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"Justice Department" Claims Responsibility for Threats against UCLA Animal Researcher

Posted: December 3, 2010

A package containing razor blades sent to an animal researcher at UCLA in November is the latest attack relating to a widespread campaign of intimidation and violence by animal rights extremists against University of California (UC) scientists and researchers.


In a communiqué issued on November 22, 2010, a group called the "Justice Department" claimed responsibility for sending razor blades to David Jentsch, a UCLA neuroscientist frequently targeted by animal rights extremists for his research on primates. The statement warned Jenstch, "STOP YOUR SICK EXPERIMENTS OR HELL AWAITS YOU."


An additional claim by the "Justice Department" that the razor blades were AIDS-tainted has not been confirmed by authorities, nor has the group's claim that it also sent "rusty razor blades tainted with AIDS-infected blood" to Stephanie Groman, a UCLA graduate student working with Jentsch.


In response to the act, Jerry Vlasak, a primary spokesperson for the extreme animal rights movement, blamed Jentsch's ongoing animal research. "He has basically made himself an even bigger target, by saying not only am I going to continue torturing animals but I am flipping the bird to all these animal rights activist[sic] that want to stop me," he said.


Vlasak frequently speaks to media in support of acts of violence and intimidation carried out against UC scientists. He is a co-founder of the California-based North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which provides information and statements from the extremist cells.


The most notable act in the campaign against Jentsch by animal rights extremists is the March 2009 firebombing of his car while parked in his driveway. Responsibility for the attack was claimed Animal Liberation Brigade, a moniker used by an apparent animal rights extremist cell that has targeted UCLA on several occasions. He is also the target of harassment and regular demonstrations outside his home.


The "Justice Department" is an offshoot of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the most active extreme animal rights movement in the country. It was founded in the United Kingdom in 1993 by animal rights activists expressly willing to justify the use of violence against their targets.

The group carried out its first major U.S. campaigns in 1999, when it sent razor blade-filled packages to university researchers and furriers nationwide, along with threatening messages that warned of "full retribution" and declared, "Your violence will be turned back upon you."

In the letter to fur farms, the group reinforced its willingness to engage in violent action—and distinguished itself from its more well-known counterpart—as follows: "the ALF have a clear policy of adherence to non-violence. We do not."

Though the "Justice Department's" activity waned in the years that followed, it resurfaced in the U.S. in November 2008 when it claimed responsibility for vandalizing the home of a University of California-San Francisco researcher. Since then, it has claimed responsibility for mailing needles covered in rat poison to two primate researchers at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, and razor blades covered in rat poison to at least one other primate researcher at UCLA.

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