Tag Archives: speaking of research

If you don’t want to miss a thing

Thanks to the incredible work of the SR committee, the amount of news we produce has risen to the point that there are posts almost every other day. Our end-of-week Research Roundup allows readers to keep abreast of the week’s animal science news, while we also cover news from animal rights groups, worldwide statistics, and more.  Our hard work is being rewarded, Speaking of Research are increasingly being quoted in the media, and our calls to action are being taken up by hundreds of scientists (For example, Christine Lattin has already received over 300 comments of support).

We want to make it as easy as possible for you to catchall our great stories, so here are three ways you can keep up to date.

1. Email 

At the bottom-right of any page (on desktop view) is a button allowing you to sign up for email alerts. Receive a quick email from WordPress the moment a new post is published. THe button may look slightly different if you are logged into a personal WordPress account at the time.

Find the button pictured to sign up for email alerts.

 

2. Facebook

All the latest stories are posted on our Facebook page, usually within an hour of them going up on the website. This allows you to easily share the posts with your friends. You can also find links to other interesting animal research stories from across the internet – all in one place. So please “like” us on Facebook, and encourage friends and colleagues to do so as well.

3. Twitter

We provide links to all our latest posts on our @SpeakofResearch Twitter feed. On top of this we also tweet and retweet links and information we think is useful to our supporters. So please follow us!

4. LinkedIn

Most of our posts can also be found on our LinkedIn page, so please take a moment to follow us on this platform.

5. Visit us all the time

The tried and tested tradition of booking marking our website and visiting it every day to check for new posts is still a great way of ensuring you don’t miss a thing. Seriously though, something new might have been posted … hit F5 and check. No? What about now?

If you came to this post hoping for something about Aerosmith, we’re sorry you had to read this far:

We’ve always assumed he was talking about Speaking of Research too!

P.s. Thanks to Dr Windsor for suggesting we add this feature to our website!

Help us help you!

The Speaking of Research website provides a wealth of information for the public about why animal research remains an important part of scientific, medical and veterinary discoveries. While our news blog may be most relevant to those involved in the field, the static pages provide information about the animal model, medical developments, regulations, statistics and more. So we believe the more easily the public can find our website, the better for everyone in the field.

So what happens when a member of the public searches for “animal testing” (which, according to Google Trends, is searched for around three times as much as “animal research”)?

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Eight of nine search results on the first page provide a negative idea of animal research. The last one provides arguments from both sides. No wonder that young people are now opposed to animal research by a 14 percentage point margin.

pew-research-animal-research

There is, however, something you can do. Google’s algorithms mean that websites that are linked to by .edu and .gov websites will be more trusted and be pushed further up the search results. See more on the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNHR6IQJGZs

We need you to get www.speakingofresearch.com added to your University department website (or Government website if you are that position). So please send an email to your department website editor (and convince friends in other life science departments to do likewise) to ask them to add links to pro-research organisations on an appropriate page. Many of you will have direct control over sections of your department’s page, so please take a few seconds to add the middle section of the letter below.

Dear Webmaster

Please can you add the following paragraph to our departmental website, on our page about animal research here: <insert url>

For more information about the role of animals in research we recommend the following website:

http://www.speakingofresearch.com – Speaking of Research: Providing accurate information about the important role of animal experiments in medical and veterinary research.

Kind Regards

<insert name>

Why not help a few key organisations by asking them to add more than one website, such as:

http://www.speakingofresearch.com – Speaking of Research
http://www.amprogress.org – Americans for Medical Progress
http://www.fbresearch.org – Foundation for Biomedical Research
http://www.animalresearch.info – Animal Research Information

With your help we can ensure the public sees the facts about animal research!

Speaking of Research

Do you have a passion for explaining science? We need you!

Speaking of Research is a group of like-minded researchers and science communicators. We have flourished over the last 8.5 years thanks to the hard work of a committee that has come together to help each other, as well as fellow researchers and institutions. Despite having a budget of about $200/year, we have come together to build one of the biggest resources about animal research on the internet. We believe that openness about animal research is the best way to win over public and policymakers. But, we need your help to achieve this.

The SR committee is an ever-changing group of around 20 people who are motivated to make a change in the way we talk about animal research. The committee is made up of people from across North America and Europe, but we would also welcome people from further afield to help us understand the animal research environment in other countries.

