Elaine Vignealt of Vegan Soapbox emailed me this link, where she opposes a California law that would, she says, limit the First Amendment rights of animal rights supporters. A reader then posts the full names and home addresses of UC Berkeley professors who do scientific experiments on animals.
[As an update, Elaine received a take-down request from Berkeley. I was aware of the request when I wrote this post, but didn't realize it was a matter of public record; since its existence was communicated privately to me, I didn't include it in the post. Now that I see it's on the front page of Elaine's blog, I'm adding it in.]
I’m no supporter of unnecessary animal experimentation; I think many of these experiments sound horrific and cruel. But publishing personal information is beyond the pale. It’s exactly what anti-choice activists do in an attempt to threaten, intimidate and terrorize doctors. And it’s disgusting to see animal rights activists following that model.
When someone called Elaine out on publishing personal contact info as opposed to just a work email address, she responded:
One reason: Email addresses are much easier to fake or change than physical addresses. The emails simply bounce back and fall into cyberspace forever. The message never even gets sent. And there’s no proof there’s anyone at the other end receiving the message. You can’t send a “certified letter” to an email address.
Another reason: These are not spies with top secret information. These are people using public funds to conduct morally reprehensible and sometimes illegal activities. The public deserves to know who they are and how to contact them.
That’s exactly what anti-choice terrorist abetters say.
I’m not going to weigh in much on the First Amendment issues here; without a clear threat, Elaine is probably within her rights to publish the information (of course, her advertisers and service providers are also probably also within their rights to stop doing business with her). But legalities aside, just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean that you should do it. With the murder of Dr. Tiller last week, we saw yet again that campaigns of intimidation through the release of personal information too often result in violence. I wouldn’t put radical animal rights activsts in the same league as radical anti-choicers, but a few of them seem to be pushing it. By allowing the personal information of researchers to be published on her website, Elaine is enabling them. It may not be totally illegal, but it is surely ethically questionable and morally reprehensible.
So please, knock if off. Liberals can do better than this.