We mentioned in passing the corporate campaign by the animal rights activists in lab-coats at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) against Wayne State University last year, but since then the case has become more curious and scarier. PCRM accused a Wayne State researcher, Donal O’Leary, of conducting medical experiments in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act, but a Department of Agriculture inspection found the research facility in compliance. (PCRM’s real agenda is to end all lifesaving medical experiments on animals — even laboratory rats.)

PCRM wants its campaign to go on, and is trying to access more of the researcher’s records in a public records request. Wayne State University has gone to court to defend O’Leary’s privacy, citing PCRM’s “inflammatory accusations” and other (unaffiliated) activists’ campaign of threats and harassment as grounds to deny the request. According to Courthouse News Service, Wayne State’s complaint also alleges that PCRM “refused to remove defamatory articles from its website until Wayne State’s general counsel demanded it.”

The threats and harassment were serious. One extremist started posting O’Leary’s personal information online and sent the researcher an e-mail wishing him a painful death. Wayne State University officials and the courts took her threatening rhetoric very seriously. She was subsequently arrested for trespassing on University property and pleaded guilty to another offense. Wayne State’s filing notes that Michigan law permits denial of an open records request if the information “would present a realistic risk of being used to identify the personal safety and security of [named] individuals.” (For more on the particular extremist who made these threats and the advocates of violent extremism in the modern animal rights movement, see this piece at the Popehat blog.)

For all the cute puppies-and-kittens commercials and “compassion” talk, the animal rights movement has a history of criminal and violent extremism, including stalking, death threats, and arson. And PCRM should know this, as it has been linked with those more radical elements. A former PCRM representative, Jerry Vlasak, endorsed the murder of medical researchers at an animal rights conference in 2003. (PCRM has denied that Vlasak was speaking on its behalf, but the event’s program described him as “Jerry Vlasak, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.”) PCRM didn’t commit this latest example of the animal rights movement’s unhinged underbelly, but it serves as a reminder of the violent mindset that many supposedly “compassionate” activists share.