Committee members often write articles debunking misinformation propagated by animal rights groups [Image by Randall Munroe or XKCD]

Committee members often write articles debunking misinformation propagated by animal rights groups [Image by Randall Munroe or XKCD]

What type of people on the committee?

  • Scientists who use animals in their research – be it fruit flies, mice or monkeys. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Masters student or a tenured professor, your support is valued.
  • Veterinarians who work within animal research facilities.
  • Animal care technicians who work to look after animals in laboratories.
  • Science communicators, particularly those who do media relations or public engagement for an institution conducting animal research or relevant society.

What does the committee do?

  • Writing – this is one of the key jobs of our central committee – ensuring that there is new material on the website (and updating existing pages). People write about their own research, research in the news, debunking misinformation by activists, responding to policy changes and much more. Not a great writer? Some of our best articles are produced by guest authors, but we still need to be the ones to find those people.
  • Social Media – we need people to help put science news on Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels.
  • Sharing news and information. Seen some amazing new medical breakthrough? Information about animal activism?
  • Networking – From individuals and institutions wanting to become more actively involved in animal research outreach, to those targeted by activism, the SR committee works to support scientists and institutions worldwide.
  • Media work – We are often required to give comments to journalists, or occasionally appear on radio and TV. Having numerous people prepared to step up to the plate is always useful. We have worked with committee members to train them in talking to the media. We also put our press releases and produce briefing materials for journalists.
  • Conferences – Speaking of Research members have often spoken about animal research outreach at conferences including Society for Neuroscience and AALAS.

SR member talking about the importance of openness on the BBC.

How can I join the committee?

Contact us! We’d love to hear from you, even if you just have some questions. We ask new members to write an article for the website to show their interest in explaining animal research (we can help advise on topics, as well as provide support in editing and proofing any drafts).

What am I expected to do on the committee?

We do understand that our careers often mean there are periods where we are unable to help, but hope you find  some time to contribute in some manner to Speaking of Research’s goals.

  • Email List – the committee communicates through an email list. While we don’t expect everyone to reply to every email, we do ask that people contribute their knowledge or support occasionally.
  • Blog – We ask every committee member to contribute one article every four months (or to find a colleague who might contribute a guest post). This ensures we have a minimum amount of news on the website (thankfully, some committee members contribute much more). Articles tend to be 400-1500 words, but we are very flexible.
  • Contribute – We hope committee members find other ways of contributing. Some people keep an eye out for new statistics, some people look out for institutional animal research statements, and some people help post on social media. Whatever you can do, we welcome the help.
The committee communicates primarily by email

The committee communicates primarily by email

I’m not ready for the committee, but I still want to help!

We have written extensively on other ways you can help us.

While all our committee are volunteers, we still require a small amount of funding to keep our website going and carry out small outreach activities (we have produced posters for conferences and promoted articles on social media). Donating just €10/£10/$10 is a huge help to our efforts in explaining the important role of animals in medical and veterinary research.

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Yours sincerely

The Speaking of Research committee

Can we agree? An ongoing dialogue about where retired research chimpanzees should live

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about concerns for the health and wellbeing of chimpanzees moved from dedicated research facilities in the US to the only federally-supported sanctuary, Chimp Haven (“Do politics trump chimpanzee well-being?  Questions raised about deaths of US research chimpanzees at federally-funded sanctuary” 7/14/16). The impetus for this particular post was a compelling article written by Dr. Cindy Buckmaster (“Dr. Collins, please save our chimps! Lab Animal, Vol 45, No 7, July 2016). The article was about the deaths of 9 of 13 retired research chimpanzees who had recently been transferred to the federal sanctuary from the National Center for Chimpanzee Care (NCCC; University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Bastrop).

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Lab Animal article about relocated chimpanzees

There are, of course, other research facilities and other sanctuaries that house chimpanzees in the US. We, and others, have written previously about the broader picture, events, and considerations, including in posts here and in peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals (e.g., Facts must inform discussion of future of chimpanzee research, 8/12/11; Guest post: Efforts to ban chimpanzee research are misguided, 10/13/11; Where should US chimpanzees live, 12/5/15; Bennett, 2015; Bennett & Panicker, 2016).

