Category Archives: SR News

SR Outreach at OAVT Conference

Last month Speaking of Research (SR) committee member Michael Brunt took part in an outreach lecture at the annual Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT) 2014 conference. The OAVT is the largest association for veterinary technicians in Canada. Over the past several years there has been a growing interest in offering lectures specifically directed towards those working in laboratory animal science (LAS). In concert with the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science (CALAS) the 2014 conference offered a full one day track discussing LAS.

Ontario Association for Veterinary Technicians 2014Michael presented a joint lecture from SR and the CALAS InReach for OutReach program titled “10 Myths Surrounding Laboratory Animal Science.” The purpose of the lecture was to provide accurate information about the importance of animal based research and testing in medical and veterinary science. The lecture explored ten myths and provided context which spurred discussion from the 25 delegates in attendance. Many of the myths discussed can be found on our “Animal Rights BINGO” post. There was even a last minute addition to the lecture of a bonus myth discussing “Why Context Matters with Animal Images”.

Being presented with accurate information allows people to make informed opinions regarding LAS. Outreach to our professional communities will continue to foster a culture of understanding, acceptance, value and recognition for the contributions LAS plays in improving the lives of millions of animals and people every day.

Many members of SR are involved in outreach. Please contact us if you are interested in having someone speak at your institution or conference,


Michael Brunt

To 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.

Speaking of Research website continues to evolve

Much has changed in six years on the internet. In 2008, Twitter had only just launched, Facebook had under 100 million users, and Internet Explorer was the most popular browser (you know who you are!). Our website has also seen massive changes over the time period. We have posted almost 650 articles to our blog, and redesigned the website several times.


Many of you will have noted another raft of changes in the last week. Our banner image has changed for the first time ever and our front page now uses clickable buttons rather than long winding descriptions. I hope you find it an improvement.

We have also added more information about starting your own Pro-Test group, setting out a section of the website for information on regional Pro-Test groups such as Pro-Test Italia.

So the big question is what would you like to see on the Speaking of Research website? Please leave comments telling us what you think of the latest incarnation Speaking of Research website and what new pages or features you would like to see.

Thank you

Speaking of Research

Background Briefing on Animal Research

Having a full understanding of all the issues surrounding animal research can be a challenge for even science-specialist journalists, let alone general journalists, editors and broadcasters who have to handle many unrelated issues each and every day. Speaking of Research have produced a two-page summary of the key information which general news producers, journalists, presenters and editors, can use to quickly inform themselves about this issue.

Download the Background Briefing on Animal Research in the US

We encourage those working in universities, pharmaceuticals, and other research institutions, to help share this document when contacting or responding to journalists about research stories relating to their institution. By attaching this background briefing to proactive stories, or reactive statements, it can help ensure that your research is understood within the context of the wider research environment.

Media briefing on animal testing

We permit anyone to redistribute this briefing unchanged, and in whole, with credit to Speaking of Research.

We would like to produce more of these for different countries in the future. However, those wishing to see a similar briefing for the UK should consult the Science Media Centre’s “Briefing Notes on the Use of Animals in Research”. We thank the Science Media Centre for offering their support in producing this briefing.

Speaking of Research

USDA Statistics for Animals Used in Research in 2012

In 2011 the USDA stopped publishing its animal research statistics on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website (with the last full stats being 2010). We have recently received the 2012 statistics for animals used in research under the Animal Welfare Act. Overall the number of animals used in research fell by 16% since 2010, falling over 180,000  from over 1.1 million (2010) to just over 950,000 (2012).

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

These statistics do not include all animals as most mice, rats, and fish are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act – though they are still covered by other regulations that protect animal welfare.

We can see that rodents (guinea pigs, hamsters and other rodents) and rabbits together account for 67.3% of all research animals, with cats, dogs and primates accounting for 16% of research. In the UK, where mice, rats, fish and birds are counted in the annual statistics, over 98% of research is on rodents, birds and fish. Across the EU, which measures animal use slightly differently, 93% of research is on species not counted under the Animal Welfare Act. We would expect similar patterns to be true in the US – although there are no statistics to confirm this.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

If we look at the changes between the 2010 and 2012 statistics we can see a drop in the number of animals of most species between 2010 and 2012, with only pigs and cats going against the trend. Most notably the number of non-human primates has fallen by 9.5%, with an even larger drop in the number of rabbits (11.1% drop).

