Guest Post: Animal models in research are necessary and ethical

David Jentsch:

What an articulate, clear and truthful defense of the importance of humane, responsible and regulated animal research. I urge students involved in biomedical research across the world to do what Mr. Cordy has done and communicate the importance of our work to the broader public.

Originally posted on Speaking of Research:

The following post was originally published in The Daily of the University of Washington on April 26, 2015. It has been reproduced with permission from the newspaper and the original author. Benjamin Cordy is a neurobiology student at UW, he is also the Editor-in-Chief of Grey Matters Journal – an undergraduate neuroscience journal whose mission is to educate the public and develop effective science communicators.

Guest editorial: Animal models in research are necessary and ethical

On Saturday hundreds gathered in Red Square to voice their opposition to scientific research. At its core, this is the true message of the animal rights movement, which believes that research should never rely on animal models. The march on UW was about stopping science altogether. Is this really the best move for society?

Debates about animal models in research are emotional, contentious, and unfortunately, often fraught with demonstrably false “facts.” This is a serious…

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Animal research successes spur growth in science…but PeTA can only complain

David Jentsch:

PeTA complains that the scope of animal research is growing. It’s the success of our research that spurs this growth, and society benefits enormously. Here, in a blog post featured on the Speaking of Research website, I argue why we should all be thankful for this expansion.

Originally posted on Speaking of Research:

What do multiple myeloma, influenza, advanced breast cancer, atrial fibrillation, thyroid cancer, ear infection, advanced ovarian cancer and obesity all have in common? One commonality is obvious – they cause suffering, sickness and sometimes death in people around the world. Another commonality is less obvious – these are each conditions that are now being treated with new drugs just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the past three months alone. That’s right… in the period from Thanksgiving 2014 until now, new drugs that treat each of these conditions have become available, and these agents will be used to treat the illnesses that may affect millions of Americans. Eventually, they will likely have enormous worldwide impacts on these diseases. That’s something to be thankful for.

While some are thankful that the scientific progress is successfully tackling human suffering and disease, others cast doubt on the way that…

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It’s long past time for you to take a stand against animal rights thugs…

It has been more than 5 years since my car was bombed by radical animal rights fanatics who knew nothing meaningful about my research but were opposed to it anyway. Sometimes, it feels like just yesterday. Sometimes, it feels like a story from another, distant life.

Fighting non-stop against the lying thugs who have targeted me has, at times, taken every bit of strength I had. The fight has threatened to compromise my scientific research by draining my time, my motivation and my passion. Fortunately, I stayed as strong as I could and pushed through. I look back on the most recent 5 years and feel that I have accomplished more scientific progress than I ever expected of myself and know that animal rights bullies have not had the effect that they wanted. In short, they have failed.

But my battle is not unique, and today, the animal rights scourge is not backing down. Indeed, they are determined to have an irreversible impact: one investigator at a time.

PeTA, the Humane Society of the United States and garden variety animal rights thugs across this nation are working hard to ensure that their influence is strong and effective. At this very time, neuroscientists in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Maryland are the targets of sustained and withering campaigns, ranging from false allegations in the media, to illegal home demonstrations, to despicable online campaigns of hate and vitriol.

Picketers demonstrating in the street in front of a researcher's home.

Picketers demonstrating in the street in front of a researcher’s home.

Each of the investigators is a world-renowned scientist whose work has fundamentally transformed the way we think about the relationships between brain and behavior, in both health and disease. In each case, their research necessarily involves non-human primates and addresses addictions, alcoholism, anxiety disorders and depression. In essence, their collective effort – which involves a relatively small number of animals – addresses the life-changing disabilities faced by more than 2 billion people alive today. This is not niche research – it is work that touches the lives of virtually everyone. Mental illness is a matter of personal concern for everyone: whether it affects us directly or afflicts someone we love.

monkey

A vervet monkey living in a social enclosure at my laboratory at UCLA.

 

These scientists have given their professional lives over to addressing some of the most disabling illnesses that face humanity. Their work requires animal models and is conducted in a responsible and humane way.

