ANIMAL rights extremists have claimed responsibility for an arson attack after two Oxford scientists’ cars were set alight earlier this month.
On 9 November, an anonymous communiqué was published on the Bite Back website, which promotes the causes of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and other animal rights groups, admitting responsibility for the attack and warning, “there will be more”.
It stated, “On the night of 4 November, ALF activists carried out arson attacks on two seperate [sic] vehicles belonging to researchers connected to the notorious Dept of Experimental Psychology at Oxford univ. These cars were attacked at home addresses in North Oxford.”
Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service were alerted to the incident at 11:15pm after local residents saw a Vauxhall Corsa and Volvo 440 burning.
Laurie Pycroft, founder of pro-vivisection group Pro-Test, condemned the arson attack and claimed that ALF’s actions were out of place in a democratic society.
“Once again, the ALF have demonstrated that they’re incapable of holding a reasoned debate and can only get any attention to their campaign by committing violence in the name of their cause, something that is completely unacceptable in a democratic society. I can only hope that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and that other scientists will not be intimidated into remaining silent about the vital work they carry out,” he said.
Professor John Stein, Fellow of Magdalen College and a neuroscientist who sits on Pro-Test’s executive committee, warned that the ALF’s violent tactics only served to turn opinion against them.
“The ALF are losing the argument, partly due to their violent tactics. 90 percent of the public and 96 percent of doctors accept that well regulated animal experiments are necessary for medical progress. Torching people’s cars only goes to show how empty their arguments are,” he said.
Professor of Neurosurgery Tipu Aziz, who has used primates during his research into Parkinson’s disease, agreed. “These examples of terrorist activities by members of the ALF show how pointless their stance and actions have been,” he said. “Research will continue, the Oxford laboratories are nearing completion, the government has publicly come out in support of animal research and the public are now very much in support. Given they have lost the public arguments they have reverted to form and are committing these terrorist acts.”
Thames Valley Police (TVP) are investigating the attack and have removed the vehicles for forensic examination. A spokesperson said they would not be ruling out other lines of enquiry, despite ALF’s claims. 
TVP Acting Community Relations Manager Rachel McQuilliam said, “The investigation team is aware of the claim of responsibility on the Bite Back website; however, whilst animal rights is one line of enquiry, detectives are keeping an open mind as to the motive for the attacks.”
Oxford University authorities have stated they will cooperate with the investigation, and emphasized their commitment to the animal experimentation lab, as well as their obligation to protect staff and students.
A University spokesperson said, “Protecting staff, students and those who work with the University is the number one priority. As a University deeply committed to freedom of speech, we respect people’s right to express their opposition to research using animals. However, we will not tolerate threats or intimidation, and we obviously co-operate fully with the police in their investigations.”
The communiqué dedicated the arson attacks to ‘Barry and Felix’. Felix was one of the macaque monkeys experimented upon by the University, before being put down earlier this year. Barry is believed to refer to Barry Horne, a British animal rights activist who died in 2001 following a series of hunger strikes in prison.
The ALF communiqué also claimed responsibility for an arson attack carried out in September this year. “Six weeks previous to this attack an arson attack was carried out on a sports car…owned by a director of [one of ALF’s target companies]” it said.
In 2006, the ALF placed a firebomb outside the home of a neighbour of a UCLA primate researcher. The United States Department of Homeland Security considers the ALF to be a terrorist threat to national security and its activities have been serverely curtailed within the United States.