Our recent post, like others on this topic, addressed some of the considerations that we believe should inform serious, fact-based public discussion of the different settings in which chimpanzees live in the US. The primary focus of the post, however, was on the federal sanctuary and the outcomes of transfer from a research facility to the sanctuary. There are several reasons for focusing on this case. Among them, are:

  • Providing the best possible care to ensure retired research chimpanzees’ health and well-being is the central ethical justification for continued public support of the animals.
  • Decisions about whether or not to transfer retired research chimpanzees to sanctuaries and zoos are ongoing and, presumably, will be informed by consideration of the outcomes for animals already relocated.
  • These chimpanzees are supported largely by federal funds, whether in dedicated research facilities or in the only federally-funded sanctuary. Chimp Haven is not the only, nor is it the largest, chimpanzee sanctuary in the US. It is, however, the only sanctuary in the federal sanctuary “system” and the only sanctuary that receives millions of dollars of federal support and a commitment to 75% of the cost to care for retired NIH research chimpanzees.
  • Similarly, federally-owned research chimpanzees are not the only chimpanzees in the US. Some research chimpanzees are the responsibility of private institutions. The retired chimpanzees transferred by NIH to Chimp Haven are chimpanzees that are owned by the federal agency. Thus, the ultimate decisions about the chimpanzees are under the direct control of the public agency.
  • While the focus here is on a particular subset of chimpanzees and a particular set of facilities in which they live, that does not mean that other chimpanzees and facilities are beyond the concern of the public and the research community. By contrast to NCCC and CH, however, chimpanzees owned by private institutions and transferred to private sanctuaries is largely not decided with public input or by public agencies. For example, this is the case for many of the chimpanzees slated for transfer from the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) to a new sanctuary, Project Chimps, in Georgia. It is also the case for chimpanzees at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (YNPRC) that were transferred, with assistance from the American Zoological Association’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), to a Tennessee zoo. In fact, the movement of chimpanzees between zoos in the US is a common occurrence and one that occurs with little public dialogue and input into decisions.

For all of these reasons, along with other more fundamental questions about the care of chimpanzees, the ethical justification for activities that they are involved in, and the roles that different types of facilities play, continuing discussion of the transfer of retired research animals to the federal sanctuary is of interest to many.

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Photo credit: Kathy West

Perspectives from experts across the communities that care for chimpanzees

A number of people with long history, expertise, and deep involvement in care for US chimpanzees commented on our previous posts to provide their perspectives and additional information that can inform others concerned with the situation. Among others, these comments were from veterinarians, scientists, and board members with direct experience at NCCC, the dedicated research facility from which chimpanzees that were the subject of the post were transferred, and Chimp Haven, the chimpanzees’ final destination.

What emerged from the comments appeared to be a consensus on a number of points, including universal agreement that the care and housing for chimpanzees at the research facility, the NCCC, in which the animals lived prior to transfer and many continue to live, is excellent. In addition, there were multiple calls for collaboration and setting aside differences across the different communities involved in decision-making and care for retired chimpanzees.

At the same time, members of the CH Board leveled some criticisms at the post. The chairman of the CH board and another member of the board felt that it was unfairly focused on their facility, wrongly attributed the stress of chimpanzees’ relocation as a critical factor in the animals’ deaths, and did not adequately represent CH’s care for those animals and its comparability to a research facility.

While the CH board members were critical of the discussion, members of the research community pointed out that sustained campaigns to demonize their own work, facilities, and care for chimpanzees have been a major factor that contributed to the decisions about chimpanzees, to public views, and to the current situation.

Chimpanzees 2Overall, we are encouraged by the response to this post and to the emergence of a public dialogue that goes beyond soundbites and entrenched positions in order to identify points of consensus and points that urgently need further consideration in order to inform ongoing decisions about captive chimpanzees. Providing an accessible space for serious, fact-informed discussion is a central goal of Speaking of Research and our blog. We are particularly encouraged that members of the research, sanctuary, and zoo communities have joined their voices to this particular venue for public dialogue. We appreciate their willingness to provide expert perspectives and to share their views.

While we encourage readers to review the full comments on the original post, we provide here a discussion of some main points and encourage continuation of the dialogue.

Points of apparent consensus:

That the care and housing for chimpanzees at the research facility, the NCCC, in which the animals lived prior to transfer and many continue to live, is excellent.

Dr. Elizabeth Magden, comments on the similarities between the research facility in which she works and the federal sanctuary. Magden is a veterinarian who cares for the chimpanzees at the Bastrop, Texas facility that is part of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, now designated as the National Center for Chimpanzee Care (NCCC).

