The Scientific Activist

By all accounts, yesterday’s UCLA Pro-Test rally in support of animal research was a great success. Up to 800 people showed up for the Pro-Test rally, but only 30-40 people showed up for a concurrent anti-research rally

These numbers are particularly notable for two reasons. Firstly, the number of supporters of animal researchers greatly dwarfed the number of detractors, an excellent illustration of how large this hitherto silent majority is compared to the fringe but vocal animal rights activists. Secondly, the number of participants at the UCLA rally was similar to the number that showed up at Pro-Test’s three Oxford rallies. This is an auspicious start, given how successful Pro-Test eventually was at making a positive impact in Oxford.

Accounts of yesterday’s rally abound, but the following are some of the most informative, all from people who, as far as I can tell, were actually at the event. Let’s start with a video from CNN:

Speaking of Research (Tom Holder):

As less than 40 animal rights activists came together to denounce animal researchers a rather bigger crowd began to grow on the other side of the road. Shouting chants like “Stand up for Science! Stand up for Research!” this group, with almost 20 minutes before the scheduled start of the rally, began to grow.

One hundred. Two hundred. Four Hundred. By the time we reached our final destination we numbered around 800 people. Making their voices heard, scientists and students marched along Westwood Avenue up to the Court of Sciences in the heart of UCLA.

Science Insider (Greg Miller):

“I’m amazed,” UCLA neuroscientist David Jentsch said afterwards of the turnout (campus police put the crowd at about 700). Jentsch organized the rally after waking up one night last month to find his car in flames. Animal rights activists later claimed responsibility. Jentsch modeled today’s rally on protests at the University of Oxford that helped turn the tide of public opinion against animal rights extremists who opposed construction of a research lab there. Despite the time and effort it took away from his research and the hate e-mail he endured, Jentsch says the rally was worth it. “I think putting our faces on what we do humanizes the effort and makes it harder to write obscene things in the middle of the night and to brutalize people.”

Pro-testers gathered on the edge of the UCLA campus as a counter protest staged by animal rights groups was winding down across the street. The anti-vivisection rally, part of the annual World Week for Animals in Laboratories, attracted fewer people–several dozen–and at times there seemed to be almost as many journalists as protesters. The media, including CNN and several local television stations, had turned out perhaps hoping to see a confrontation. There wasn’t one. The visible police presence may have helped, but everyone on both sides appeared to be on their best behavior.

UCLA Newsroom (Alison Hewitt):

The event – a pro-research demonstration, in part to counter a rally held on campus by the anti-animal research activists at the same time – marks the first action by the new group UCLA Pro-Test. UCLA neuroscientist David Jentsch formed the group after extremists set fire to his car parked in his driveway while he slept on March 7. This act of violence was followed by online threats to “do a lot more damage than to your property.”

“I hope this rally lessens the sense of helplessness and fear that has pervaded our community,” Jentsch said as the group marched to the Court of Sciences. The line of marchers stretched close to a quarter mile long. “We’re just not going to take the harassment anymore.”

CNN (Chuck Condor):

On Earth Day on Wednesday, Dr. David Jentsch marched at the head of a column of UCLA students and faculty members to the chant of, “Stand up for science!” Across the street a smaller but equally vocal group of animal rights advocates chanted, “U-C-L-A, how many animals have you killed today!”

Until recently, Jentsch had never dreamed he would lead a political demonstration. But Jentsch’s life took a sharp turn last month when his car was firebombed in his driveway. A radical group of animal rights activists claimed responsibility for the act.

Jentsch says that he hopes that this week’s dueling demonstrations can lead to a dialogue. He believes many of the protestors voicing opposition to the UCLA labs do not endorse the string of violent acts aimed against him and other researchers, “but it is essential for them to repudiate this type of activity.”

LA Now (Larry Gordon):

Competing rallies at UCLA today over the controversial issue of animal research are peaceful so far, with supporters of the research appearing to outnumber opponents by more than 10 to 1.

