Animal-rights activists trash years of autism research in Milan lab raid

posted at 9:21 pm on April 24, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Had this crime been perpetrated by a roving band of evangelicals who object to scientific treatment of autism and schizophrenia, you might have heard a lot about it this week. As it is, that would never happen, and it was animal-rights activists who did the damage. Will the reputation of their cause and mainstream activists have to contend with their actions?

Activists occupied an animal facility at the University of Milan, Italy, at the weekend, releasing mice and rabbits and mixing up cage labels to confuse experimental protocols. Researchers at the university say that it will take years to recover their work.

Many of the animals at the facility are genetic models for psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

No arrests have been made following the 12-hour drama, which took place on Saturday, although the university says that it will press charges against the protesters.

Officials know the organization responsible, they negotiated with them, and have photos of them posted on their social media sites in the act of their crime. Should be pretty easy to prosecute them unless the Italian system is too busy working on Amanda Knox’s extradition:

Five activists entered laboratories in the university’s pharmacology department on Saturday morning. The lack of signs of a break-in suggests that the activists may have used an illegally acquired electronic card, says pharmacologist Francesca Guidobono-Cavalchini, who works there. They prised open the reinforced doors of the facility on the fourth floor, and two of them chained themselves by the neck to the main double doors such that any attempt to open the doors could have endangered their lives.

They posted pictures of themselves on their organisation’s website, where they also declared that they would stay for as long as it took to get agreement to leave with all the animals. The facility hosts around 800 animals, mostly genetically modified mice but also some rabbits, according to Martino Bolognesi, a structural biologist at the university. The activists had brought supplies of food and sleeping bags.

But hey, they’re just there to help the animals:

Some of the mice they removed were delicate mutants and immunosuppressed ‘nude’ mice, which die very quickly outside controlled environments.

Oops. Screw the humans, too:

Michela Matteoli, a neurobiologist who works on autism and other disorders and lost most of her own research in the attack, says that she found some research students crying in the disrupted facility on Monday morning.

“It will take three people at least a year to build up the colonies we had of mouse models of different psychiatric diseases,” she says.

There are, of course, plenty of animal-rights organizations that do good work without being totally insane. I’ve fostered pets for some of them in my community. But animal-rights and environmental extremists have proven to be be capable of lots of damage and widespread, documented criminal activity. Yet they rarely get the press, say, a picture of a rude sign at a Tea Party rally might get. Maybe our more mainstream animal-rights friends could muster some loud denunciations of such tactics to prevent further losses of valuable research. A series of posters, maybe, featuring wasted celebrities stumbling out of swanky nightclubs—Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, etc. “I’d rather get smashed than smash a lab.”

Although, I sure as hell wouldn’t trust PETA with the mice these guys got away with. Maybe we could chill with the credence we give those guys while we’re at it, too, huh Hollywood? They’d kill your teacup pups quick as look at ‘em.

As a bonus, April is Autism Awareness Month. Way to go, guys.

(Here are a couple links for helping those affected by autism, while these guys are busy tearing down.)


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

Judging by the photo, the kooks are not only anti-science but also anti-shower, anti-hygiene and anti-any kind of beauty product.

Bald lab mice are more attractive than this. Wowzers.

Grace_is_sufficient on April 26, 2013 at 5:28 AM

They knew what they were doing. They don’t want to find any connection between the use of anti depressants, herbal supplements or pot to neurological and cognitive difficulties in autistic and autistic spectrum children. Many babies and children are harmed by these things, and the drug users are in denial.

Fleuries on April 26, 2013 at 9:22 AM

Judging by the photo, the kooks are not only anti-science but also anti-shower, anti-hygiene and anti-any kind of beauty product.

Bald lab mice are more attractive than this. Wowzers.

Grace_is_sufficient on April 26, 2013 at 5:28 AM

The exact same thing was said about the loon who engineered the “mink escape” disaster when police nabbed him, and I saw the photo. He too looked like an escapee from the short bus in need of a bath.

MelonCollie on April 26, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Being a father blessed not with one son, but two sons with this, I had to take a bit of time to gather my thoughts in order not to get banned here. God forbid this people reproduce, and if they do, I wish this on them… then again, I dont want to wish this on anyone. I see the frustration every day on my kids faces. Its tough being a parent with kids with this…. I cant imagine what children with it are dealing with.

Eagerly awaiting a Jenny McCarthy statement about the activists here…

jon1979 on April 24, 2013 at 9:23 PM

I was angry at her because her child is mild. Not the right face to put out there because then people will look and think its not all that bad of a mental disability.

watertown on April 26, 2013 at 4:20 PM

I was angry at her because her child is mild. Not the right face to put out there because then people will look and think its not all that bad of a mental disability.

watertown on April 26, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Ayeah, I said the same thing when a pro-life movement started passing around a “thanks for not aborting me” picture…and the picture was of a dad holding a hideously deformed baby. I’m talking a face that would make small children cry.

The cause is just, but to be bluntly honest, they needed a better mascot.

MelonCollie on April 26, 2013 at 7:38 PM

I was angry at her because her child is mild. Not the right face to put out there because then people will look and think its not all that bad of a mental disability.

watertown on April 26, 2013 at 4:20 PM

I’m an aspie. I don’t think of myself as mentally disabled at all. I have a neurological condition that slows down my nerve propagation, and a personality that some neurotypicals feel uncomfortable around. Oh well.

gryphon202 on April 28, 2013 at 10:08 PM

C’mon, it was just a few animals,right? It’s not like they were guilty of not predicting earthquakes or something.

Tyrone Slothrop on April 29, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3