Speaking of Research is delighted to see the reasoned and strong stance taken by a target of an animal activist campaign in Florida.
Several months ago we wrote about an ongoing campaign against a Florida scientific supply company, Primate Products, Inc. Animal activists had used leaked photographs of injured monkeys to generate wild and poorly educated speculation about animal treatment. In news reports the company president explained that the monkeys had been socially-housed, had engaged in fighting with each other, and had been injured. The photographs show animals that are sedated in order to safely and humanely receive veterinary treatment for serious injuries that are in the process of healing.
As reported by us here and by Ed Silverman at Pharmalot, the federal agency charged with oversight, the United States Department of Agriculture, performed an investigation in response to the allegations made by PeTA and other animal activist groups. The USDA inspection report confirmed that no non-compliant items were identified during the inspection on September 20, 2010.
Regardless of the facts, the story was used to fuel a sustained campaign that has included hostile demonstrations at the private family homes of individuals who work for the company, as well as at the business itself. Now the campaign has extended to another company, an airline that—amongst its other business activities– transports research animals. Animal activist groups have pressured Amerijet to stop transport of animals to research facilities with protests at both the homes of Amerijet employees and at the business.
Despite the targeting of Amerijet’s employees, the company has not bowed under this pressure. Amerijet’s CEO, David G. Basset, responded to animal activists with a strong statement that can be read here in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times blog. In the letter, Basset discusses the reasons that his company will “stand by our decision to transport animals and will continue in the future to serve the needs of our customers for animal transport.”
Basset also speaks out against threatening actions and calls upon the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida to denounce these tactics:
Unfortunately, we believe the tactics that have been engaged in or that are planned for the near future by some individuals or groups that have targeted Amerijet are the sort of animal rights extremist actions that federal laws, including the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, are intended to protect law-abiding citizens against – including our employees and customers. We have made the decision to continue to transport animals after careful consideration, and we will not be deterred by what we consider to be unlawful threats, harassment or intimidation of our employees or customers or acts of vandalism or property damage. Instead, we are prepared to defend our employees, our customers, and our business to the full extent of the law.
You have called upon us to consider our position regarding transporting animals, and we have done so thoughtfully and believe we have responded to you honestly and forthrightly despite our differences of opinion. We now ask you to consider the actions and anticipated actions of individuals and groups that ARFF appears to have aligned itself with against Amerijet. We call upon you to publicly denounce any tactic that may intimidate, harass, or cause fear among our employees or our customers simply because they do not agree with those who hold a contrary view.”
Speaking of Research applauds Amerijet and David Basset for standing by their principles and for providing a thoughtful response that shares the reasons for their decision. We also hope that the local Florida media that have written about this story will seek out additional facts in order to provide accurate representation to the public. As it stands, for the Broward-Palm Beach New Times to continue to post the leaked monkey photographs without acknowledging either the explanations of their content, or subsequent USDA inspection reports which found no deficiencies at the company is both inaccurate and misleading.
Uncritical repetition of animal activists’ claims is hardly good journalism, a point made well by science blogger DrugMonkey in response to initial coverage of the leaked photos. And as science blogger Isis the Scientist wrote in a post titled “A Picture May Be Worth 1,000 Words, But They May Not Be The Truth”:
This made me think of my recent foray into the realm of anaphylaxis. If you walked into an emergency room and took a picture, without context or a base of knowledge from which to evaluate the photo, any number of horrendous stories could be concocted around the photo and sold to the public.” (Go over to Isis’ blog to read more and view the photo that makes the point so well.)
The Broward-Palm Beach New Times might consider this and examine more closely the claims made by activist groups before repeating them.
Speaking of Research
The views expressed on this blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Wake Forest University Health Sciences.