About 400 people, including UCLA faculty, staff and students, have joined a pro-research rally on the northwest corner of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue, just south of the campus. The demonstrators are carrying signs with such slogans as “Animal research saves lives” and “Campus terrorism is not OK.”

As numerous police officers stood by, the pro-research group briefly traded slogans across Westwood Boulevard with a smaller, rival rally of about 30 animal rights activists on the intersection’s northeast corner. Opponents of the research contend that UCLA scientists ignore the suffering of primates and other animals used in the experiments.

NBC LA News (Olsen Ebright, Kimber Liponi)

The Pro-Test group swelled to 750 people by one estimate. They carried signs that read “Say No To Terror,” “Stop the Bombing,” “Animal Research Cures Cancer” and “Research Benefits Human & Animal Lives.”

The Pro-Test group marched across campus and held a rally in front of the Court of Sciences. The crowd cheered and applauded as researchers talked about the medical advances that have been made, in part, due to animal testing.

LA Times (Larry Gordon and Raja Abdulrahim)

With signs proclaiming, “Research Yes, Terror No,” the larger rally was organized by UCLA neuroscientist J. David Jentsch. Police say Jentsch’s car was destroyed by animal rights extremists near his home March 7 because he uses and sometimes kills vervet monkeys in research on schizophrenia and drug addiction. That incident, in which no one was injured, was the latest in a string of arson attacks and threats against UCLA scientists since 2006.

Jentsch said his rally’s comparatively large turnout showed that many people wanted to speak out against the attacks and for the medical advances that he said animal research produces.


Update: I didn’t intend for this post to be totally comprehensive, but I clearly missed a few particularly good first-hand accounts earlier. Here they are (thanks to a nice summary document (pdf) by Americans for Medical Progress):

Daily Bruin (Daniel Schonhaut):

The rally, organized by Pro-Test at UCLA, marked the first time UCLA researchers publicly stood up in support of animal research since attacks by activists escalated four years ago.

Pro-Test supporters met at the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue. From there they marched to the Court of Sciences, where a number of guest speakers talked about the role of biomedical research in medicine.

Hundreds of people carried signs proclaiming, “Stop the Violence” and “Animal Research Saves Lives.” Many also joined in chants of “No more threats! No more fear! Animal research wanted here!”

Daily Bruin (Audrey Kuo)

Hoisting a sign and marching with several hundred others, Megan Wyeth was not just protesting in favor of animal research. She was also trying to protect the safety of her friends.

Wyeth is one of seven founding members of Pro-Test at UCLA, a group formed to speak out against animal rights extremism.

In her fourth year of graduate studies in neurobiology, Wyeth was upset that top-notch professors and students were being attacked for doing their jobs.

Animal researchers follow strict standards on animal welfare and work closely with veterinarians who perform laboratory examinations, Wyeth said. She added that Veterinarians are some of the most ardent supporters of animal research, and she pointed out several among the Pro-Test demonstrators Wednesday.

UCLA Today (Alison Hewitt)

UCLA researchers, who for years have faced harassment and attacks from anti-animal-research activists, were heartened as roughly 700 supporters on campus joined them Wednesday, April 22, calling for an end to the intimidation, fire-bombing and violent threats.

The event – a pro-research demonstration, in part to counter a rally held on campus by the anti-animal research activists at the same time – marks the first action by the new group UCLA Pro-Test. UCLA neuroscientist David Jentsch formed the group after extremists set fire to his car parked in his driveway while he slept on March 7. This act of violence was followed by online threats to “do a lot more damage than to your property.”

Also, check out additional videos from UCLA Newsroom and KCAL9/CBS2.


DrugMonkey has also collected some feedback and reports on the rally here and here.


Update: More at Neurotopia.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul Browne
    April 23, 2009

    It was a pretty good turnout indeed, especially when you consider that many scientists and academics would have been working while it was on, not to mention other supporters from outside the university who might have joined had the rally been on Saturday.

