was followed to her workplace, her car was broken into and her credit cards were stolen; later $20,000 in unauthorized charitable donations were billed on her cards,” reported the Washington Post earlier this month.The Post article continued, “The [Animal Liberation Front] activists, who have asserted responsibility, once scrawled “Puppy Killer” in red paint on the executive’s house and have posted the couple’s phone, license plate and bank account numbers on the Internet, along with this threat: ‘If we find a dime of that money granted to those charities was taken back, we will strip you bare’.”While PETA has not resorted to such tactics, it appears to condone the Animal Liberation Front's. Here's what PETA has to say about the ALF: “Throughout history, some people have felt the need to break the law to fight injustice. The Underground Railroad and the French Resistance are both examples of people breaking the law in order to answer to a higher morality.”PETA may be willing to equate medical researchers with slaveholders and Nazis, but that’s quite a leap in logic and morality for most people.Congress is getting involved in the issue. Last week, the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee held a hearing into acts of terrorism committed by the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front.The FBI testified at the hearing that, “From January 1990 to June 2004, animal and environmental rights extremists have claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents, resulting in millions of dollars in damage and monetary loss.”The threat may not be limited to property.“While most animal rights and eco-extremists have refrained from violence targeting human life, the FBI has observed troubling signs that this is changing. We have seen an escalation in violent rhetoric and tactics. According to an FBI spokesman, this statement was recently made by one extremist:‘If someone is killing, on a regular basis, thousands of animals, and if that person can only be stopped in one way by the use of violence, then it is certainly a morally justifiable solution.’”Nevertheless, animal rights extremists seem to have at least one supporter—or at least someone willing to look the other way—in Congress.Although ranking minority committee member Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., “strongly condemned the actions of the Animal Liberation Front,” he nevertheless submitted a statement at the hearing on behalf of PETA. Sen. Jeffords, however, must not be aware of PETA’s connections to the Animal Liberation Front.During the 1990s, PETA made grants and loans totaling $70,990 in support of a self-described Animal Liberation Front member later convicted of committing arson at Michigan State University, according to the congressional testimony of David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom. PETA also has advertised that its leader, Ingrid Newkirk, “speaks for the Animal Liberation Front,” testified Martosko.Sen. Jeffords supports expanded medical research with embryonic stem cells—an effort that no doubt will require the use of laboratory animals. Someone ought to tell Sen. Jeffords that he can’t be for PETA and medical research.