“Both Chimp Haven and the NCCC have large and enriching housing facilities for chimpanzees, with the goal of giving them the best possible retirement.”

The facility was also praised by Dr. Stephen Ross, an animal behaviorist who is both the chair of the Chimp Haven board and the Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, at Lincoln Park Zoo’s (LPZ) Regenstein Center for African Apes. As we’ve noted previously, Ross was also a member of the NIH Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research whose recommendations informed the discontinuation of the majority of NIH chimpanzee research grants and the NIH decisions to retire and relocate its chimpanzees.

“Having worked at MDAKC [now NCCC], I concur that the chimpanzee management and housing there is the topline in the industry… I have nothing bad to say about Bastrop or the care they have provided to the chimpanzees that live there.”

Chimpanzees using tools at NCCC

Chimpanzees using tools at NCCC

That the focus of ongoing discussion should be on making future decisions that center on best protecting the animals’ health and well-being.

Many of the commenters articulated this point. As summarized by Professor Michael Beran, a scientist with extensive chimpanzee cognitive and behavioral research at Georgia State University’s long-standing Language Research Center (LRC):

“It is crucial to focus on the long-term needs of these and all chimpanzees and to accurately assess and anticipate what can happen when they are moved like this. Misperceptions about the “goodness” of sanctuaries and the “badness” of labs need to be addressed, but as you noted, this does not have to involve blame. Rather, the hope is that there can be a more careful consideration of what the real environments are like that these chimpanzees currently live in versus the misperceptions of “lab” housing, and also what the real implications might be from moving them elsewhere.”

Dr. Magden, NCCC veterinarian:

“I think we need to refocus this discussion on determining what is best for the animals. … The NCCC has been recognized by the Chair of the CH Board of Directors as a topline facility. Why move chimpanzees from a wonderful facility to a place they do not know, with people that are unfamiliar, and new animals that may (or may not) be friendly towards the newcomers? We all want to be surrounded by our loved ones in our twilight years. Don’t the chimpanzees deserve that too?”

Dr. Steve Ross, CH BOD chair: “If we truly care about the welfare of these and other chimps living in labs and sanctuaries, then we have to spend less time demonizing through biased analyses and more time working together to make sound decisions.”

Chimp Haven photo from NAPSA

Unresolved points:

  • That the age and health status of retired chimpanzees is a critical factor to consider in weighing the risks of relocation; and, that the deaths of recently relocated chimpanzees merits serious concern and examination in order to reduce re-occurrence and risk to other animals considered for relocation.

While all of the commenters appear to agree that consideration of the chimpanzees’ health and welfare should be the primary factor driving decisions, there remains disagreement about whether relocation itself—or the care provided at CH—merit further review in light of recent chimpanzee deaths.  It was these recent deaths that were the focus of Dr. Buckmaster’s open letter to NIH Director Francis Collins and of recent media coverage.

For example, Dr. Elizabeth Magden, DVM, NCCC veterinarian, says:

“Our goals are the same, we love and care deeply for the chimpanzees we serve. That is why a 69% mortality in recently transferred animals is concerning. We need a joint commitment to look into what we can be doing better to help these amazing animals enjoy their retirement for as long as possible. Moving is stressful. Being introduced to new and unknown animals is stressful, can also lead to traumatic injuries, and some facilities have even experienced death.”

Members of the CH Board, including Ross, but also veterinarian Dr. Thomas Butler and Emory University and chimpanzee researcher Professor Frans DeWaal, provided personal testimonials about the quality of care at the facility. Overall, they appear to conclude that the recent deaths are only to be expected based on the animals’ ages. As summarized by Prof. DeWaal:

“Since we take in and house many individuals that have surpassed the median age at which captive chimpanzees die, we obviously expect mortality, but no reasonable expert would hold this against us. We are like an end-of-life care facility and have the death-rate to go with it.”

There is no doubt that many retired chimpanzees are aged or have health concerns, as we and others have quite clearly and repeatedly acknowledged as a critical factor that should guide decision-making. The specific question raised by the recent deaths at CH, however, is not whether it is reasonable to expect older animals to die. Obviously, it is.