    I was particularly happy that Dario Ringach, the neuroscientist who announced in 2006 that he would give up his animal research if activists would stop harassing him and his family, is now a member of the UCLA Pro-Test committee and attended the rally. He’s clearly decided that a promise made under duress (as was certainly the case with him) is not binding…good for him!

    Hopefully this new movement will flourish and show the AR extremists that no matter what they do scientists will no longer be intimidated and will continue to undertake vital work and support that done by their colleagues.

  2. #2 Paul Browne
    April 23, 2009

    Me again.

    If you want to continue the success there’s a poll that could do with some crashing, currently the anti-vivs are ahead.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2009/04/activists-clash-peacefully-over-animal-experimentation-at-ucla-demonstrations.html

  3. #3 Denis Alexander
    April 23, 2009

    I think it is worth emphasizing the disturbing comments of Peter Young to the Bruin. After all, this is precisely the kind of behavior UCLA faculty has been subject to in recent years. Let’s read together:

    “I think it’s important for researchers to know that they’re being watched and are being held accountable for what they do,” Young said.

    Translation: “You either do what we want or we will bomb the hell out of you”

    “Any kind of dialogue that does not result in the total abolition of animal research is worthless,” he said.

    Translation: “We are interested in dialogue only if you agree to free the animals. If not, we will bomb the hell out of you.”

    Young said he would not denounce violent tactics used by some activists and supported those who have broken into research labs to free animals.

    Translation: “Go ahead and bomb the hell out of these scientists. I won’t do it because I have an FBI agent looking over my shoulder and I’d rather not go to jail again.”

  4. #4 chad
    April 24, 2009

    to take say you are “for animal research” is just as bad as saying you are “against animal testing”. you should look at things on a case by case basis. the animal rights folks have documented a lot of really cruel and totally unnecessary things done in the name of science. if there was no mistreatment of animals by scientists, then there wouldnt be so much controversy about the subject.

    folks for both sides shouldn’t let their political views blind them.

  5. #5 ArchAsa
    April 24, 2009

    Chad – Please realize that of course the people who marched in the Pro-Test rally don’t think its ok to poke and torment animals just for the hell of it. There IS a major difference to say you are against animal testing (no wiggle-room) and saying you are for animal research (if at all helpful and proper).

    I think the animal rights movement was necessary and did a lot of good initially. We don’t need to breed animals solely for their pelts, we don’t need to create useless and cruel experiments just to see what happens. It is also good to develop non-animal testing procedures more. But there is still a need for testing on real live organisms unfortunately, not to be cruel but to be sure we do not cause irreperable harm to humans (or indeed other animals that also benefit from various studies – do not forget).

    And it may not be saintly to say this, but having to choose between the lives and health of my family and fellow humans on the one hand, and the lives of a few animals on the other – is not really a choice for me.

    Its good that scientists now think twice before animal testing, but once that second round of thinking is comlpeted they should be allowed to go on with it. These extreme animal rights activists are cut from the same mould as Anti-abortionists.

  6. #6 Denis Alexander
    April 25, 2009

    Don’t forget to add your signature to the petition: http://www.raisingvoices.net

  7. #7 Gerry
    April 30, 2009

    The great turnout further proves the lengths people will go when their jobs are threatened by those who expose the FRAUD of animal experiments. Funny how they can find the time for this but not one of these “researchers” show up for a reasoned explanation to reveal if animal-experiments genuinely translates to the human clinical setting. Every single one of them fears Dr. Ray Greek who proves without a doubt the FRAUD they are engaging in. Thus, this event was no different than a union rally to keep the cushy salary and benefits they enjoy from UCLA which 95% is paid by taxpayer dollars for these modern-day Dr. Mengele’s.

  8. #8 Keith M Ellis
    May 2, 2009

    To name the counter-protesters as “anti-research” is as dishonest were they to call their opponents as “pro-torture”. This kind of doublespeak is beneath you.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.