The North American Animal Liberation Press Office drew upon the recent profile of UCLA researchers by the Chronicle of Higher Education in a recent post (warning: extremist website), boasting that information in the article:
validates activists’ tactics and achievements in making the abuse of animals more costly and dangerous for the evil men and women who insist on putting their own careers and greed over the suffering and lives of innocent animals.
What the statement by NAALPO misses, in its simple-minded misstatements of facts regarding research at UCLA, is that biomedical research, including that which involves animal subjects, is going strong on this campus, as it is on others across the world. Certainly, my own research, which in part focuses on the biological mechanisms that mediate addictions, continues unabated. It is humane and responsible, and it progresses. Insinuating that animal rights activists have driven down the number of animals used at UCLA, the NAALPO author indicates that the Chronicle article fails:
…to account for the hundreds of lemur monkeys recently transferred from UCLA to an east coast institution when Lynn Fairbanks gave up her research on them here.
Firstly, lemurs are not monkeys; they are prosimians. Secondly, UCLA never had a colony of lemurs; the animal resource in question is a colony of pedigreed vervet monkeys that now resides at the Wake Forest Primate Research Center. Thirdly, according to Lynn Fairbanks – a member of the Speaking of Research and Pro-test for Science committees,
our partnership with [Wake] has enabled us to expand our research on environmental and genetic origins of psychopathology.
Commenting on the move, David Friedman, professor of physiology and associate dean for research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who uses behaviorally phenotyped colony animals in his own research on the etiology of alcoholism, told us that:
The vervet research colony was relocated in order to facilitate research teams and institutions working together to concentrate expertise and promote collaboration and to maximize the use of an invaluable animal model for research relevant to a broad range of diseases, including addiction, psychiatric disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and aging. Having the colony at Wake Forest facilitates all these efforts and helps to make sure the resource can be even more widely shared and well utilized than it has been in the past”
Dr. Fairbanks continues making important discoveries by studying these vervet monkeys, discoveries that will contribute to the understanding of the causes of behavioral problems like impulse control disorders, and she remains an important advocate for humane biomedical research on animals.
The three serious failures of fact in this one sentence in the NAALPO statement alone belie the ignorance of the entire posting.
What the NAALPO author also misses is that animal numbers usually decrease when a particular program of research is completed and the resulting discoveries are discussed and translated into clinical research, and ultimately to benefits for human society. They also sometimes decrease when scientists discover new ways to refine their procedures and when technological advances permit reductions in numbers of subjects needed to make discoveries.
The NAALPO author goes on to obsess over the costs of federally-funded research at UCLA and the security measures to protect researchers from violent animal rights extremists. What they seem unable to understand is the cost of not doing research… that a human life – that of your child, your mother or your best friend – has no price tag. These costs are easily justified by the need to ensure that families everywhere are able to live happy and healthy lives.
So, for animal rights extremists in Los Angeles, the delusions of grandeur continue, but the successes are few. Dario Ringach puts it best when he says:
Science is a community effort. My suspension of animal research does not mean the work has stopped. It is being performed elsewhere by hundreds of talented colleagues.
Basic discoveries that enable the developments of treatments or cures are emerging at a rate never before seen, and this will continue despite efforts of misguided and hate-mongering animal rights activists wherever scientists pursue open discussion of the goals and nature of biomedical research in which they are engaged.