Tag Archives: SR

NIO keep digging in their moral hole

We recently blogged about the disturbing threats made by the Negotiation is Over animal rights extremists website.

Many science bloggers have joined SR in condemning their words. Janet Stemwedel (Ethics and Science Blog) ripped apart NIO’s tactics; Dr. Isis (On becoming a domestic and laboratory goddess) made a three point plan to defend scientists; and Earle Holland (On Research blog) reflected on Marino’s harassment of an FAU student. There were further posts from Orac (Respectful Insolence blog), Dario Ringach (on Opposing Views website)

PZ Myers (Pharyngula blog) sums things up when he says:

They’re quite proud of taking the unconscionably violent position. And now, just to show how low they can sink, they have announced a new target: our students

Notice that among the tactics they advocate are car bombs, injuries, and fear. These are home-grown terrorists, nothing more.

Sadly, after choosing to climb into a moral hole, NIO have chosen to keep digging.

If we tell a woman that it is unwise to walk down a deserted dark alley by herself because she risks being raped, it is an objective statement of fact generally offered as an expression of concern. When we educate vivisectors-in-training about the potential risks of taking an incorrect career path, we are again imparting objective information because we are concerned about their futures. Harrowing and intimidating as the thought of becoming another J. David Jentsch may be, it is a sobering reality — not intimidation.”

Marino and Grossman use the above flawed logic to defend themselves from the accusation of making threats. The problem with the analogy is it presumes that Marino doesn’t, in principle, care whether Jentsch is a vivisector – only that his job may be dangerous to him. In reality, Marino’s “objective information” is aimed to dissuade Jentsch from his current career. A more accurate analogy would be to tell a woman to quit her job or it is likely she’ll be raped. Less “objective information”, more not-so-veiled threat.

Of course, we are forgetting that many of Marino’s threats are considerably less ambiguous:

When we attack professors, we can only expect limited gains.

We need to instill a new mental image: car bombs, 24/7 security cameras, embarrassing home demonstration, threats, injuries, and fear. And, of course, these students need to realize that any risk they assume will also affect their parents, children, and nearest & dearest loved ones. The time to reconsider is now.

Note my highlighting of the use of “we”. This isn’t providing objective information, this is making direct threats.

Marino’s assault on students has been made before:

We must stand up, do whatever it takes and blow these f***ing monsters off the face of the planet. 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.

These words are not from Marino (though you’d be forgiven for believing they were). Indeed they are not from the US, but the UK. Just over five years ago animal rights extremism was peaking in the UK. It was this threat on students that led the biggest pro-research backlash against animal rights extremism in the country (probably the world); a backlash that would help to almost completely obliterate the animal rights movement in the UK.

As one of the original members of Pro-Test, I can only urge all university members to support one another in defending the lifesaving research that is done by you and your peers. Speaking of Research promises to do anything it can to help university members to deal with animal rights extremism on their doorstep.




Marino has now gone completely bonkers (ok, maybe it’s not just a recent state of affairs). She has posted a message she wrote on Opposing Views (comments) and is now attributing it to Dario:

I, Dario Ringach, admit that Camille Marino threatened no one. My ghoulish peers and I simply assigned gratuitous inferences to her objective and truthful words in order to discredit the compassionate activists at NIO. I admit that I am the real terrorist. Each and every day of my miserable life, I evoke fear and terror in the nonhuman victims imprisoned in my nondescript dungeon at UCLA. My stock in trade — like every animal-abusing piece of degenerate filth in my illustrious community — is intimidation, fear, terror, sadism, and murder. I sometimes confuse compassion with terrorism. Please accept my humble apologies.

How far will her delusions take her (click to enlarge)?

What NIO might say tomorrow

Could this be NIO’s posting for tomorrow?

SR Outreach at Synapse Conference

An audience of approximately fifty students and faculty attended workshops on “The Future of Animal Research:  Ethics, Education, and Public Engagement” at the annual SYNAPSE meeting hosted this year at Wake Forest University. SR Committee member Allyson Bennett discussed current issues and public views relating to animal research, the importance of participating in public dialogue, and the many different avenues for outreach, education and engagement.  Bennett also shared the experiences she and her colleagues have had in developing the successful Wake Forest University Primate Center Outreach and Education Program.  The WFUPC program has provided opportunities for hundreds of NC students and teachers to visit the primate center, learn about research, and meet scientists, veterinarians, animal care staff, and other members of the research community.

Both students and faculty attending the SYNAPSE workshops expressed enthusiasm and interest in the growing nation-wide efforts to reach out to the public and speak out about the importance of humanely-conducted, animal-based studies for advancing scientific and medical understanding.   A number of them left the session discussing ways to increase outreach, education and public dialogue on their own campuses.

