Author Archives: Tom

We Need You – Help us keep SR running

Speaking of Research (SR) was founded in 2008 thanks to the support and generosity of American’s for Medical ProgressMichael D Hayre Fellowship in public outreach. SR’s ongoing website costs, then around $100/year were paid by AMP. In February 2011, the British advocacy group Pro-Test wrapped up their operations and left a small sum of money (~$300) to SR which has thus far funded our website costs. This money has now run out, and we would like to give our supporters an opportunity to help us continue our activities. We now require around $150/year for website costs.

We like to think we have used the little money we have effectively. From around 25,000 website views in 2008 we have grown to well over 500,000 views/year in the last 12 months. Does HSUS, with revenues over a million times ours, achieve a million times the web reach? We sincerely doubt it.

Speaking of Research Funding

HSUS – The Humane Society of the United States – 2012 Annual Report
PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – 2013 Financial Statement
AAVS – American Anti-Vivisection Society – 2012 Annual Report
NAVS – National Anti-Vivisection Society – Animal Action Report 2013

We are asking for any small, individual donations, up to $15 (£10/€10), which would put towards our website costs. Any excess that we receive will go towards other online activities such as promoting posts on various social media platforms in order to boost our readership. Please use the donate button below. We thank you in advance for your kind support.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Please do not give larger donations. We would like to have a large base of small supporters donating. Any donations are accepted on a no strings attached basis. This donate button also exists permanently at the bottom of our “About” page

Remember that donating is not the only way of supporting SR. We need your help to share and like our posts on social media on Facebook and Twitter (and Reddit and Google+ and every other social media platform). We need your help to link to our website. We need your help telling your friends and colleagues about the role of animals in medical research. And, perhaps most of all, we need your help writing for Speaking of Research – either as guest posters or as part of the committee – so please get more involved today.

Speaking of Research

Is British Animal Rights Extremism Back? A Profile of National Operation Anti-Vivisection

There was reason for celebration on 12th August 2014 when SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) announced an end to its fifteen-year campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), an international contract research organisation who have been the subject of a long campaign of violence and harassment. The campaign has seen around two dozen activists sentenced to over 100 years’ worth of jail time in the US and UK, with more sentences due to be handed down next month in the UK. This comes at a time when animal rights extremism remains at an all-time low in the UK.

However, within a month of the SHAC campaign ending, a new animal rights campaign has sprung up in Cambridge (UK), which bears many hallmarks of SHAC.

national operation anti-vivisection

National Operation Anti-Vivisection (NOAV) claims to be:

“a completely grass-roots network of animal rights activists opposed to vivisection in the UK … We feel strongly that institutional animal abuse of all kinds will continue while the benefits to the companies abusing animals outweigh the detriments. Through campaigning, lawful protests, boycotts and all other lawful means we intend to create those detriments!”

The call to keep the campaign legal is laudable, but few animal rights extremist organisations openly declare illegal intentions. Indeed SHAC, with its 100 years of jail time, claimed that it “[did] not encourage or incite illegal activities.” NOAV go on to say that:

“The time for talking, thinking and plotting is over – it’s time for action! We are not a talking shop or a social club, we are a no nonsense anti-vivisection activist group! If you are ready to take action to stop animal testing, please check out our campaign pages!”

The campaign pages bring up two separate campaigns NOAV are running. The first, which offers cash incentives to students, for the details of fellow student animal researchers so that they “can be used for covert monitoring or naming and shaming student animal abusers.

The poster (below, left) produced by NOAV shares much likeness of a similar campaign poster (below, right) created by American animal rights extremist group, Negotiation is Over, led by Camille Marino. If you look carefully below you will notice the use of language, and structure of the poster is remarkably similar. Both offer students “easy cash/money” for the names, pictures, addresses, contact details, and experiment details of students involved.

Posters offering cash for details of student researchers by National Operation Anti-Vivisection (left) and  Negotiation is Over (right).

Posters offering cash for details of student researchers by National Operation Anti-Vivisection (left) and Negotiation is Over (right).

