Scientists Speak Out Against Intimidation

The victim of the car torching I mentioned in the entry Fear has stepped into the public eye to fight back. The UCLA professor was targeted for the research he conducts on schizophrenia and drug addiction using animals. It’s brave of him to speak out, considering that his life was threatened on an activist website that claimed responsibility for the car torching and has previously claimed responsibility for stalking other UCLA professors, harassing their children and setting fire to their homes.

The professor has formed a group to protest the intimidation of scientists, inform the public about the importance of such research in developing medical treatments, and explain the measures in place to reduce animal use and suffering. The group is scheduled to hold a rally on the UCLA campus at 11:30 AM on April 22nd, the same day as the animal rights group’s scheduled protest on campus. Members of that group hold yearly protests wearing masks and costumes, although this year the University has released a statement that anyone wearing a mask will be arrested.

My research is on humans and I’m not involved with any studies using animals. As I mentioned in my prior entry, I understand why people feel strongly on both sides of this issue. Just like with the issue of abortion, people’s opinions are formed by deeply personal religious or philosophical beliefs. But of course, it’s never acceptable to threaten people’s lives.

When I was in graduate school on the East Coast, I had no idea that tactics like this were being used. Here. In the United States. I know many scientists in California who do work with animals and I see how this intimidation affects them.  I’m also saddened by the misinformation circulating about conditions for animals in laboratories. There are now strict laws protecting the animals’ physical and emotional/social well being, and full-time vets are employed exclusively to care for these animals. Animals are caged in groups if at all possible, even when that increases the risk of bites to the experimenter. I’m not saying that lab animals live happy lives, but I can say that more is being done now to protect them than people in the general population probably think.

The Pro-Test group is gathering to stand up to the intimidation and terror tactics of extremists and to advocate the necessity of animal research for the sake of human health. I plan to be at the rally on the 22nd, even though I admit to being afraid of a confrontation. I’m going to voice my support for the safety of our scientists, to raise awareness of the threats they face, and to encourage a legal, two-sided dialogue about this very important issue.

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