Category Archives: Campus Activism

Guest Post: Manchester protests miss the point

Today’s guest post is from Patrick Smith, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, UK. He discusses an upcoming animal rights demonstration in his city, which is taking place as part of World Day for Animals in Laboratories (Part of World Week for Animals in Labs).

This Saturday (23rd April), Manchester Animal Action are hosting the World Day for Animals in Laboratories. Over 200 activists plan to march from Piccadilly Gardens to the University of Manchester campus, where they will lay white flowers at University buildings to protest what they see as the inhumane treatment of animals.

Ironically, this protest has prompted a lockdown of the University buildings, meaning many students and researchers may be unable to check on their animals over the weekend. I know that some students may feel intimidated by the protest and won’t feel safe going in to University on Saturday. Hopefully others will refuse to be cowed by the threat of such activism.

An advertisement for Saturday’s march. Note the image of a chimpanzee – a species banned from use in research in the UK since 1986

An advertisement for Saturday’s march. Note the image of a chimpanzee – a species banned from use in research in the UK since 1986

After speaking with some of the protestors on social media prior to the demonstration, I’ve become aware of how much misinformation is spread amongst AR activists, especially regarding the University of Manchester. I wanted to make clear how much the University is doing to ensure the humane treatment of animals and reduce the use of animals in research.

The UK has some of the strictest regulations surrounding animal research in the world. Performing research on animals has to pass ethical review, a multi-stage process that requires researchers to prove that the research is necessary, minimises the suffering of animals and is scientifically sound.

The University of Manchester adheres to strict national guidelines, as its animal research policy makes clear. Like many UK research establishments, the University of Manchester is extensively involved with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), an organisation that aims to ensure all animal research is a last resort, and is carried out with care and scientific rigour. As part of the University’s relationship with NC3Rs, all researchers must also adhere to the ARRIVE guidelines, which aim to ensure the accurate and responsible reporting of animal research findings.

All animal researchers at the University are fully trained on a rigorous Home Office course, and the University employs full time animal technicians and a veterinary surgeon to ensure that animal welfare is a top priority. Animals are housed in social groups and in stimulating environments, and constantly monitored for health and wellbeing. The University states that it “permits the use of animals in scientific procedures only where there is no reasonable alternative available”.

Within the research units themselves, all these guidelines are followed strictly; anaesthetic and pain killers are administered according to ASPA (Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act) guidelines; “All procedures must be carried out under general or local anaesthesia unless administering the anaesthetic would cause more suffering for the animal than the procedure itself or would be incompatible with the purposes of the procedures”. The only times anaesthetic is not given to animals is where the procedure is very mild (i.e. taking blood samples), or where an experiment won’t work with anaesthetised animals (i.e. running a maze). The vast majority of potentially painful procedures are carried out with extensive pain relief.

Image of mice courtesy of Understanding Animal Research

Image of mice courtesy of Understanding Animal Research

Animal rights activists are still upset with the University’s research. I encountered some who were offended by the idea of even minimal animal suffering, saying that “any suffering is too much”. This is actually a reasonable statement; if you believe that any suffering (animal or human) is terrible, then it makes sense to perform animal research where there are no alternatives available. The medical advances made due to animal research are undeniable, and unfortunately some animals have to suffer minimally for us to reduce worldwide suffering.

I have been accused by AR activists of being speciesist; putting human rights above animal rights. But to employ a utilitarian philosophy, where we want to reduce the amount of future suffering in the world, it is immoral to not undertake animal research. Allowing victims of disease to face immeasurable future suffering, when an animal model could potentially save them, seems cruel. Don’t patients deserve to feel hope from knowing researchers are using all scientific methods available?

The AR position is easy to understand; they think animals are suffering needlessly. But in the UK, and at the University of Manchester, animals are only used in research when there are no alternatives available, and where significant medical progress can be made. Animals are treated better than most animals in the world, especially those in the meat industry.

I understand that seeing animals suffer is heartbreaking. But it’s something that has to be done to fight cruel diseases and save lives. I know that many animal researchers and technicians are animal lovers and deeply care about suffering. They want to see an end to suffering wherever possible; and that is something that can be achieved with responsible, humane animal research.

