Pro-Test does it again

23 April 2009

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Category: Antivivisection & extremism

pro–test.jpgYou could tell it was California in April and not Oxford in February, because the sun was shining. But with a young Englishman working a crowd of several hundred research supporters, there was a strong sense of déjà vu.

It has been said many times that one of the more depressing UK exports is antivivisectionism and animal rights. The animal rights tactics, protests and rhetoric that we see here is echoed elsewhere later. Now, with activists’ use of the Internet, the time lag can be months rather than years.

Just as the problem of animal rights extremism began to wane in the UK, it got worse in the USA (see for instance our blog entry Other countries should follow our lead). The extremism there is perhaps not as widespread or as orchestrated, but with a nasty personal edge. Firebombings of researchers’ homes and cars in Oregon and California have become almost commonplace in the last couple of years.

It has taken three years for the Pro-Test pro-research movement founded in Oxford to travel stateside, helped by Tom Holder, one of the original organisers of Pro-Test in the UK. Yesterday Pro-Test UCLA mounted its first rally, attracting about 700 supporters, 20 times as many as a ‘World Week’ antivivisection rally it coincided with. Science reporter Greg Miller attended the Pro-Test event, and his report on the Science Insider blog offers a concise view of the event. UCLA has a video of the Pro-Test rally on its website.

Raising the public’s awareness about the importance of animal research is critical, said Scott Waugh, UCLA's executive vice chancellor and provost. 

'Everyday, researchers at UCLA change things for the better in our world,' Waugh said. 'They are courageous, and they shouldn’t have to worry about threats to their safety.… UCLA biomedical research, involving lab animals, has produced incredible progress: a breakthrough for breast cancer, a new diagnosis technique for Alzheimer’s, hope for a new cure for childhood blindness, a device that can reverse strokes and many, many more things.'

Mirroring another UK initiative of three years ago (The People's Petition), the Pro-Test Petitionmade its debut at the rally, backed by Americans for Medical Progress and Speaking of Research. The petition supports scientists' work with animals in biomedical research and condemning violence by animal rights militants.

Back in the UK, the antivivisectionists – and those animal rights extremists who are not in prison – are planning a ‘World Day’ rally of their own in London this weekend. It will be interesting to see whether the turn-out matches their expectations.