We have condemned the targeting of students before, and we do so again. Stalking and harassing students is not a legitimate way of running a campaign. It is these sorts of actions which can force brilliant minds out of the life sciences out of fear, as happened after an NIO campaign targeting Scripps student, Alena, in 2011.

National Operation Anti-Vivisection’s second campaign targets a new animal research facility being built by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in Cambridge. What makes this campaign concerning is a section of the website called “Secondary Targets”.

NOAV - secondary targets SHAC national operation astrazeneca

The webpage then provides names, addresses, pictures and contact details of individuals and organisations who are involved in building the new facility in Cambridge. This tactic is similar to SHAC’s campaign against HLS; as John Salon described these tactics in a Salon article:

“SHAC’s modus operandi is simple, elegant and shockingly effective: Publish the names, home addresses and telephone numbers of executives and employees of Huntingdon and any companies it does business with; identify these individuals as ‘targets’”.

It is at this point we may care to question why SHAC closed down its operations. SHAC’s wide reach and big impact in the preceding 15 years has made it a prime target for legal action by firms wishing to protect themselves. At least 18 companies, including Oxford University and AstraZeneca, have won legal injunctions to prevent or limit SHAC protests aimed at themselves, their employees, or their stakeholders. Any activists running under the SHAC name are therefore restricted in acting against these companies. Many may believe that by running under another banner they can avoid those legal injunctions imposed on SHAC.

Does National Operation Anti-Vivisection (NOAV) represent a violent threat at a time when extremism is almost unheard of? Time will tell. A rise in legal activism by animal rights groups is bringing fresh money into the movement. While most of this goes on above-the-level campaigns, it is often hard to prevent some of it spilling into more questionable hands. SHAC collected almost “£1 million in donations to SHAC’s collection buckets and bank accounts” back in the early 2000s.

Organisations and individuals must continue to be open in explaining why they conduct animal research. In this way the public and younger potential-activists will be dissuaded from supporting or joining these fringe animal rights groups, which threaten research and the benefits it can bring.

Tom Holder

Time for a change? A Scientist’s View of Public Interests in Animal Research and Welfare

Each fall since 1950, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science has held its annual National Meeting. During the five days of the meeting, members and nonmembers come together to enjoy the workshops, lectures, poster sessions, and exhibits. The AALAS National Meeting is the largest gathering in the world of professionals concerned with the production, care, and use of laboratory animals. 

The September 2014 issue of AALAS’ signature publication, Laboratory Animal Science Professional, focused on the upcoming 65th National Meeting to be held in San Antonio, Texas, October 19-23, 2014. The magazine was delighted to publish an article from Allyson J. Bennett, this year’s Charles River Ethics and Animal Welfare Lecturer. Dr. Bennett shared thoughts from her upcoming lecture and was featured on the magazine’s cover.

“Time for a Change?” by Dr. Allyson J. Bennett appeared in Laboratory Animal Science Professional, September 2014, and is reprinted by permission.

Laboratory Animal Science

Time for a change? A Scientist’s View of Public Interests in Animal Research and Welfare

Public interest in animal research and welfare extend well over a century, with deep roots in different views of moral action, and the power to ignite highly charged emotional responses. Public interests are of two kinds: One is as recipients of the benefits that research delivers. The other is as decision-makers whose actions and views shape the social contract and conditions under which animal research is done—or not.

Decisions about animal research have consequences at societal and individual levels. As a result, serious consideration of the facts, inherent moral dilemmas, and future of animal research should extend far beyond the research community. What we often see instead is public interest in laboratory animal research represented not as the complex thing it is, but rather as a simple split: scientists on one side and animal rightists on the other. Logic versus compassion. Harm to other animals versus benefit to humans. Saving sick children versus hugging puppies. Heroes versus villains.

In this cartoon vision, opponents stand at an unbridgeable gap armed with different conclusions from facts that may, or may not, overlap. Each argues their case to sway the public, legislators, media, and youth to “their side.” This approach persists despite the long history, complexity, and critical importance of animal research to public interests.

