Later this week, a group called “Progress for Science” will meet on the UCLA campus to proclaim their view that scientific research must be stopped. This is not a new group; it’s the same old activists bearing a new moniker and a slick new website. They are just like their fellow “activists” that claim that climate science is fraud and that man plays no role in global warming. They are just like those that approve of banning embryonic stem cell research. And actually, in their lust for the use of violence to stop medical research, they are exactly like Operation Rescue who sees murdering abortion providers as ethically justifiable.
In one event, the protesters will gather near campus to hold a candle light vigil. They’ve done this before; it’s not new. From experience, their take on a vigil is a strange one.
Instead of honoring those dying from HIV/AIDS in the third world, they will shout down researchers and doctors trying to end that suffering through research. Instead of mourning the orphan children in Sub-Saharan Africa who were born HIV+, they will loudly proclaim their view that no mouse should die to save even one human life. They will – strangely – characterize decades of progress that have led to the life-extending HIV drugs we have today as “fraudulent science”.
Instead of quietly contemplating the life of people dying of brain cancer in the hospital not blocks from where they gather, they will hand out pamphlets encouraging violence against scientists. They will deny that science had anything to do with advances in the treatment of cancer, and they will offer no logical alternative insights into where life-saving chemotherapeutics came from or how they were invented.
Instead of supporting research to conquer addiction to cigarettes – one of the leading causes of cancer and other forms of preventable death in the modern world, they will state their view that those smokers only have themselves to blame. They won’t tell you that the development of the nicotine patch or the drug Chantix came into being because of basic pharmacological studies in animals. They won’t tell you how rat research played a key role in the undoing of the cigarette companies’ arguments that cigarettes weren’t addictive. They will show no concern or empathy at all for those dying.
Instead of hoping that children with epilepsy will walk out of the hospital seizure-free, they will denigrate and vilify the necessary scientific progress that was done to develop anti-seizure drugs and to perfect the surgical procedures designed to liberate their brain from debilitating convulsions. They will declare it a crime against the fundamental rights of animals to use them even in painless research projects and even if the scientific benefits are undeniable.
When scientist after medical doctor after public policy maker after honest citizen of this country says “animal research is necessary for medical progress”, they will call them liars or ignorant.
When the people trying to make the world a better place by preventing disease and misery walk past their vigil, these so-called activists will feel hatred and anger in their hearts. They will imagine fire bombs and threats as rewards for the progress these scientists try to accomplish.
When anyone – perhaps you – dares to think that a mouse’s life is not equal to that of a human child, they will call them/you misguided and bigoted. When anyone dares to state the view that animal research can be conducted in a humane, responsible and life-giving manner, they will call them a Nazi and hurl threat after threat.
This is what an animal rights vigil looks like.
As I said, it’s a strange one.
The group calling themselves “Progress” for science has a strange view of what progress is. If you believe that progress is a slow and steady transition to a world where scientific fact is denied, where people are allowed to die to preserve the life of mice and where an individual’s personal beliefs justify threatening and harassing them, then this group is made up of the kinds of activists that will bring that progress. As noted above, they have a lot in common with a variety of activists – including those who repudiate basic human rights.
But if you believe that progress is a sometimes slow but unwavering transition to a world where everyone – both humans and animals – are healthier and where we all know more about the nature of the universe around us, then scientists are the activists that are creating the change you seek.
Because science pushes forward towards unknown discoveries, it will always be frightening and threatening to a few that do not understand it. But their fear must not be allowed to stop progress – real progress. The progress that all forms of research – including humane animal research – has brought and will continue to bring our world.