The current question—and focus of Buckmaster’s article, our post, and discussion in the community— is whether the high number of deaths following the recent transfer should be met with sufficient concern to elicit an engaged response aimed at identifying whether everything that can be done is done to reduce future risk to chimpanzees and to ensure their best possible care. As captured by Professor William Hopkins, chimpanzee researcher at Georgia State University and Director of the Ape Cognition and Conservation Institute:

We can debate those facts [provided in the post] in terms of what caused the higher incidences of death but, as you indicate, there are no definitive data at this point in time. …[Steve Ross] ended … by stating that lab and Chimp Haven folks should be working together to make sound decisions about chimpanzee well-being. I agree with this entirely but, in retrospect, it seems clear that the decision to move these specific 13 apes was a poor decision. No blame is necessary but simply a recognition of this fact and a commitment to not letting it happen again.”

Prof. Hopkins’ comment, along with others, hits the central point.  It is promising to see members of the zoo and sanctuary communities vocalize agreement with the research community on the need to put chimpanzees’ health and welfare at the center of joint efforts.  At the end of the day, however, the question is how to move forward to best inform decisions.

And the question remains: Are the recent deaths are viewed only as the expected outcome of transfers, requiring no need for recognition? Or should they instead merit consideration as potential evidence that procedures, or relocation plans, should be adjusted?

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Chimpanzees at NCCC. Photo credit: Kathy West.

Dr. Ross, appears to argue that there is no cause for further reflection, nor for change, saying:

“As difficult as it is to discuss, death is very much a reality at an “end of life” facility such as a sanctuary. These chimpanzees may well have been well cared for by care and enrichment staff, but they have also been subjects of medical research which has in some cases has had very real health consequences. …objective readers of these facts must also realize the overtly misleading nature of comparing mortality rates of a small sample of aged chimps to overall death rates for a population. Chimpanzees that arrive at Chimp Haven are very often past the median life expectancy for the species (the average age of those chimpanzees from Bastrop that died at Chimp Haven was 42 years…. well over the median life expectancy for the species). These deaths were sad… and staff at both Bastrop and Chimp Haven mourned them. But they were neither the direct result of transfers nor were they completely unexpected given the demographic context of the species or the health status of these individuals.”

While his points about retired chimpanzees’ age are accurate, the implication that this set of chimpanzees were “subjects of medical research which has in some cases has had very real health consequences” is disputed by another commenter and remains unclear in absence of those animals’ records.

Thus, Ross’ implication—standing in contrast to his call for harmony and an end to “demonization”—was noted by other commenters. For example, Jennifer Bridges:

“I absolutely agree that we need to stop demonizing one another on this topic. Both facilities have a caring staff and the best intentions for their chimpanzees. However, in the same comment that you state that we should not be demonizing these facilities you also state that the 9 chimps that have died from the most recent transfer from the Keeling Center to Chimp Haven most likely had heath issues from use in research. In reality, many of those chimps were never used in medical research, ever. Implying that they were is further demonizing the Keeling Center which you have stated provides excellent, top of the line care. We all want what is best for these chimpanzees and hopefully we will be able to work together to do what’s best for them moving forward.”

Furthermore, as we’ve written previously, there is a long history of inaccurate statements about research facilities being used in promotional materials and arguments in favor of ending research and retiring animals. CH has previously engaged in exactly this kind of rhetoric (for example, here, here) and rarely acknowledges that research facilities such as NCCC can provide top of the line care for chimpanzees. Thus the irony of CH’s response to criticism was noted by other commenters as well. For example, veterinarian Dr. Thomas Rowell, who was the director of the NIRC for many years. Rowell reminds Ross that,

“The biomedical research community has for a long time been “unfairly characterized” when it comes to the care and use of chimpanzees and other animal models. There has been a lifetime of “demonizing” committed animal care givers and veterinarians who dedicate their life time to the profession and the animals under their care.

One can be sympathetic to commenters who react after having to endure statements such as “All invasive research is torture, and it’s not just the procedures. It’s the imprisonment. It’s being kept in a small space with no choice. You just are there. You’re powerless.” They use inflammatory statements like “chimpanzees have been infected with viruses, darted and sedated more than 100 times, and put through dozens of sometimes painful procedures”.

They describe a “better life” because of access to sun and grass for the “first time” when the reality is they have had access to the outdoors (including sun and grass) all that time. They mischaracterize there care by using descriptors for techniques of handling animals, that are common in zoos and sanctuaries, such as the use of “powerful and painful” dart guns and “frightening” squeeze cages for sedation. They do this so as to promote a political agenda and to misguide the public.

