Tag Archives: Wake Forest University Primate Center

“Successes of Antivivisection Activists” are delusions, at best

The North American Animal Liberation Press Office drew upon the recent profile of UCLA researchers by the Chronicle of Higher Education in a recent post (warning: extremist website), boasting that information in the article:

validates activists’ tactics and achievements in making the abuse of animals more costly and dangerous for the evil men and women who insist on putting their own careers and greed over the suffering and lives of innocent animals.

What the statement by NAALPO misses, in its simple-minded misstatements of facts regarding research at UCLA, is that biomedical research, including that which involves animal subjects, is going strong on this campus, as it is on others across the world. Certainly, my own research, which in part focuses on the biological mechanisms that mediate addictions, continues unabated. It is humane and responsible, and it progresses. Insinuating that animal rights activists have driven down the number of animals used at UCLA, the NAALPO author indicates that the Chronicle article fails:

…to account for the hundreds of lemur monkeys recently transferred from UCLA to an east coast institution when Lynn Fairbanks gave up her research on them here.

Firstly, lemurs are not monkeys; they are prosimians. Secondly, UCLA never had a colony of lemurs; the animal resource in question is a colony of pedigreed vervet monkeys that now resides at the Wake Forest Primate Research Center. Thirdly, according to Lynn Fairbanks – a member of the Speaking of Research and Pro-test for Science committees,

our partnership with [Wake] has enabled us to expand our research on environmental and genetic origins of psychopathology.


Commenting on the move, David Friedman, professor of physiology and associate dean for research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who uses behaviorally phenotyped colony animals in his own research on the etiology of alcoholism, told us that:

The vervet research colony was relocated in order to facilitate research teams and institutions working together to concentrate expertise and promote collaboration and to maximize the use of an invaluable animal model for research relevant to a broad range of diseases, including addiction, psychiatric disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and aging.  Having the colony at Wake Forest facilitates all  these efforts and helps to make sure the resource can be even more widely shared and well utilized than it has been in the past”

Dr. Fairbanks continues making important discoveries by studying these vervet monkeys, discoveries that will contribute to the understanding of the causes of behavioral problems like impulse control disorders, and she remains an important advocate for humane biomedical research on animals.

The three serious failures of fact in this one sentence in the NAALPO statement alone belie the ignorance of the entire posting.

What the NAALPO author also misses is that animal numbers usually decrease when a particular program of research is completed and the resulting discoveries are discussed and translated into clinical research, and ultimately to benefits for human society. They also sometimes decrease when scientists discover new ways to refine their procedures and when technological advances permit reductions in numbers of subjects needed to make discoveries.

The NAALPO author goes on to obsess over the costs of federally-funded research at UCLA and the security measures to protect researchers from violent animal rights extremists. What they seem unable to understand is the cost of not doing research… that a human life – that of your child, your mother or your best friend – has no price tag. These costs are easily justified by the need to ensure that families everywhere are able to live happy and healthy lives.

So, for animal rights extremists in Los Angeles, the delusions of grandeur continue, but the successes are few. Dario Ringach puts it best when he says:

Science is a community effort.  My suspension of animal research does not mean the work has stopped.  It is being performed elsewhere by hundreds of talented colleagues.

Basic discoveries that enable the developments of treatments or cures are emerging at a rate never before seen, and this will continue despite efforts of misguided and hate-mongering animal rights activists wherever scientists pursue open discussion of the goals and nature of biomedical research in which they are engaged.


David Jentsch

Who’s Afraid to Talk about Animal Research?

Part 1:  Outreach and Education Programs by the Nonhuman Primate Research Community

One of the misleading claims often made about members of the community of scientists and others engaged in, or supportive of, animal research is that they don’t talk with the public about their work. To the many scientists and others actively involved in a broad array of both formal and informal education, outreach, and community engagement efforts it is obvious that there is, in fact, a great deal of talking about animal research. At the same time, as with any other aspect of science or area of public interest, there is always a need for more outreach and more public engagement.

Speaking of Research encourages new outreach efforts and increased participation in dialogue about the responsible use of animals in humanely-conducted and ethical research. For those seeking to become more involved in speaking out about animal research there are many sources of information and existing programs that provide good ideas, models, and assistance in setting up new efforts.

