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ALF has history of attacking labs Previous victims call animal-rights group terrorists

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 09/27/2003

ALF has history of attacking labs
Previous victims call animal-rights group terrorists

Advocate staff writer

Dr. Walter Low knows what researchers at LSU are going through. Low, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, lost research, computers and animals used in cancer research when someone ransacked his lab in April 1999.

"To this day our cancer vaccine program for treating brain tumor patients is still trying to recover from the vandalism," Low said.

The Animal Liberation Front, a shadowy, sometimes violent animal-rights group, claimed responsibility for the damage to Low's office.

After an attack Tuesday on a lab at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge, an e-mail purportedly from ALF was sent to media outlets claiming responsibility for the vandalism.

Equipment and computers at the lab, which was being renovated, were destroyed, and red paint was splashed on the walls, authorities said.

LSU Campus Police Capt. Ricky Adams said his office and the FBI are trying to find out who sent the e-mail.

"It is too soon to make a confirmation as to who sent it," Adams said.

ALF, which is on the FBI's list of domestic terrorist organizations, has claimed attacks dating back to the 1980s.

"These are not some slick-haired 18-year-old punks with pins through their noses," said David Martosko, director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom, a business-oriented think tank in Washington, D.C. "These people are dangerous."

ALF, and its affiliated environmental group, the Earth Liberation Front, first appeared in the mid-1980s as offshoots of the environmental and animal-rights movements.

Both groups began to gain notoriety in the late 1980s and early 1990s by taking blame for attacks on animal research facilities and businesses around the country, Martosko said.

ALF and ELF, which attacks developments in environmentally sensitive areas, now frequently use e-mail to claim responsibility for vandalism. But in the pre-Internet days, members spray-painted "ALF" and "ELF" on the walls of a facility or had someone issue a statement taking responsibility, Martosko said.

One of the earliest acts ALF claimed took place at Texas Tech University in 1989, where Dr. John Orem conducts sleep research involving cats.

Orem, chairman of the Physiology Department at Texas Tech, said the group did less than $100,000 damage to his facility, but gained national attention by having surrogates criticize his work as inhumane.

"I could have done more damage in my lab with a can of Coke," he said. "They got attention by committing a crime. They wanted a propaganda campaign."

ALF's actions have progressed to freeing minks raised at farms for their fur, damaging university research offices and firebombing a facility at Michigan State University in 1995.

The Michigan State fire resulted in a rare arrest. A man named Rodney Adam Coronado pleaded guilty and spent 57 months in federal prison for the crime.

In the University of Minnesota attack, computers were damaged beyond repair and an incubator containing brain cells from patients participating in a research project was destroyed.

That alone set back research into Alzheimer's disease and cancer by two years, Low said.

"You begin to have an impact on a patient who's donated their cells for us to develop a vaccine, and we no longer have that vaccine to offer to that patient," Low said. "That patient has no other hope."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Verhey, who prosecuted the Michigan State firebombing, wrote in Coronado's sentencing record that the ALF wants publicity to scare those it disagrees with.

"A terrorist combines violence and threats so that those that disagree with him are silenced, either because they have been victimized by violence or they fear being victimized," Verhey said.

Orem said that "victimized" feeling lingered for a while after his office was attacked.

"They knew who I was, what I look like," Orem said. "I didn't know who they were or what they looked like. That scared me a little bit."

Verhey said determining that ALF committed a crime is easy because the group claims responsibility.

Finding ALF members to prosecute, on the other hand, is hard, partly because of a lack of witnesses, Verhey wrote. ALF works in a "cell" structure, with no centralized leadership and no roster of members, "making investigation of the organization and identification of members very difficult," Verhey wrote.

In the cases of Low and Orem, no arrests have been made.

"These people are very professional," Orem said.

Orem said he would be surprised if an arrest is ever made in his case or the LSU attack,

"I don't think they're ever going to catch them," Orem said.

Editor's (A.M.) note: A friend of mine with a glioblastoma was one of the patients who was participating in the trial mentioned above. He had a brain surgery to remove cells from the tumor, which were then being grown in a test tube to create a vaccine. These terrorists destroyed his cell culture - destroying his only chance at beating the tumor. He died as a direct result. This was probably the most promising trial for glioblastomas at the time, and it was set back by a few years, which could possibly mean tens of thousands of brain tumor patients dying needlessly - due to these terrorists.
If anyone has information about this horrible crime, please come foward with it.

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