I agree with the last commenter. If we truly care about the welfare of these and other chimpanzees we should spend less time “demonizing”, on both sides.”

Chimpanzees in research, zoo, and sanctuary facilities

Chimpanzees in research, zoo, and sanctuary facilities

Prof. John Capitanio, a primate researcher at the California National Primate Research Center and a past President of the American Society of Primatologists, notes same frustration:

“A couple of years ago, I toured the chimpanzee facilities at MDAKC with one of the animal care people. I was totally blown away when she told me that, when animals were transferred from the Primate Foundation of Arizona to Bastrop several years earlier, she (and at least one other person) moved to Bastrop to be able to continue to care for the chimpanzees that had been under her care at PFA. That level of commitment is truly remarkable, and it really annoys me to have research institutions that obviously do a spectacular job of care, vilified in the way that they sometimes are, when they have people that are so dedicated that they will uproot their personal lives to move with their animals.”

What can we conclude?

In the end, none of the CH BOD provided acknowledgement, or any assurance, that the recent chimpanzee deaths had elicited sufficient concern to generate a new review of care procedures and decision-making about future transfers. Given that they appear to conclude the deaths are reasonable and expected, it seems possible that that they plan to simply continue the same course.

At the same time, Dr. William Satterfield, DVM, retired Keeling Center (now NCCC) veterinarian, called care practices at CH into question:

I personally visited Chimp Haven with a shipment of chimps that were being forced there by NIH from the Keeling Center. These animals had been provided state of the art behavioral and medical care at the Center were thrust into a minimal level care situations. They were unprepared at Chimp Haven to handle simple medical care that had been routinely provided at the Keeling Center. The supposed intent of NIH, doing the bidding of HSUS and similar organizations, to improve their care and save federal dollars, did neither, at the expense of the welfare of these animals. As a professional with over 30 years of caring for great apes, I had to hold my emotions and hope for the best for the animals. My worst fears have unfortunately become a reality for these animals.”

CH board members countered Satterfield and criticisms by others by pointing to their own experience with CH, as well as to its accreditation record with private agencies and its oversight by the USDA, a federal agency. Yet it remains true that the facts surrounding the recent deaths are largely unknown and not public. Nothing in the CH responses provided further illumination on those specific cases. From a reasonable public perspective, it appears that much remains unresolved with respect to confidence that examination of those cases can, and will, guide further decisions.

Summary:  Open questions for further consideration

1)  How should current experience inform decisions about future transfers?

2)  What are the other options for retired chimpanzees? Prof. Hopkins poses exactly this question:

Also, is it fair to ask everyone why it is the case that captive chimpanzees currently residing in labs cannot be retired in situ? If the sanctuary community acknowledges that some facilities provide excellent care (which is what I took from your piece), what is the financial and well-being rationale for moving them? For that matter, why is it that NIH has made the decision to only retire their chimpanzees to the Chimp Haven facility when other facilities, like ours in Des Moines, could accommodate some number of NIH-owned chimpanzees and provide excellent housing and care for them. None of these decisions make sense from a well-being and financial perspective. Let’s face the facts. Even in the best case scenario, given the retirement strategy that NIH has laid out, it will be many years before all their chimps are retired. So wouldn’t it better for chimpanzees, as a whole, if there were more options for their retirement rather than all the pressure to move them to Chimp Haven?”

We have addressed each of these questions in previous posts and articles and will continue to welcome dialogue on these points here, and in subsequent posts.

Speaking of Research

 

More at:

Bennett, A.J. (2015). The new era for chimpanzee research: Implications for broad ethical consideration and equitable treatment. Developmental Psychobiology, 57(3), 279-288.

Bennett, A.J. & Panicker, S. (2016). Broader impacts: International implications and integrative ethical consideration of policy decisions about US chimpanzee research. American Journal of Primatology, Epub ahead of print Jul 19.

Latzman, R.D. & Hopkins, W.D. (2016). Letter to the editor: Avoiding a lost opportunity for psychological medicine: Importance of chimpanzee research to the National Institutes of Health Portfolio. Psychol Med. Aug;46(11):2445-7. Epub Jun 10

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A successful year for Speaking of Research in the media

2015 was another successful year for Speaking of Research in the media.

