Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in Interesting | 17 comments

Animal experimentation, animal rights and persuasion

 

So… I’m checking out Facebook and an odd vid appeared in my feed. Stupidly, I clicked it and saw this:

Jaw dropping, I know. Those terrrrrible UCLA vivisectors! Those poor innocent activists! The animalllls! The horror!

Then I realized I felt a mixture of emotions: anger, frustration, indignation, horror…

That’s when I paused, realizing whenever I feel a rush of emotions, something’s likely amok.

“Holy cow,” I thought, “I believe I’m being persuaded.”

That’s when I decided to check out the other side of the story.

Turns out those poor innocent activists have tangled with the UCLA researchers before. The activists represent a group called “Progress for Science.” Sounds good. But all is not as it seems. 

This past weekend, the animal rights group ‘Progress for Science,’  descended once again on the neighborhood of a UCLA professor with the only intention of harassing her, her family and neighbors, by brandishing their spiteful language, libelous chants, and false imagery.

Such is the treatment some UCLA faculty, their families and neighbors, have endured for many years now. Everyone’s patience has limits and, on this occasion, a group of ~45 members of the UCLA community, including scientists, students, staff, and supporters, welcomed the group with a simple message —

Your harassment, threats and lies are not going to be tolerated any more.

What kind of harassment? According to UCLA, this has happened:

  • Improvised “incendiary device” left on doorsteps
  • Mailings filled with razor blades/threats to family members
  • broken windows
  • Vandalism
  • Birthday party harassment
  • Smoke damage in homes

The LA Times has written about this situation as well.

As soon as he heard his car alarm blare and saw the orange glow through his bedroom window, UCLA neuroscientist J. David Jentsch knew that his fears had come true.

His 2006 Volvo, parked next to his Westside house, had been set ablaze and destroyed in an early morning attack March 7. Jentsch had become the latest victim in a series of violent incidents targeting University of California scientists who use animals in biomedical research.

More insight:

After similar incidents, other UCLA scientists have become almost reclusive as security and public curiosity around them grew. Three years ago, another UCLA neuroscientist, weary of harassment and threats to his family, abandoned animal research altogether, sending an e-mail to an animal rights website that read: “You win.”

A little more:

In the last three years, UCLA has reported at least 10 arsons, attempted arsons and other acts of vandalism against its professors and researchers, along with many unrealized threats. In February, four animal activists were arrested on allegations that they were involved in attacking and harassing animal researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, but no arrests have been made in any of the UCLA cases, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. She said the incidents are under investigation as acts of domestic terrorism.

Granted, this article was written in ’09. I can’t seem to find any stats on the current state between these two groups. But of course, we now have the above vid and this recent blog post concerning the event.

For more than a decade, the streets in front of the homes of UCLA researchers have been the scene of regular, brutal, vitriolic and hate-filled campaigns by animal rights hooligans. With little direct knowledge of the truth, as well as a exceptional willingness to lie and deceive, they show up with signs and dated chants and disrupt our neighborhoods. Their stated goal is to make us and our neighbors uncomfortable in the conduct of these insane and sometimes illegal protests.

[snip}

Since the inception of these protests, researchers have had little respite and few tools to call upon to address the harm done by these protests.

This weekend, we created a new tool, and it’s one that we plan to use again and again until these demonstrations are over. We have decided to act, with our voices, our messages of scientific progress and – most importantly – with the unity of our community.

Here’s the other side of the event depicted in the video:

When the ironically named animal rights group, Progress for Science, appeared at the home of my beloved and treasured colleague this Saturday evening, they encountered something they neither expected, nor knew how to deal with.

They found 40+ UCLA researchers, staff, students and friends who were waiting on the streets of Westwood. We outnumbered them 4:1, and the look on their faces as we marched towards their meeting site and intercepted them was priceless. It was unregulated surprise and confusion.

As they began to collect themselves, we broke out in our chant:

Progress for Science, LEAVE NOW!
Carol Glasser, LEAVE NOW!

They were, in a word, speechless.

Yup. They were. However, the activists conveniently positioned themselves as victims… which is unfortunate because many will view the Progress for Science video without checking out the researcher’s side of things.

During this current weekend’s demonstration, they took up a position in a normally peaceful cul-de-sac for about 45 minutes, while our group let them know – in no uncertain terms – that they were not welcome. Their lies, threats and hypocrisy (leather shoes, really?) were all addressed, front and center.

