ALF claims damage
Letter threatens 7
UI faculty members
Friday, November 19, 2004
By Kristen Schorsch
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Seven University of Iowa psychology
faculty members were threatened in a letter Thursday by an animal rights
group that has claimed responsibility for removing hundreds of animals
and destroying research and equipment last weekend.
"Let this message be clear to all who
victimize the innocent: We're watching. And by axe, drill, or crowbar
-- we're coming through your door," the animal rights group, Animal
Liberation Front, wrote in the letter e-mailed to media nationwide Thursday.
The worldwide group claimed responsibility
for vandalism discovered Sunday at Seashore Hall and Spence Laboratories.
In the e-mail, ALF said its members removed 88 mice and 313 rats from
a campus building and destroyed all information regarding animal research
by targeted faculty at UI.
Damage estimates are in the tens of thousands
FBI spokesman Jeff Tarpinian said he could
not confirm the authenticity of the letter or if the details of the vandalism
matched claims in the letter, citing an ongoing investigation. Agents
have not determined where the e-mail was sent from, he said.
During a Thursday evening news conference,
UI President David Skorton condemned the group for using intimidation
"We take this very seriously, but we
will not be bullied," Skorton said. "We will not be stopped
from doing the work that we have done based on public support, based on
rigorous peer review and based on the finest traditions of science that
represent this university and this part of the university."
In the five-page letter, ALF detailed whose
research they destroyed, how and why. Those targeted were seven UI members
in the department of psychology, including assistant, associate and full
professors. The group listed researchers' contact information, including
names of spouses, cell phone numbers and personal e-mail accounts, at
the bottom of the letter.
"Our goal is total abolition of all
animal exploitation," the letter stated. "Achieved in the short
term by delivering the 401 animals from UI's chamber of hell."
ALF alleges its members entered two animal
labs and three vivisectors' offices and destroyed all contents relating
to animals. The animals removed were examined, treated by a veterinarian
and placed in homes, the letter states.
Skorton and other school officials would
not comment Thursday on specifics regarding damage estimates, whether
the incident was an inside job or about UI's security systems, which the
group alleges it bypassed.
"We've had the building really for less
than 24 hours," said David Wynes, UI associate vice president for
research. "In some ways, this is day one for us because the crime
scene investigation is taking priority."
Spence Laboratories is a wing of Seashore
Hall, which houses UI's psychology, sociology and journalism departments
near Gilbert Street and Iowa Avenue. School officials initially reported
an undetermined number of rats and mice were missing and more than 30
computers were damaged. Other offices in the building include the Audiovisual
Center, Internal Audit and the Ombudsperson.
Violet Lucca, 19, a UI junior, is a lab assistant
to one of the researcher's whose work allegedly was damaged. This type
of destruction, she said, does not help the cause of animal rights.
"This won't cause the labs to be shut
down, and will only further defame legitimate animal rights organizations
that believe in more pragmatic approaches," said Lucca, who added
she believes in animal rights and is a vegan, meaning she eats plant products
only. "Self-righteous people who think that by destroying years of
hard work they will be comparable to those who liberated concentration
camps are just egotistical and selfish."
The FBI's on-site investigation has concluded,
said Bill Decker, UI interim vice president for research. UI employees
now are assessing damage, doing inventory and cleanup, he said, adding
he hopes to have students and faculty back in the building within days.
School officials have said the building would reopen for classes after
Thanksgiving break, which ends Nov. 29.
School officials are offering to review security
systems in other UI colleges and departments, Decker said.