When animal rights thugs have demanded that their research be investigated, the results have been the same – these costly and time-wasting “investigations” have revealed nothing but that the researchers have followed all the ethical standards that society expects of scientists.

And in return for taking on the most critical problems imaginable in a responsible way – they are being treated in an ugly and reprehensible fashion by animal rights fanatics who label the work useless and evil.

Surprisingly, there has been a limited response from the scientific community. The American Psychological Association, whose membership is made up of many of the nation’s top psychologists who study and treat mental illness, came out in strong support of one affected investigator. The leadership at the NIH, including some of the most influential scientists alive today, have as well (here and here). But other scientific societies and individual scientists have been largely silent.

It is long past time for scientists to stand up in public and open defense of their colleagues. It is long past time to act in the interest of a community that has made scientific progress possible. It is long past time to do more than privately support our colleagues and then move on with our lives.

I therefore charge everyone reading this post to do at least one of the following right now:

Use social media to let the University of Minnesota’s President Kaler (@PrezKaler), University of Wisconsin’s Chancellor Blank (@BeckyBlank) and NIH’s director (@NIHDirector) know that you support the life-saving research that is going on in their animal research labs.
Click here to tweet your support to President Kaler
Click here to tweet your support to Chancellor Blank
Click here to tweet your support to NIH Director Collins

Let Congresspersons Lucille Roybal-Allard (@RepRoybalAllard), Dina Titus (@repdinatitus), Sam Farr (@RepSamFarr) and Eliot Engel (@RepEliotEngel) know that they should retract their calls for an investigation of non-human primate researchers and instead support this vital research.

Click here to tweet your support to Representative Royabal-Allard
Click here to tweet your support to Representative Titus
Click here to tweet your support to Representative Farr
Click here to tweet your support to Representative Engel

Ask the scientific societies to which you subscribe to make public, forceful statements in support of non-human primate research and those that conduct it. Of particular importance are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Neuroscience and the Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Respond to comments from animal rights extremists on websites and news stories by noting that the research is humane and responsible and of the highest scientific caliber.

And express your support directly and earnestly to the affected scientists and find out what they think you can do to aid the cause of ending the harassment they are receiving from animal rights groups.

 

Beagle Freedom Project Uses Former Research Dogs to Spotlight its Anti-Research Campaign

David Jentsch:

Important words from Cindy Buckmaster on the retirement of dogs from medical research…

Originally posted on Speaking of Research:

Today’s guest post  is by Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, chair of Americans for Medical Progress.

Activists at the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) continue to gather support for their agenda to end animal-based research – and some in the research community are unknowingly helping them.

Many of you have seen recent TV news items or read news articles that feature beagles said to have been saved from laboratories where they never had a toy, played with other dogs, or experienced kindness and love from people in research settings. The Beagle Freedom Project uses the limitations of the news media to create this one-sided and false impression of the lives of research dogs.

Individuals at research institutions interested in rehoming post-study animals are approached by adopters representing themselves as private citizens, eager to adopt dogs retired from research. These applicants don’t indicate that they are working with the Beagle Freedom Project. We know of several…

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Defending student researchers: our most valuable scientific resource

The following is a repost of an OpEd piece that I wrote and that was published in the Daily Bruin on October 28, 2014.

 

At UCLA, we endeavor to teach you – our students – the knowledge and skills that you will need to contribute to a better world. For many of you, the experience on campus is not complete without playing a deep role in transformational research. But in addition to your contributions to scientific exploration, we encourage you to take on the heavy duty of participating in public life to help society make important decisions based on facts and rational judgment: Should we vaccinate children? Is the Earth really warming up? Is it necessary to explore our solar system and outer space? Should we use animals in medical research? These are just a few examples.

But some people are working hard to ensure that your voice is never heard.

A recent Daily Bruin article, “Animal rights activist groups target student vivisectionists,” which was published on Oct. 23, indicates that animal rights groups are trying to target students who participate in life science and medical research at universities in the U.S. and the U.K. that involves experimentation on animals. They are opposed to this research, despite the fact that it is crucial to medical progress, well regulated and ethically justifiable. Having failed to use reason and civil debate to adequately advance their ideas with the broader public, they now quite cynically opt to offer rewards to those who expose student researchers, thereby enabling the intimidation and harassment of those identified.

