In the days since the announcement that I had received a letter containing heinous death threats and razor blades from animal rights extremists opposed to my research, the voices of sanity and reason have started to be heard. From scientific and professional societies to non-scientists across the country, there is a strong support for the notion that biomedical research involving animals contributes irreplaceably to advancements in human and animal health and that because the use of animals in this research is responsible and humane, it is also justifiable and ethical. Many of these messages show particular support for our repudiation of these threats and our unwavering intention to continue the work that we feel morally obliged to conduct despite them.
In particular, scientific and professional societies have stepped up to voice their support for humane and responsible animal use in biomedical research and to condemn, in the clearest manner possible, the threats made by animal rights extremists against researchers.
The American Society of Primatologists, the nation’s leading scientific group dedicated to the study of “nonhuman primates, including their biology, care, and conservation” took the lead in a resolution posted to their website.
The American Society of Primatologists condemns these terrorist actions. Terrorism does not, and will not, contribute to the betterment of animal welfare. Nor does it contribute to civil dialogue and thoughtful consideration of the role of responsible, humanely-conducted and ethical animal-based research in contributing to scientific and medical advances.
The American Society of Primatologists calls upon groups and individuals concerned with animal welfare to join in universal and public condemnation of all terrorist activities directed at members of the scientific community.
The American Medical Veterinary Association is comprised of more than 80,000 member veterinarians who are dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. They reasserted their position in a recent press release, also posted on their website.
Animals play a central and essential role in research, testing and education for continued improvement in the health and welfare of human beings and other animals. … The use of animals used in research, testing and education is a privilege carrying with it unique professional, scientific and moral obligations.
… America has no room for terrorist activities that threaten not only that discourse but the lives of our scientists and their families. We condemn all acts of violence, vandalism and intimidation directed toward individuals and facilities engaged in the ethical use of animals for research.
This position is paralleled by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) who, in a statement on their website, affirms their commitment to preserving laboratory animal welfare in the context of humane research aimed at conquering human disease.
“Acts of terrorism do not result in improvements in animal welfare. Progress comes only from thoughtful discussion and scientific assessment of alternative methods that refine the animal research process–efforts that AALAS itself fosters through educational and scientific programs. Terrorism in the name of “animal rights” jeopardizes the lives of people and animals–in the present by the violence itself, and in the future by hindering the progress of ethical animal-based research designed to find cures and treatments for diseases that affect humans and animals. The AALAS membership extends heartfelt support to our scientific colleagues and their families who have been affected by threats and acts of violence.”
Finally, leading scientific societies have spoken up as well. The Society for Neuroscience, , the world’s leading organization of scientists dedicated to exploration of the brain and its diseases, released a statement on this matter.
The Society stands united with Dr. Jentsch, the members of his team, and all researchers who use animal models to advance scientific discovery, and SfN is committed to promoting public awareness of the vital role of animals in research and supporting all scientists that come under attack.
The American Physiological Society, which represents more than 10,000 members devoted to fostering education, scientific research, and dissemination of information in the physiological sciences, posted a policy statement to their website supporting, in the broadest manner, researchers under attack and the value of the work that they do.
…[M]any scientists … have been harassed or threatened because they work with animals. Research involving animals plays an essential role in efforts to discover causes, preventions, treatments, and cures for disease. Knowledge obtained through research with animals has saved many lives and improved the quality of life for millions of people and animals. Scientists recognize that they have ethical duties both to relieve suffering through research as well as to provide humane care for research animals. Moreover, the use of animals in research is subject to strict regulatory oversight.
The American Physiological Society condemns extremist actions against researchers in the strongest possible terms: It is thuggery, pure and simple. Harassment, threats, and violence contribute nothing to the betterment of animal welfare, nor do they promote dialogue or thoughtful consideration of serious issues.
Additionally, I have received countless emails and phone calls from individuals around the country who have felt the sting of mental illness in their own lives, or in the lives of those they love. Not surprisingly, I have also been the recipient of emails encouraging me to stop conducting animal research, but those missives are outnumbered more than 10-to-1 by expressions of appreciation and gratitude for biomedical researchers. People from all walks of life have chimed in, expressing their personal and unwavering belief that animal use in medical research is justifiable and ethical.
A science educator from the upper mid-west:
Thank you for sticking up for all those hard working folks who do science each and every day… not to get rich… but because they love people, they love animals, and they are deeply committed to their mission to make this world a better place.
A university undergraduate student from the Pacific northwest:
I write to express my support for your research and to note that I greatly respect your decision not to be dissuaded by terrorist tactics. The benefits of your research into chemical dependence and schizophrenia are and will continue to be considerable, and the use of animal subjects in this case is, in my opinion, amply justified. You have my continuing support and the support of many other informed individuals.
A Los Angeles local:
Thank you for your research into addiction and cognitive changes in schizophrenia. And a special thanks for not being bowed by extremist Animal Rights people. It’s the people like you who are working so hard to help us.
Years ago, I read an article in the LA Times about a lab … that was burned to the ground by these dangerous individuals. That lab lost over 10 years of research into Osteoarthritis…
Flash forward a decade and I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, rheumatoid arthritis. Nothing like getting a chronic illness of your own to realize how important research is to the patient.
A bio-technology researcher from the mid-Atlantic:
All of us in science are working to improve the lives of all, and to relieve suffering wherever we can. The fact that our work is now used as an indictment against us by vigilante thugs is inexcusable. Thanks for your courage in standing up to their threats, always shrouded in the cowardice of anonymity, while you try to lead your life in public without compromising your ideals and scientific goals. Good luck to you and to your collaborators.
The idea of such misguided activists destroying the lives of world-class researchers through their tasteless, violent tactics is atrocious.
These attacks should create concern for the community at large, because the implications are far-reaching. Medical breakthroughs occur in large part as a result of the valuable research that scientists perform.
Mailing blades to a researcher and continuing threats on his life endangers future progress and is a threat to every UCLA student, faculty member and researcher.
Intimidation and death threats should never be the solution, no matter how bad an action may seem to somebody. What ever happened to dialogue?
These statements indicate that scientists and non-scientists alike often stand strong in support of biomedical research and understand that there are circumstances where the use of animal models is justifiable. These messages further expose just how much damage to their own credibility animal rights extremists cause when they continue to use fists, razors and hate speech to push their agenda.
My colleagues, trainees and I extend our most heart-felt thanks to all that have reached out to offer support, as well as to those who quietly support research and researchers around the world. The attacks by animal rights activists are insidious and discouraging, but the voices of encouragement, coupled to our knowledge that the work is ethical and responsible, ensure that we will continue pursuing solutions for the problems of human and animal health that biomedical investigation can address. Our experience underscores the notion that vocal support for research and researchers ensures overwhelming support and appreciation, and we call on others to join us in our effort.