Laws Should Protect Animals

Bill 2296’s Punishment of Speech May Lead Activists to More Violence to Make Their Voices Heard

Members of the campus community recently received an e-mail from UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block extolling the virtues of Assembly Bill 2296, a new law that restricts the speech of animal-rights activists (whom he calls “anti-animal research extremists”) in order to protect animal researchers. As this law moved toward passage, much was said about the fear animal researchers feel when confronted by protestors. By contrast, few have commented on the pain and terror experienced by animals used in experiments or have explained why there is protest against animal research at UCLA and other institutions in the first place.

Every day at places like UCLA, animals are subjected to excruciating, unrelieved pain as involuntary subjects in research experiments that have not been described or justified to the public. Researchers and the heads of experiments hide behind unsupported general claims that such research is necessary and productive for human health, but they offer no information by which the public can assess their claims as to specific experiments.

Therefore, the public has no information about the research that is being done or whether, in fact, any of it has led to or has the potential to lead to worthwhile advancements. Researchers and the heads of institutions like UCLA reject calls for transparency about the animal research that is conducted.

Because of the way research applications are reviewed and funded, it is highly likely that research dollars are wasted on useless animal testing and experiments. Funding might well have been more productively invested in research methods that bear actual fruit in advancing human health.

Animal researchers like to further argue that they are in complete compliance with state anticruelty statutes and federal laws that regulate scientific research on animals. However, as legally interpreted, neither state nor federal laws provide any protection to animals tortured at institutions like UCLA.

State anticruelty statutes define “cruel” as only the infliction of “unnecessary” suffering on animals. Scientific research is arbitrarily defined as “necessary,” which means that the infliction of even the most horrific suffering on animals falls outside the legal boundaries of the “anticruelty” statutes.

Federal law is no different. The Animal Welfare Act purports to regulate scientific research, yet the AWA covers only a very small minority of the animals used in research and explicitly states that none of its provisions can be used to impede or affect research design or implementation. The AWA does not prevent the infliction of horrific suffering on animals; it only creates paperwork for research scientists who need to provide minimal justifications for their unwillingness to provide pain relief or consider alternatives to animal-based research or testing.

Chancellor Block, a former animal researcher himself, praises AB 2296 for providing new protections for animal researchers, but animal researchers already have complete legal protection from violent conduct. That is why we believe that a primary purpose of the new law is to intimidate peaceful protestors; the first versions of the law were even more expansive in curtailing their speech. Even though AB 2296 was reduced in scope before it was enacted, it still punishes speech.

Given the history of law enforcement reactions to animal advocacy protests, we believe that such a law is likely to be abused by law enforcement officials who use their authority to intimidate peaceful animal activists into silence. It is animals – and the people who care about them – who are not sufficiently protected by existing laws.

Unfortunately, laws like this – whose focus is the speech of protestors – may actually increase violent acts against researchers rather than diminish them. When lawful speech is stifled by expansive use of such laws to intimidate protestors, activists concerned about imminent and ongoing violence against animals may feel the need to resort to methods other than speech to have their voices heard. That tragedy could be avoided with more transparency and more public debate about whether the extreme pain inflicted on animals is justified.

Dan Kapelovitz is President of the Animal Law Society at the UCLA School of Law. Jill Ryther is the Communications Director of the Animal Law Society at the UCLA School of Law. Jaime Bryant is Professor of Law, Faculty Adviser to the Animal Law Society at the UCLA School of Law. Read other articles by Dan Kapelovitz, or visit Dan Kapelovitz's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Brian Koontz said on October 11th, 2008 at 7:50pm #

    From a revolutionary point of view, repression of speech is a good thing – totalitarianism laid bare will force Americans to confront it’s reality. It’s only people who want to live in a world of consensual domination, with “freedom of speech” but not freedom of action, with “voices” that are ignored, with votes that are meaningless, with capitalist consumption that is cheered, that deride and despair the “collapse of the Republic”.

    Naked totalitarianism is bare for all the world to see. It’s millions of cameras and electronic detectors and millions of eyes gaze upon Americans, waiting for them to stray from their proscribed behavior. It’s trained armed thugs (police, military) wait with eager glints in the eye for a chance to use force on the populace.

    It’s the defenders of the Republic, defenders of Imperialism, defenders of capitalism, defenders of clothed totalitarianism, who through their prevention of revolution have forced Naked totalitarianism on the populace under the mantra of “tolerance”, “the middle ground”, “liberalism”, “the free market”.

    Now that the mask of totalitarianism is coming off, America will finally confront it’s true self – just like Germany confronted it’s true self under Hitler.*

    America will become a hellish place for many years. But afterward? Perhaps, at last, America will live.

    * Hitler taught us a very valuable lesson, that capitalist humanity is cowardly and terroristic – that the “Good German” supported Hitler and only the “rare German” opposed him. Thus it is in America, with the “Good American” supporting clothed totalitarianism and only the “rare American” opposing it.

    Post World War II Germany is morally superior to Pre World War II Germany. The same will be true for pre-Neoconservative versus post-Neoconservative America.

    The price America pays will likely be at least as high as the price Germany paid.

  2. Mark Hawthorne said on October 13th, 2008 at 12:36pm #

    I don’t think there’s any question that this law will escalate the level of action by activists — it will just go underground. Indeed, some animal activists are even mocking the new legislation and have used it to inspire more activity:

  3. Elizabeth said on October 15th, 2008 at 7:58pm #

    Animal Welfare or Animal Rights?
    Here are some of the differences:

    As animal welfare advocates. . .

    • We seek to improve the treatment and well-being of animals.

    • We support the humane treatment of animals that ensures comfort and freedom from unnecessary pain and suffering.

    • We believe we have the right to “own” animals — they are our property.

    • We believe animal owners should provide loving care for the lifetime of their animals.

    As animal rights activists. . .

    • They seek to end the use and ownership of animals, including the keeping of pets.

    • They believe that any use of an animal is exploitation so, not only must we stop using animals for food and clothing, but pet ownership must be outlawed as well.

    • They want to obtain legal rights for animals as they believe that animals and humans are equal.

    • They use false and unsubstantiated allegations of animal abuse to raise funds, attract media attention and bring supporters into the movement. (The Inhumane Crusade, Daniel T. Oliver)