Their obvious goal is to harass you out of your studies and research and to prevent the future that will lead to new therapies and cures of tomorrow.

I know their tactics well, because for more than five years, animal rights activists have worked day and night to suppress my voice and my research that deals with the causes and treatments for addictions. They firebombed my car. They sent me razor blades in the mail. They have harassed me and my loved ones with endless home demonstrations, where they scream their threats and obscenities. They want to ensure that I am unable to express my humanity, my ideas and my work. They believe their right to speak stands above those of others.

All Bruins should unanimously reject such hateful behavior. You should feel proud to be contributing to science and understand that you never need to fear exposure for selflessly engaging in essential scientific research. Like me, I am sure your friends, your family and your peers understand that you have made personal sacrifices to make sure that scientific research improves the future for all mankind. You are a good person who chooses to improve the world through science and knowledge, rather than through hatred and anger. Destruction is easy. Creation, discovery and progress can be hard.

But creation cannot be stopped.

As the famed poet Pablo Neruda once wrote:

“Podrán cortar todas las flores, pero no podrán detener la primavera.”

“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

Animal rights groups may be able to prune the flowers, but they’ll never stop the surge of the spring that comes from our tireless and noble work.

Be a proud scientist.

Embrace it. Live it.

I stand with you.

Nobel Prize 2014: Fortune favours the prepared mind

David Jentsch:

What animal rights extremists call “curiosity-based science” with no relevance to humans and “torture”, the Nobel committee calls paradigm shifting basic science that has changed our very understanding of the brain itself. Once again, the Nobel Comittee has recognized responsible and humane basic and translational animal research that is fundamentally necessary for the evolution of our comprehension of how the brain supports our mental functions and how its dysfunction contributes to mental illness and neurologial diseases.

Originally posted on Speaking of Research:

Speaking of Research congratulates John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser on being awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine“for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain”.

Noble_med_medal_intro

By recording the activity of individual nerve cells within the brains of rats that were moving freely through their environment, they have shown how specialised nerve cells work together to execute higher cognitive processes.

In 1971 John O’Keefe identified the first component of the system, by identifying cells in the hippocampus that were only activated when a rat was in a certain position in its environment. These cells were activated when the rat visited the same location, but different nerve cells were activated when the rat visited a new location, these “place cells” were not merely registering visual input, but were building up an inner map of the environment. John O’Keefe is now…

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Unscripted ignorance in the animal rights community

As many of you are aware, opposition to biomedical research involving animals comes in many forms. Increasingly common is opposition to the scientific value of the work. From pseudoscientists, like Dr. Ray Greek, to opposition groups that specifically target academic research universities, like Progress for Science, many extremist elements make the claim that the study of animal genetics, cellular biology, physiology and behavior simply can’t reveal meaningful insights about human genetics, cellular biology, physiology and behavior.

It’s reasonable to puzzle over the kind of reasoning that could lead to their fundamentally flawed conclusions, and every once in a while, they get “off script” and show you that it is scientific illiteracy that is responsible. The following clip features an recorded statement by Cory Mac, a member of the Los Angeles extremist group, Progress for Science. This is the same group that has revealed its fundamentally hypocritical anti-science, anti-vaccination, anti-medicine beliefs on more than one occasion. The video is short, so follow it to the very end, paying close attention around 1:20 in.

If you listened to the nonsense all the way through, you heard this “esteemed” member of Progress for Science say:

Well, of course, primates aren’t the same as humans.

Well, of course, we humans are primates. We belong to a specific family within the Primate order, and we are no doubt primates.

I am sure animal rights defenders will argue that she simply misspoke, rather than being mistaken. This is a pretty basic fact of science to be wrong about, though, and the fact of the matter is that there is a deep uncurrent of serious science illiteracy in the animal rights movement: a fact often concealed by their practiced ability to spout off scripted challenges. It should be clear that their scientific challenges rest on a huge foundation of misunderstanding and ignorance about the facts of science itself, and it’s our job at scientifically literate persons to point this out to the broader public.