Monthly Archives: September 2012

University of Leicester shows how it’s done as new animal research facility opens

In a ceremony at the University of Leicester today City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby opened the new Central Research Facility, marking the beginning of a new era for animal research there.  Speaking at the ceremony, the Mayor welcomed the University’s investment, saying:

The University of Leicester has a well-deserved, worldwide reputation for its pioneering research, which has been key to many life-saving medical advances. The opening of this new facility shows the University’s continued commitment to breaking new ground. This is something that the whole city can take pride in.”

Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby at the opening of the University of Leicester’s new Central Research Facility.

Professor Mike Barer, Director of Research in the School of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology and a noted expert on tuberculosis, highlighted the past achievements of Leicester scientists, before commenting on the benefits that the new laboratory would bring to both scientific research and animal welfare at the university.

The University of Leicester is recognised nationally as a leading centre standing up for animal research for medical benefit conducted within a clear moral and ethical framework balancing consideration of humans and animals.

The facility provides an exceptional environment for both animals and investigators. Of particular note are the new facilities for imaging applied to animals such that many less subjects will be required to achieve valid results.”

Some examples of this work were included in a series of case studies of recent and current animal research published by the University of Leicester.

A few hours before the opening ceremony  Tom Feilden from the BBC’s flagship “Today” news program (item begins at 08.49) noted the University’s unusual openness about the new animal research facility, as Professor Mike Barer and Dr Claire Gibson showed him around and discussed the research bring undertaken there.

Should we be surprised at this openness? Well, perhaps not.

Back in 2010 in a post entitled “Leicester – The New British Battleground?” we reported on how an animal rights campaign called “Stop the Leicester Animal Lab” had launched a campaign against the new laboratory, complete with false allegations about secret unlicensed research involving dogs (seriously, we’re not making this up…they did). The University responded in an unusually forthright way by inviting a local journalist to tour their existing medical sciences building (which the new lab will replace), talk to scientists working there and see for themselves the conditions in which the animals are kept.  The outcome of this visit was an article in “This is Leicestershire” that was overwhelmingly positive towards the scientists who work there, and lambasted the animal rights campaign for being “economical with the truth” (which was putting it mildly).  “Stop the Leicester Animal Lab” appear to have run out of steam soon afterwards, and construction of the new laboratory continued. In the end Leicester did not become a battlefield, and the credit for this must go to the University for taking a strong stance in support of the work its scientists do.

The University of Leicester taught us an important lesson in 2010, that “No comment” is never the right response to animal rights campaigns. By engaging positively with the press and the public the University dispelled the animal rights lies and misinformation, and helped people to understand the value of animal research and its crucial role in advancing medicine. It’s great to see the University of Leicester continue to show how it’s done!

With public support for animal research in the UK remaining high one might be tempted to ask if universities, research institutes, charities and individual researchers still need to do more to engage with the public around the issue of animal research.

The answer couldn’t be clearer. Yes!

While some organizations have greatly improved their communication on animal research, many others can do a lot more. Despite the substantial decline in animal rights extremist incidents in the UK over the past decade, other threats to biomedical research remain. A worrying trend is the increasing number of transport companies that have declared the will no longer carry animals that are destined to be used in research, as noted in a guest post on this blog by Eric Raemdonck and a strong editorial published in Nature only last week.  While such limits on laboratory animal transport may now appear to be more a nuisance than a real problem, and affect only a small proportion of studies directly, the reality is that if this trend continues it may greatly hinder an increasingly international biomedical research community. As the Nature Editorial states:

If individual scientists wait until they are personally affected — until the day when that mouse carefully bred in Shanghai or Singapore or Stockholm cannot be had for love nor money in San Francisco — it will be long past too late to mount the vigorous, public campaign in defense of animal research that is so sorely called for at this moment.

As researchers join this battle — and join it, they must — they should, as a first step, work through their institutions, academic societies and umbrella groups to make an urgent, articulate, unified case to UPS and FedEx that the shipping of animals, mammalian and other­wise, is essential for both biomedical research and scientific education.”.

