When animal rights activists first targeted research at the University of Kansas Medical Center last year they trotted out gory posters of crazed monkeys with weird electrodes poking out of their skulls.
Their latest posters have moved from bizarro horror flick to gun-sliging Western.
Last week, activist Jason Miller, best known for his sometimes-bloody defense of deer in Shawnee Mission Park, posted a provocative poster on his (multiple) blogs. It was enough to cause KU Med officials to alert the authorities.
The showdown started in October, when Bite Club of KC first paraded on the sidewalks about the medical center in honor of Primate Liberation Week. Miller and crew took issue with the work of researcher Paul Cheney, who uses monkeys in his brain mapping research.
Out on the east coast, Maine resident Michael Bishop caught wind of the KU Med testing and got artistic about his outrage. Bishop advocates illegal activity in defense of animals and the signature quote at the end of his e-mail says "Don't rock the boat; sink the fucker!" But he's also got a three-year-old daughter and says he doesn't engage in arrest-able activities himself. The poster he put together walks a fine line, though.
"My heart was broken when I learned of the atrocities being committed in the name of science by the two people named in the flyer [sic], and I hoped it would bring awareness to the issue," Bishop tells me in an e-mail. "I spent a number of years doing anti-vivisection protest and have created a number of flyers [sic], detailing the information about whatever subject was at hand, but this one was my first 'WANTED' poster and I'm sure there will be many more in the future."
Bishop shot off some e-mails to Navneet Dhillon and Cheney but says he hasn't gotten a response. Miller, who uploaded the poster on Bite Club's Web site the morning he got it, says his group intends to spread the flier around town.
I sent the link to Marcia Nielsen, vice chancellor of public affairs for KU Med, to see what she thought. First of all, there's a good reason Dhillon didn't respond to Bishop's e-mail. According to Nielsen, Dhillon doesn't even work with primates, only cell cultures and human specimens.
"My reaction to the poster is that we are, of course, seriously concerned with threats made against our researchers," Nielsen wrote. "But the bottom line is that we remain committed to finding cures and therapies to treat disease and to save lives."
And, rest assured, Nielsen added: "Whenever anyone on our campus has received threats, we take them seriously and notify the appropriate authorities."