Often animal research discussions begin and end without thoughtful dialogue, or even full acknowledgement, of what gives rise to opposed positions. Most obvious is the divide over whether animals should ever be part of research and, if so, which animals and for which purposes. Less obvious are some fundamentally different understandings and visions of how science works, how deeply it is woven into more than a century of profound changes in health, environment, and technology and out understanding of the world.

Scientists, laboratory animal research community members, advocates, and educators can play important roles in advancing the public dialogue beyond old and polarized scripts. Conveying accurate and substantial knowledge about animal research is a primary responsibility. We can share why we believe the lines of division are false, why identifying heroes and villains falls short, and why we should reject the science versus compassion formulation.

We can contribute to the dialogue with specific examples illuminating why it is wrong to cast the issue as science versus animals, or to divide along the lines of those who conduct the work and those who protect the animals. We can demonstrate that scientific study is responsible for much of what we understand about other animals and for advancing better animal welfare. Animal research has fostered better medical treatment, conservation strategies, and care for other animals.

At its heart, the purpose and motivation for animal research is the drive to reduce suffering and improve human and animal health. There is no compassion in ignoring the suffering of humans and animals threatened by Ebola or any other disease. Nor should a small, privileged segment of global society make decisions that disregard the world’s population, animals, and environment.

As knowledge, need, and perspectives continue to change, these and other topics will be central to advancing a deeper consideration and informed dialogue that can protect public interests in animal research.

This cannot be the job of scientists alone, nor does it require information and expertise available only to scientists. It may require additional effort from all of us to better understand the topics, core moral issues, and consequences of different courses of action. It will require time and change to place serious and full consideration of these issues at the center of public dialogue, but it is time well spent to move forward in addressing the difficult choices and challenges we encounter as we seek to improve a shared world.

Allyson J. Bennett, PhD is a developmental psychobiologist on the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the Chair of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Animal Research Ethics. Dr. Bennett is part of Speaking of Research, a volunteer organization that seeks to improve public education and dialogue about animal research. Speaking of Research’s news blog can be found here: http://www.speakingofresearch.com

Extremism is Not the Only Threat to Medical Research

Research into heart disease was dealt a blow when Maastricht University decided to suspend a scientific study involving dogs in August after growing pressure by animal rights groups in the Netherlands.

The University gave a statement saying that their Animal Experiment Committee had approved the cardiological study involving Labradors, but that “societal concerns with respect to the use of laboratory animals” had forced them to suspend the study “to take additional time to consider the case further”. The University then went on to assure readers of their commitments to the 3Rs, and say that “in some cases the use of laboratory animals remains necessary to achieve medical breakthroughs that will benefit both people and animals”.

The decision was questionable at best. On 28th August a statement by the University announced they were “stick[ing] by [their] researchers” and not “shap[ing] [their] course solely based on demands of activists with a pronounced view on the matter”. Four days later they announced that the “experiment has been suspended, and is unlikely to resume in the foreseeable future” and that they had given the eight dogs at the facility up for adoption.

So why had they given in? The animal rights group Anti Dierproeven Coalitie (ADC), the Dutch sister organisation to the UK’s Anti Vivisection Coalition (AVC), collected 120,000 signatures (online) and carried out a series of demonstrations outside Maastricht University.

protest animal rights labradors

Protest outside Maastricht University by the ADC

ADC and AVC have been growing in the UK, Netherlands and Belgium (as CAV). They are one of the few animal rights groups in those countries still drawing a crowd for semi-regular rallies and are increasingly making their presence known in the media (mainly local newspapers). Nonetheless, they have a chequered background. Five ADC activists (including co-founder Robert Molenaar) are currently on trial for breaking into a beagle breeding facility and stealing six dogs. In the UK, AVC has similar characters. Its former head was twice-convicted extremist, Luke Steele, and many of its current members have come in from the leftovers of the recently ended (and historically very violent) SHAC campaign.