SYNAPSE is a one day annual conference that provides young neuroscientists with opportunities to share their research with students and professors from a number of southeastern colleges and universities. Among those schools are: Wake Forest University, the University of South Carolina, Davidson College, Francis Marion University, Appalachian State University, Furman University, College of Charleston, James Madison University, Emory University, and Winston Salem State University.

Many members of SR are involved in outreach. Please contact us if you are interested in having someone speak at your institution or conference,


Allyson Bennett

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

The Basel Declaration: Standing up for Medical Progress

Top European scientists have pledged to engage in more public dialogue, openness, and education about animal research. Concerned about threats to the future of medical research, the scientists met recently and drafted a declaration that affirms commitment to responsible research and animal welfare and calls for increased effort to facilitate public understanding of the essential role that animal studies play in contributing to scientific and medical progress.  The call for “trust, transparency, and communication on animal research” was adopted by the first Basel conference “Research at a Crossroads” November 29th.  The Declaration can be found here, along with an invitation to sign up to it.

Prof. Michael Hengartner, Prof. Dieter Imboden and Prof. Stefan Treue sign the declaration

The Declaration underscores the importance of a wide range of animal research, from basic research that seeks to understand fundamental biological processes, to applied research that seeks to turn such knowledge into new medical treatments, and the critical ongoing need for this work:

“Over the last 100 years biomedical research has contributed substantially to our understanding of biological processes and thus to an increase in life expectancy and improvement in the quality of life of humans and animals. However, the list of challenges and new opportunities remains long.

Without research using animals, it will not be possible to overcome the social and humanitarian challenges posed by these problems. Despite new and refined alternative methods, animal experiments will remain essential in the foreseeable future for biomedical research.”

The Declaration makes clear that:

“Biomedical research in particular cannot be separated into ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ research; it is a continuum stretching from studies of fundamental physiological processes to an understanding of the principles of disease and the development of therapies.”

A Nature report on the meeting and an accompanying editorial highlight the crucial considerations underlying the scientists’ call for action, including not only the actions of extremists, but also the broad consequences of failing to build understanding of animal research:

Biomedical scientists in Germany perceive a separate crisis — increasing legislative restrictions that make it more difficult to carry out animal experiments. Hearing little to the contrary from researchers themselves, the public tends to assume that animal experiments are an unnecessary evil, so politicians respond with more restrictions.”

That problem was a major motivation for the Basel Declaration — drafted and signed at a meeting in Basel, Switzerland, last week (see page 742). Its signatories pledge to engage in open debate with the public about their work on animal experiments, to stress the high ethical standards to which they adhere and to explain why they have to do it. They intend, for example, to visit local schools or to mention that their research used animals when speaking to the press about new results.”

Such efforts have already yielded dividends; the Nature report notes how a determined effort over the past decade by scientists in the United Kingdom to inform the public about the reality of animal research resulted in greatly increased support for it.

Speaking of Research applauds this effort and joins in urging others not only to sign on to the declaration, but also to act on the pledge to continue to increase efforts in outreach, education, and engagement.

In fact, there are many groups and sources for information and conversation to which scientists can turn to for advice on outreach. They include advocacy groups and collaborative networks such as Understanding Animal Research, Americans for Medical Progress, States United for Biomedical Research, and the Foundation for Biomedical Research. They also include scientific societies such as the American Physiological Society, Society for Neuroscience, American Association of Laboratory Animal Science, and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.  Many academic institutions have actively built outreach and education programs that offer good models for others.

Speaking of Research also offers information, tools and support for those who choose to contribute to public discussion of animal research.  There are many resources and avenues to support individuals who want to learn more and identify a range of effective ways to contribute to the public discussion of animal research.

Before we finish we’d like to draw your attention to an excellent example of the importance of basic animal research, Christina Agapakis writes on the Oscillator blog about a fascinating study which used gene therapy to restore vision in blind mice.  This news comes only a few weeks after scientists in Germany reported that they had used a vision chip containing 1,500 light-sensitive elements to partially restore sight in patients who were blind due to damage to the light-sensitive cells in their eyes.  In an open access paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the team who carried out this important clinical study highlight the importance of in vivo studies in rats, cats, and pigs, and in vitro studies using isolated chicken retinas, in establishing both the theoretical basis for this study, and subsequently in determining the safety of the implant they developed. These advances in vision research suggest that devices available to help blind people see in the 21st century will soon eclipse those that Star Trek predicted for the 24th century!

This is of course exactly the kind of groundbreaking biomedical research that the Basel declaration seeks to defend.

Allyson J. Bennett, Ph.D*. and Paul Browne, Ph.D.