Patrick Smith
PhD student at the University of Manchester

Reaching the Roots: Educating Veterinary Students

Dr Logan FranceWe have a guest post from Dr. Logan France, the 2015-16 Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) Hayre Fellow and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She discusses her upcoming outreach project – Biomedical Research Awareness Day (BRAD). AMP is now opening their application for this year’s Michael D Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach – a great opportunity to get involved in helping to explain the role of animals in medical research.

On April 19th, veterinary schools across the country will come together to celebrate the first national Biomedical Research Awareness Day (BRAD). Twenty veterinary schools will participate in an effort to provide more information about animal-based research and to honor the contribution of laboratory animals to medical progress. Each participating institution has been given the tools and resources to create a BRAD celebration at their school tailored to include activities and information of their choosing. Lectures, interactive displays, freebies, guest speakers, and other items will be on the agenda as students and faculty at each school focus on the importance of biomedical research.

Part of the initiative includes the incorporation of social media to connect students and allow schools to share how they are preparing for BRAD, as well as the outcome of their celebration. Please visit and “LIKE” the BRAD Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BioMedResearchDay to show your support for BRAD, the participating veterinary schools, and biomedical research.

Whatever their area of practice, it is important that all veterinarians understand the critical role of laboratory animals in the quest for treatments and cures. Conveying this awareness to students during their veterinary education establishes a foundation of knowledge and support for biomedical research and increases awareness of laboratory animal medicine as a possible career choice. In addition to reaching out to veterinary students, many schools are holding their celebrations during the Vet School Open House, which is an opportunity for members of the public to visit the school and learn more about the field and current issues.

Biomedical Research Awareness DayAs a recent veterinary graduate, current Laboratory Animal Medicine resident at Johns Hopkins University, and passionate supporter of biomedical research and the humane use of animals in research, I strove to create a project that would provide education and awareness to my peers, bring together veterinary students across the country for a common goal, and become an annual event, involving an increasing number of faculty and students each year.

It is crucial to expand the input and support of those in the field if we are to maximize the impact of this program. We hope each celebration stimulates vigorous discussions among veterinarians, students, technicians, scientists, educators and others on the critical need for animals in biomedical research, the importance of public outreach and education, and how to bring more veterinary schools and research institutions aboard so BRAD might be expanded in successive years.

Pro-Test: The demonstration that changed a decade

“No more threats, no more fear, animal research wanted here”.

On February 25th 2006 that chant, and many others, rang out across the city of Oxford. Around 1,000 students, scientists and patients marched through the streets both to demonstrate support for the building of a new animal research facility, and to protest against the animal rights extremism that plagued scientists in Oxford and beyond.

The first Pro-Test rally. Image by Nick Anthis

The first Pro-Test rally. Image by Nick Anthis

Rival protesters set for bitter clash over animal testing lab” – wrote the Times. Police lined the streets – with horses and riot vans – as did journalists from all over the world. The world’s first pro-animal-research-rally, and on the same day, in the same city, as a national animal rights demonstration. The city of Oxford held its breath in anticipation. For all of us organising the event – myself included – we had no idea what would happen.

But how did we get here?

Animal rights extremism had been an intractable problem in the UK for decades, but the mid-1990s brought activists a string of successes. Campaigns in 1996 – 1997 shut down both Consort kennels and Hillgrove cat farm, which bred dogs and cats (respectively) for animal facilities. In 1999 the SHAC campaign began its 15-year campaign against HLS; the same year also marked the start of a campaign against Newchurch Guinea Pig Farm. Extremism continued unabated; in 2004 activists dug up and stole the remains of Gladys Hammond – a family member of the owners of the guinea pig farm. After petrol bombs and further threats the farm closed. The same year, the University of Cambridge abandoned plans to build a new primate research facility after intense pressure from activists including the activist group SPEAC (Stop Primate Experimentation at Cambridge).

In 2004, shortly after Cambridge abandoned plans for its new lab, the University of Oxford laid out plans for a new animal research facility which would combine many of the smaller labs dotted around Oxford into one new facility with improved welfare for animals. SPEAC activists immediately moved to Oxford, renaming the group SPEAK. The extremism that had plagued Cambridge also moved to Oxford. In July 2004 construction on the new lab was halted for six months after the original building contractors – facing intense harassment from activists – pulled out of the project (as had many other firms connected to the building work). In the summer of 2005, with building work restarted, extremists from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) targeted the students.

