There are those in the scientific community who are still fearful that an open and public discussion of animal research will lead to more bad than good… that the risks associated with attracting attention to yourself or your University outweigh the potential for reward. I disagree, in the strongest possible terms. My experience tells me that the opposite is, in fact, true.
I’ve been a target of a hateful and misguided campaign by animal rights activists. And in response, I’ve done by best to openly describe who I am, what I do and why. It’s easy to focus on the negative backlash to those efforts made by extremists, but the voices of support are equally important. In an earlier post, I shared one such solemn voice. Fortunately, there have been other moments when the voices of fanatics were overwhelmed by those of supportive and appreciative.
Five years ago, today, I was standing outside the gate of my Los Angeles home. An old car slowed down and pulled over. As the window rolled down, I saw a genteel old face. The passenger in the car introduced himself – his name was Sherm. He lived about a half mile down the road, and he had heard about me and my research. He also had seen the ugly protests made by animal rights extremists outside of my home, while driving by.
He thanked me for my work and for standing up against the people who marched in the street in front of my house. He said he knew how important research was and that he was grateful that good people like me were doing it. And he asked to shake my hand (I was grateful to accept).
After he pulled away, I walked down to my house, thankful for that one brief moment. And I was reminded that, if we do not step forwards and invite the public to understand us and what we do, how can we ever expect them to support us?