On a beautiful sunny day in Los Angeles, Pro-Test for Science organizers arrived at the junction of Le Conte and Westwood, on the edge of the UCLA campus, with armfuls of placards in support of animal research. Within ten minutes every placard had found a new owner as hundreds of scientists, students and members of the public showed up to support the cause. Those gathering chatted together, sharing their reasons for attending the rally.
Those participating were not limited to the UCLA community. Faculty from University of Southern California, California Institute of Technology, and California State University – Los Angeles, all came out to demonstrate their support for lifesaving medical research using animals. Soon the chants began to ring out – “Penicillin? ANIMAL RESEARCH! Insulin? ANIMAL RESEARCH! Vaccines? ANIMAL RESEARCH! Anaesthetics? ANIMAL RESEARCH!” A short while later, when the crowd had swelled further, the rally set off towards the center of the UCLA campus.
The mood was one of excitement and passion. Those participating exchanged ideas for public outreach in the future – sharing the best of ways of explaining to the public the clear connection between animal research and medical benefits. The rally continued to snake along Westwood and up towards Wilson Plaza.
As the rally turned into Wilson Plaza, passing the top of Bruin Walk, hundreds of students turned their heads towards the march, many shouting words of encouragement or joining in the rally.
Eventually the tail end of the rally reached the destination (some time after the front end due to the length), and Tom Holder brought the crowd together for a picture perfect moment of solidarity before shouting “What do we need?”. “Animal Research” replied the hundreds of voices in unison.
Holder then introduced the first speaker, Prof. David Jentsch – founder of Pro-Test for Science and member of the Speaking of Research committee – who took the microphone to rapturous applause. David spoke of the progress of Pro-Test for Science, and the struggle against animal rights extremists in UCLA. He took the time to thank each of the individuals who had made the 2010 rally possible eliciting a cheer from the crowd as each name was called. Jentsch then passed over to Tom Holder, founder of Speaking of Research.
Holder thanked the crowd, insisting that UCLA were winning in their battle against extremists. However he warned the crowd against complacency – saying that public outreach was the only way to win this battle in the long run. Holder also announced the success of the Pro-Test Petition, which had gained 11,621 signatures over the previous year (including Nobel Prize Laureates, and every chancellor in the UC system, including UC President Mark Yudof). He finished by announcing the presentation of the signatures to Dr. Kevin Quinn, Dr. Michael Steinmetz.
Dr. Quinn, the Chief of Behavioural Science and Intergrative Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), accepted one copy of the petition on behalf of NIMH. Quinn spoke of the important role that animal research has in our understanding of Mental Health problems:
“Animal research conducted in a humane, ethical and responsible manner is absolutely critical … to understand, treat and cure mental disorders”
Dr. Michael Steinmetz, program director of the National Eye Institute, talked of the medical breakthroughs in vision. He spoke particularly of Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a form of blindess which affects thousands of people across the United States. Through research in mice and then dogs (Briards), scientists found a way of inserting a gene into the eye through a virus, which could corect the problem.
“The National Eye Institute supports strongly the use of appropriate animal models in research, not just for the big clinical advances but for the many, many years of basic science that it takes to discover the underlying biological principles”
Jentsch then returned to the stage to introduce UC Executive Vice-Chancellor, Scott Waugh. Waugh offered his continued support to researchers at UCLA, mentioning that the Pro-Test for Science movement has played an important role in bolstering support for research. He congratulated Jentsch and Ringach for organizing the February pabel debate, explaining that “violence, threats and other criminal activity are never a viable alternative to dialogue”.
Jentsch and Holder finished the rally by talking of the importance of continued education and outreach.