Boathouse Fire July 2005

The arson attack on the University of Oxford college boathouses caused approximately £500,000 worth of damage.

“We must target professors, teachers, heads, students, investors, partners, supporters and ANYONE that dares to deal in any part of the University in any way. There is no time for debate and there is no time for protest, this is make or break time and from now on, ANYTHING GOES.” – ALF Communique

The targeting of student run, student owned boathouses mixed with threats against all university members shocked the student population. But it wasn’t the activists that would set the student population alight – it was a 16-year old school dropout – Laurie Pycroft.

Laurie PycroftPlacardLaurie Pycroft walked through the streets of Oxford in January 2006. On his way, he came across an animal rights demonstration protesting the construction of the new animal lab. Laurie was bright, with a keen interest in science. He knew the only reason his grandfather was alive was because of surgery developed in animals. So Laurie went into a shop and bought a pen, and paper, writing “Support Progress – Build the Oxford Lab!”. He stood outside the demonstration holding his sign aloft. After receiving comments of support by passing members of the public, and screaming abuse by a number of activists, Laurie went home.

I got home quite late that evening. I hung up my coat, made my way to my room, sat at my computer, and made an entry about the whole incident on my blog. Within a few minutes, the comments started flooding in, with messages of support such as: “Genius! You truly are a hero to the people of Oxford! You’ve got to organise another pro-test.” – Laurie Pycroft

From one anonymous commenter, the Pro-Test name was born. News of Laurie’s one man demonstration hit the student press and a number of students – including myself – got in touch with Laurie to offer him our support.

“What do we want. The Oxford Lab. When do we want it? Now!”

In four crazy week we organised a demonstration that would be reported on almost every major news network in the UK. Despite the  proximity of animal rights activists and Pro-Test-ers, the event when off without violence. Mild-mannered scientists shouted along to chants. Students raised hastily created placards above their heads. The mood was positive despite efforts from animal rights groups to force the climate of fear upon the rally.

“Hundreds of police, some on horseback, prevented the two groups, which were at one stage just 20 yards away from each other, from clashing. On two occasions, anti-vivisectionists broke out towards the main march before being surrounded by police and moved away.” – The Guardian

It was a huge success. Debates about animal research raged across the media. Documentary makers lined up to tell the story of Pro-Test. The world-famous debating chamber – the Oxford Union – voted against a motion that “This house would not test on animals” by a whopping 85%. In preparation for a second rally in June, Prof Sir Robert Winston wrote in The Guardian:

“How disgraceful that a 16-year-old boy has put the medical and scientific establishment, drug companies and universities to shame.

[…]

It is time my colleagues got real. All British universities doing worthwhile research use animals, and, instead of hiding, they should be boasting of their achievements. Pharmaceutical companies could do far more to promote investigations that are humane, ethical and legal. Scientists should demonstrate the care taken in their research and the benefits it brings to society. And government? Shockingly, my family feels nervous because I speak out on animal research. So politicians have a duty to pursue animal extremists with vigour.”

Over the next two years the whole tenor of the debate changed – scientists became more willing to speak out – filling a vacuum that animal rights groups had filled with misinformation. In November 2008 the Oxford lab finally opened.

Speaking of Research owes its existence to Pro-Test. As the original spokesman for Pro-Test, I spent six months in the US, supported by Americans for Medical Progress, whereupon I founded Speaking of Research. As an organisation we have supported subsequent Pro-Test movements all over the world.

We supported the founding of Pro-Test for Science and helped it organise its first rally in Los Angeles after Prof Jentsch’s car was firebombed. We supported Pro-Test Italia in its first major rally in Milan. The successes of these rallies owed much to the actions of one sixteen year old boy.