Speaking of Research

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


I am Speaking of Research

Most of the people reading this blog will proudly announce that they are “Pro-Test”, but are you “Speaking of Research”? On several occasions hundreds of you have posted here to announce that you are Pro-Test. Well over 11,000 of you signed the Pro-Test petition to agree with our principles. Now it’s time to act, it’s time to be Speaking of Research.

You may have noticed that after a slow summer, SR has begun to ramp up its posting efforts thanks to an energetic committee of writers; the number of people viewing the website has likewise increased. Now it’s time to accelerate this process. There are three ways we want you to do this:

1. Share SR articles with your friends online!

Follow us on Twitter – and retweet our posts. Join our Facebook group, and share our articles with your friends (note the Facebook button on the bottom of each of our posts). Hell, just start telling your friends about this website – everything helps!

www.speakingofresearch.com2. Write for us at Speaking of Research

Have something to say about the important role that animals play in research – please help us! We need people to write about the latest advances in medical research, to deconstruct the latest misinformation by animal rights activists, to write about their experiences in labs – just drop as an email (tom [at] speakingofresearch.com) and tell us what you want to write about. Articles are usually a few hundred words (with a picture – everyone loves a picture!) – see previous posts for examples.

3. Start an SR chapter

Why not help spread information about research from your own city or university. We need people to help start SR groups – this can be as simple as a few friends trying to provide information to colleagues about the role of research, or somebody trying to organize a city-wide demonstration in support of research (only advised when activists have begun to step outside legal means to get their message across). We will be providing more information in coming weeks over how to start an SR chapter in your area.

So, in summary, it’s time to get sharing, it’s time to get talking, it’s time to be Speaking of Research.


Tom Holder

A Review of 2009

2009 has been a big year for Speaking of Research as we went global with debates in Dublin, presentations in Ystad (Sweden), and rallies in the Los Angeles. In the US, Speaking of Research also had the opportunity to get the advocacy message outo to hundreds of scientists and researchers at 2009 annual meetings of both the Society for the Study of Reproduction in Pittsburgh and the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago. We also expanded our repertoire of social media (e.g. YouTube and FaceBook) to include Twitter – ensuring our message can be spread as widely as possible. This has clearly been effective as our website traffic has been increasing by approximately 50% every 6 months.

Just as we haven’t stopped, nor has the world of biomedical research. There have been advances in genetically modified monkeys, progress in combatting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), the use of gene therapies for cerebral X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy and Leber’s congenital amaurosis and research into repairing heart damage. Read all about these and more in our Science News section.

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

Sadly, the animal rights activists and extremists have also not slept this year. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have struck across the US with a home visit (with paint stripper) to the UCI chair of pathology, arson attacks against a UCLA Professor’s car, vandalism to lab suppliers in Nevada, and threats made across the web to researchers across the country. Given many university’s preference to play down or bury stories of animal rights extremism against them it is hard to get a clear indication of the total level of attacks made by the “anti-vivisection” community. There has also been a rise in attacks across the rest of the world, particularly in the campaign against Novartis Chief Executive, Daniel Vasella, who’s holiday home was firebombed, and parents’ graves were desecrated. It is in response to such attacks that we developed a new page on the website specifically to deal with AR Extremism.

However there has been a shining ray of hope in the US. After the attack on Professor David Jentsch’s car in Los Angeles, a group of professors and researchers founded Pro-Test for Science (originally named UCLA Pro-Test). In April 2009, Pro-Test for Science (supported by Speaking of Research) organized a rally in support of life-saving medical research. This demonstration attracted almost 800 people, and provided a platform for researchers to explain the importance of their research to the Californian media. Many UCLA officials came out to speak out against extremism and in support of science. Read the full report of the rally.

The Pro-Test march snakes along Westwood

The rally also begun another campaign. Supported jointly by SR, Americans for Medical Progress and Pro-Test for Science, Tom Holder announced the creation of the Pro-Test Petition – a public petition to support the use of animals in medical research. So if you haven’t already, sign up now! This petition has already gained a following of close to 12,000 signatories – and the number continues to grow.

So here is the tip of the iceberg of the events of Speaking of Research in 2009. To win public support we cannot slack now, and I urge as many new people as possible to get involved in our growing committee.

Wishing you a Happy New Year

The Speaking of Research Committee

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

UCLA Pro-Test … in 1 minute (YouTube)!

No it’s not the reduced Shakespeare company, it’s the first of a handful of videos which UCLA Pro-Test is producing (with the help of FPS Productions) about the successful rally on April 22nd.

Now for everyone with a YouTube account, we need your help to get this video seen by as many people as possible. So favourite the video, rate it 5*s and then share it with your friends.

YouTube has been a hugely important tool for organizations to get their messages across, and Speaking of Research is no exception, with our “Why we need animals in research video“. So help us spread the message.