Firebombings and such.

I’ve been very disturbed about the recent events at UC Santa Cruz where the homes of researchers were firebombed by animal rights activists. I can’t imagine a threat to my family like this. I just can’t even imagine it, it is so horrible.

Drugmonkey has a nice post up about this topic- and well, since I actually teach a couple of hours on the ethical use of animals in research to graduate students in biomedical sciences, medical students and sometimes undergraduates, I thought I would add my two cents worth as well. First, there is a very useful chapter about this very subject in a book entitled ‘Scientific Integrity’ by Francis Macrina… I believe that the operative section is chapter 6- ‘Use of Animals in Biomedical Experimentation’, much of what I have written below is taken from this chapter. I would like to have students leave my class with a basic understanding in a couple of areas.

1. 20-30 million animals are estimated to be killed in research in the United States each year (older figures from the 1980s found here say 17-22 million, 85% rodents). Compare this to the number of livestock animals killed in this country each year- which is estimated to be 10 billion (according to the Humane Society) (that includes 8 billion chickens annually).

2. The leaders of the ‘animal rights’ movement are generally respected philosophers such as Peter Singer (faculty at Princeton, published the book Animal Liberation in 1975 beginning the modern animal rights movement) and Tom Regan (Professor emeteritus in Philosophy at NC State, wrote The Case for Animal Rights and other books) who strive to live in an ethically consistent way. This is not the lunatic fringe people, these are rational, respected scholars who can and do argue the case, from different perspectives, that it is unethical to use animals in research.

Singer believes that animals and humans have an ‘equal interest in being free from torment’ and that that experimenters who use animals in research ‘reveal a bias in favor of their own species whenever they carry out experiments on nonhumans for purposes that they would not think justified them in using human beings’ . (just FYI, he does not believe, at least from what I understand- that animals have ‘rights’). Regan comes from a different perspective- ‘capacities do not distinguish humans from other animals ….’ and thus ‘there can be no solid moral distinction between humans and other animals’. Regan DOES believe that animals have ‘rights’.

3. The general membership of the animal rights movement is not generally as ethically consistent (as are the leaders), but they are very concerned about the use and treatment of animals in research- we scientists can not ignore this.

4. The American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, the board certified specialty veterinarians that care for nearly all of the laboratory animals in this country are concerned about the ethical use of animals in research and have made a public statement on reduction, refinement, and replacement … or the 3Rs…


The American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine fully supports the tenets of the 3Rs: Reduction, Refinement and Replacement. ACLAM supports the search for scientifically valid alternative methodologies that will reduce or replace the use of animals or refine the techniques that must be used to continue to advance our knowledge base through research, testing and teaching. ACLAM believes that every effort should be made to refine techniques in order to minimize potential pain and distress. Diplomates of ACLAM are uniquely qualified to contribute to the development, implementation and evaluation of techniques which refine research methodology. ACLAM is committed to the humane use of research animals.

Revised November 2000

5. A Brief Legislative History (From Table 6.1 in ‘Scientific Intergrity’)

  • 1960 Legislation first proposed to require animal researchers to be licensed.
  • 1963 NIH publishes voluntary ‘Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals’revised in (65, 68, 72, 78, 85, 96, and aka the ‘Guide’)
  • 1966 Laboratory Animal Welfare Act enacted by Congress (strengthened in 70, 76, 85 , now the Animal Welfare Act) (Required registration of research facilities, and dog dealers- research facilities had to buy their dogs/cats from licensed dealers, and now mandates humane care and treatment of dogs, cats rabbits, hamsters guinea pigs and non-human primates… but rats and mice were not covered).
  • 1985 Health Research Extension Act: NIH must establish guidelines for the use of animals in biomed/behav research. First law covering US Public Health Service
  • 1986 Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals is published by NIH. All USPHS labs and USPHS funded labs must comply with PHS policy and the Guide.
  • 1996 US National Academy of Sciences publishes the ‘Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals‘ – this work is broadly accepted in national/international circles. This work gives many many details of how research involving animals should be carried out- and it covers rats and mice. Includes many details including qualifications/training of professional staff, housing facilities and requirements, occupational health coverage for staff, the physical environment, and others. (I’m sure there is something more recent as well that I’m missing still.)

6. IACUCs… very important… all research involving animals is regulated by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. The different regulations (AWA, USPHS act, and The Guide) listed above governing animal research generally all require an IACUC- and these allow for different sized IACUCs and different makeup of this group- but they generally ALL REQUIRE 1 member be a veterinarian, and 1 member of the public. The AWA requires the smallest total group (at least 3 members)- but generally in my experience the size of the IACUC is proportionate to the amount of animal research going on at a particular location.

