Mon, Jul 26, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Animal-rights icon suggests scientists die

NASTY METHODS Jerry Vlasak, an advisor to frontline British activist groups, thinks millions of animals can be saved if someone is willing to assassinate a few researchers

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

A top adviser to Britain's two most powerful animal-rights protest groups caused outrage on Saturday by claiming the assassination of scientists working in biomedical research would save millions of animals' lives.

To the fury of groups working with animals, Jerry Vlasak, a former trauma surgeon and prominent figure in the anti-vivisection movement, told the Observer: "I don't think you'd have to kill too many [researchers]. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives."

Shac, which is campaigning for the closure of Huntingdon Life Sciences, Europe's largest animal experimentation center, has close links with Vlasak. He has also advised Speak, the organization which last week forced out the contractor building a ?18 million (US$33 million) primate research laboratory in Oxford.

Vlasak, an American who likens animal experimentation to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews, said: "I think violence is part of the struggle against oppression. If something bad happens to these people [animal researchers], it will discourage others. It's inevitable that violence will be used in the struggle and it will be effective."

David Martosko, research director at the Center for Consumer Freedom, which monitors activist groups on behalf of business interests, responded by saying Vlasak was "one of the most dangerous animal-rights zealots on the planet." He added: "He's not making bombs, but he is making bombers."

Vlasak will address a UK animal-rights conference organized by Shac and Speak in September. Legal experts warned that if he uses his speech to promote violence he could be charged with incitement.

Vlasak has made a series of incendiary claims that will alarm moderates in the animal-rights movement and reinforce claims Shac and Speak are fronts for extremists.

Three months ago he told a TV audience in the US that violence was a "morally justifiable solution." Earlier this month he gave a speech in Virginia in which he said: "It won't ruin our movement if someone gets killed in an animal-rights action. It's going to happen sooner or later."

Vlasak meets Shac leaders regularly. He has played a big part in writing speeches, directing its strategy and advancing scientific arguments against animal experimentation. He also worked with Speak in its successful effort to prevent the building of a primate research center in Cambridge and says he plans to work with the group on its Oxford campaign.

Other animal-rights groups have distanced themselves from him. Until recently he was a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group funded by the powerful lobbying group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) and endorsed by Shac.

But a PCRM spokeswoman said: "He is not a member of the organization."

Vlasak confirmed he was not working with the PCRM "at the moment."

While acknowledging that his views might alienate some people, Vlasak, who claims animal experimentation "wastes billions of pounds a year," said more and more people in the animal-rights movement were drawn to violent action.

"The grass roots are tired of writing letters. The polite approach has not worked," he said.

On Friday, Home Office minister Caroline Flint will unveil new measures designed to clamp down on protesters.

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