The Scientific Activist

On Saturday, animal rights extremists torched the car of a scientist at UCLA–just one more incident in a long streak of violent threats and wanton destruction of property. LA Times columnist Tim Rutten gets it right when he states:

No sensible person dismisses the humane treatment of animals as inconsequential, but what the fanatics propose is not an advance in social ethics. To the contrary, it is an irrational intrusion into civil society, a tantrum masquerading as a movement. It is a kind of ethical pornography in which assertion stands in for ideas, and willfulness for argument, all for the sake of self-gratification. At the end of the day, there is no moral equivalence between the lives of humans and those of animals.

At the end of the day, though, two things need to happen: Law enforcement officials need to step up their attention to this investigation, because there’s a tragedy in the offing if they don’t. And L.A.’s extensive network of animal welfare advocates need to make it clear that they repudiate not only the terrorists but all who provide them material and tacit support of any sort.

Clearly law enforcement and scrupulous animal welfare advocates have their work cut for them. The rest of us just need to keep doing what we’re doing–making our case to the public and exposing these domestic terrorists for the violent frauds that they are.

But, if you’re particularly keen on making a difference, then you should consider applying for the Michael D. Hayre Fellowship, offered by Americans for Medical Progress:

The Americans for Medical Progress/Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach, established in 2008, promotes peer education about animal research among students and young adults aged 18-30. Named in memory of Michael D. Hayre, DVM, ACLAM, the Fellowship provides support for peer outreach and education projects in the United States.

The first AMP/Hayre Fellow was Tom Holder, a recent graduate of Oxford University and a leader of the U.K. research support group Pro-Test. Tom toured the U.S. in 2008, speaking to students and others on campuses and at biomedical research facilities. Tom’s work as a Hayre Fellow included the creation of Speaking of Research, an outreach and advocacy website and online network.

Tom’s time at Oxford coincided with an escalation of violence and intimidation of scientists by animal rights militants. Frustrated by the climate of fear descending on campus, he joined with others who chose to take a stand by forming Pro-Test, a student-led group that was instrumental in securing strong and vocal public support for science throughout the U.K.

The AMP/Hayre Fellowship program seeks to find and support college students and young adults here in the United States who are just as frustrated by the domination of animal rights rhetoric against biomedical research and who are committed to making a case for the necessary and humane use of laboratory animals in the pursuit of treatments and cures. As an AMP Hayre Fellow, by developing innovative outreach programs for your peers to lead them in making an informed decision about this issue, you will be helping to secure the future of medicine.

Americans for Medical Progress is currently accepting applications for the next class of AMP/Hayre Fellows. Fellows receive a $5,000 stipend and support for peer education projects. The deadline for applications is April 30, 2009.


  1. #1 Tom
    March 11, 2009

    Check out Speaking of Research’s post about the fellowship to help you on your way.

    Good mention Nick!

  2. #2 Gale Davy
    March 12, 2009


    Thank you for your insightful comments and for telling folks about the AMP/Hayre Fellowship. Anyone interested in applying for the Fellowship or just learning more about it can contact me at:

    Gale Davy

  3. #3 Edward
    March 12, 2009

    Simply stating that there is no moral equivalence between human and nonhuman animals is no substitute for an argument in support of such a position.

    Of course, simply starting with such a contentious claim as an initial premise may be a good way to get you to the conclusion you want…thereby justifying your behavior.

  4. #4 notedscholar
    March 19, 2009

    Oh my goodness. Yet another reason to doubt the sanity (and moral seriousness) of these people.

    However, I’ve reviewed some evidence on my blog that says their concerns, however poorly expressed, might be justified. See here:


  5. #5 WhySharksMatter
    March 31, 2009

    There are plenty of animal rights crazies in every field. Recently, when a spearfisherman killed a tiger shark in self defense, the shark conservation group “SharkLife” posted his contact information online and told members to tell him how they felt about this incident.

    We’re discussing this incident on my blog here:

  6. #6 Fatboy
    April 1, 2009

    I agree with Edward, that the claim that there’s no moral equivalence between the lives of humans and non-human animals seems unfounded. Why? Is morality based solely on DNA? Empathy? Social contracts? Instinct? There are some pretty damn intelligent species out there besides us, capable of probably near as rich mental lives. Why are they worth less than severely mentally handicapped humans or infants who don’t have rich mental lives? I’m not saying that they are or aren’t, just asking for justification. I’m also not arguing that we shouldn’t do animal research, but such blanket statements as Rutten’s without justification bother me.

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