The research in question had received funded from the medical research charity, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), who have been ahead of the curve in explaining the animal research they fund. The BHF put up a fantastic statement of support for the research, saying:

Recently, a BHF-funded study at Maastricht University involving dogs was suspended after a campaign by an animal rights group. This has been reported in the UK by a national newspaper.

Explaining why the BHF funded this project, our Medical Director Professor Peter Weissberg said: “This study could help to improve a pacemaker treatment for people suffering from severe heart failure – a debilitating condition that ruins the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the UK.

“The treatment, known as cardiac resynchronisation therapy, can help control the symptoms of heart failure which commonly include overwhelming breathlessness and chronic fatigue. But this treatment does not entirely relieve the symptoms, the risk of death remains high and in some patients it does not work at all.

“If this treatment were to be made more effective, it could dramatically improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people living with heart failure.

“The researchers are working to improve this pacemaker treatment but these studies must be carried out in animals before they can be assessed in clinical trials in heart failure patients. The electrical wiring and size of a dog’s heart is very similar to a human heart, allowing the researchers to see how pacemakers might behave in patients. There is currently no alternative that could be used to carry out this potentially life-changing research.

“Our research has led to life-saving medical advances for heart patients over the past half century. But there’s so much work to be done and, for the foreseeable future, that will involve using animals in research.”

To anyone who doubts the importance of heart research, I recommend they watch the following video produced by the BHF and a heart disease victim

In the last decade there has been a large, and long overdue, crackdown on animal rights extremism. This is positive, but is not enough. Unless scientists take advantage of this new found safety by speaking up in support of their research, it will still be at risk in the fight for public opinion.

The Maastricht University dog study provides a worrying case study for anyone not willing to put up a fight to defend their research, because in the end, we all lose out.

Speaking of Research

Show that you care about the future of research that is crucial to medical progress by signing this petition to urge the U. S. Surgeon General to Voice Support for Animal Research, and then making a donation to the British Heart Foundation.

Learn more about the role of animal research in advancing human and veterinary medicine, and the threat posed to this progress by the animal rights lobby, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Birth of Pro-Test Israel

The following guest post is written by Shaul Peretz, a former Israeli investigative journalist and founder of Pro-Test Israel.

Three years ago I learned about Mazor Farm, a small farm located in Moshav Mazor, in central Israel, and the country’s only farm breeding monkeys for biomedical research. All the information about the farm on the Internet came from animal rights activists, who described horror stories.

They said the monkeys are kidnapped from Mauritius and taken to Israel, where greedy dealers sell them to the highest bidder for experimentation, including cosmetic toxicity tests.

For ten years of my life, I was an investigative reporter for the major Israeli newspapers Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv so I was curious about these claims. Frankly, I found it hard to believe what was written. I began to research animal experimentation is Israel and discovered that the claims being made by activists were a mix of lies and half-truths.

In truth, monkeys are not kidnapped. Rather, the government of Mauritius is begging research laboratories to take as many monkeys from the island as they can. Monkeys on Mauritius are considered to be a pest by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the local government so they control the population by euthanizing them. So the truth is that the fate of the monkeys in Mauritius is death by local authorities or being used for biomedical research for life-saving experiments.

macaque monkey animal testing israel

The monkeys at Mazor Farm are kept in large outdoor corrals

Investigating further, I discovered that macaque monkeys are not used for cosmetic testing, as claimed by opponents, but only for biomedical research to save lives and prevent suffering. Furthermore, contrary to activists’ claims, cosmetic testing on animals is prohibited in Israel, as it is in almost every other country.

I discovered that research using monkeys at Mazor Farm resulted in:

For many years, scientists in Israel have been threatened by animal rights activists. We determined that the person behind the threats against Prof. Moshe Abeles, Director, Institute for Brain Research at Bar-Ilan University, was Anat Refua, who might be called an Israeli equivalent of U.S. activist Camille Marino.

