Our recent panel discussion on the science and ethics of medical research using animals gathered panelists in favor and opposed to such investigations. By all measures, the event turned out to be a very productive exercise in civil discourse.
An encouraging sign was the fact that several animal right activists in the audience came to me to express their gratitude for my participation in the event. This reinforced the view held by many that we have finally cracked opened a new line of communication channel between groups with opposing views on this topic.
As expected, the success of the event was not universally welcome. Threats and intimidation tactics against those that participated in the event resumed after the event, evoking a strong response from the scientific community and our own colleagues at UCLA. It is now reassuring to see this response strengthened by various statements from prominent figures of the animal rights movement which are advocating for dialogue and calling for a cessation of such activities:
Shannon Keith, Esq., Director and Producer of Behind the Mask and Skin Trade, said:
“The recent dialogue that took place at UCLA was a wonderful breakthrough in the much-needed communication between animal welfare advocates and those in the animal testing field.
I cannot emphasize enough how critical open dialogue is to further a constructive merging of two areas of thought, that will hopefully be a means to assisting in more humane standards for animals used in science, as well as engaging in discussions about the elimination of animals used in medical research and the alternatives readily available.
Knowing that these researchers are willing to engage in peaceful, rational and progressive discussions is very hopeful.
We would hope that, as long as these lines of communication remain open, that resistance on either side will subside in order to facilitate positive change.”
Bryan Monell and Chris DeRose from Last Chance for Animals offer the thought that:
“The animal rights philosophy is based on respect for all life and that extends to our adversaries’ families. LCA is opposed to targeting anyone’s children. This is counter productive and the antithesis of the animal rights philosophy.”
One of the panelists in the event, Dr. Ray Greek, of Americans for Medical Advancement, who had previously condemned the intimidation and harassment of scientists, had this to add:
“Future dialogue and debate would be a win for science and a loss for those advocating violence.”
Such expressions reinforce the joint statement issued by Bruins for Animals and Pro-Test for Science with the explicit offer that:
“Anyone willing to participate in an honest, rational and open dialogue is welcome at the table.”
and the recent statement of the UCLA Academic Freedom Committee that:
“ Academic freedom, the freedom to participate openly in these debates, is one of the pillars of higher education throughout the world. “
Clearly, dialogue is gaining momentum all around.