7. What does the IACUC do???

  • evaluates the institutions animal care/use programs.
  • evaluates facilities (every 6 months).
  • evaluates/recommendations to all aspects of an institutions animal program – including training of personnel.
  • evaluates all investigators Animal Care and Use Protocols…. at institutions of the size that I am at this can be roughly 200 – 300 of these annually, sometimes more, sometimes less.
  • And probably other stuff that I’m not thinking of right now

8. And finally- when IACUCs are evaluating Animal Care and Use Protocols… what do they look for..?

Well… to name a few things:

  • will experiments be conducted in accordance with Animal Welfare Act and the Guide for the care and use of laboratory animals?
  • protocols must minimize discomfort/distress.
  • any procedure that causes more than momentary/ slight pain must have appropriate sedation, analgesia, anesthesia.
  • animals that would suffer severe/chronic pain must be euthanized.
  • are animals housed under appropriate conditions, to maximize health and comfort.
  • a qualified veterinarian must provide care.
  • AVMA panel on euthanasia recommendations must be followed when deciding how to euthanize.

I’m sure there are a few things I’m not thinking of… you will certainly remind me…


16 thoughts on “Firebombings and such.

  1. News of the firebombings was very disturbing indeed. I have always been very cognizant of not being overly descriptive of the animal work I do as I don’t want to make friends and family uncomfortable about the nature of my work but I also don’t want to advertise the fact that I use research animals.

    One of our students was hauled over the coals at yesterday’s lab meeting for transporting her rats in the public elevator and then leaving the cages unattended and uncovered outside the lab in a corridor that is a major thoroughfare for administrative staff, physicians, patients and the general public. She still doesn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation and how easily any one of us could be targeted by extreme activist groups.

  2. Nice post. As someone involved in primate research I am often tempted to stop and talk to the anti-research activists who table at the local farm market. To explain that I too care about animals’ well-being (I’m a good vegetarian, yo), that experiments are better if animals are not stressed or in pain, that no one would want to use animals if there was some equivalent alternative. And that their pamphlets are about as accurate as anything the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ever put out. But they are the alternative fringe, I can’t see a productive outcome, and I walk on.

  3. With all due respect, Tom Regan and Peter Singer ARE part of the radical fringe. Here are some verified quotes from them:

    “In a perfect world, we would not keep animals for our benefit, including pets,” Tom Regan, emeritus professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University and author of “Empty Cages” – speaking at University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, March 3, 2004

    “Surely there will be some nonhuman animals whose lives, by any standards, are more valuable than the lives of some humans.” Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethic for Our Treatment of Animals, 2nd ed. (New York: New York Review of Books, 1990), p. 19.

    “Torturing a human being is almost always wrong, but it is not absolutely wrong.” Peter Singer, as quoted in Josephine Donovan “Animal Rights and Feminist Theory,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Winter 1990, p. 357.

    “What could be the basis of our having more inherent value than animals? Their lack of reason, or autonomy, or intellect? Only if we are willing to make the same judgment in the case of humans who are similarly deficient.” Tom Regan, “The Case for Animal Rights,” In Defense of Animals, Peter Singer, ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985), p. 23.

    “An [animal] experiment cannot be justifiable unless the experiment is so important that the use of a brain-damaged human would be justifiable.” Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethic for Our Treatment of Animals, 2nd ed. (New York Review of Books, 1990), p. 85.

    “If it [abolition of animal research] means there are some things we cannot learn, then so be it. We have no basic right not to be harmed by those natural diseases we are heir to.” Tom Regan, as quoted in David T. Hardy, “America’s New Extremists: What You Need to Know About the Animal Rights Movement.” (Washington, DC: Washington Legal Foundation, 1990), p. 8.

    “Even granting that we [humans] face greater harm than laboratory animals presently endure if … research on these animals is stopped, the animal rights view will not be satisfied with anything less than total abolition.” Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, 1983

    I could go on and on but the following two quotes show that a fanatical dialectic is what motivates them, NOT the love of and care for animals:

    “Not only are the philosophies of animal rights and animal welfare separated by irreconcilable differences… the enactment of animal welfare measures actually impedes the achievement of animal rights… Welfare reforms, by their very nature, can only serve to retard the pace at which animal rights goals are achieved.” Gary Francione and Tom Regan, “A Movement’s Means Create Its Ends,” The Animals’ Agenda, January/February 1992, pp. 40-42

    “We are not especially ‘interested in’ animals. Neither of us had ever been inordinately fond of dogs, cats, or horses in the way that many people are. We didn’t ‘love’ animals.” Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethic for Our Treatment of Animals, 2nd ed. (New York Review of Books, 1990), Preface, p. ii.

    I have spent my whole long life caring for animals. I am now spending my twilight years fighting people like Singer and Regan who are determined to sever the human/animal bond.

