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.