There is a segment of the population that opposes the use of animals in medical research and basic science. Their reasons vary. Some think all sentient beings ought to have the same basic right to life and freedom as any other human being. Some believe that the work amounts to scientific fraud and cannot possibly lead to any advancements in the health of humans. Some argue that illness is merely a product personal choices. In most cases, it is a combination of all of the above.
Of course, we disagree.
So what have we done about it?
We made the effort to open up dialogue and bring both sides of this important debate to the court of public opinion. In 2010 Drs. David Jentsch and Dario Ringach, along the student group Bruins for Animals, organized a discussion panel at UCLA that many welcomed as a good first step at establishing some sort of meaningful debate.
In 2011, Dario Ringach and Robert C. Jones (an animal rights philosopher from California State University at Chico and a participant in the our 2010 discussion panel), organized a one-day symposium at UCLA on the similarities and dissimilarities of human and non-human primate cognition (video here).
Dr. Ringach participated in two public debates on the use of animals in research. The first one at the Institute for Human Values in Health Care at the Medical University of South Carolina, where he debated animal rights philosopher Dr. Nathan Nobis. A second debate took place at Rutgers Law School, where he debated animal rights scholar Prof. Gary Francione.
In 2013, Dr. Ringach also participated in the UW Forum on Animal Research Ethics that aims to provide a platform for all sides to share their views with the public. He also published an article about the ethics and science of animal research and contributed a chapter to a book that describes the position of both sides.
After accepting an invitation to speak at a local high school, Dr. Ringach brought along animal rights philosopher Robert C. Jones to present to opposing view. Their shared goal was to educate children that we can have a civil debate about moral disputes in our society.
And on top of all that, our strong commitment to providing the opposing side a platform to express themselves in public continued throughout a deplorable campaign against researchers that included threats, intimidation, and calls for violence by animal rights extremists. Nefariously, our efforts were replied with increased “home visits” that clearly have no other purpose than to harass those they disagree with.
What would you do to stop the relentless attacks on your family and home? What kind of support would you want and expect from your community, professional societies, home institution and the government?
After more than 10 years of a sustained campaign animal right extremists left us with no options but to personally protect ourselves from their disgraceful behavior. It was regrettable that, on our first attempt, one person within our group was overwhelmed with anger resulting from over a decade of mistreatment from animal extremism and acted in ways we do not approve of.
Our stated goal clearly was, and still remains, to peacefully prevent animal rights thugs from conducting orchestrated campaigns of harassment against the UCLA family. We wanted to convey that message clearly to all our supporters. Having said that, one must not let the bullies who openly support violence as a legitimate method to advance their cause to pretend they are the victims.
It is then for all the above reasons that we will gather once again on Saturday Feb 15th at 10:15am, in the Lobby of Franz Hall, at UCLA to defend the tranquility of our homes, families and neighbors from fanatics whose sole goal is to resolve their moral dispute by violence and force. We will join hands and be proud of the fantastic science done at UCLA and in universities across the country in the name of society. Work that will improve the well-being of humans and animals alike.
David Jentsch and Dario Ringach