This post will begin a series that highlights different approaches to science outreach and education, particularly those focused on research with nonhuman animals.  We begin with community outreach and education programs at primate research centers.  Many primate centers have active outreach programs built around educational objectives and service to local schools, including programs that provide opportunities for K-12 students to learn about research, internships for college students, and tours of their facilities.  The focus on educational outreach and opportunities for students is in keeping with the role of scientists as educators.

The California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) is one with a long-standing educational program.  Initiated in 2003, “the Education Outreach Program (EOP) was developed as a free, public-service program to introduce K-6 students to nonhuman primates, general health science concepts, animals in research, and biomedical research programs and careers. It supports the California Science Content Standards. This program has been a huge success with the classes visited since it began in June 2003. Comments we have received indicate that the children, as well as the adults, have a greater understanding of primates and health sciences, and the positive benefits that the primate center has on their lives.”  The CNPRC website includes links to the curriculum for their outreach program as well as many resources for teachers.

The Oregon National Primate Research Center also has an active outreach program, with its mission described as:  “Scientists have a responsibility to communicate their research findings to the public, and ONPRC scientists and administration take this responsibility seriously. The Office of Education Outreach hosts tours for over 3,000 visitors to the Center each year.”  As well, “ONPRC scientists speak to Center visitors, serve as mentors for teachers and students, and visit area classrooms. In addition, they participate in various programs through OHSU’s Science Education Opportunities Office (SOAR), and collaborate with several local and regional institutions, including Saturday Academy, OMSI, and the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR).”

Rhesus Monkeys at ONPRC

Outreach programs at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the Tulane National Primate Research Center also support interactions between local schools and scientists engaged in primate research.  At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, a description of outreach programs illustrates an approach that, like others, includes many different audiences:  “The Department of Veterinary Sciences plays a vital role in helping to develop an appreciation for and an understanding of biomedical research by offering teachers, regional youth and the public a unique avenue to actively participate in the research process. Our formal education programs provide opportunities for individuals to dramatically increase their content knowledge in the sciences; access to scientists, veterinarians and other career role models in the sciences to both educators and students; practical hands-on student activities that coordinate with national science standards and curricular frameworks; and professional development for employees.”

At the Wake Forest University Primate Center the community outreach and education program “serves the community by providing children in grades K-12 and their teachers with opportunities to visit the WFUPC and learn about biomedical research. These tours are designed to give visitors educational information about nonhuman primates and the unique role that they play in translational research, to highlight the wide range of human health disorders that are addressed by the Translational Science Institute and the WFUPC, and to educate children about careers in science.”

Among the sources for educational and outreach materials about nonhuman primates are those provided by the American Society of Primatologists (ASP). ASP has a long history of encouraging and supporting “the development of educational programs in primatology” and “promoting improved instruction regarding primates.”  Their website includes helpful links and materials for teachers and others “looking for ideas on incorporating nonhuman primates into their lesson plans and anyone interested in learning more about nonhuman primates.”

Finally, the Primate Info Net (PIN), begun in 1995, provides many resources, links, and helpful educational material to those interested in primates, primate research, and outreach activities.  The PIN is maintained by Lawrence Jacobsen Library at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC), University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Primate Info Net is designed to cover the broad field of primatology, providing original content and links to resources about nonhuman primates in research, education and conservation. Through email lists and other resources, PIN also supports an informal ‘primate information network’ comprised of thousands of individuals around the world working with nonhuman primates in a variety of roles.”

There are many other ongoing outreach, education, and community engagement efforts. Those highlighted here provide just a few examples of the types of programs that encourage interaction.  Speaking of Research encourages scientists and others supportive of animal research to get involved in public outreach activities through the broad range of existing programs such as those highlighted above, but also by developing new initiatives.  Members of the Speaking of Research Committee work actively in many different types of public outreach and education and are available to share advice and experience with others.  We encourage you to use the comments section or to write posts to share your own experiences and programs and, by doing so, help to continue to build networks for supporting and increasing these efforts.

Allyson J. Bennett, Ph.D.

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.