UCLA researchers picketed for animal testing

January 16, 2011

In Los Angeles, when a group of people drive in a van and visit homes in affluent neighborhoods they are usually celebrity-infatuated tourists. But yesterday was different.

A group of animal rights activists traveling by van took their own “tour.” Instead of celebrities, the homes belonged to UCLA researchers; instead of gawking, activists stopped to protest.

Animal rights activists protest near the Brentwood home of UCLA researcher Joaquin Fuster for his use of monkeys in laboratory experiments. Demonstrators are trying to get scientists to use non-animal methods of research. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

The group is trying to stop scientists from using monkeys in laboratory experiments, which they say are costly and of little scientific value. The protesters would march along a researcher’s street carrying placards, chant and leaflet in the neighborhood.

Activists say the experiments on monkeys involve such things as their heads being implanted with bolts and electrodes, being made addicted to tobacco and methamphetamine and using PCP to induce psychosis. Protester Nicoal Sheen called the experiments “barbaric,” saying such research does not provide useful information.

“Primates suffer,” she said. “They have every right not to be tortured.”

Dressed in a “bloody” lab coat, this protester stands near the Westwood home of Edythe London, a UCLA researcher who conducts drug and tobacco experiments on monkeys. In her Los Angeles Times op-ed article, London was concerned about reprisals from activists. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

UCLA researcher Edythe London disagrees. London’s residence was one of the homes visited by protesters yesterday. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, she defended her use of animals in scientific experiments.

“My colleagues and I place a huge value on the welfare of our research subjects,” she said. “We constantly strive to minimize the risk to them. … Thousands of other scientists use laboratory animals in other research, giving hope to those afflicted with a wide variety of ailments.”

London, like most researchers, argues the benefits to humans provided by animal testing outweighs the risks to animals. But Sheen said people are blinded by such rhetoric. She points to alternatives to testing, such as the use of computer modeling, which she says is cheaper than using animals.

“Not a lot of people use computer modeling because society sees animal testing as a necessary evil,” she said. “We are trying to educate the public.”

The presence of demonstrators did not go unnoticed by residents. Protesters were met with irate neighbors at every visit. One woman said she called the LAPD and FBI over the noise and her sleeping baby. Another turned on their sprinklers when activists were standing nearby. One man, whom activists said had turned his garden hose on them during a previous demonstration, asked police about obtaining a restraining order.

Though neighbors would not speak on the record to LA Activist, many felt the tactics of the protesters were inappropriate.

“This is not what to do,” said one man. “It’s not effective.”

Not everyone is a fan: A go-cart-driving Brentwood resident accosts Pam Ferdin, the protesters' legal observer, while demonstrators march and chant through his neighborhood. The resident was upset about the noise. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Pam Ferdin, who functioned as a legal observer during the protests, said demonstrating in front of the homes of researchers has been very effective. She said activists have gotten two researchers to stop using animals.

Ferdin cited the case of neuroscientist Dario Ringach who, after mounting pressure from protests, ceased his animal testing and turned to human volunteers.

“Dario was killing 30 primates a year, now he does studies without using animals,” she said. “He’s still a researcher, but doesn’t cut up primates for fallacious reasons anymore.”

In March 2010, Ringach told Science magazine that he was the victim of threats and harassment for years until he finally gave up animal testing in 2006, saying he had masked people banging on his windows at night.

Ringach co-founded, along with fellow researcher J. David Jentsch, a pro-animal testing group called UCLA Pro-Test.

Officer of Correa of the LAPD talks to Pam Ferdin, the protesters’ legal observer, about keeping a safe distance from traffic. Ferdin said the LAPD has been understanding about their demonstrations, but has had trouble with the UCLA campus police. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Jentsch, whose home was visited yesterday, has also been the target of extremists. He has reported receiving death threats, and in 2009, his car was fire-bombed. No one was injured in the bombing.