Pro-Test march snakes along Westwood

Pro-Test for Science rally marches to support medical research

David Jentsch, the founder of Pro-Test for Science wrote:

“The resolve, determination and commitment to scientific research demonstrated by Laurie and the UK Pro-test 10 years ago during their confrontations with animals rights groups brought hope and inspiration to those of us in Southern California who were the targets of extremist activities. Without the example of UK Pro-test and its leaders, it’s hard to imagine how Pro-test for Science, or its in a passionate, informed and successful campaign to advocate for our scientific community, could have come to be.”

Pro-Test helped drive openness in the UK, and a fightback against extremism abroad. Every person who marched on the 25th February 2006 should be proud of the part they played.

And Laurie? He followed his dream. Studies Physiology at the University of Oxford and is now studying for a DPhil in Functional Neurosurgery at the university – even (sometimes) working in the very lab he helped to build!

Tom Holder

Over 200 institutions publish online animal research position statements

It’s a good start but there’s plenty more still to be done, and it is being done. Yesterday the University of Edinburgh launched their excellent new animal research resource  http://www.ed.ac.uk/research/animal-research, too late to be included on our list this time around, but definitely worthy of full marks!

Over 200 research institutions now have clear policy statements or public facing web pages to explain the institution’s position on animal research according to Speaking of Research. In 2015, Speaking of Research began logging the policy statements of research institutions in Europe, North America and Australia.

Edinburgh_AnimalResearch

These web statements have been graded from 0 to 4, based on the level of information an institution provides about its animal studies. This information includes the level of detail of an institution’s research, its welfare procedures and the use of case studies, images and videos. To date, only 10 research institutions have received full marks, two in Germany, and four in each of the UK and US.

The list has been a joint effort by the research community, with scientists and members of the public submitting web statements they find – from their own institution or others – through a form on the Speaking of Research website.

Speaking of Research Director, Tom Holder, said:

There is a strong push worldwide towards openness in animal research. Speaking of Research encourage the scientific community to ensure their own institution has a clear and public statement on the importance of animals in medical and veterinary research, and to submit such statements to our website.”

The US has become increasingly open about its animal use in the past decade. Many more institutions are publicising details of the types of research going on, and the reason why on their website.

Paula Clifford, Executive Director of Americans for Medical Progress, said:

Openness about how medicine is advanced, especially information on the vital role of research animals and the care they receive, gives citizens truthful information and the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision to support of the scientists who work every day to improve the quality of life for both people and animals.”

Prof Dan Uhlrich, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Policy, said:

Our work is important enough to merit public funding, so it’s important we make an effort to show people how and why animal research is conducted at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  We’re gratified to be acknowledged for that effort and pleased to see partners and colleagues making the same commitment.”

While many institutions have received zero or one tick, they are still doing much better than those institutions which do not discuss their animal research in a statement on their website at all. We congratulate each and every institution that puts up any statement which clearly explains why they conduct animal studies.

Those institutions with full marks are:

 

Open Letter to the Australian Senate regarding a proposed bill to ban the import of primates

The following letter has been sent to the Committee Secretary of the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications regarding the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Prohibition of Live Imports of Primates for Research) Bill 2015. This proposed bill would ban the Australian research community from importing primates for use in biomedical research. The following is a segment of the proposed amendment:

Australian Bill

We encourage the scientific community to leave comments of support for our letter in the comment section below.

Dear Committee Secretary,

Nonhuman primate research has played an important role in many medical breakthroughs, from the polio vaccine to the development of life support systems for premature babies.

Studies with nonhuman primates are a small fraction of basic, behavioural, and biomedical research; however, they are critical to scientific research that seeks to address health issues of grave concern to the public. Nonhuman primate research includes studies relevant to understanding, preventing, and treating a range of diseases including, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, anaemia and a multitude of mental health conditions.

Thanks to research on primates:

  • Polio has been eradicated from Australia, saving tens of thousands of children from crippling disability
  • Thousands of Australians have had Deep Brain Stimulation to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s
  • Over 20,000 HIV positive Australians can live a relatively normal life thanks to the development of antiretrovirals
  • Australian children can be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, diphtheria, measles, mumps and rubella

Measures to constrain nonhuman primate research in Australia puts future medical breakthroughs in jeopardy.

Australian law already bans the use of wild caught nonhuman primates for research (as does the EU). Such laws should continue to be actively enforced to uphold animal welfare standards, but importantly, should not be expanded to prevent important nonhuman primate research being conducted.