Animals used in research 2010 vs 2012

It is unclear whether the 16% drop represents a clear downward trend for the numbers of animals used in research, or is simply annual variability, though it would fit in a general downward trend in the US statistics since the mid 1980s. It is also likely that, similar to the UK, a move towards using more genetically altered mice has reduce the numbers of other animals used (those counted by the USDA under the Animal Welfare Act).

Speaking of Research

Speaking of Research Across Social Media

Speaking of Research has added a few more ways of interacting with our supporters.

We have long been on Facebook and Twitter, where we regularly post general science stories as well as link to our new items. We also have a YouTube account where we post the occasional video (usually for use in posts on our website).
Speaking of Research social mediaNow we’ve added two more ways in which you can follow the latest animal research news from Speaking of Research. For those who prefer more business-focused social networks, we exist on LinkedIn. Finally we have just added ourselves onto Google+.

So – please take a moment to share this post and to follow, like and +1 our different accounts.


Speaking of Research

Speaking of 2013: A year in summary

As another year for Speaking of Research has passed it seems only appropriate to spend a moment looking back.

Animal research is important because of its contributions to human and animal health. In 2013 we saw a promising clinical trial for epidermolysis bullosa (EB), the development of pluripotent human stem cells from cloned human skin  cells, a new diabetes treatment developed from the Gila Monster, the first transplanted liver that had been preserved at room temperature, and a gene therapy for hemophilia A in dogs. Then, of course, the Nobel Prizes reminded us of the value of animal research once again. No doubt 2014 will continue to push the limits of medical science, with animal research continuing to play a vital role.

Sadly, despite the many successes of animal research, animal rights extremism was in the rise in Europe in 2013, particularly in Italy. In response to an attack on the University of Milan, over 5,000 people signed the Basel Declaration’s call for solidarity. There was hope, with the rise of Pro-Test Italia, who held their first rally in June 2013. Sadly, in August 2013, the Italian Chamber of Deputies passed amendments which would limit some aspects of research in Italy. Just before the New Year, Caterina Simonsen, an Italian veterinary student, received a string of abuse for posting a message on Facebook about animal research is keeping her alive (expect us to write more on this in the coming days). See her message below:

Translation: ""I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals. Without research, I would have been dead at nine""

Translation: “I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals. Without research, I would have been dead at nine”

In our blog, we spent a fair bit of time looking at the process of drug development and the regulations involved. In 2013, the UK transposed EU Directive 2010/63/EU, updating and harmonising animal research regulation in the EU, into UK law. The EU released its 2012 statistics on animal research. We wrote about how research progresses from an idea to a study and clarified differences between “animal testing” and “animal research”. Expect us to continue such posts.

Animal rights activism also persisted through 2013. PETA’s ongoing campaign against UW Madison involved celebrities crashing meetings (among other celebrity shenanigans), creating video games where characters must beat up scientists (also see PETA’s pathetic defence), putting out expensive bus adverts condemning UW Madison, and generally ignoring all inspections that found no wrongdoing by the University of Wisconsin Madison. We have discussed PETA in other contexts, such as the hypocrisy of one of scientific consultants, Dr Laurence A. Hansen. Activity by groups like PETA made us look long and hard about what makes a good response to animal rights allegations.

As usual there was much debunking of animal rights misinformation. Prof Robin Lovell-Badge provided us with two posts which dealt with statistics which are misused by members of the animal rights community – one on the FDA’s drug failure rates, and a second on the success rate of animal research. Mark Wanner of Jackson Labs explained why failures in some animal models do not mean failures in others. We spent time debunking the Huffington Post diatribes of Aysha Akhtar, twice, as well as putting the story straight on the history of diabetes, and debunking the myths of a new UK activist group, For Life on Earth.

We had a variety of guest posters this year which included Kelly Walton explaining why she became a laboratory animal veterinarianPeter Wright discussing UK regulations, and Brian Anderson explaining how animal research was saving the life of his daughter Liviya, who suffers from aplastic anemia. We will be hoping for many more guest posts in 2014, and encourage people to write about their research in the Speaking of Your Research series.

Thank you to all who have followed us this year. Please continue to help us, reading and sharing our writings, in the hope we can make 2014 the best year for animal research outreach yet.

