Tag Archives: holder

Singer Turns on Violent Activists

The famous philosopher, academic, and animal rights activist, Peter Singer, criticized the actions of those animal rights extremists who sent razors to researcher David Jentsch (claiming that they were “covered in AIDS infected blood” – see Jentsch’s response on SR). Singer is often regarded as the founder of the animal rights philosophy with his 1975 book “Animal Liberation”, so it is reassuring to see such individuals condemning the extremists within their movement.  In a Twitter message, Singer said:

Ugh…how will this help the animals? All it does is give the animal movement the worst possible image. http://tinyurl.com/27xmlkr

It’s not the first time that Singer’s comments have caused controversy among the movement he helped to found. In November 2006, in footage from the British Documentary ‘Monkey, Rats and Me‘, Singer backed animal research as acceptable in some situations. Talking of monkey research into Parkinson’s conducted by Tipu Aziz, Singer said:

‘It is clear at least some animal research does have benefits … I would certainly not say that no animal research could be justified and the case you have given sounds like one that is justified.’

This resulted in a backlash from many leaders of the animal rights groups.

Speaking of Research applauds Peter Singer for his criticism of the animal rights extremists who are preventing open and reasoned debate on this important issue.


Tom Holder

Holder Speaks on Eve of Rally

Tom Holder, SR founder, gave two talks in the run up the UCLA. The first was a small talk to members of the UCLA community on April 6th. The talk went well with questions being asked on how researchers could most effectively advocate for research, and overcome institutional inertia that can hinder outreach efforts.

On the eve of Pro-Test for Science rally, Holder was invited by the UCLA branch of the American Medical Student Association. The talk was well received, with many students unaware of the violence surrounding research at UCLA.

CNN Debate on Animal Research

The opening footage for the CNN Blogger Bunch discussion “Is animal testing necessary?” on Wednesday highlighted one of the reasons for a recent increase in public attention and media coverage of the role of animals in biomedical and behavioral research. The scorched front door of a scientist’s home illustrated the kind of “direct action” advocated by a number of animal activist groups who hope that harassment, threats of violence, and property damage directed at individual scientists will deter them and lead to an end of animal research. Unfortunately however, the debate also included repeating tape that featured shocking but contextless images of laboratory and farm animals.

The CNN debate also demonstrated the willingness of research advocates and animal rights activists to participate in open and public discussion.

Two leaders in research advocacy, Tom Holder (Founder of Speaking of Research) and scientist Dr. P. Michael Conn (Associate Director of Oregon Health Sciences University, author of “The Animal Research War”) presented clear, factual, and direct information about why animal research is crucial to human and animal health.  Two leading opponents of animal research, Peter Young (Animal Liberation Front supporter) and Dr. Ray Greek (President of Americans for Medical Advancement), made the case for halting animal research, but did not provide a clear vision of alternatives that could address major challenges to public health.

The debate touched upon many of the critical points of separation in views of about the use of animals in research.  Tom Holder and Dr. Conn provided the essential rationale for animal research: that it improves human and animal health by providing critical basic understanding, knowledge, and discovery of new prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies.  The counterpoint represented by Peter Young was that the value of all animals’ lives—including mice—are equal to those of humans and, in turn, that no animal research should be conducted regardless of its benefit to humans or other animals.  By contrast, Dr. Greek argued that animal research is ineffective and has not contributed to medical progress. Both of these arguments have been the subject of previous SR posts.

Young and Greek both failed to address the moderator’s direct question about animal studies used in, for example, the research, vaccination, and treatments of H1N1 viruses.  Both also strayed off point with talk of non-research use of animals (Young and the benefits of releasing farmed mink back into the wild) and such red herrings (Greek) as how chocolate is delicious to humans and fatal to dogs.

