Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Illegal Incidents" on the rise?

Looking again at the FBR (Foundation for Biomedical Research) data regarding "illegal" incidents and American Scientist's republishing of a graph purportedly presenting that data for the article, "Winners and Losers in the Animal Research War," it seems clear that both organizations are manufacturing and massaging information to alarm American vivisectors and, albeit ignorant, sympathetic scientists and lawmakers.

I'm reminded of a group of children sitting up late into the night telling each other scary stories and then peeing on themselves when the wind causes a tree branch to scratch against the window.

I've already called attention to the fact that even if the FBR and American Scientist data was correct, that the seriousness of the problem it purports to demonstrate is largely manufactured and insignificant when compared against the incidence of genuinely serious crime.

FBR issued a press release in 2006 announcing the creation of the database and an analysis of all "illegal incidents" perpetrated by "eco and animal extremists." (Unfortunately, after their data was skewered they took the files off line. I've left the links to their press release and dataset below, but they no longer go anywhere. I guess FBR didn't think anyone would actually take the time to think about what they were claiming or to look carefully at their claims.) See:

Look again at their graph:
"Total Illegal Incidents" That's a hoot. Now look at the Excel sheet upon which they base the graph.

Many of the "incidents" are duplicated. Very many occurred outside the U.S., but the U.S. is passing increasingly punitive and restrictive laws concerning criticism of vivisection and access to public records detailing the activities of vivisectors at the urging of the industry, based on data like FBR's and articles like Conn and Parker's.

When the foreign "incidents" and the non-vivisection-related incidents and the duplicated incidents are deleted from the dataset, the resultant more accurate graph suggests a different picture than the industry is presenting:

This graph even includes "illegal incidents" listed by FBR such as:
10-22-2005: Activists made home visits to executives at Boston Private, which owns 80% of a company that holds HLS shares.
It's true that there have been illegal incidents associated with animal rights activism over the past 26 years, and a very few of them -- like the 1984 arson of the then-under-construction Thurman lab at UC-Davis that caused $4 million in damages according the university -- have been spectacular, but the overwhelming majority have been much less costly. Many have been petty vandalism, sit-ins and other civil disobedience, and prank phone calls.

Using FBR's data, it can be fairly stated that the so-called Animal Research War written about by P. Michael Conn and James V. Parker, and hyped by American Scientist and other vivisection boosters amounts to 282 "incidents" over a 24 year period, and that most of these were not of a very serious nature, and certainly not sufficient to justify the first sentence of the American Scientist article: "Anti-animal-research terrorists in the United States aim to intimidate biomedical scientists into giving up their research programs, and these radicals are growing bolder."

An aside: Parker is an ex-priest, ex-army recruiter, and now, an ex-public relations officer/propagandist for a primate lab (ONPRC.) I first met Parker in 1997, a day or so before I began an eight-month-long sojourn to protest in front of each of the then seven NIH Regional Primate Research Centers. A producer of a local television station was sympathetic and arranged to have Parker and me in the studio for a brief mini-debate. This was my first time speaking about the matter and Parker was a pro; if I recall correctly, he got the better of me that day.

Afterwords, we stood and talked for a while just outside the door to the station. I asked him why he was so unmoved by the monkeys' suffering. His answer is something I have never forgotten, though he has since denied saying it. I don't recall his exact words, but he told me that the monekys weren't suffering because they aren't like us. He said he knew this because he had looked into their eyes and there was no one looking back at him.

No comments: