Great blog, but sadly anonymous
Here in the Understanding Animal Research office we were delighted to read this well written and interesting blog titled ‘Why we experiment on animals' on the Times newspapers new science site Eureka Zone.
The blog gives an insight into the motivations and dilemmas faced by research scientists working with animals. Written by two scientists working with animals, they wanted to speak out about the truth behind animal research: that scientists work with animals because they don't have a choice, and how the 3Rs are implemented in animal facilities.
'You won't find an animal researcher who enjoys using animals and most struggle with the moral issues during their entire career. The hardest part of our job is to take an animal's life, even - as is always the case - when the animal is deeply anaesthetized and you know it feels no pain'
The researchers also explain that their previous silence was due to perceived threat from animal rights extremists:
'Our silence is a direct consequence of violent tactics a small group of animal rights extremists use to drive researchers into hiding or even to give up their research. Their tactics are the stuff of nightmares: death threats, smear campaigns, car and letter bombs, even the desecration of burial sites. Most alarmingly, they not only target the researchers themselves, but also their friends, families and neighbours...'
However, we were saddened to see that the authors of the blog felt they had to remain anonymous. As they rightly point out, "in recent years the laws against these crimes are being better enforced," and this has directly led to the imprisonment of the leaders of main animal extremist groups. Consequently, the number of crimes against researchers is at an all time low.
Many animal rights groups therefore appear less active and less extreme.
But beyond that, the fact remains that speaking out about animal research does not lead to being targeted by extremists. Indeed, many scientists who have been the targets of these campaigns were silent before they were targeted and decided to speak out afterwards. It's fairly easy to find out which scientists are using animals in their work simply by looking online at their published research, so speaking about it doesn't suddenly release this fact into the public domain.
On the other hand, if more scientists spoke about what they do, and more research institutions adopted a policy of openness, then it might be easier for more members of the public to sympathise with their work, and fight in their corner.
And if the whole research community did the same, a sense of solidarity could only help to further reduce the campaigns of fear and intimidation attempted by animal rights extremists.