“They’re absolutely determined. This is not a joke to them,” he told the Los Angeles Times in November 2010. “But this is the work I feel morally obligated to do.”

However yesterday’s protests did not involve such tactics. Demonstrators were meticulously monitored by Ferdin who made sure they did not violate any laws. In May of last year, several activists were arrested for allegedly “focus picketing,” which involves facing a residence and shouting towards it in an act of protest.

Since then activists have filed suits against the UCLA police, saying their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon. The cases are pending.

According to Ferdin, the activists were not focus picketing and are being targeted by campus police.

“We have been down the same streets picketing for the last four years,” she said. “The LAPD are fine with it. Only the UCLA campus police are telling us we can’t do certain things that are legal.”

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11 Responses to UCLA researchers picketed for animal testing

  1. Franklin on January 18, 2011 at 8:42 am

    You are a beautiful human being, and a well balanced reporter.
    Thank you for publishing and reporting on us fairly and honestly.

    (OK….so ya got a little “lens envy”…me too when I see a good lens…it happens!)

  2. Dr_Barnes on January 18, 2011 at 9:19 am

    These people are very ignorant as over 400 medicines keep animal safe and human beings alive. These people do not know what they are talking about and doctor pictures to push their agenda of no use of animals for companionship, food, or medical research. They are alive today only through medical research otherwise their parents would be dead from small pox, scarlet fever,bubonic plague, cholera, and thousands of other diseases that animal research has produced. Do not allow these cult members of the animal rights movement which wants to end all use of animals by using your emotions and not your rational mind to ban all use of animals. Any researcher would use any other method if it worked because using animals requires more money, more restrictions, and more staff. Don’t you think they would use other methods if they worked? Don’t be stupid about this as these are cult members who are thinking irrationally due to lack of VB12 because they won’t consume any meat products. Free speech is one thing but harassment is not free speech it is hate speech and irrational prejudiced based upon false assumptions and lies.

  3. Laura Johnson on January 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    These protesters are ignorant of the realities of animal testing. They even protest when researchers only OBSERVE the primates! These people are the beneficiaries of a great number of successful animal research projects, as is the general public.

    I once worked at a cancer research lab as a records clerk and observed the work of the scientists. This lab used hamsters. Each animal not only had a number, but a name. All animals were treated well by staff and the doctors even had tears in their eyes when a particular older animal suffering from cancer was put to sleep. I never ever saw anything but kindness and gentleness towards the research animals.

    The real cruelty here is that these cult following protesters are creating difficulties for researchers who devote their lives to seeking cures for diseases that affect humans. These UCLA researchers deserve respect, not these ridiculous protests by uneducated animal rights true believers.

  4. Animal Lover on January 19, 2011 at 8:05 am

    How horrendous!!! People trying to solve and cure horrible diseases are persecuted for doing their job AND trying to save human lives. Ever watch someone die of cancer or ALS? I’ve had the opportunity to do both – several times. Sorry, I love animals, but if they can find a cure for cancer, ALS, MD, Parkinson’s – GO FOR IT!!! Losing a parent or friend to one of these diseases is traumatic! Have you never lost anyone? Have you never sat with someone while they were dying? Believe me, it’s NOT a picnic!!!

    You people are SICK!!!! You have NO idea!

  5. Anti Vivisector on January 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

    The researchers we protest are not curing cancer, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. They are shooting-up primates with methamphetamine, reagent grade nicotine and PCP (All drugs found in a primate’s natural habitat….right?) They slice rabbit penises to find out if pomegranate juice will help “cure” them. They shoot Botox in primate eyes to make them cross eyed. (There have been surgical treatments for strabismus for over 60 years…same procedures in place as today). They put Clorox in animal throats and Drano in eyes to see if the warnings on the bottle are still accurate. Why do they do this? For Money! Colleges get HUGE grants for primate research. The vivisectors live in estates with multi-multi million dollar homes. Injecting monkeys with meth has been very, very good to them. Why should they stop? It would affect their ostentatious life style.

