Seven Nobel Laureates and the Presidents of seven major Israeli universities and research institutes are the signatories of an unprecedented letter that calls for to government to refrain to impose any additional limitations on the use of animals in research. A translation of the letter can be found below:
Such limitations, and pressure from activists resulted in the birth of Pro-Test Israel earlier this year. The former Environment Minister, Gilad Ardan, added regulations to prevent the export of primates for biomedical research, claiming that such experiments were immoral. Activist pressure in 2012 had already forced Israel’s largest airline, El Al, to stop transporting primates for research, and they have since refused to carry any animals involved in medical research – to the detriment of patients worldwide.
An article by Ariela Ringel Hoffman and published in the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, provided a copy of the letter. It also gathered quotes from the Nobel Laureates who has signed their name. Among notable statements Professor Aaron Ciechanover said “We decided the time has come to tell truth and lay the facts in front of the public.” Professor Arieh Warshel added “The existing limitations are already making it difficult to carry out advanced research.” Professor Avram Hershko noted “I know few professional doctors that oppose such experiments.”
Perhaps most concerning was the comment by Professor Dan Shechtman, who said: “Animal rights organizations forced us to write this letter to the Prime Minister”.
It is definitely worrying when a countries top academics feel the need to publish a letter to the Prime Minister expressing their concerns about the direction of research in their country.
The following is a translation from the original Hebrew letter (pictured above).
To: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The future of the biomedical research in Israel is in danger
We, the undersigned, Presidents of the Israeli universities and Nobel laureates, write to you in an unusual way and out of concern and fear for the future of the scientific research in genera1l, and specifically biomedical research in Israel.
We want to state clearly that we are not asking you for any additional budget. Until today, despite smaller budgets compared with those offered by academic institutes in other countries, the academic research institutes of the state of Israel manage to be at the front line of scientific and biomedical research worldwide.
Research in Israel has lead to significant breakthroughs in the scientific and biomedical knowledge and some of them have led to the development of drugs and treatments for incurable and chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancers, Alzheimer’s, blindness, schizophrenia and many other diseases.
Those treatments and drugs save the lives and improve the quality of life of billions of people and makes Israel’s science renowned across the world.
Lately we see attempts almost every day to block the activity of the Israeli academic research institutes that use animals in their research. These attempts include legislation aimed at blocking such research. This is done by a loud minority which opposes any kind of animal use and now threatens the existence of the scientific and biomedical research in Israel.
The limitations now put in place are already creating difficulties for researchers in Israel to conduct advanced research which is critical for the scientific knowledge that can save the lives of billions of people and improves their life quality. Such limitations can lead to the destruction of many years of research and academic achievement.
Research with animals is carried out in Israel according Israeli’s Animal Welfare (Experiments on Animals) Act, 1994. Research is done only with a specific permit and supervision, and only if no non-animal alternative is viable. Such research is essential to save human lives and that why it must continue.
We would like to warn you that scientific research in Israel is in a real danger. We ask you and your government to prioritize scientific excellence in the national interest and to examine each new legislation which might have direct or indirect effects on research in consultation with the relevant experts in the field, so that we can allow the necessary conditions to allow scientific research in Israel remain at the forefront of the international scientific community.
Prof Aaron Ciechanover – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2004
Prof Ada Yonath – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009
Prof Avram Hershko – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2004
Prof Michael Levitt – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2013
Prof Arieh Warshel – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2013
Prof Dan Shechtman – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2011
Prof Roger Kornberg – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2006
Prof Menachem Ben-Sasson – President of the Hebrew University of Jersualem
Prof Daniel Zajfman – President of Weitzmann Institute of Science
Prof Peretz Latvie – President of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Prof Joseph Klafter – President of Tel Aviv University
Prof Rivka Carmi – President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Prof Dan Hershkowitz – President of Bar-Ilan University
Amos Shapira – President of the University of Haifa
Prof Jacob Metzer – President of the Open University of Israel
Israel publishes its animal research statistics annually. In 2013, researchers used 299,144 animals of which 86% were mice and rats. 80% of the research is conducted in the universities and research institutions – the majority of which are represented in the letter to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking of Research