Animal activists destroy lab, target professor


Baton Rouge, La.-Louisiana State University (LSU) police and FBI remain in pursuit of animal rights group members they suspect caused roughly $300,000 in damages to a research laboratory.

Baton Rouge, La.-Louisiana State University (LSU) police and FBI remain in pursuit of animal rights group members they suspect caused roughly $300,000 in damages to a research laboratory.

During the early morning hours of Sept. 24, members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) allegedly broke into the Inhalation Toxicology Research facility behind the College of Veterinary Medicine, destroying computers and equipment. The ransacked laboratory was undergoing renovations and empty at the time of the break-in, college officials say.

The FBI's evidence response team was called to process the crime scene following a break-in at LSU. The metal building was undergoing renovations at the time of the incident. Vandals, suspected animal rights activists, left no message inside the lab.

In a letter mailed to LSU's student newspaper, The Reveille, group advocates claim responsibility for the destruction and call for Dr. Arthur Penn, an adjunct professor of environmental medicine, to stop his "cruel" research into the effects of pollutants on animals, the college says.

"Vivisection is cruel and unnecessary," reads an excerpt from the letter. "The Animal Liberation Front will continue to target animal killers until the day empathy and compassion replace cruelty and exploitation. Dr. Penn your time is up!"

On alert

While college staff and administrators refuse to comment on the incident, police Capt. Ricky Adams reports security has been assigned to the building as well as to Penn. Police guards regularly protect the college from intruders, but the stand-alone laboratory was not monitored at the time of the attack, he says.

"We're greatly concerned about the entire incident," Adams says. "Our people and the FBI are processing evidence and evaluating what was left behind. The damage is pretty extensive."

Adams remains tightlipped concerning details of the destruction, citing risks to the ongoing case and possible lawsuits to follow. The ALF letter offers more insight: "Three whole-body gas chambers, a cigarette smoking machine and other equipment used in the experiments were all destroyed. Red paint was splashed everywhere, and computers were destroyed."

A history of attacks

The destruction came in accordance with the group's mission to carry out "direct action against animal abuse in the form of rescuing animals and causing financial loss to animal exploiters." ALF is a seemingly faceless organization. Its anonymous members operate covertly, communicating through the group's Web site, which lists a Canadian post office box as the organization's mailing address.

Veterinary college faculty and staff use the LSU laboratory to conduct cardiovascular and respiratory research on environmental toxins. The facility was being renovated with funds from a state biotechnology grant.

Claiming responsibility for at least 313 destructive incidents, ALF lists a 1998 break-in at Cornell University, theft at the University of Minnesota in 1999 as well as arson at Michigan State University and vandalism at Washington State University in 1992 as examples of its notable achievements.

Tracking the case

At presstime, Adams admits he has "no idea" who was behind the attack but remains confident investigators will locate the suspects.

"We're on alert," he says. "Although we're grateful no one was hurt, the incident has been disturbing. The contents of the letter greatly concern us."

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