To kick off, the highly respected Nature journal included an interview (subscription needed) with David Jentsch, founder of UCLA Pro-Test. He offered an insight into his own research before mentioning more about the upcoming rally:
What sort of research do you do?
I study the neuroscience of mental disorders, with a basic scientific lab approach. Schizophrenia is a major study area. We study how genes in normal animals influence brain function. And we study how potential treatments work. Every project I do in an animal is connected with a human clinical question.
How do you use those animals?
I use rodent and vervet monkey models. We do a lot of work relating genetics to brain function, such as memory and attention. We use invasive procedures or infusions of pharmaceutical drugs. We also use genetic mutation knockouts in rodents. In monkeys, we study genetics and naturally occurring functions. We primarily use non-invasive procedures on monkeys — about 90% are behaviour and genetics studies.
In a world where 1 in a 100 people are affected by schitzophrenia during their lifetime, this kind of research is crucial. Drug Monkey’s blog (the second time he has blogged about the event – see the first) reflected on the Nature interview, concluding with:
If you are within handy driving distance and can spare the time, please attend. If you are not near UCLA but are on Facebook please consider joining the UCLA Pro-Test Facebook group. One of the primary goals of Pro-Test is to make the supporters of animal research more visible so as to counter the numerically much smaller but more publicly vocal ARA terrorists and supporters. Increasing the membership on Facebook will help with this goal.
Remember to join the Speaking of Research group as well.
Another major news story came from the LA Times, who produced a comprehensive piece on Jentsch’s motives, including mention of Speaking of Research and its founder, Tom Holder. In it Jentsch explains why it is so important for scientists to stand up, and stand up together if they are to overcome to problems of animal rights extremism:
After similar incidents, other UCLA scientists have become almost reclusive as security and public curiosity around them grew. Three years ago, another UCLA neuroscientist, weary of harassment and threats to his family, abandoned animal research altogether, sending an e-mail to an animal rights website that read: “You win.”
“People always say: ‘Don’t respond. If you respond, that will give [the attackers] credibility,’ ” Jentsch, 37, said in a recent interview in his UCLA office. “But being silent wasn’t making us feel safer. And it’s a moot point if they are coming to burn your car anyway, whether you give them credibility or not.”
“By refusing to be intimidated by extremists who torch cars, threaten violence and harass families, UCLA faculty, staff and students involved in the Pro-Test movement are demonstrating not only their courage but also their commitment to public service,” he [UCLA Chancellor Gene Block] said in a statement.
Nick Anthis, of Scientific Activist blog, put his perspective on the article saying:
Jentsch is right. The lesson of Pro-Test Oxford was that silence only encourages the extremists, and scientists have to stand up for their work in order for any real change to occur.
It’s not just the print and web news sources which are covering the UCLA rally – now the radios are fighting for interviews with David Jentsch, three who succeeded are KABC 790 radio (The Al Rantel Show), 89.3 KPCC (requires real player) and KFI-640AM radio:
David Jentsch: The rally has two functions. To have a repudiation of what’s been going on so far, sort of people getting together and just finding strength in numbers and trying to overcome the intimidation that people are trying to impose on us …
It is great to see this continued coverage. If you have seen information about the rally from anywhere else then please leave a comment on this post.