We strongly echo that call for coordinated action by the international scientific community, and add that institutions, academic societies and individual scientists also need to follow the great example set by the University of Leicester and celebrate the endeavours and accomplishments of animal research and the scientists who undertake it. Only by ensuring that the public fully appreciates the importance of animal research to medical progress in the 21st century will we be able to safeguard that progress.

Paul Browne

PeTA has Nothing to Offer

It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks for the University of Wisconsin following an aggressive media campaign by PeTA suggesting photos of animal studies are “proof” of abuse, while the university responded point-by-point. Now that both sides have had their say, how does the university move forward? In a recent article, the student newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, suggested that PeTA’s involvement might be helpful.

Normally, Speaking of Research would agree to the idea of bringing two opposing sides together to collaborate and compromise. But that’s not always a good idea. In this case, the newspaper fails to recognize that PeTA isn’t an animal welfare organization dedicated to ensuring animal care practices meet the highest standards. Instead, they hold an extreme view. PeTA is opposed to any and all animal studies despite the fact that this research has saved millions of lives to date and will save millions more in the future.  In the words of PeTA’s Ingrid Newkirk “Even if animal tests produced a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.

It’s disappointing that an organization with the well-meaning goal of advocating for animals takes such a careless and extreme stance, which ultimately places public health at risk. Therefore suggestions that PeTA can play a helpful “role” in ensuring the responsible use of animals in medical research are naive.

For those unfamiliar with PeTA, the kind of campaign they’ve launched against the University of Wisconsin is nothing new. We at Speaking of Research have seen PeTA target countless well-respected universities throughout the country. The animal rights group has used dishonest propaganda to attack the integrity of well-regulated research that benefits countless patients. Their tactics also include targeting renowned medical scientists and portraying them as monsters who must be stopped by any means possible.

One example of PeTA’s outrageous tactics has included naming of a “Vivisector of the Week.” This horrendous campaign involves posting the names and photos of university scientists and falsely portraying their research as being barbaric and useless. Actions like these are clearly dangerous and they undoubtedly put scientists and their families at risk. Sadly, placing those they disagree with in the firing line seems to be on page one of PeTA’s playbook.

PeTA has also placed undercover “investigators” in research labs and then held press conferences to make claims of abuse and mistreatment. Other than the fact that PeTA is by no means impartial, there is one significant problem with this tactic: follow-up investigations often reveal no instances of abuse. The end result is that reputations are wrongly damaged and more importantly, the public has been misled.  PeTA walks away from these instances without assuming any responsibility.

When we assess the value of any research, one must recall what medical science was like merely a few generations ago: a visit to a physician might have resulted in a recommendation to induce vomiting, diarrhea or, more commonly, bleeding. Years ago, diphtheria, mumps, measles and polio were common and untreatable. Life expectancy in the United States was less than 50 years; it is now close to 80 years. Animal research was an integral part of these achievements. Our generation benefits from treatments and medicines that our parents and grandparents only dreamt about.

If the goal is to truly move forward, we must all work hard to promote an atmosphere where civil and open dialogue can occur.  The news media can play key role as a neutral party providing serious reporting on the harms and benefits of research.  In contrast, PeTA has nothing to offer but their absolute rigid stance and their promotion of harassment of scientists, veterinarians and animal care staff that work hard to advance the well-being of humans and non-human animals alike.

Speaking of Research

Addendum October 11, 2012 : The USDA inspection report has now been published and confirms that no non-compliant items were identified during the focused inspection at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in late September and early October.  In his story “Feds Clear UW of Wrongdoing Following PeTA Complaint”, Capital Times reporter Todd Finkelmeyer posts the USDA inspection report  and this summary:  “’This officially closes this matter for us,’ USDA spokesman David Sacks said in an email to the Cap Times. Sacks added that this was a ‘focused inspection — not a full facility inspection,’ and was designed to look specifically at the allegations leveled by PETA.”

