Monthly Archives: October 2009

So, what have we learned about the Brain?

One hundred years ago we knew almost nothing about the brain.  By all measures, neuroscience is really a field in its early infancy. What have we learned in this short period?  How has animals work contributed?

Follow Charlie Rose in a his new “Brain Series” as he covers and celebrate the accomplishments of neuroscientists.

In his first episode, aired last night, Charlie Rose  along with Co-Host Eric Kandel from Columbia University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Nobel prize in Medicine) discusses the mysteries of the brain, including consciousness, free will, perception, cognition, emotion and memory with a roundtable of notable researchers.

UCLA challenges AR misinformation

In the rush of other news including the SfN conference and the Pro-Test for Science gathering I forgot to mention this important development.

On Sunday, October 18th, UCLA put a full page advert in the LA Times aimed at educating the public on the important role of animals in lifesaving medical research. On top of this it spells out its opposition to animal rights extremism and urges readers to sign the Pro-Test Petition.

Inroads against disease can originate from a variety of sources. Yet there is overwhelming agreement among physicians, veterinarians and scientists that laboratory animals provide invaluable and irreplaceable models for human systems and for how the human body functions. While the vast majority of research conducted at UCLA does not involve the use of animals,this work has played an essential role in creating lifesaving breakthroughs that could not have been accomplished without it.

View the full advert here.

UCLA Advert LA TimesIt is bold actions like this, aimed at winning hearts and minds, which can have the most effect in dismantling support for extremist actions, and consequently their activities. Speaking of Research applaud this step forward in clearly explaining why animal research is crucial for medical progress. I finish this post as the advert does, by urging readers who have not done so to sign the Pro-Test Petition.

UCLA needs and welcomes your support on this critical issue. While questioning our work is everyone’s right, attacking our researchers and administrators is criminal. To add your name to thousands who’ve signed a Pro-Test petition that supports this necessary work, please visit www.raisingvoices.net.

Regards

Tom Holder

Pro-Test for Science: Pushing forward… and pushing back

It was warm and sunny Saturday evening when approximately 120 people gathered in support of the use of animals in biomedical research at the corner of LeConte and Westwood on the UCLA campus.

Pro-Test for Science organized the event in response to a demonstration organized by Michael Budkie (Stop Animal Exploitation Now!) that was taking place simultaneously across the street.

Like the April rally, our group was composed of members of the entire biomedical research family (faculty, physicians, students and animal care staff).

Researchers stand up to defend science

Researchers stand up to defend science

Theirs, as far as we could tell, was composed from representatives of animal rights organizations to a few individuals covering their faces with bandannas and sunglasses.  Their group totaled about about 50 people.

Despite various attempts from animal right activists to provoke us by crossing the street and occluding our signs, or by conducting video interviews that would be more appropriately described as interrogations, our group remained calm and explained our reasons for being there in support of research.

One encouraging sign that some progress is being made was that some activists crossed the street to debate our mutual positions in a civil way (as civil as we have ever seen), not just screaming at us, but stopping to listen as well.  Others, unfortunately, decided to stay on the other side and continue their usual screaming of obscenities and threats through bull horns, claiming that science has never produced relief for human suffering, that scientists are only after the money (along with many conspiracy theories), and that we deserve to be the targets of violent attacks.  Many openly argued that any well-respected social movement is entitled to their underground terrorist wing. We know for a fact that a number of animal right activists left at this point in disgust.

Their group lit candles to honor the lives of the animals used by UCLA.  Our group lit candles too.  They were to honor both the lives of the animals as well as to those of the thousands of patients dying today across the world from multiple diseases we are working to find cures for.

Overall this was a very successful event.  Our message was heard loud and clear.  Pro-Test for Science will always be there to stand for the responsible use of animals in research.  We will be there to present our side of the story; to counteract the mis-information and mis-representation of our work by some animal right activists.  We will be there to talk to whoever wants to engage in a civil discussion, and to condemn those that support violence.

If there was one clear take home message is this: every day more and more scientists are deciding that it is time to voice their opinions and to stand up for research.  Pro-Test for Science is now here to stay, to spread across US campuses, and reach out across the ocean to join the global movement of scientists, policy makers and the public that will defend science, reason, and the responsible use of animals in biomedical research.

