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Time for more change in America

24 September 2009

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Category: Communications & media

researchers–guide–communication–cover.jpgWe have been watching with great concern the animal rights extremists’ campaigns taking place in the United States and California in particular. Indeed, the reports are reminiscent of events that took place in this country some years ago. What’s more, the legitimate animal rights organisations are also very active cultivating a culture of misinformation and at times ignorance about the need for animal research and its benefits.

The situation is not helped by the scientific community’s silence on this issue and its unwillingness to defend animal research and inform the public on its benefits.

Dario Ringach and David Jentsch from the University of California say that this cannot continue. In an article titled We must face the Threats published in last week’s issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, the two neuroscientists call on academic insitutions and individual researchers to openly take a firm position against extremism and in defence of animal research.

Citing a recent survey by the Pew Research Centre (2009) that demonstrated that only 52% of the public support animal research, the scientists argue that it is time to reach out to the public and explain the importance of this work.

In the UK approval ratings are much higher. In fact, according to the most recent MORI poll 70% say they can accept animal experimentation for all types of medical research. This public acceptance did not happen overnight. Government commitment to tackle extremism coupled with the scientists' willingness to defend animal research and engage with the public have been instrumental.

At Understanding Animal Research we have been working with institutions across the country encouraging them to become more open about this issue and supporting them in doing so. We produced three communications documents (aimed at universities, charities and individual researchers) and have addressed over a thousand scientists during visits to institutions across the UK. More and more and institutions are now open.

Clearly it is time for our American colleagues to do the same. As Ringach and Jentsch state in their article:

We must stand together to defend those colleagues under attack and defend the research we believe to be ethical and critical for our understanding of the brain in health and disease. The public is ready to listen.