Around the Web in Eighteen Days – The Science Action Network

Eighteen days ago we announced the formation of the Science Action Network, in conjunction with Understanding Animal Research (UAR), which aims to encourage and enable scientists to respond to animal rights misinformation across the internet. We recently wrote a post explaining why such actions are important, saying:

[I]t is important to comment on these stories [involving animal research] in order to (a) show editors and readers that the public is not against research; and (b) to ensure that ridiculous claims (e.g. “we don’t need animal research, we have other methods”) are challenged and debunked for the casual reader.

So what has been the effect of this campaign, less than three weeks from its start. In the last week alone we have had over 50 tweets including the #ARnonsense hashtag, mainly (but not exclusively) from @animalevidence (UAR) and @SpeakofResearch (SR).

We’ve weighed into two polls on animal research – helping to win them both by 71% and 86% respectively (at time of posting). To quote our previous post:

Why does it matter? Presumably the pollsters have made up their mind. However, when others do look at the poll (or indeed search for polls to assess public opinion) we do not want them seeing some small poll and come to the false conclusion that the majority of people are against animal research. Depending on how one asks the question, support for animal research tends to be between 55% and 80% in the US.

However, we should also accept the power of animal rights social media when 88% of one poll rejected the use of animals to develop cancer cures. But perhaps more important than the end poll result is that both polls have (some) measure of balance in their comments section – something which previously would have been a catalogue of replies about the cruelty of researchers. The comments section may often take more time to engage with, but rarely much – many things can be signed in using OpenID including using Facebook or Google accounts. Yet such comments sections are crucial to debunking the myths about animal testing that circulate the internet.

The early success of the Science Action Network can be seen in that most easy-to-access comment sections (where you don’t need a long sign up process) seem to change from mostly against to mostly for animal research after someone has flagged it with the #ARnonsense tag. However many letters still go unanswered in local papers, and we urge scientists to take the two minutes needed to send a quick email off to those newspapers.

So what can you do?

1. Make sure you are regularly checking #ARnonsense on Twitter (can be done without a twitter account). Look back over the last few days of tweets and follow some of the links to find comments in need of reply (also follow @SpeakofResearch and @animalevidence)

2. “Like” and share our articles on our Facebook page – there are regular “attacks” by groups of animal rights activists claiming that all research is rubbish and that researchers use animals for fun. It is important to “like” positive comments and reply to rubbish ones. Please share our messages – we do a Monday update on the previous week, and Thursday target list of #ARnonsense. Also spend a little time on Understanding Animal Research Facebook Page as they also update with #ARnonsense each day.

3. Get more friends involved – tell them about the Science Action Network – challenge them to spend 5 minutes per week debunking animal rights myths.

4. If you see some animal rights misinformation – please mention it on Twitter or Facebook – it doesn’t matter if we’ve already mentioned it. If you do so on Twitter – remember to use the #ARnonsense hashtag (just write “#ARnonsense” at the end of your post)

#ARnonsense – if you haven’t done your share this week, here’s a couple in need of reply:

An article in News 1130 (Vancouver) which had activists claiming that research can be replaced by DNA chips needs comments. People have already begun to counter this – we need more!

A letter from the Oxford Mail needs some comments (if US) and reply letters (reply via http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/contactus/letters/) to explain that we share a huge genetic and physiological similarity with animals, and that alternative methods cannot replace all animal experiments.

Defending science and countering falsehood at the University of Wisconsin Madison

PeTA celebrated a victory the past week when they obtained photographs of cats that are part of medical research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The work involves a small number of cats in studies that provide better understanding of hearing and that are relevant to improving treatment for human deafness.