In the end, they turned back in the direction that they came and retreated. Determined to make it clear that they were unwelcome in this neighborhood, our members pursued them. When the extremists approached neighbors and people on the street with their rhetoric, our students and researchers swept in and countered the lies at every opportunity. Progress for Science was flushed right out of the area.

Final note:

Here’s our message to those extremists and to anyone affiliated with them:

This wasn’t the last word.

It was the beginning of the end for you and your tired and useless group.

We are watching and waiting. When you come back, you will find us waiting for you.

The reign of terror you have brought to our neighborhoods is over.

It appears the situation has now escalated.

So… these are my useless thoughts on this situation. First, as a disclaimer, I should mention I’m a long time vegetarian. I know a fair amount about the animal rights movement.

I’m also educated and love science. I understand the need for animal experimentation and do not protest it in any way, shape, or form. Heck, I’m a recent recipient of the fruits of medical science. I’m sure a lot of cancer research has been conducted on animals. Cancer surgeries… I have my hunches about how surgeons practice new procedures.

That said, as a professional persuader, I think it’s exceedingly unfortunate that the researchers, while I’m sure are terribly frustrated, angry, and feeling harassed; attempted to take back their power in a most awkward way.

Sadly, viewers won’t dig for the back story. They’ll just see a vivid image of the brutal “vivisectior” that Progress For Science has skillfully constructed. I’m amazed at how well that group handled that situation. It’s a PR coup that will likely gain wide viewing on the Internet. I’m pretty sure this video will not only empower the online animal activist community, but any communications between the two groups will likely be damaged.

Oh… did you notice the call to action at the end? Progress For Science has already scheduled round two.

I hope the UCLA scientists take a page from this group and are able to tell their version of the story. However, much damage has been done. The images are disturbing… particularly to see highly educated professionals scream, lick camera lenses, name-call, and shout obscenities. Despite the back story, those images are now online.

That said, I don’t know how I’d combat such harassment. Perhaps I’d flood the Internet with our story. I’d show images of people (perhaps children) saved because of our research. I’d take control of my story (as much as I could), and find others to reinforce it.

It’s been my experience that those who tell the most compelling story generally win the latest round. But, clearly the fight is far from over.

Perhaps these scientists, students, and faculty members will better display their point of view next time.

  • denishenry

    You’re taking a lot of the information provided by the vivisectors as true in this posting. You should be more skeptical that they are providing you with accurate and objective information.

    • BethAnnErickson

      Hmmmm. Interesting take. I tried not to take sides, as I can see both points of view fairly well.

      Both sides have their stories. The activism side clearly presented their case better. That video is powerful.

      However, if medicine is to continue to advance, there seems to be a need for a certain amount of animal testing; probably less than there is now, but to abolish it completely is unlikely… at least for a long time. To that end, the scientists were jaw droppingly bad in presenting their case.

      I don’t take either side as presenting “true” information. Generally speaking, when dealing with volatile subjects, the truth often lies somewhere in between both stories. I apologize for not making that opinion clearer.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Beth :)

      • denishenry

        Thanks for your reply. I think there’s a number of issues.
        1. Even if you think animal experimentation is ethical and effective, that doesn’t mean these particular researchers are doing effective, ethical experimentation. UCLA has been cited multiple times for violations of animal welfare laws, which offer cant protection to begin with. And none of the UCLA researchers can point to any cures they’ve discovered. They like to bring up the achievements of others in the past to justify their work, but their own work offers very little in terms of results. Yet they receive millions in tax payer money to do the same experiments year after year on subjects that are not ground-breaking, e.g. the addictive qualities of nicotene.
        2. No one has proven that animal testing is necessary for the advancement of science. Just because something was used doesn’t mean it was necessary. The tools and techniques used to prove that the earth was round are not the same tools and techniques we would now use to map it. Science advances. Many scientists, including the former director of the NIH, have publicly stated that animal testing has held science back.
        3. For me personally, I think it’s unethical. No one would dispute that we would make the swiftest progress in human medicine by testing on humans. But we don’t do that, even though it would be good science, because it is ethically wrong. This is a fairly recent conclusion, however, and we have seen science do invasive testing on human subjects in the past, justified by their race / gender / social class etc. And that same justification is now used to test on other species. There is no substantive difference between us and them when it comes to their interest in not being test subjects. That’s my personal thoughts.
        4. The animal rights protestors in the video, and everyone involved in the past couple years of protest as part of this campaign, have only utilized legal protest strategies. They are exercising their First Amendment rights and do so in front of police. They are not the people who broke the law and committed property destruction. To conflate the two groups is like saying scientists are evil because some scientists did evil things in the past. The targets of their protest both want to claim that they are afraid for their lives and property and at the same time stand nearby and chant, “We’re not afraid.” And why should they be afraid? These protestors have never done anything other than express their opinion. It seems to me that their opinion is frightening because it has power in the community of humans. People don’t like violence towards non-human animals. The “researchers” posting about this protest are doing everything they can to blur the issue and conflate this group with other unrelated people. If they are doing important work and discovering cures, why don’t they tell people what those cures are? They can’t.

