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.