I tried to join the Facebook pages of animal rights activist including “Together we close the Mazor Farm” to bring the real information to the attention of its readers, but it was a lost cause. I was soon censored and blocked from writing. Animal rights activists support “freedom of speech” only if it is theirs. So I created two pages “Uncensored truth about animal research and monkeys” and “animal research is saving lives” that are designed to tell the truth about what animal research is and what it has given us.

macaque monkey animal research israel

The large outdoor areas allow the animals to socialise and play

As a result of our successful activities, animal rights activists began to harass and try to frighten me. They published an image of my then-young daughter, and I had to file a complaint with the police to protect my family.

They set up a page with a similar name to our page (“uncensored truth about research”) and called it “The official page.” As a result, some people who are looking for our page accidentally go to their page and read more lies about animal research.

Top contributors to our page who are physicians, researchers, and medical students have received threats in their personal email accounts.

We are going through a period of a great struggle against opponents of animal research. The Israeli media has given a lot of publicity to the growing trend toward veganism, a practice that many activists share.

The previous Environment Minister of Israel, Gilad Ardan – whose office signs the permits needed to export monkeys from of Israel – has added restrictions as a result of pressure from activists. The new regulation will prohibit the export of monkeys for biomedical research starting in January, 2015, although there is no restriction on importing monkeys to Israel for research here. Mazor Farm is expected to close since Israeli research institutions need only around 30 monkeys per year.

Our investigation revealed what is behind this decision. A month before a hearing was held into the future of Mazor Farm, Environment Minister, Gilad Arden received a private donation from the chairman of Let the Animals Live (comparable to PETA), which was actively trying to close the farm. A State Control judge is now investigating this.

monkey animal experiment playingTwo years ago, Israel’s largest airline, El Al, succumbed to activist pressure and stopped transporting any animals for research and lifesaving biomedical research. As a result, research institutions in Israel must charter private flights at a cost of tens of thousands of euros (Israel has no land transportation option).

However as a result of the activists’ tactics, public feeling in Israel is turning against them. In academia, people are starting to wake up and try to counter the lies.

Many wrote to the new environment minister, Amir Peretz, asking him to change the regulation and allow the export of monkeys for biomedical research so that Mazor Farm can continue. Hundreds of Israeli researchers and doctors have signed a petition to this effect.

As result of our activity and the spread of factual information – the activists lost their “exclusive ownership” of the publicly available information. More and more people in Israel understand the importance of animal research and confront activists’ claims on Facebook and elsewhere.

In the UK, US and Italy, scientists and members of the public have stood up against animal rights misinformation. Through the Pro-Test movements, activists have been challenged on their lies and harassment – this is what Israel needs. This is why I am founding Pro-Test Israel, to bring people together to defend the research behind life-saving medical research. I hope many will join me. If you wish to find out more, click here (website in Hebrew).

I am optimistic that the activist tactics will not last long:

You can lie all the people some of the time,
You can lie to some of the people all the time,
But you cannot lie to all the people all the time.

Shaul Peretz

Animal rights fanatics offer stunts, not real solutions

This post is simulposted with the Unlikely Activist blog, run by this post’s author, David Jentsch.

Fanatical animal rights groups in the US love attention-getting stunts. PeTA creates video games extolling violence and propagates advertisements that exude adolescent sexuality. White Coat Waste uses Tea party rhetoric to insist federal investment in research is tantamount to borrowing money from China. And the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] reels endless videos of sad animals on the television to raise money for their lobbying efforts, while tricking people into thinking their donations actually help animals in shelters.

An animal rights extremist group, White Coat Waste, uses Tea Party rhetoric in an attempt to undermine support for research investment

An animal rights extremist group, White Coat Waste, uses Tea Party rhetoric in an attempt to undermine support for research investment

These are stunts, nothing more – nothing less.

In Los Angeles, local animal rights zealots are trying hard to carve out their own niche in the “stunt” art form. They light candles during vigils on the beach, hand out post cards decrying UCLA researchers at art events and recite chants in eerie synchrony, while standing in front of our homes. In truth, the occasional bizarre chanting during these stunts is slightly less demented than their usual shrieks, threats and harassment.

