Speaking in Nature

One of our own members, David Bienus, a animal care technician who recently wrote about his experiences of animal welfare in labs, has got his letter into the esteemed science journal Nature, a portion of which can be seen below:

nature-bienusIn your Editorial ‘Against vicious activism’ (Nature 457, 636; 2009), you call for scientists and the authorities to stand up for animal research in basic and applied science. However, you may be putting the cart before the horse in recommending that officials and politicians become advocates of animal research in order to encourage individual scientists to do so.

In the United Kingdom, it was the actions of individual scientists — and of members of the public who joined the Pro-Test demonstration in Oxford in February 2006 and signed the Coalition for Medical Progress’s petition — that gave politicians and other public figures the encouragement they needed to come out in support of animal research. The lesson to be learned from the UK experience is that scientists at the universities being targeted by extremists, alongside students and advocacy groups, must be encouraged to stand up and be counted. Only then can they expect others less directly involved to take an unequivocal public stand.

The truth, uncomfortable though it may be, is that — as with many controversial areas of science — those working with animals in research must make a public case to justify their use, and must be willing to show unequivocal support for colleagues who speak up. Do that, and the rest will follow.

David Bienus

David makes many good points including that scientists must stand up and make the case for themselves – but we all need to help them get the confidence to do it. The corresponding editorial piece also brought a nice mention to the UK organization Pro-Test (you can read more about Pro-Test on this site):

Britain again provides a good model in the form of Pro-Test, an activist group for those supporting animal research. Its efforts in Oxford have given a public face to supporters of animal testing.

Well it seems the wait is over, as our previous posts mention that students and scientists at UCLA are to march on April 22nd in support of lifesaving medical research and against those who would see it banned. More information on the UCLA Pro-Test page. On this note, the Respectful Insolence blog is the latest to be spreading news of the UCLA Pro-Test demonstration.



3 responses to “Speaking in Nature

  1. The limitation of computer simulation is that it’s only as good as the information put into it. And where has this information come from? Animal testing. So it’s a great tool for replacing some research and enhancing others, but it can’t replace animal research all together.

  2. Denis Alexander

    The answer is much shorter: if we could simulate the human body then it simply means that you know everything there is to know about it. Our job will be done. Being able to simulate biological systems accurately is the ultimate goal — not the means to achieve it.

  3. The computer scientist Mark Chu-Carroll has a good post on why computer simulations cannot replace yet animals in medical research.


    I can’t disagree with anything he says, computer simulations are an increasingly important tool in the life sciences, being used in every field from studying how epidemics spread to how a drug might affect living systems, but while they are increasingly used alongside animal (and in vitro) studies and may begin to replace some they will not be able to completely replace animal research for decades to come.