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December 5, 2007
I’ve had reports that some of the animal rights activists are getting loud and lively down in Connecticut, to the point of harassing employees of some of the drug companies there. I remember some of this going on in the early 1990s in New Jersey, but this is the first big outbreak of this stuff I can remember since then. This latest outbreak seems to be part of their long-running (and to my mind misguided) campaign against Huntingtdon Life Sciences.
I won’t go into the specifics of what I’ve been hearing, because I don’t want to encourage the people who do it. What I’ll say is that all this shouting-on-the-street and ominous-flyers-under-the-windshield-wiper stuff doesn’t do the animal folks any credit, not that they care. A rational debate on the issues involved would be just fine by me, and I don’t think it would take very long. But since I doubt that my readership overlaps much with the kind of people who try to publicly intimidate scientists, and I further doubt that those people are open to rational debate. So I don’t see that happening here.
This, then, is just a heads-up for the researchers that do come here, most of whom work, directly or indirectly, with animal assays and the data they produce. Keep your eyes open. It wouldn’t be prudent to bet on all of these activists being harmless. Make sure you know who you’re letting into your building, and so on. The actions of True Believers can be difficult to anticipate, no matter what their cause.
And for my readers outside the industry – yes, we do indeed use animal testing. Mice take the brunt of it, followed by rats. It’s very difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, and we’d drop it in a minute if we could, just for those reasons. But no one knows enough about living organisms yet to do that. Not even close. For the foreseeable future, there’s no other way to do medical research, academic or industrial, basic or applied. Anyone who tells you differently is either misinformed or lying, and anyone who knows better but still tries to shut down the research is ethically deranged.
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