Regards

Pro-Test for Science

Pro-Test for Science work to educate the public

Pro-Test for Science (formerly UCLA Pro-Test) are coordinating a gathering of like minded people this Saturday on the edge of the UCLA campus. Building on previous successes they aim to address many of the spurious claims made by animal rights activists. Speaking of Research urge anyone in the area to go and support them in this endeavour.

Press release below:

Members of the UCLA Community to Gather to Endorse the Value and Humane Nature of Biomedical Research involving Animals

On October 24, 2009 at 5 PM, members of the UCLA and Los Angeles communities will gather on the UCLA campus to show their strong support for humane, regulated biomedical research, including that involving laboratory animals, and to directly rebut the increasingly misleading claims made by animal rights activists and extremists regarding the crucial work being undertaken on our campus. The event is coordinated by Pro-Test for Science, a group founded at UCLA, whose mission includes supporting the regulated use of animals in research and assisting researchers who are harassed for their work. Professors David Jentsch and Dario Ringach, themselves targets of animal rights extremists, will be on hand to set the record straight about the exceptional benefits to human and animal welfare that stem from research at UCLA and to address pernicious mistruths about the conduct of researchers and research on our campus.

At the same time, a group of anti-animal research activists and extremists is expected to congregate nearby. False claims by anti-animal research groups about UCLA research have led to costly investigations by the National Institutes of Health and US Department of Agriculture, conducted at taxpayer expense, that have found the campus was conducting research appropriately and humanely. Nevertheless, these groups continue to spread lies in order to disrupt crucial research. On the evening of October 24, their continuing lies and deceptions will not go un-answered.

Saturday, October 24 2009; 5-8 PM

UCLA Campus – Northwest Corner of Le Conte and Westwood Blvd.

Media contacts to David Jentsch or Dario Ringach at pro.test.for.science@gmail.com (or at 310-825-8258).

Speaking of Neuroscience

All three organizations behind the Pro-Test Petition came together in support of lifesaving research at the Society for Neuroscience this weekend gone. Both Pro-Test for Science founder, David Jentsch, and Speaking of Research founder, Tom Holder, made appearances at Americans for Medical Progress’ booth to encourage students and scientists to sign the petition. The petition, now at well over 11,000 signatories, recently gained the backing of the Society for the Study of Reproduction who emailed all their members – adding their name to the list of bioscience organisations in supports including the American Physiological Society and the Society for Neuroscience.

Holder also addressed scientists during the “Animals in Research Workshop: Widening the Tent: Building Support, Creating New Allies for Animal Research“. The workshop was chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Kordower, who recently wrote an article for the Journal of Neuroscience about the need to address animal rights extremism in the US. The first speaker, Jasper Daube – Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic – talked of the importance of using a wide range of social media to bring our message to the public. The second speaker, Robin Elliott, urged scientists and institutions to contact Patient Advocacy Groups – a natural ally of modern research – to get involved. Elliott also mentioned the problem that a passionate majority will trump a quiet majority – a point picked up by Tom Holder during his talk on getting the science community to stand up publicly for research. Holder spoke of the change in public opinion in the UK, and parallels with the US before offering some practical suggestions on how the science community must approach this issue. Finally Helmut Kettenmann, President of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, talked about the new European Directive on animal research. One particularly good idea made in this final speech was for scientists to encourage their PhD students to give local school talks on the importance of animal models – such students are often more energetic and of a closer age to their high school counterparts.

PeTA (People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals) also made an appearance. After a national press release they attracted a grand total of nine activists to stand outside the SfN conference wielding emotive and completely out of context images of animals in research. When approached, the activists appeared to have no idea of where, when, or even what country, the pictures on their banners were from.

To finish with a quote – the blog Neurotopia covered the Animals in Research workshop:

I got to hear Tom Holder, the founder of Speaking of Research , talk about the progress that has been made. In the UK, people have vocally supported animal research, marches in support have easily outnumbered and overwhelmed the vocal minority. In the US, that is not yet the case, scientists are still scared.