The time constraints of the program precluded in-depth coverage of some points and didn’t provide opportunity to challenge some of the statements that were misleading or inaccurate.  SR will continue to post follow-up to the debate with detailed analysis and discussion of additional specific points. Wednesday’s debate did, however, serve as a very public marker of the current shift in discussion, strategies, and attention to animal research.  The past decade’s escalating violence against scientists and others who support the responsible, ethical use of animals in research has increased their resolve to be more visible and active in their efforts to engage the public in discussion of the issues.

Discussion of the moral and ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in research is not new, nor is the participation of scientists in talking with the public about their work. Many speak about their work often and openly. They speak to community audiences, to college and other students, and to the media. What is new is the groundswell of support, widespread interest, and new groups (Speaking of Research, Pro-Test, Pro-Test for Science) that have catalyzed and organized efforts to challenge misleading campaigns and expose tactics of harassment used by animal activists in attempts to misinform the public on the one hand, and to discourage scientists from research on the other.

In addition, Wednesday’s debate provided an excellent demonstration that these efforts are successful.  The program provided basic factual information that is key to informed discussion of issues surrounding animal use in research, yet is rarely presented by animal activists. This information is often not clear to the public.  For example, the moderator provided statistics about the number and type of animals in research. These numbers highlighted what would not often be apparent from animal activists’ campaigns: the fact is that of animal in research, 95% are rodents, less than half of 1% are dogs or cats, less than a quarter of 1% are nonhuman primates (United States Department of Agriculture).

Another example:  the show began with images of property damage inflicted by animal activists and quotes by two scientists (Drs. David Jentsch and Dario Ringach) from an article advocating public dialogue about animal research.  The CNN moderator drew attention to the shift in the last decade from protests against institutions to direct harassment of individual scientists and their families.  Bringing the illegal actions taken by animal activists into widespread public awareness is important to informed discussion of the current state of animal research, including both its benefits and challenges. Those who rationalize violent actions against scientists, including murder, are often willing to do so in ostensibly public forums. Unfortunately these forums are frequently not familiar to the broader public reached by better-known and more “mainstream” animal activists groups.  As a result, the public view of animal rights groups generally fails to include not only the scope of their agenda and its far-ranging implications—including the end to all animal research—but it also ignores the extreme views and actions they endorse.

SR will continue discussion of points raised in the debate over the coming weeks.  We appreciate CNN hosting this debate and the participation of Tom Holder, Michael Conn, Peter Young, and Ray Greek.

Allyson J. Bennett, Ph.D.

The views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

CNN Debate

The aforementioned CNN debate can be viewed below:

For Animal Research:

Against Animal Research:

  • Peter Young – Animal Rights Activist
  • Ray Greek – President of Americans for Medical Advancement

Full report and analysis later.

Speaking of Research

Society for Neuroscience 2009

The 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience will take place in Chicago from the 17th- 21st October. During this time some of the greatest minds in medical research will meet at McCormick Place to participate in workshops, lectures and symposia. Neuroscience is one of the fields of science most reliant on animal research, partly because few “alternatives” can begin to mimic the complexities of the brain. Scientists are moving ever closer to newer and more innovative treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases – with animal models being crucial to our understanding of these pathologies.

Speaking of Research will also be making an appearance. Founder, Tom Holder, will be speaking at the “Animals in Research Workshop: Widening the Tent: Building Support, Creating New Allies for Animal Research“. It is important that anyone wishing to attend this lecture must RSVP beforehand by contacting Laura Martin on lmartin@sfn.org.

Given the growing threats to animal research, the research community must explore ways to develop new allies to promote responsible animal research. This workshop will examine how to “widen the tent” by involving patient groups, health care providers, industry and others who have a vested interest in protecting responsible animal research. Participants also will focus on broadening the base of support by engaging leaders worldwide on the health and scientific breakthroughs made possible through animal research.

Other speakers include:
Jasper Daube, MD – Professor of Neurology, Mayo Clinic
Robin Elliott – Executive Director, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation
Helmut Kettenmann, PhD – President, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies

The talk will be on Monday October, 19th from 9am – 11am, in room S402A.