Later this month, the ironically named anti-science group – Progress for Science – will mount an 11-day campaign to “honor” the 11 monkeys they believe are involved in scientific research projects at UCLA. They will probably once again come to my home and threaten my neighbors, while trying to make my life miserable.

But if Progress for Science truly has the respect for life than they claim they do, perhaps they should consider a different strategy. Perhaps before mounting their 11 day campaign for 11 hypothetical monkeys, they should find it in their hearts to lead initiatives for real people affected by real disease. For example, they could:

Lead a 930 day campaign for the number of Africans that have died from Ebola so far this year.

Initiate a 4,600 day campaign for the young people in our country who took their own lives last year, often due to mental illness.

Kick off a 1.1 million day campaign for the number of people living with HIV in the US.

Support a 2.2 million day campaign for the people suffering from or disabled by schizophrenia in this country.

Demand an 8.2 million day campaign for the number of people that will die from cancer in one single year, worldwide.

Health care providers and patients rally in support of mental health services

Health care providers and patients rally in support of mental health services

It is, of course, true that multi-million day campaigns are impossible, but biomedical researchers in many cases dedicate their entire working lives to addressing the harm in these diseases: our own life-long campaigns. Animal rights fanatics could contribute positively to these efforts, rather than standing in the way of progress, but they won’t do that because they are not actually interested in preserving life. They are interested in stunts.

If you are interested in preserving life, then please support biomedical research, including that which involves animals. This year alone, two Americans received a treatment for Ebola that was developed based upon animal research and that likely saved their lives. This is the promise of science. Stunts, on the other hand, contribute nothing, save no lives and end no suffering.

David J. Jentsch

Responsible Antibody Production

Antibodies Part 2 (read Part 1 here)

As noted in our previous post, there are many promising uses for antibodies. Therefore, it is no wonder that antibody production is big business. The Scientist reported that revenues from antibody sales were over $1.6 billion in 2011. In the United States, antibody producers that use regulated species of animals must comply with the Animal Welfare Act, just as research institutions that use animals must do.

Earlier this year, we reported that one large antibody producer, Santa Cruz Biotechnology (SCB), was accused by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of numerous animal welfare violations. The company originally planned to address these allegations at a USDA administrative law hearing scheduled for the week of July 14, 2014. That hearing has since been postponed while SCB and the USDA try to reach a negotiated settlement on the alleged violations. We would welcome such a settlement if the end result is better animal welfare practices at SCB.

Mice in a Cage

“We would welcome such a settlement if the end result is better animal welfare practices at SCB.”

Meanwhile, the USDA recently announced a settlement with another antibody producer: Rockland Immunochemicals, Inc.  Rockland paid a $32,071 fine for multiple Animal Welfare Act violations in 2012 and 2013. It is noteworthy that all inspections of Rockland Immunochemicals by the USDA thus far in 2014 have indicated that the company was compliant with the Animal Welfare Act. Hopefully, Rockland has learned an important lesson: animal welfare matters

Neither Rockland Immunochemicals nor Santa Cruz Biotechnology discusses corporate responsibility or their commitment to animal welfare on their websites, but other antibody producers do. For example, the Aves Labs website plainly states its commitment to animal welfare and heralds the fact that the company voluntarily sought accreditation of its animal use program by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Welfare (AAALAC).   Protocols describing the company’s use of animals for antibody production are also provided on its website.

Other examples of antibody producers with strong commitments to animal welfare and transparency in animal use include ImmunoPrecise, Pocono Rabbit Farm and Laboratory, EMD-Millipore, and Bethyl Laboratories.

We urge all antibody producers to establish corporate responsibility practices and transparency regarding their animal use programs. We also urge scientists and pharmaceutical companies to weigh the producers’ commitment to these important values in selecting which antibodies to use.

Alice Ra’anan and Bill Yates