The tide could be turning against animal rights activists who demonstrate on campuses around the nation. Today marks the launch of Speaking of Research (SR), a student outreach organization, which aims to rally students and faculty in support of lifesaving medical research using animals.
Speaking of Research seeks to challenge animal rights dominance of the issue by participating in talks and debates on campuses across the country in the coming months. The groups website, http://www.speakingofresearch.org, provides students with the information and encouragement to enable them to speak out on the issue.
Animal rights activism is now at an all time high in the United States. Several university researchers have recently had their homes attacked by protesters while other scientists and their families have been threatened by mail, email and phone.
Tom Holder, founder of Speaking of Research, said: Students played a major part in changing public attitudes toward animal research in the UK, and we believe that American students can do the same. Animal research is responsible for most of the lifesaving treatments we take for granted, from anesthetics and asthma inhalers to penicillin and insulin. Its time to stand up for science, reason and the belief that a small and sometimes violent minority should not be allowed to dictate the future of medical research.
In the UK, the student movement Pro-Test (http://www.pro-test.org.uk) was one of the main driving forces behind creating open, popular support for animal research. In 2006 it held the first ever demonstration in support of animal research, attracting nearly 1,000 people. Holder was head organizer for all three Pro-Test demonstrations, and has since moved to the US in order to help bring balance to a debate which has been monopolized by animal rights groups.
Jacquie Calnan, president of Americans for Medical Progress (http://www.amprogress.org), a non-profit that provides support for scientists who carry out animal research, commented: For far too long our college campuses have been prime recruitment turf for animal rights groups seeking to misrepresent scientists need for animals in biomedical research. Animal rights disinformation campaigns have dissuaded some students from pursuing careers in the life sciences, and others to actively oppose the ongoing search for medical progress.
Pro-Test made a major impact in Oxford, helping build visible public support for animal research in the face of escalating animal rights extremism. Tom Holder was one of the founders of Pro-Test, and now he’s going to continue this work in the US (where he’s moved–as far as I can tell–primarily to build up his new organization). As animal rights extremists have stepped up attacks on scientists in the US recently as well, Holder’s work should be very relevant. And, although he’s just focusing on animal research, I still contend that Pro-Test has been an excellent model for scientific activism in general, one that could be used in the US on other issues as well, particularly in repelling attacks on evolution and on turning back the Bush restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.