    If you can access this website, you can see some of the heinous damage inflicted to animals in the name of “research.”


    Oh Yeah….if Asprins were left to just “animal research” they would never have gotten to the human market. Asprin is poison to most non-human test species.

  6. John on February 4, 2011 at 7:54 am

    It’s great to see that the neighbors of those brave scientists are standing with them against the campaign of harassment, intimidation, threats and arson being waged by animal rights extremists.

    Don’t be fooled by Pam Ferdin’s claims about the protests being legal, her husband runs the ALF’s press office and is effectively a spokesman for those who carry out arson attacks on scientists.

    Animal research has and continues to be absolutely vital to medical progress, despite that the distortions and misrepresentations of the anuimal rights fanatics would have us believe, that is why the overwhelming majority of medical doctors, surgeons and scientists support it.

    For just a few examples of this I’d recommend the Speaking of Research website, which is affiliated with UCLA Pro-Test and to which both David Jentsch and Dario Ringach have both contributed. It barely scratches the surface of the contribution animal reserch has made to medical progress, but it gives you some idea of the various fields to which it makes a huge contribution.


    It also debunks a few of the myths that AR activists like to spread, including the myths about aspirin.

  7. Andrea on July 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm


  8. robyn on July 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    “I am not interested to know whether Vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.”

    Mark Twain

  9. matthew saltzman on January 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    everything living has a right to live.

    why not use humans in prison for testing

    why animals being raised to die ?

    oh ! please primate monkeys can be raised as pets look it up on youtube
    yes i know some primates can do violent things but hello so does does dogs and other animals as well.
    stop the violence if you kill we kill you save tax monies.
    use humans for biochemical testing.
    save the planet

  10. Snow Wrighttwo on April 25, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Dr Barnes,

    If all these people against animal testing were so ignorant and didn’t know what they were talking about…..then why would a whole continent, Europe, ban it….!! Are all Europeans ignorant maybe….?? I wonder who paid you to say this….!! UCLA is only image….it stinks like every big money making corporations, Industries (Medical, Pharma, etc…)…..!! Wake up people don’t believe everything you see and hear….do some research but not a one-sided research….!! The news are biaised and owned by rich biased people who tell the reporters what to say and every person working for a University is paid by them to say certain things….!! What do activists have to gain….they are fighting for freedom, basic rights, people, animal, justice, because they care…..they do not get paid….they are helping the general public by trying to get the Truth out despite of all the paid negative publicity they encounter….!!

    To animal lover….

    Firstable you are not an animal lover, secondly you are not the only person on earth that encounter death, thirdly, by now you should get it that animal experimentation have nothing to do with human diseases since humans react differently than animals and the drugs have to be tested on humans as well, forth they won’t find a cure for ALS, Parkinson’s, MD because they don’t want to….They rather control some of the symptoms with pills to make a profit and keep you sick and needy for a long time….!! Have they found a cure for cancer yet….?? No after all these years….you know why…? Because of the same reasons….chemo is very profitable and also they already have the cure and prevention but it is not profitable….!! Now if you understood all that maybe you would call the vivisectors SICK because they are the one lying to you and stealing from you….!! Universities makes big profits from research grants. That is why they have to prove that they need their sadistic research to keep getting the cash flowing in their pockets and to keep you hoping for a cure when in fact it is a big lie….!! Your tax money is funding animal cruelty for the University’s whole purpose of filling their own pockets and perpetuating the lies (beautiful campus attracting more suckers)….!! Now how does this sound…animal lover….?? I also hope you are Vegan otherwise you are testing very poorly for an animal lover….!! Vivisection is scientific fraud….!!

  11. trox12 on April 26, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Hey Dr Barnes. In that case, can we use you as an experiment and then euthanize you after?

    Yeah, these animals can’t speak in our language. They can’t say no. They just want to live their lives in the wild, not destroyed by scumbag scientists like yourself.

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