Preventing researchers from importing nonhuman primates could prevent scientists from responding to public health issues or new areas of biomedical research in Australia and beyond. The domestic supply of nonhuman primates may be able to provide for most of the needs of the scientific community, but also risks constraining it. Any future Australian research would be limited to species of monkeys currently bred in Australia’s three breeding colonies, effectively restricting the animal models available to the biomedical community.

Research conducted with nonhuman primates is strictly regulated. All research must be approved by Animal Ethics Committees, who apply the 3 Rs framework to ensure that animal studies are Replaced wherever there is a non-animal alternative, Refined to ensure animal suffering is minimised, and Reduced to ensure that as few animals are used as is necessary to produce scientifically viable results. Animal welfare remains a high priority for the scientific community – with animal care personnel and veterinary staff providing round-the-clock care for their wards.

Yours faithfully,

Speaking of Research

Inês Albuquerque
Jeremy Bailoo, Ph.D
Prof Mark G Baxter
Prof Allyson Bennett
Paul Browne, Ph.D
James Champion
Paula Clifford
Amanda M. Dettmer, Ph.D
Prof Doris Doudet
Jazzminn Hembree RLATG
Tom Holder
Prof J. David Jentsch
Juan Carlos Marvizon, Ph.D
Kimberley Phillips Ph.D
Prof Dario Ringach
Simon R Schultz, DPhil

Background Briefing on Animal Research in Germany

Speaking of Research have now added a fourth background briefing on animal research to our list. We now have a German background briefing – in both English and German – to add to our briefings on the US, UK and Canada. We hope this briefing will offer journalists, politicians and the public a short, handy overview of the key facts. Our two-page summary provides information including the number of animals used for research purposes, the laws and regulations surrounding animal research, and some key questions people have.

Download our background briefing on animal research in Germany [or in German]

As with our previous briefings, we encourage those working in universities, pharmaceuticals, and other research institutions, to help share this document when contacting or responding to journalists about research stories relating to their institution. By attaching this background briefing to proactive stories, or reactive statements, it can help ensure that your research is understood within the context of the wider research environment.

We would like to thank Pro-Test Deutschland – particularly Renee Hartig, Florian Dehmelt and Jennifer Smuda – for their help in gathering information on the German legislation, and for translating the German-language version of the document.

The latest version of all our briefings can be found on both the Multimedia resources page, and in the menu system under Facts->Animal Research Briefings.

See a sample of the briefing below:

Briefing note on animal research in Germany

We permit anyone to redistribute this briefing providing it remain unchanged, and in whole, with credit to Speaking of Research.

We would also like to thank the Science Media Centre (in the UK), who’s “Briefing Notes on the Use of Animals in Research” provided the inspiration for our own.

Speaking of Research

To learn more about the role of animal research in advancing human and veterinary medicine, and the threat posed to this progress by the animal rights lobby, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Please consider supporting the activities of Speaking of Research. We are asking our readers for small individual contributions (up to $15/€10) to help us pay our $150 website costs for 2016. See more here.

5 Minutes with an Animal Care Facility Coordinator

Richard Marble, an Animal Care Facility Coordinator at Ferris State University, is a dedicated and experienced Animal Technologist who takes his responsibility of caring for the animals in his care seriously.  Following a guest post (It’s All About the Animals) in which Richard wrote giving insight into what is it like being an animal facility manager, he agreed to do an interview with Speaking of Research member, Jazzminn Hembree.

Richard opened up about his responsibilities in caring for animal welfare, and how he oversees all activities taking place within the facility as he seeks to improve animal welfare.  Many improvements have occurred during his time in the field, such as changes in housing and environmental enrichment. Richard explains

Research is like an enigma. Even those of us in the field do not like utilizing animals for research, but until such time as they are no longer necessary- the passionate people in this field are going to go out of their way to give them the best life they can.

Watch the video as he discusses:

  • How he is responsible for Animal Welfare?
  • What improvements he has seen in animal welfare over the past 15 years?
  • How he factors the 3R’s (Reduce, Refine, Replace) into his daily activities?
  • How he thinks animal welfare will improve in the future?