  4. Professor in Training and Grad Girl- I don’t generally talk to people beyond the reader’s digest version about what I do for a living…. unless they are my friends (who are usually scientific colleagues), or my mother!


    I don’t want to argue the finer points of Singer and Regan with anyone- you all should feel free to go out and look at their work- I think many scientists should so that they are educated about what they are up against.

    I do however, want my students to recognize that the leaders of this movement are not crazy long haired hippies that live on the edge of society that scientists should best deal with by paying no attention (no offense to anyone you get my drift though)…- but instead these are folks that can put together a strong argument in favor of their case, and they are highly educated and employed at well respected institutions of higher education. They have tremendous power to sway individuals who many not be as well informed, but that recognize that there is a moral dilemma in the use of animals for human ends.

  5. yes and no on Singer. If the ideas are fringe and hypocritical…or plain wrong, credentials do not help. But yes researchera need to know what they face. Anyone know how many law schools have courses and programs in animal rights legal theory? Anyone aware that those nutty local ordinances in obscure lefty towns are part of an organized effort to alter the legal standing of animals?

  6. Nice post! I think you should check out “The Animal Research War” for your course. I reviewed it here if you want to learn more about it. authors do a great job of identifying the groups on the fringe, their philosophies, and tactics.

    It’s a great reference and also provides a good description of the laws that pertain to animal research.

  7. Tom Regan and Peter Singer are indeed part of the radical fringe. Rather than my requoting them, please read Geraldine Clarke’s post for quotes from these two individuals.

    These people may be highly educated, (so is Osama Bin Laden) but that doesn’t make their arguments logical or even merely rational. Anyone who equates the life of an animal to the life of any human being is not part of the normal center. If these individuals are so firm in their beliefs, then let them volunteer as test subjects. Until they can do that, they’re all talk and no walk.

  8. Just a warning to all- I WILL moderate and delete purposefully inflammatory comments that do not add to the discussion.

    With that said- Gail- It is not smart to teach students that will be future researchers that they can disregard this movement simply by calling these individuals irrational. Furthermore-

    ‘Anyone who equates the life of an animal to the life of any human being is not part of the normal center.’

    There are cases where you could argue that this is not as black and white as you make it out to be.

  9. It is not smart to teach students that will be future researchers that they can disregard this movement simply by calling these individuals irrational. …
    There are cases where you could argue that this is not as black and white as you make it out to be.

    I think what is absolutely essential is to pare the rhetoric back to core beliefs and look for consistency.

    What are the beliefs? Then you can say you think they are irrational if you like or that they are rational.

    What is the actual assertion and what is the evidence? Then we can discuss whether the belief or assertion is based on evidence. Or else we need to admit that the belief or assertion is a faith-based or theological belief. Which is perfectly fine, just so long as we understand the nature of the assertion.

  10. Will supporting groups such as Pro-Test help? Do they have an American branch? I’ve heard that in the UK they’ve been fairly successful at injecting common sense back into this debate.

  11. Calling folks “radical fringe” is a matter of semantics. I think what is appropriate to say is that the real stated beliefs of both Singer & Regan would be considered far out of the mainstream of most Americans who read their work, and that very very few would be willing or able to put the beliefs expressed by Singer & Regan into practice.

    But, I do have a strong feeling about the approach of continuing one’s research by trying to slip under the radar. No, I wouldn’t approach the AR folks at a farmer’s market to argue one’s case for using non-human primates. But, not talking about how the science actually gets done (including the animals that are used) gives the public (not the AR public, but the middle) the false impression that science is done without killing animals, and makes it easier for them to believe that the health benefits can come without animal research. The AR groups have multiple approaches to convincing the middle. Some are matters of philosophy and ethics about which people can certainly come to different conclusion. Some, however, are factual: whether the work can be done without animals, and whether we have benefited from it, and who and when and how animals are used. By remaining silent about our own work, we impede the release of the factual information.

    I talk about my work the way people suggest one talks to children about sex. When asked, I answer the questions, and provide more detail as requested. I don’t shove information onto people, but I also don’t hide or dissemble about any details. I also use the questions as an opportunity to educate people about the regulations, the benefits, and the details of care.

  12. Thanks so much for this post! Most people can’t write about this subject very scientifically. I notice that a common tactic is to compare the “other side” as irrational and compare them to religious believers. It may make some people feel better, but if the goal is to have everyone on the same page about animal research, then alienating skeptics from the jump is counterproductive.

  13. Samia-

    Sure, no problem, I find it very alienating and am immediately defensive when people come at me like I’m irrational- so I guess I try not to treat people that way- I find I get farther this way…

  14. Pingback: Outing Researchers « Blue Lab Coats

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