        • BethAnnErickson

          Thanks for providing more insight into this situation. I did notice (and mentioned in the blog post) that UCLA stopped recording dangerous activity around ’09. I don’t know what has happened since then, evidently not enough to document.

          The language used by the UCLA researchers in their blog post is particularly interesting. This is evidently a very passionate subject for them and they aren’t exactly… great… at communicating their ideas in a persuasive manner.

          On a personal note, I admit I have mixed feelings on vivisection. It’s a very discomforting subject and I’m slow to think about it considering I’ve directly benefited from it during my recent bout with cancer.

          It’s a complex subject. I wish I hadn’t seen the vid. On strictly a PR level, the protesters definitely won this round. Kudos to them on an exceedingly well-run campaign.

          I really do appreciate your kind comments. You’ve added much to this conversation and given me a lot to ponder.

          Thanks much,

          Beth

          • denishenry

            I’m glad that you’ve had success with fighting your cancer. I think you’d find that the overwhelming majority of animal rights advocates would be glad too. And many of them believe that we’d make better progress if we put the resources we put into animal testing (especially the kind that happens at UCLA) into developing better technology. This includes many scientists and researchers who have come to believe we’re wasting our time and resources. We all want to help people while at the same time respecting the interests of individual sentient beings. The protestors have illnesses too, and family members with illnesses. The researchers want everyone to assume they’re on the side of human health, but their actual work does not support that assertion.
            Good luck and thanks for the discussion!

          • BethAnnErickson

            Thanks! So far, I’m in remission. I also appreciated our discussion, especially your perspective on this topic. Thanks again for sharing.

            Beth :)

    • kraut2

      “provided by the vivisectors”

      This term alone shows you using not tools of discussion but propaganda.

      • denishenry

        Oh. Because you don’t like a word, other people aren’t allowed to use it? Vivisection is a legitimate english word. It describes the practice that I’m critiquing. There is no reason not to use it other than you (and people who do it) don’t like the sound of it. Well sorry, but language doesn’t work that way. Maybe you can explain why it’s propaganda.

        • kraut2

          I have found so called “animal rights” activists as dishonest as any creationist or religious fundamentalist.
          I refuse to have any discussion with you.

          • denishenry

            Of course you do. Because this is how people like you operate. You’re only willing to engage with those you have authority or power over, like animals in cages who can not fight back. When confronted with someone who has equal power to you, you disengage and hide. Just like the UCLA vivisectors. You only operate in relationships where you can abuse and control.

  • kraut2

    . “No one has proven that animal testing is necessary for the advancement of science.”

    I was a lab tech for over six years, and we harvested in one experiment kidneys from rats – which means killing the rats and extracting the kidneys – to study the transport of sugar through the basilar membranes. Almost all physiological research and anatomical research was done using animals as models, so yes, animals were necessary as a model for how energy transmission in cells, how organs, how physiology at all worked etc.
    Nowadays we need animals still to detect the efficacy of drugs, and the safety of drugs. That is why drug safety does not rely on one species of animals alone – the process starts with determining the LD 50 and ends with the testing on anything from pigs to dogs etc. to determine the metalization af drugs.
    I have been too long away from the lab to know if any modeling not relying on animals for drug safety is in the works or how far it has progressed.
    Until such time we need animals. And not all are killed or destroyed, as larger vertebrates like dogs or pigs are often used multiple times and kept in at least as good conditions as well cared for farm animals.
    I found that most if not all “animal rights” group use propaganda material showing pictures of practices no scientist even with minimal ethical concerns would engage in.