Speaking of Research

Target of animal rights protests kicks off animal research ethics forum

This article was written by Chris Barncard and originally posted on the University of Wisconsin-Madison news website. It has been reproduced with permission. The article mentions SR committee member, Dario Ringach, who will be speaking at 7 p.m., Oct. 24 in the Madison Public Library’s Central Branch, 201 W. Mifflin St., Madison, Wisconsin, US.

Any research that includes animals presents ethical questions, but they are questions Dario Ringach believes we rarely address together.

“There is a moral dilemma everyone has to recognize,” says Ringach, a professor of neurobiology and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Rejecting that isn’t responsible, and is not based on any sound ethical thinking. But once we recognize that, there is a very useful discussion to have.”

Ringach, the next speaker in UW–Madison’s Forum on Animal Research Ethics (FARE) series, believes that nearly all conversation on the controversial topic is driven by the most extreme opinions on the issue.

Dario Ringach

Dario Ringach

He was invited to deliver a lecture — “The Ethical Dilemma of Animal Research,” at 7 p.m., Oct. 24 in the Madison Public Library’s Central Branch, 201 W. Mifflin St. — because he hopes to bring some informed discussion to the middle.

“Dario has been very interactive with the public on this issue,” says Eric Sandgren, director of UW–Madison’s Research Animal Resource Center and a FARE organizer. “He is one of the few people out there from the scientific community actually engaging people in conversation about the ethics of animal research no matter their background or stated feelings on the topic, and that is exactly the point of FARE.”

The forum, which began in 2011 to provide a venue for discourse on the use of animals in science, is free and open to the public. Speakers — including researchers who conduct experiments that include animals, scientists advocating limited use, philosophers and animal rights leaders — have been chosen by a committee representing campus and the Madison community.

Ringach, who studies the way the brain represents images, knows the arguments of those who oppose animal research well.

He became a target of animal rights groups more than a decade ago while working with non-human primates in his UCLA lab, and his family endured some rough treatment.

“In my case, late at night, anywhere between 30 to 40 people wearing ski masks would surround my house, banging on windows, chanting that they are going to burn the house down,” Ringach says.

A colleague was singled out by activists who left an unlit Molotov cocktail on her doorstep as a message — though they got the address wrong, and delivered it to the scientist’s neighbor.

“When this happens, you are forced to ask yourself what kind of beliefs drive these people to act this way,” Ringach says. “That’s how I got interested in the moral philosophy behind this movement.”

That philosophy is not always articulated by the critics of animal research in a way that acknowledges the true moral dilemma, according to Allyson Bennett, a UW–Madison psychology professor who blogs with Ringach on animal research at

“The speakers on the animal rights side often do not articulate their position — as in, are there any instances in which your ethics would allow animal research?” Bennett says. “And they will almost never acknowledge that there is any benefit from animal research. You can’t have a genuine discussion about the ethics without that.”

Ringach’s run-in with protestors was well known, but it did not keep him from writing and speaking about the issue.

“What happened to Dario was a wake-up call to the scientific community,” Bennett says, and one example of intimidation she worries will keep grad students from entering academic research, and chase the work into parts of the world that have not established the sort of structure and oversight established in the United States.

While it was terrifying for Ringach and his family, the experience did not keep him from conducting research with animal models. These days his lab includes mice in its work. And it only served to focus his thinking on the animal research issue.

“I felt an obligation to defend work that I think is producing the benefits that will improve the lives of my children and the children of others. There are lives at stake here,” says Ringach, who plans to leave plenty of time for discussion with the audience after his FARE presentation. “And I believe scientists have the obligation to talk to people about their work, but you should not be obligated to talk to someone who says it is justifiable to kill you.”

To read more about Professor Ringach’s activities within FARE, check out his writings in this area and about the FARE series:

Frequently Asked Questions up on Website

We have just put a new FAQ up on the website which covers five of the most frequently asked questions we get about animal research. They are:

  • Aren’t animals different than people?
  • Don’t we have alternatives to animal research?
  • Is all research on cats, dogs and primates?
  • Don’t the animals suffer in experiments?
  • Who cares for animals’ welfare in labs?

It is important that the scientific community deals with all types of queries from the public about animal testing. This FAQ aims to address some of the most basic questions that those interested about animal experiments may have, however it is also important to debunk many of the myths which are propagated by animal rights groups (e.g. Doesn’t aspirin kill cats).

Speaking of Research aims to provide clear and accurate information about the role of animals in research. If you feel there is more information that would be helpful then please let us know.