The Scientific Activist

The LA Times has an article today about the founder of the UCLA chapter of Pro-Test, David Jentsch, a neuroscientist whose car was torched last month by animal rights extremist. This point is particularly relevant:

“People always say: ‘Don’t respond. If you respond, that will give [the attackers] credibility,’ ” Jentsch, 37, said in a recent interview in his UCLA office. “But being silent wasn’t making us feel safer. And it’s a moot point if they are coming to burn your car anyway, whether you give them credibility or not.”

Jentsch is right. The lesson of Pro-Test Oxford was that silence only encourages the extremists, and scientists have to stand up for their work in order for any real change to occur.

Just to put all of this in perspective, though, this is what the animal rights extremists have to say about the attack:

Two days after Jentsch’s car was burned, a profanity-laced Internet message from the murky Animal Liberation Brigade took credit for the fire, as it had for past UCLA assaults.

“The things you and others like you do to feeling, sentient monkeys is so cruel and disgusting we can’t believe anyone would be able to live with themselves,” the message read. “David, here’s a message just for you, we will come for you when you least expect it and do a lot more damage than to your property.”

Jerry Vlasak, a Los Angeles-area physician and frequent spokesman for the animal rights movement, said he and fellow activists do not participate in the attacks and do not know who is behind them, although he sympathizes with the actions.

Jentsch, according to Vlasak, “is hurting and killing non-human primates every day. And if it took harming him to make him stop torturing, it is certainly morally justifiable.”

Vlasak is so full of it. Whether or not he personally participates in the attacks is really immaterial, given that, as a spokesman for the terrorist organization ALF, he’s one of the primary people responsible for publicizing these various attacks and giving extremists a platform to incite more violence. And, his statements on the lengths that he thinks animal rights activists should go to in order to stop animal research are absolutely chilling.


Keep up to date on the latest regarding Pro-Test UCLA and the upcoming April 22nd rally at Pro-Test UCLA and Speaking of Research.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan
    April 13, 2009

    Nice post Nick. Thanks for sharing about Pro-Test UCLA, which I hadn’t heard much from till now. It’s encouraging.

  2. #2 JC
    April 13, 2009

    If anyone really cares to look at the big picture, it is unethical and cruel to continue testing on animals. We now have enough computer modules to do the work.
    I know, I know, testing animals “saves the children.” Well those animals are children to other living beings as well. We need to respect animals. They have feelings and feel pain. Self-righteous humans need to get a reality check. Humans are animals too. If they didn’t need to eat, breath, sleep, crap, I’d think otherwise. Humans who experiment on helpless animals are sadists and are in it for the money. Period.

  3. #3 Fossil
    April 13, 2009

    The self-righteous arrogance of JC speaks volumes about the animal rights movement, none of it terribly flattering. Note the easy recourse to the assumption that those who disagree with him, in particular, those whose professional activities transgress his narrow-minded dicta, are moral monsters. It’s rather like the anti-gay activists who claim that homosexuals are ipso facto child molesters.

    I view matters rather differently, since I have a daughter who survived a potentially deadly illness some fifteen years ago only by virtue of twenty years of intense research employing, no doubt, thousands upon thousands of animal subjects in various contexts. Does JC think that I ought to have been happy to sacrifice my kid to his dotty principles and his inane reasoning? Not a chance!

  4. #4 Katharine
    April 13, 2009

    JC, quit using modern medicine. Seriously. If you don’t want to use stuff developed from animal research, let people who see the value of it use it.

    Asshole. You know nothing of animal research.

  5. #5 Katharine
    April 13, 2009

    In addition, there is ample justification for using animal research when you consider the fact that researchers are to stick to IRB-approved procedures and computer models don’t do fuck.

    And does Vlasak realize the irony in his statement?

  6. #6 AK
    April 13, 2009

    JC: We don’t have good enough computer models to allow us to just use them. If we did we definitely would use computer models over animal models, as it would be more ethical (less harm to living creatures), allow research to progress faster (computer models aren’t forced to run experiments in real time), and cheaper (it costs a lot of money to take care of animals).