An explanation of the purpose of the research, the care of the animals, and the reason that cats make unique contributions to this work are all clearly addressed in a university statement:

The research develops a better understanding of how the brain combines information from the two ears, including sound localization. Cats are used because of their extraordinary talents at localizing sounds. Feral cats likely do most of their hunting at night because that is when their rodent prey is most active. Because vision at night is limited, hearing is the primary sensory cue for the cat to localize its prey. The cat auditory system is very similar to that of humans, making it relevant to clinical studies of humans with bilateral cochlear implants.

An op-ed written by UW-Madison Department of Neuroscience professors Donata Oertel and Peter Lipton on behalf of 65 UW faculty members provides a voice of reason among a sea of emotive, rather than factual, accusations.

Widely recognized and respected in the biomedical research community, this research benefits hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from hearing loss. It is being mischaracterized by animal rights militants for their own purposes.

By spreading misinformation and outright falsehoods, PETA bypasses our system of justice and promotes harassment and attacks on the people and institutions that engage in important biomedical research.

Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison also seem less than impressed by PeTA’s allegations, and were not afraid to say so when interviewed by the Badger Herald and Daily Cardinal during a PeTA protest yesterday. Speaking to the Daily Cardinal about research she is involved in, biochemistry major Kelsey Corrigan rejected PeTA’s claims concerning the treatment of animals:

“We are not vicious toward them or treat them poorly, instead we use them in an effort to gain knowledge about cancer treatments.”

While PeTA used these photographs effectively to attract media and public attention, as is often the case, the images did not tell the whole story about the research.  Nor did PeTA.

That is not surprising. The point of PeTA’s three year quest to obtain these photographs—or really, any photographs at all that might be novel and useful in their campaigns—is absolutely straightforward.  Their goal is to provide the public with a negative view of animal research. The more sensational the photographs, the better they are; better for attracting media coverage, better for persuading others that laboratory animal research is inhumane without actually providing the facts, context, and accurate information.

What is surprising is the relative ease with which this tactic continues to work for groups like PeTA. Part of the reason that it works is that activist groups know they are unlikely to be countered immediately by effective presentation of the facts and explanation that the public or media would need to put the photographs into appropriate context. We have written previously about exactly this type of campaign and the continuing need for a much more public, immediate, and specific response that can provide reasonable people with answers to the questions that are raised by photographs provided without any context at all.

We were glad to see that the University of Wisconsin did in fact address each of PeTA’s claims with specific information in a point-by-point response that shows just how far PeTA went to misrepresent the facts about research at the University.  We hope that those who are interested in knowing more about the cats and the research will go beyond the PeTA pictures and give thoughtful consideration to the university’s detailed explanation of what those pictures show and why the research is performed.

The research community can do little to change the minds of those committed to ending animal research and that is not the goal of providing a public response to misrepresentation.  What the research community and their institutions can do, however, is to acknowledge the importance of contributing the factual information that is so urgently needed for the informed dialogue that a serious topic deserves.

It is an unfortunate reality that groups like PeTA will use sensational tactics and stunts as part of their agenda. In a time of continuing increases in transparency of animal research in the U.S., along with rapidly evolving communication tools, it is also an unfortunate reality that the old-school approach of institutions offering no comment, or offering blanket statements in response to public and media queries, will simply not work.  We need responses– like those of the UW-Madison faculty, administrators, and students– that support the science, address misrepresentation, provide facts, and promote civil dialogue.

Allyson J. Bennett

Addendum October 11, 2012 : The USDA inspection report has now been published and confirms that no non-compliant items were identified during the focused inspection at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in late September and early October.  In his story “Feds Clear UW of Wrongdoing Following PeTA Complaint”, Capital Times reporter Todd Finkelmeyer posts the USDA inspection report  and this summary:  “’This officially closes this matter for us,’ USDA spokesman David Sacks said in an email to the Cap Times. Sacks added that this was a ‘focused inspection — not a full facility inspection,’ and was designed to look specifically at the allegations leveled by PETA.”

Lori Gruen on the Ethical Justification of Animal Research Experiments

Prof. Lori Gruen gave an interesting talk this week at the University of Wisconsin at Madison on Animal Research and the Limits of Medicine.  You can watch her presentation and discussion here.