    BTW – there are no “animal rights”. Like with any entity that cannot speak for itself, even children, we have laws of protection. Rights imply responsibility, and if you advocate animal rights you have to be able to then also judge the actions of animals and enforce judgments on those actions.

    • BethAnnErickson

      Thanks for your comment, Kraut. Your background in science fascinates me.

      I made the conscious choice to look at this issue strictly from a persuasion point of view. The researchers clearly were frustrated and didn’t illustrate themselves very well, which was unfortunate. Without digging into the backstory, they look particularly… not good. In fact, that’s why I wrote this post: to tell their side of the story. It certainly isn’t being told on my Facebook page. I hope the researchers are better prepared when the protesters return. I’d hate to see them on display in such a bad light again.

      Then again, we’ve got an unusually complex back story in this situation so it’s anybody’s guess what will happen.

      Yes, the vid is clearly propaganda, a lot of persuasion is. Sadly, the person who tells the better (heart rending?) story often wins the battle. That’s terribly unfortunate considering all the medical break throughs that can be hindered when nonscientists start telling scientists how to do their jobs.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. You’ve added a particularly insightful dimension to this story. I appreciate your input.

      – Beth :)

      • kraut2

        Thank you for your reply.
        I always loved animals, and am fascinated by their behaviours, their variety, their role in the ecosystem – I even learned to overcome my arachnophobia and kept tarantulas and cared for them (captive bred ones only).
        Despite that love, I was alway able to accept that for the benefit of our own species sometimes we sacrifice animals for food, for health, work etc. I always could accept that providing the animals did not have to suffer unnecessary; some suffering which unfortunately is the case when we studied the effects of bacterial infection and their treatment.
        We have to weigh carefully when we use animals, and ensure the best treatment we can supply if used for science and for food – and as pets or working animals.

        I put the welfare of my own species before that of any other if it comes to the clinch – which however also means that we have to make the effort for our own survival to ensure the health of the global ecosystem.
        We are in the process of destroying that, based on short term economic gains to the detriment of long term survival – and make no mistake: we are all guilty, because almost all want the benefit of a warm house, a save job, the possibility of holidays away from home and the comfort of our offspring.

        • denishenry

          Yes you put the welfare of your own species first. Just as evil men before you put the welfare of their own race first, or their gender.
          Your above statement that there are no animal rights… where do you think human rights come from?

      • denishenry

        Why is the video propaganda? And the researchers words are just “their side of the story”? Everything in that video happened. It’s not manipulated. The researchers words, however, are false and misleading. The actions they describe have nothing at all to do with these protestors. They’re muddying the well in what can only be described as a poor attempt at propaganda.

  • denishenry

    Just published by Progress For Science, in response to the vivisectors non-appearance and the February 15th protest -

    :::::An Open Letter to UCLA’s Vivisectors::::

    Edythe London and David Jentsch:

    Progress for Science visited your neighborhood yesterday. We spoke out against the unethical, unproductive and wasteful experiments you conduct on our closest relatives. We spoke with the clear and decisive voice of your Los Angeles community, our numbers dwarfing the small contingent of abusive individuals you carted out several weeks ago.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiECGuXixmQ

    You had stated, “We are watching and waiting. When you come back, you will find us waiting for you.”
    http://unlikelyactivist.com/2014/01/19/the-beginning-of-the-end/

    But you failed to appear. You failed to give voice to your “science.” You chose to hide, as you always have, in your gated houses and your windowless labs.

    We see that UCLA begged you not to come, embarrassed by your aggressive antics and screaming “researchers.”http://speakingofresearch.com/2014/02/13/statement-on-postponement-of-pro-test-for-science-rally/

    Your silence is a weapon against the primates you hold captive, invisible, without cameras to document your cruelty to them. But it will not deter us. We will speak when they cannot. We will assemble where they cannot. We will protest what they cannot.

    You claimed your counter-protest was the end of our movement. But clearly, it was not. It was the beginning of your end. It was the beginning of reason and compassion overcoming your antiquated methods and unethical practices.

    We will be back. Will you? Or will you continue to hide in the shadows? Will you continue to claim you are making medical and scientific progress when all you are really making is money? Will you come out into the public square and make your case? We will be there.

    Looking forward,
    Progress For Science

    • BethAnnErickson

      Thanks for sharing. I find the language used in this press release fascinating.