In February, Speaking of Research Director, Tom Holder, was invited to speak to BBC Look East (from 1:36 in video below) about the construction of a new medical research facility in Cambridge, UK. In the interview, Holder reminded viewers that “animal research plays a small but vital role in the development of nearly all of the medical and veterinary treatments that we know today“.

In March, as the UK parliamentary elections loomed, we  found that many election candidates had signed animal rights pledges which would effectively ban 88.6% of research – including all basic research. SR was quoted by BuzzFeed saying  that banning basic research was “akin to asking a child to solve a difficult crossword without first teaching them to read” and in in-Pharma Technologist saying that “the reality is that without the fundamental research and the breeding of GM animals, the Applied research could not happen“.

This story was picked up again in April by a Wall Street Journal blog, which further noted the dangers of banning basic research. Among a number of quotes by SR, we noted that “All veterinary research would end. And it would cripple our ability to make advances in cancer, heart disease and many other conditions, all of which rely on studies on genetically modified animals”.

June marked the first of many stories in 2015 where Speaking of Research weighed in on the building of a new and improved beagle breeding facility in Hull, UK. There has been an ongoing battle over planning permission for the extended facility. SR mentioned the potential medical benefits in an interview (from 1:40 below) with ITV, saying, “There are thousands and thousands of medical breakthroughs which have come about, in part, because of studies using animals, and hopefully we will be able to develop the next generation of cancer treatments, and the next generation of heart treatments“.

In July, Speaking of Research put out their first press release, to cover the publication of the 2014 US animal research statistics. The release was picked up by Science, a better result that if the story had only been sent out from the animal rights lobby in America. Later in the month the beagle breeding facility story was again picked up in Inquisitr and Huffington Post with SR quotes; Holder told HuffPost, “Dogs have played a crucial role in medical advances including the development of ECG, insulin, heart transplant surgery and treatments for prostate cancer. They continue to be used for research into stem cell treatments and spinal injury, as well as to ensure the safety of new medicines and treatments“.

The HuffPost story also led to a blog on Huffpost entitled “Why people are wrong to oppose the new beagle breeding facility” by Tom Holder. The article was shared over 650 times, and garnered well over 4,000 Facebook likes. July also resulted in two radio interviews. Firstly, Holder spoke to Radio Spintalk Ireland about the general subject of animal research – covering common misconceptions, the regulations in Ireland, and the possible effects of banning animal studies. You can listen to this below.

Secondly, Speaking of Research spoke to BBC Radio West Midlands after an investigation looked at the number of animals being used in research in several British universities.

Laboratory Dogs

“Animal research may not be something we want to think about when we take our medicines – but it is something necessary for those medicines to exist. Instead of trying to ban animal research, let’s instead make sure that if we do it, we do it to world-class standards.”, writes Tom Holder in Huffington Post

 

October gave Speaking of Research the chance to say something about the animal rights group PETA. US News, the Daily Mail and New Zealand Herald all picked up on an article by AP about AP’s 35th birthday. Speaking of Research were quoted saying:

“By campaigning against animal research, PETA presents a threat to the development of human and veterinary medicine. Only days ago we saw the Nobel Prize awarded to Tu Youyou, whose work in monkeys and mice paved the way for the use of artemisinin to protect against malaria, saving over 100,000 lives every year. If PETA had got their way 30 years ago, we would not have vaccines for HPV, hepatitis B or meningitis, nor would we have treatments for leprosy, modern asthma treatments and life support for premature babies,”

In November Science Insider discussed PETA’s targeting of the NIH director’s home in a bid to fight primate research in the US. Tom Holder described the tactic of sending out letters with personal details of a researcher as “irresponsible and dangerous”

Finally, in December, Science Insider followed the story after the NIH decided not to continue to the primate research of Dr Suomi. Speaking of Research commented on this, saying that the NIH needed to become more vocal in explaining research. We have also been writing about this on the website.

We hope to have another successful year in 2016. Until then have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Speaking of Research

World Week to Speak Up About Animal Research

Banner at UW-Madison, April 2015.

Banner at UW-Madison, April 2015.

Each April a group of people committed to ending all use of animals for any purpose, including medical and scientific research, orchestrate events for a week they designate World Week for Animals in Laboratories (WWAIL). Among the primary objectives of WWAIL is to generate media coverage via picketing and protests. The event often culminates in World Day for Animals in Laboratories (WDAIL).