She appealed to those engaged in animal research to offer a more detailed explanation of how the cost and benefits of individual experiments are assessed, while insisting that ethical permissibility also requires passing a “non-speciesist test.”  In other words, scientists must be willing to perform the same experiments proposed on cognitively impaired humans with comparable cognitive abilities than the species under consideration.

Prof. Gruen offered a couple of examples of research we would all consider to be off limits, however she struggled to apply her own criteria to give us instances of invasive, biomedical experiments she feels are morally justified.  When challenged to list a such examples, she paused for a while, and then offered a rather unsatisfactory response — “This is too big a question.”

Unfortunately, making such moral judgements is at the heart of the issue. It is the central question that scientists at NIH study sections have to answer every day at Center for Scientific Review at the NIH, where a panel of experts evaluate and recommend scientific proposals so that our society funds the most promising research as judged by our best scientific minds.  The NIH panel also considers ways in which the research could be refined, by using less animals, or lower species, or alternative methods, and flags those applications that are problematic accordingly.  An entirely parallel, independent review process occurs within the IACUCs of each institution the same lines, providing an additional layer of safety. It would be wrong to insinuate there is no thoughtful assessment of the cost and benefits of the research.

If moral philosophers want to have an active participation in the ethical decision process they must be able to answer how and when they will find a particular research proposal justified or not. The public (which is certainly a stakeholder in the research as much as those that would like to advocate for much stricter limits) would very likely want to know, for example, if Prof. Gruen would have approved of the use of animals in the development of the Polio vaccine, or the use of mice to develop new therapies for aggressive forms of breast cancer, or the use of rats to develop a cure for  paralysis?  Would she have approved these projects only if the investigators expressed their willingness to experiment on cognitively impaired children as well?  If so, would she endorse such experiments herself?

Utilitarians may find their applied ethics tools to be of little use when judging any one single experiment in science.  It is due in part to the nature of scientific research which can be exemplified with this challenge.  Briefly, there is a substantial problem with deciding the moral worth of scientific work based on its consequence, because that outcome is initially unknown — otherwise there would be no need for the experiment in the first place.

Peter Singer, for example, justified the use of monkeys in the development of a therapy for Parkinson’s disease in a recent encounter with neuroscientist Tipu Aziz, who was explaining to Singer that:

To date 40,000 people have been made better with this [Parkinson’s therapy], and worldwide at the time I would guess only 100 monkeys were used at a few laboratories.

To which, Singer replied:

Well, I think if you put a case like that, clearly I would have to agree that was a justifiable experiment. I do not think you should reproach yourself for doing it, provided—I take it you are the expert in this, not me—that there was no other way of discovering this knowledge. I could see that as justifiable research.

Of course the problem is that this is a post hoc justification. There was, of course, no way for Singer to know the experiments would yield such important benefits. One must ask how Singer or Gruen would respond had they been asked to approve the experiments before they were conducted.

One would also need to ask, in addition, what would be the consequences for human suffering had they successfully argued against the work that led to the development of the Polio vaccine, or deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s, or the development of new breast cancer treatments and so on.  From a scientist’s perspective, it seems that opponents of research do not spend sufficient time asking what would be the consequences of stopping the work.

There was another paradoxical aspect of Gruen’s talk. Clearly, Prof. Gruen agrees that suffering is morally relevant.  Curiously, when considering research aimed at restoring function in paralysis, which we learned afflicts one of her friends, she said the discussion has to be carried out in the “abstract” as otherwise “we might be informed by the wrong factors.”  This seems to me a rather curious attempt to deny her own human suffering. Isn’t human suffering relevant in her mind?  Why would considering human suffering be the same as being informed by the “wrong factors”?

An illustration from Gruen’s book

On the positive side it was refreshing to hear Prof. Gruen say that she thinks scientists are “not out there to hurt animals” for no reason, but that they genuinely want to improve human health. This statement seems a world apart from the graphics and text of her animal liberation book, which depicts scientists as nothing short of vicious, sadistic monsters, and justifies the actions of the Animal Liberation Front.