    There are many groups out there working hard on developing computer models of cells, cortical structure, organs, etc., but the sad truth is biological systems are incredibly complex and we just can’t model them down to the level we need for most research. A lot of current animal research (not the majority or a plurality, but still, a lot) in fact is being done to understand these systems down to the genetic and molecular level so that we can, in the future, simply run computer models.

    Until then, there are ethical guidelines in place that you have to meet from before you receive your funding through to the end of the experimental program. For instance, the only experiments you can do on apes are those that you can do on humans. As we learn more about things such as consciousness and pain these standards change.

    Most scientists are not sadists conducting experiments on animals because we love torturing things. We’re well aware that humans are animals as well and related to all other living things (c.f. evolution).

    Destroying property and threatening the lives of researchers isn’t going to lead to faster development of computer models. It’ll just make animal rights activists look crazy to the general public and force scientists to be more secretive. Instead do constructive things, like write to your congresspeople and ask them to make the NIH provide more funding to groups creating and testing these models, or study biology or computer science and work on developing these models yourself.

  7. #7 Edward
    April 13, 2009

    Science has to operate within ethical limits. Do these ethical limits sometimes delay discoveries? Perhaps. Certainly experimenting on human orphans would be more expeditious than experimenting on animals…but we accept those delays because testing on orphans is morally indefensible. If refusing to experiment on animals results in delays then we must accept those delays for the same reasons.

    Vlasak is not nearly as hypocritical as the experimenters. These experimenters are calling for peace while they continue to kill and mutilate animals. The violence is almost exclusively performed by the hands of the experimenters.

  8. #8 Scott
    April 13, 2009

    JC: Just where do you think computer simulations come from? They come from studies on real world subjects. People don’t just make them up out of whole cloth. Also, a computer animation of a creature (no matter how detailed) is not the same thing as a computer simulation of the biology of the same creature.

  9. #9 JohnV
    April 13, 2009

    Surely JC is just screwing around, a troll if you will. No one actually thinks “We now have enough computer modules to do the work.” do they?

    Edward seems much more realistic in his anti-medicine pro-disease outlook by arguing on purely moral grounds, which I understand but disagree with.

    Edward were you vaccinated as a child?

  10. #10 JC
    April 13, 2009

    The arrogance of humans is amazing. I guess that is why, in the year 2009, we still have wars basically over greed.

  11. #11 JC
    April 13, 2009

    And because I stick up for helpless animals, that makes me an asshole per Katherine. She seems heartless and I would hate to be her child (or pet).

  12. #12 Caleb
    April 13, 2009

    JC, I both disagree and agree. No, computer models are definitely not advanced enough to model the full effects of drugs. And even once they are, they will be misused to present some drugs as good by tweaking their models. But yes, I much prefer my animals not to be hurt. Mind, I know that can never completely happen, so I accept it. Death and suffering will always happen. The only way to ensure that one cannot be hurt further is instantaneous vaporization by massive lasers that will destroy you in femtoseconds.

    Scott, you’re wrong – most models come from the quantum physicists, who determine the rules that control our world. (mind, I might be wrong)

    But to all, I say the right balance of suffering caused vs suffering eliminated will always be subjective. As slavery was once accepted, and human experimentation, I can only believe that at some point in time we will decide that no amount of suffering alleviated can ever justify suffering caused.

  13. #13 Paul
    April 14, 2009

    Thanks for the shout Nick!

    Actually Caleb building models of biological systems does involve using a lot of data from experiments, in vitro, ex-vivo, animal in vivo, human in vivo or epidemiological depending on exactly what process you’re trying to model, and of course experimental data is also required to assess the accuracy of the predicitions made by your model as you develop it.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/295/5560/1678
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/101019956/PDFSTART
    http://www.ebi.ac.uk/biomodels-main/publ-models.do
    http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/Jahia/site/bluebrain/op/edit/pid/19092

  14. #14 Dave
    April 14, 2009

    JC, so where do you think they get the information to plug into the computer models? It has to come from animal experimentation. And if we stop doing animal research then all the computer programs will only be as good as the data originally programmed! Computer models are an excellent way to reduce the number of animals used in research but it can’t replace them entirely.