WWAIL events are primarily coordinated by Michael Budkie, leader of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN). Budkie is also known for previous misrepresentation of animal research and its rebuttal by federal agencies. Budkie’s group is funded primarily by the Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Foundation, a “Biblically based organization” that believes “our call to mission is to restore God’s original creation intent of a plant based diet (Genesis 1:29-30).”  The  mission of the Hoffman Foundation  is quite clear: “To promote through education the elimination of the use of animals in biomedical research and testing, their use as food, or their use for any and all commercial purposes…

Sit-in at UW-Madison during WWAIL (April 18, 2015).

Sit-in at UW-Madison during WWAIL (April 18, 2015).

SAEN is like other absolutist groups whose position is that no matter what potential benefit the work may result in, no use of animals is morally justified. This extends across all animals – from fruit-fly to primate. Furthermore, all uses of animals, regardless of whether there are alternatives and regardless of the need, are treated identically. In other words, the use of a mouse in research aimed at new discoveries to treat childhood disease is considered morally equivalent to the use of a cow to produce hamburger, the use of an elephant in a circus, or a mink for a fur coat.

WWAIL protests are focused specifically on research. Thus, the sites for protest tend to be universities and other research institutions where scientists engage in work that produces the new knowledge and discoveries that drive scientific and medical progress to benefit humans, other animals, and the environment. The protests also target individual scientists with the kind of “home demonstrations” we’ve written about before (see more here and here).  In some cases the protests target businesses that support animal research.

Although the WWAIL activities vary some each year, they have a few consistent themes:

  • First, the primary objective appears to be media coverage. In fact, a quick view of the “successes” claimed by the primary organizing group shows that number of news stories is the prize accomplishment.
  • Second, the number of people participating in the activities is typically a few to a dozen.
  • Third, most of the materials used in the protests, social media coverage, and news releases reliably rely on outdated, out-of-context images and little reference to the protestors’ broad agenda and position.

We agree that public consideration of animal research is important. Stimulating serious, thoughtful education efforts and inclusive public dialogue about science, public interests, medical progress, and animal research are critically valuable to public decision-making and, ultimately, to global health. Informed decisions based in accurate information and in an understanding of the complex issues involved in animal research are in the best interest of the public, science, and other animals.

For that reason, many scientists, universities, educators, advocacy groups, and individuals engage in public outreach, education, and dialogue about scientific research with nonhuman animals. Their goal is to provide the public with accurate and thoughtful information about the range of issues that bear on decisions, policies, and practices related to animal research. Among those topics are:  how science works, its process, timescales between discovery and application, why animal research is conducted, in absence of alternatives; who benefits and what would be lost if it did not occur;  how animals in research are cared for, how ethical review occurs, and how regulation and oversight function.

None of these are simple issues, which is why there are many websites, books, articles, and interviews on the topic. WWAIL provides a unique opportunity for the research community to help point people towards these resources for education, dialogue, and serious consideration of animal research.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we have one example of how to do just that.  The website referenced in the banner shown in the photos here (animalresearch.wisc.edu) provides extensive information about animal research.  The site provides facts, interviews, videos, photos, and links for those interested in learning more about why animal studies occur, the role that they play in scientific and medical progress that serve public interests, how research is conducted, its ethical consideration, and the practices, policies, regulation and oversight that govern animal care.

By contrast, we have the signs held by those below participating in a WWAIL sit-in at UW-Madison on Saturday.  Among the signs are photos of animals from other decades and other countries.  For example, note the repetitive use of a picture of Malish, a monkey who was involved in research in Israel in 2001 (not exactly relevant to UW).  We also see quotes by an actor and numbers that do not reflect those from UW-Madison.  None of these are difficult errors or misrepresentations to correct; but they probably won’t be corrected in absence of voices and sources to provide accurate information.

Sit-in at UW-Madison during WWAIL (April 2015).

Sit-in at UW-Madison during WWAIL (April 2015).

This year, if your university or facility is among those that attract attention during WWAIL,  we ask that you join in the conversation by providing protestors, public, and media your own voice.  Whether it is via banners, websites, or talking with reporters– speak up for science and for public interests in advancing scientific understanding and medical progress. Although it may not matter to those committed to an absolutist agenda, it can matter to those who are interested in building a dialogue based in fact and serious consideration of the complex issues that surround public interests in the future of science, health, and medicine.

Speaking of Research