Holder will be in Chicago from 3pm Saturday to 5pm Monday. If you wish to contact him while he is there please do so through his American mobile – 310-994-8103, or email him on tom@speakingofresarch.com.


Speaking of Research


Tom’s mobile is not working due to some problem with AT&T – this is no longer his phone number. Please do not contact it – instead use his email – tom@speakingofresearch.com

CNN – Researchers Standing up to Activists

“Researchers to animal-rights activists: We’re not afraid”

This is the sort of CNN headline we need to hear more about. The story covers the actions of two SR committee members, David Jentsch and Dario Ringach, who recently wrote a top-rated journal article in the Journal of Neuroscience. Also mentioned is Professor Jeffrey Kordower’s article in the same journal. Ringach gets to the heart of the problem when he says:

Scientists bear part of the responsibility for not having explained to the public why their work is important

However the top quote of the article goes to Society for Neuroscience President Thomas J. Carew, who said:

Responsible animal research has played a vital role in nearly every major medical advance of the last century, from heart disease to polio, and is essential for future advances as well,” he said in a written statement. “Today, it is unacceptable that, in the pursuit of better health and understanding of disease, researchers, their families and their communities face violence and intimidation by extremists.

It is quotes like this that are vital to get into the mainstream news if we are to challenge the public misconceptions about animal research. The article goes on to mention the Pro-Test Petition:

The outspoken researchers are not alone. More than 10,000 people — many of them scientists — have signed a “Pro-Test Petition” that credits animal research with having “contributed … to major advances in the length and quality of our lives.”

It adds that “violence, intimidation and harassment of scientists and others involved in animal research is neither a legitimate means of protest, nor morally justified.”

This is generally been a very positive article to have on CNN – we urge other scientists to following in Jentsch, Rinach and Kordower’s footsteps and stand up publicly in support of animal research.


Tom Holder

Violence vs Non-Violence? The AR Debate!

A Fractured Movement?

It is easy to believe that the animal rights movement is one giant bloc, working together to abolish animal research using tactics which range from the legal, to the dubious, to the outright criminal. However it is these range of tactics which prove to be the most divisive point for activists, and is causing large fractures and infighting between groups. Recently the Thomas Paine’s Corner blog (TPC) (Warning: AR Extremist Website) has been attacking those parts of the animal rights movement who reject the use of “militant direct action”. The editors of this website include two Animal Liberation Front Press Officers (Jerry Vlasak and Jason Miller – see links for more details on them) and numerous other pro-violence extremists such as Camille Marino and Gary Yourofsky.

Emotion & passion drive action; not sterile debate. Attitudes change when people engage and feel. BE DISRUPTIVE. UNRAVEL COMPLACENCY. IT’S OUR JOB. We need to obliterate the status quo — not tolerate it; not become a part of it. Be loud! Be unafraid! Be Militant!
– Camille Marino – “Negotiation is Over” blog (Warning AR website)

“Do not be afraid to condone arsons at places of animal torture,” [Yourofsky] has written to supporters.
Matter of fact, if an “animal abuser” were to get killed in the process of burning down a research lab, “I would unequivocally support that, too.”
– The Toledo Blade, Sunday, June 24, 2001 (copy of article on AR website here)

TPC "approaches anti-capitalism and total liberation from an essentially anarcho-veganist position"

TPC "approaches anti-capitalism and total liberation from an essentially anarcho-veganist position"

TPC’s pro-violence rants have reached epic proportions, as this recent piece by Jason Miller (ALF Spokesman) on the TPC blog shows:

Call it [attacks on vivisectionists] extensional self defense. Call it justifiable homicide. Call it vigilante justice. A rose is a rose by any other name and it’s time for that flower to blossom in the AR movement. One of the master’s principal tools to maintain power, domination, and affluence is violence or the threat of violence—be it physical, psychological, social, political, or economic.