ERV blogs on GMO Herpes vs severe cancer pain

As gene therapy emerges as one of the hottest areas of medical research, one thing that is striking is how it employs viruses – sometimes very nasty viruses – to deliver the gene to where it is needed in the human body.

Yesterday virologist Abbie Smith discussed another excellent example of this on the ERV blog in a post entitled “GMO Herpes vs. severs cancer pain”, describing how scientists at the Universities of Michigen and Pittsburgh have used a genetically modified herpes virus to deliver the preproenkephalin gene – which produced a precursor to pain-killing opiates – to the nerve cells of terminal cancer patients who were suffering from severe pain.

Abbie remarks that “This was one of the most depressing, yet hopeful, papers I have ever read.”. It’s difficult to disagree, after all most of the patients participating in the trial died within 3 months of it starting. But to focus on this sobering statistic would miss the reason for this study, namely that the pain-relief available to patients with severe chronic pain is often inadequate, as the drugs are not specific enough and cause unacceptable side effects when used at the high doses often required for prolonged periods of time. By targeting the opiate molecules to the nerve ccells themselves these side effects can be avoided, and more effective pain relief provided.

The paper “Gene Therapy for Pain: Results of a Phase I Clinical Trial” is available for anyone to read in PubMed Central and makes it very clear that this is a therapy that was discovered, evaluated and refined in animal models of different types of pain before entering this first clinical trial. The first two paragraphs of the introduction noting that:

A significant limitation to the development of analgesic drugs is that off-target effects at doses below the maximal analgesic threshold restrict the ability to selectively interrupt nociceptive neurotransmission1. To address this limitation, we developed a series of replication defective HSV-based vectors to deliver gene expression cassettes directly to DRG neurons from skin inoculation 2, 3. The anatomically defined projection of DRG axons allows targeting of specific ganglia by injection into selected dermatomes. In preclinical studies, the release of anti-nociceptive peptides or inhibitory neurotransmitters in spinal dorsal horn from the central terminals of transduced DRG neurons effectively reduced pain-related behaviors in rodent models of inflammatory pain, neuropathic pain, and pain caused by cancer4-9.

The human PENK gene encodes for preproenkephalin, a precursor protein proteolytically cleaved to produce the endogenous opioid peptides met- and leu-enkephalin. In the spinal cord, enkephalin peptides inhibit pain signaling through actions at presynaptic opioid receptors located on central terminals of primary afferent nociceptors and postsynaptic opioid receptors on second order neurons involved in nociceptive neurotransmission10. HSV vectors expressing opioid peptides appear to be particularly effective in animal models of inflammatory and cancer pain4, 5, 8.”

And in the conclusion:

In preclinical animal studies, skin inoculation of HSV vectors expressing PENK reduce acute hyperalgesic responses27, and reduce pain-related behaviors in models of arthritis28, formalin injection4, peripheral nerve damage6 and bone cancer5. Because this was the first human trial employing HSV vectors to achieve gene transfer, we elected to carry out the phase 1 clinical trial for safety and dose-finding in patients with pain caused by cancer…This Phase I clinical trial primarily addressed the question of whether intradermal delivery of NP2 to skin would prove to be safe and well tolerated by subjects. The small number of patients and the absence of placebo controls warrant circumspect interpretation of the secondary outcome measures. But the observation that subjects in the low dose cohort had little change in the NRS or SF-MPQ while subjects in the higher dose cohorts reported substantial reduction in NRS and improvement in SF-MPQ is encouraging.”

Encouraging is possibly an understatement, seeing clear evidence of therapeutic benefits in a Phase I trial like this is very promising, or as Abbie puts it “A trial turning out this successful is a great starting point for optimizing this kind of therapy.”.

Paul Browne

p.s. Those interested in a more detailed account of the research that led to this clinical trial can find it in this review published in 2008 and available to read online for free.