But, as David Jentsch told me later, we cannot let fear hold us back, we need to let our outrage overwhelm the fear that we are all feeling. And we are outraged. In biomedical research, we scientists have made huge strides in developing cures for illness. Cancer drugs, psychiatric medications, the new flu vaccine, treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, arthritis. We need animals to do our research. We use other techniques in cells and humans, of course, but the fact is, we just don’t know enough about the body to make non-animal models which are useful.

Regards

James

Society for Neuroscience 2009

The 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience will take place in Chicago from the 17th- 21st October. During this time some of the greatest minds in medical research will meet at McCormick Place to participate in workshops, lectures and symposia. Neuroscience is one of the fields of science most reliant on animal research, partly because few “alternatives” can begin to mimic the complexities of the brain. Scientists are moving ever closer to newer and more innovative treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases – with animal models being crucial to our understanding of these pathologies.

Speaking of Research will also be making an appearance. Founder, Tom Holder, will be speaking at the “Animals in Research Workshop: Widening the Tent: Building Support, Creating New Allies for Animal Research“. It is important that anyone wishing to attend this lecture must RSVP beforehand by contacting Laura Martin on lmartin@sfn.org.

Given the growing threats to animal research, the research community must explore ways to develop new allies to promote responsible animal research. This workshop will examine how to “widen the tent” by involving patient groups, health care providers, industry and others who have a vested interest in protecting responsible animal research. Participants also will focus on broadening the base of support by engaging leaders worldwide on the health and scientific breakthroughs made possible through animal research.

Other speakers include:
Jasper Daube, MD – Professor of Neurology, Mayo Clinic
Robin Elliott – Executive Director, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation
Helmut Kettenmann, PhD – President, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies

The talk will be on Monday October, 19th from 9am – 11am, in room S402A.

Holder will be in Chicago from 3pm Saturday to 5pm Monday. If you wish to contact him while he is there please do so through his American mobile – 310-994-8103, or email him on tom@speakingofresarch.com.

Regards

Speaking of Research

Addenum

Tom’s mobile is not working due to some problem with AT&T – this is no longer his phone number. Please do not contact it – instead use his email – tom@speakingofresearch.com

Activists try “Climate of Fear” approach!

The recent success of the Pro-Test Petition (10,000 signatures and counting) has caused stirs among animal rights activists. Two extremist blogs – the Thomas Paine’s Corner (which we have previously mentioned and is staffed by a number of ALF Press Officers) and the Negotiation is Over blog (which we have also mentioned), decided to encourage other activists to harass scientists who had signed the Pro-Test Petition.

The petition is both a directory of people whose minds need to be changed (and in many cases whose behavior needs to be changed) … Please select as many names from the petition as you see fit and contact these individuals as soon as possible. Some common names may be difficult to trace to the particular individual but many names will not be difficult (particularly if they have listed educational credentials or academic titles with their name).

It is only just the someone who opts to take a public position in favor of violence toward animals receive some negative feedback from more compassionate individuals such as the many dedicated activists who read this blog.

The effect is to create a climate of fear among scientists whereby they do not feel secure enough to speak up about their research or the research of others. Pro-Test for Science and Americans for Medical Progress have responded by emailing signatories and urging them to ignore any harassment (and to report it to us – contact@speakingofresearch.com), a response to which SR adds its name. Thus far we have not heard of anyone who signed being contacted by activists.

Pro-TestPetitionBannerAMPHomePage

The petition is a good example of safety in numbers and the importance of standing up together to defend research – it becomes almost impossible for activists to effectively isolate and target individuals. This is what happened in the UK with the original Pro-Test movement and the subsequent “People’s Petition” which attracted over 20,000 signatories. So if you haven’t signed the Pro-Test Petition there is never a better time than right now!

A couple of blogs have also rallied round in defence of the petition such as Lousy Canuck and Traumatized By Truth:

So please, if you have not signed, now is the time to lend your support. Let these vile cretins know that you support science, you support medicine, you support a better understanding of disease, you support new medicines and improving old ones.

Let them know you support a better future for your parents, your children, your grandchildren, your friends – yourself. Let them know you support the scientists who are helping make that better future and will not tolerate violence against them.

Remember – the actions of the animal rights activists reflect the reasons behind our creation of the Pro-Test Petition. The more they harass us, the stronger our resolve must be to overcome it.

Cheers

Tom Holder