  15. #15 Cat Mom
    April 14, 2009

    The problem with extremists for any movement is that it paints the entire movement with a very broad brush. I am an animal rights activist, but of the type that works with the Humane Society of the US, the ASPCA, and other organizations that work through the mainstream to bring about positive changes for animals.

    The main problem with the current animal research model is that it relies on peer review and secrecy — duplicative studies are done and there is no input from the community about whether the goals are worth making that number of animals suffer. I deplore the violent methods used by the ALF and others, yet at the same time think we need to devote more resources to alternatives to animal research.

  16. #16 A
    April 15, 2009

    Cat Mom -
    Appreciate a voice that deplores violent methods and seeks openness.

    I’m wondering if you can give examples or say more about why you feel that duplicative studies are done and that there is no input from the community.

    I don’t believe that this is true. Most of the funding priorities for research are actually driven by the community and are in sync with public health concerns. Not only are scientists aiming for novel research, but funding is very stringent, as are regulations governing animal research– all of which argue against duplicative research.

  17. #17 Jolie
    April 15, 2009

    People who support animal testing are like Republicans. Among all the horrible qualities they have, they are crazy, and their minds cannot be changed.

  18. #18 Roger Caras
    April 17, 2009

    I have said it again and again and I will say it on the day I die if I have time – it is wrong to cause pain, it is wrong to cause fear, and to allow preventable pain and preventable fear to exist is no less an offence than causing them. That is my credo. I will argue it in heaven and hell. I will face any man or woman alive and argue it forever. I am more sure of that then I am of my private view of God and religion. I am more sure of that than I am of anything else in my experience as a man. I believe that credo is a valid view of my responsibility on earth.

  19. #19 Justin
    April 22, 2009

    I feel people who believe animals suffer and are tortured in animal research are a bit mistaken. I agree, as well, that pain is not something that should be cause to one another, human or animal. With that said, the animals used in crucial research for drug addiction, schizophrenia, and depression are actually treated under the most humane and strict of regulations.

    The process by which the animals are put down is not only the same procedure veterinarians use to put down pets quickly and painlessly, but also the animals are put down well before they reach the final stages of the disease or addiction. The reason for this is simple: we already know what happens by observing people in the final stages and death caused by such disorders. What we don’t understand as well is how the brain ceases to function normally.

    We cannot simply peer into a person’s mind and treat or cure it; it is not that easy. So, we use animals on whose brains the effects of disorders are extremely similar to exactly the same as humans. If the research could be done as effectively without animals, believe me, it would. However, when dealing with genetics and the brain there are very, very few ways to study it except directly. Computer models only go so far until they are outdated as stronger drugs enter the market, people’s behavior when taking the drug changes, and disorders evolve.

    Regardless of all that, the violent and unethical means by which groups like the Animal Liberation Front attempt to spread their ignorance is distasteful and insulting to the better part of humanity. If you want to cease animal research you better speak to your community representative, get involved politically, and file for a vote of change with our Congressional leaders. If you are unsuccessful (which Jerry Vlasak was when he addressed Congress), then it is because the majority voted against you. That is how democracy works. To wear ski masks and firebomb someone’s personal property in the dead of night, or terrorize them with death threats…then humanity has already been lost and there’s inherently no point to that sort of action anyway.

  20. #20 John
    April 30, 2009

    If this was a serious blog then those entries from a few week’s ago that were truely “pro-science” would NOT have been deleted. It is ALL about defending the salaries and careers of industry. This blog is just another extension of the front-groups who founded it. 99.9% of the time you people REFUSE participation to authenticate the basic logic and validity of the animal-model in a free open to the public debate. This shows an indifference for the suffering patient, taxpayers, and science itself. If one were TRUELY involved in life-saving research it would be an automatic, intrinsic, involuntary, and heartfelt response to reveal the merits of your research. History has shown that the animal-experimenter always loses in their ability to defend animal experiments simply because they do not have the truth on their side.They resort to lies, lies, lies, and have the audacity to wear t-shirts which state the words: “pro-science”.