UCLA acts to protect scientists

University's animal researchers targeted by activist group

The trend of escalating violence against universities by animal rights groups is not limited to UCLA and has been observed across the University of California system and nationwide, said Frankie Trull, founder and president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

The foundation keeps a database of violent acts against universities and animal research clinics across the country.

"In the past, animal rights activists would break into research facilities, trash the labs and steal the animals," Trull said.

When research facilities began to implement improved security measures, she said, activists turned instead to targeting individual researchers.

In response to this change in tactics by animal activists, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 2296 into law in September.

The bill is aimed at protecting California researchers and their families. The University of California sponsored the bill.

"We supported passage of AB 2296 because we believed that it would help state law enforcement protect academic researchers and their families without jeopardizing legitimate expressions of free speech," UC spokesman Chris Harrington said.

Because the law was just signed and is still being implemented, it is too early to tell whether it will be effective at limiting violence, Harrington said.

Measures taken by the state and UC system aided in the Feb. 19 and 20 arrests of four people who are suspected of harassing researchers at UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley, according to an FBI report.

Hampton expressed optimism at the news of these recent arrests.

"While we are disappointed that arrests haven't been made (at UCLA) and we want to see more action on that front, the recent arrests in connection with the harassment of researchers at our sister campuses in Berkeley and Santa Cruz demonstrate the importance of patience," he said.