Consider this. Hideous as their agenda may be to some of us, anti-abortionist activists love embryos and fetuses enough to utilize violence as a form of extensional self-defense on their behalf. The question isn’t, “Do we agree with their agenda?” The question is, “Have they been effective?” Their record speaks for itself. Assassinations of doctors who performed abortions have nearly eliminated the practice of late-term abortions in the US. Food for thought.

Essentially Miller argues that any tactic that works – no matter how disgusting or morally reprehensible – should given consideration by his fellow activists. This kind of pro-violence rant, and the violence it encourages, has brought comment from non-violent AR activist Gary Francione. I’m no supporter of Francione, but I applaud his condemnation of the violent fringes of the AR movement:

Those who claim that there is such a thing as destroying a building or engaging in a break-in that does not result in harm or the risk of harm to sentient beings (humans and nonhumans alike) are simply deluding themselves.
– Francione’s blog “The Abolitionist Approach”

A Novartis executive has his house burned down by the Animal Liberation Front in August 2009

Did this arson attack risk harm to sentient brings? Almost certainly!

Sadly, other parts of Francione’s blog contain questionable pseudoscience (often thrown these in as “extras” to his arguments) and an even more questionable justification of anti-vivisection through arguments of sentience (see the AR belief section for a counter-argument).

Nonetheless, the fury of TPC against Gary Francione has been disgusting. His position of non-violence pro-veganism has apparently (according to Francione) resulted in him and his supporters receiving death threats. The TPC and “Negotiation is Over” blogs attacks have brought many other groups, such as HSUS, into the crossfire, as the fractures in the AR movement become more and more public:

[Francione’s] amoral and unconscionable actions became so regressive and dangerous, we have penned this response to denounce him unequivocally not only as a fraud, charlatan, opportunist, and megalomaniac, but also as a traitor and enemy to the animal liberation movement and as a major impediment to social transformation. Just as Wayne Pacelle of HSUS recently demonstrated that he is a collaborator with systems of oppression, so too Francione has now degenerated into an agent of state repression. He and Pacelle have now both attempted to defame and falsely accuse the radical wing of the animal liberation movement of terrorist actions and have sought to enlist and join forces with the state, the police and the FBI to break the back of militant forces in the movement.
– Camille Marino on TPC and Negotiation is Over blogs (Warning: AR wesbite)

Violence vs Non-Violence?

I will briefly end with my own assessment of the violence question. AR extremist groups frequently defend their actions by comparing themselves with other violent liberation movement in history e.g. The French Resistance who fought the Nazi’s in Vichy France.

The problem is that the entire argument fundamentally relies on the movement being morally justifiable. If you are willing to murder for your cause then you do so in the belief that you are in the right, that does not make it right. History is littered with examples of reistance/liberation movements who committed murder in the belief it would further their liberation cause – The Red Army Faction (Bader-Meinhof Group) killed many trying to liberate Germany from capitalist oppression, the Black September massacre at the 1972 Munich olympics was an action committed for liberation, recently Russia helped “liberate” South Ossetia from the Georgian Government and in 1945 the Soviet Russian forces liberating Germany raped and killed tens of thousands of unarmed German civillians.

The problem is that those animal rights extremists willing to commit arson, grave robbings and other attacks, do so in the belief that they are one of the “good” liberation/resistance movements – the fact that they are a tiny minority of people does not effect them if they believe they have billions of animals on their side (especially if they grant these animals moral equivalence) . There is little we can do to convince these extremists that their actions are wrong and immoral – many of these individuals have given years of their life to the liberation movement – for them to change their mind would be to say that the prime of their life has been wasted – something few people would be willing to accept.

Sadly there are a small number of people for whom jail will be the only deterrent – however our efforts in debating them can serve to stop them creating the next generation of animal rights extremists.