Why Should We Respond to Internet Activists?

Ten days ago we announced our Science Action Network (supported by UAR), which aims to debunk animal rights misinformation (Twitter: #ARnonsense) across the internet. Our first week has had its successes, turning one poll from 22% against to (at time of writing) 71% in favour of animal research. We’ve also helped direct a few extra pro-research comments to areas where animal rights activists had a monopoly. The campaign continues (so keep checking our Twitter, Facebook and #ARnonsense hashtag), but a broader question remains. Why should we reply to the ramblings of activists? Do these comments benefit the broader debate?

There are some truly incredible claims made by activists. Some suggest (and presumably believe) that animal research has not made a single contribution to modern medicine, others believe that we have already cured cancer but that pharmaceuticals are trying to cover it up in order to sell more treatments (below). We believe that it is important to challenge these misinformed mistruths. But why? Let us explore a number of scenarios.

Comments on a discussion entitled: “What if Animal Testing Led to a Cure to Cancer?”

News Stories

There are many stories which make mention of animal research. Some are directly about the general debate, or about a lab (the rare lapses in animal welfare tend to make a lot of news), or a new drug development with a (all to brief) mention of the animals in the research. Animal rights groups often swarm these stories, giving readers the impression that the general public is against animal research (which is untrue). On top of this the misinformation written by activists can sometimes sway those less informed about research and less able to spot the spurious claims about research from the genuine ones. Therefore, it is important to comment on these stories in order to (a) show editors and readers that the public is not against research; and (b) to ensure that ridiculous claims (e.g. “we don’t need animal research, we have other methods”) are challenged and debunked for the casual reader.

Letters to Newspapers

Activists often send letters to newspapers (more often the local ones) about the evilness of animal research. The pseudoscience they peddle, as well as the cruelty they claim, will often begin to sway the uninformed reader – so it is important that replies are made. The more replies to a letter, the more likely it is that one of them will be published.

Internet Polls

At the start of this article I celebrated us attracting an extra 100 votes in support of research so that, in a poll of under 200 people, we were in the majority. Why does it matter? Presumably the pollsters have made up their mind. However, when others do look at the poll (or indeed search for polls to assess public opinion) we do not want them seeing some small poll and come to the false conclusion that the majority of people are against animal research. Depending on how one asks the question, support for animal research tends to be between 55% and 80% in the US.

Internet Forums

So why does it matter what people are writing on obscure internet sites? When Jonny95 asks the interwebs about whether animal testing is good or evil there are unlikely to be more than a handful of undecided readers. However, if little Jonny is bombarded with anti-research nonsense he is not only more likely to not support it, he is also more likely to be one who propagates the animal rights claims in the future. The more he is subjected to just an AR message (with no scientific response), the more likely he himself will become an animal rights activist.

Pro-Research Stories / News

So someone has written a pro-research story in their blog or website – why should we be leaving positive comments or “liking” their posts? Two reasons, if activists mob their posts with negative comments then the individual responsible is less likely to write anything similar again, secondly, those in favour who look at the post are also less likely to stick their head above the parapet.

Animal Rights Forums

While there are some forums which simply aren’t worth putting in a comment (e.g. ALF or the PeTA forums) there are some places where animal rights individuals tend to collect in greater number (e.g. the Care2 forum). While you may not win over many hearts and minds, it is sometimes worth installing a little doubt in the mind of those opposed to animal research. Furthermore, it does help prevent the break the constant reinforcement of views that occurs when an activists every claim is celebrated no matter how ridiculous.

#ARnonsense

So with all this in mind there seems only one things left to say – and that is to provide the #ARnonsense of the day.

1. Dr. Hansen claims that animal research is cruel and unnecessary – Please explain how animal research is heavily regulated, and essential for understanding of the body and the pathologies that affect it.

2. Holly Buckley claims animal research is irrelevant and cruel – Please debunk

Cheers

Tom Holder