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Gravediggers and scholars: campaigning to end animal experimentation


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The increasingly militant tactics of grassroots animal rights activists that have made headlines in recent years include protracted protests, home demonstrations, staff harassment, laboratory raids, animal rescues, property destruction including vandalism and arson, threatening behaviour and even grave robbing. Yet are these the most intelligent and productive strategies for ending animal experimentation?

While some undoubtedly increase opposition to animal experimentation, others seem to be achieving the opposite effect, at least in the UK and US. As long as governments, scientists and the public believe animal experimentation remains essential to the advancement of human health, it is destined to continue, through direct government intervention where considered necessary, or translocations to developing countries in which animal protection is minimal.

Truly ending animal experimentation requires awareness by governments, ethics committee members, scientists and the public of the poor human clinical and toxicological predictivity and utility of animal experiments, and of their burdensome cost:benefit ratio when compared to other means of protecting and advancing human health. A range of strategies to advance these goals could be employed by scientific, economic, student and public activists. Such intelligent, strategic activism would significantly speed up the abolition of animal experimentation, yet is rarely pursued by the animal protection movement as a whole. The abolition of animal experimentation is likely to take a very long time at best, without such fundamental changes in strategy.

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Gravediggers and scholars: campaigning to end animal experimentation

  2. 2. Overview  Militant and direct activism  Requirements for ending animal experimentation  Scientific activism  Student activism  Public activism  Conclusion
  3. 3. Militant & direct activism Tactics  Protests, sometimes persistent and protracted  Home demonstrations and staff harassment  Laboratory raids and animal rescues  Property destruction: vandalism, arson, (sinking whaling ships !)  Threatening behaviour, e.g. pipe bombs (!?!) Benefits  Animals rescued  Video/camera footage gained  Laboratories and breeding facilities closed due to staff harassment  and economic damage
  4. 4. Costs  Loss of media support  Loss of public goodwill  ‘Terrorist’ characterisation by the biomedical research industry  Hardening of governmental positions in support of animal  experimentation  Repression of activists
  5. 5. “Firebombs detonated on a porch and in a home belonging to University of California at Santa Cruz researchers in the early morning of August 2, 2008 are believed to have given a big late-in- session boost to… a bill which would allow universities to withhold the names of animal researchers from public documents. … [This bill] is in some respects a state version of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act…” - Clifton M. Animal People, 2008
  6. 6. “Such actions put people in danger, and do nothing to help animals, or further our cause; indeed, they are counter-productive, …” “The Santa Cruz firebombings, like several others in the past several years, imminently preceded the sentencing of a prominent direct action advocate. Tre Arrow, 34,…, on August 12, 2008 drew 78 months in federal prison and a restitution order for a series of arsons committed in the name of the Earth Liberation Front…” “[The bill] would restrict access to information about animal research at both public institutions and private companies receiving public funding.” - Eric Mills, Founder, Action for Animals - Dr Elliot Katz, Founder, In Defense of Animals
  7. 7. Animal experimentation will continue, as long as: A majority of (i) the government (ii) scientists and (iii) the public believe it is necessary to protect and advance human health, (and (iv), a sizeable industry is economically reliant on it). Mechanisms  Direct government intervention  Translocation to countries where animal protection is minimal
  8. 8. Requirements for ending animal experimentation  Awareness by governments, ethics committee members, scientists and the public of the poor human clinical and toxicological predictivity and utility of animal models  Awareness of the poor cost/benefit ratio of animal experimentation cf. other mechanisms for protecting and advancing human health  Awareness of the ethical case against animal experimentation (?)  Resultant public support for restrictions/bans on animal experimentation  Resultant legislative restrictions/bans on animal experimentation  Finally… outreach to other countries
  9. 9. Some different types of activism  Scientific activism  Student activism  Public activism
  10. 10. Scientific activism  Studies: publication in scientific journals  Studies: presentations at scientific conferences E.g. systematic reviews demonstrating the poor human clinical or toxicological utility of animal experiments (around 93% demonstrate poor utility)  Outreaching summaries Scientific and popular media Popular conferences & presentations Legislators Ethics committees  Maximising impact requires the active participation of the animal protection movement
  11. 11. Student activism: campaigns for humane teaching methods  Importance  directly saves animal lives  allows compassionate students to graduate  increases pool of scientists knowledgeable about and sympathetic towards alternatives  winnable!  Many student successes internationally  Secrets of student success: high motivation and campaigns based on student, rather than animal, rights
  12. 12. Inspiring student campaigns  Provide students withProvide students with information about humaneabout humane alternativesalternatives  Inspire them to conscientiously objectthem to conscientiously object  Guide them in theGuide them in the steps needed to maximize theirneeded to maximize their chances of successchances of success  Provide them with theProvide them with the resources they need to win!they need to win!  OutreachOutreach: biomedical student noticeboards, student: biomedical student noticeboards, student magazines, animal protection newsletters, websites,magazines, animal protection newsletters, websites, presentations, essay competitions.presentations, essay competitions.
  13. 13. Key resourcesKey resources Knight. ALTEX Proc 2012.
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  16. 16. Public activism Goals: educating legislators, scientists, the media, and the public about the scientific and ethical case against animal experimentation  Forwarding existing scientific studies or abstracts/shorter articles  Publishing own letters/articles  Speaking or arranging speaking opportunities/debates for experts  Seeking media attention through tactics designed to generate both awareness and support:  Laboratory raids/undercover investigations to rescue animals and gain footage of laboratory conditions  Graphic stunts: occupations, sit-ins, die-ins, pie-throwing, etc!
  17. 17. Conclusion There is a great deal of intelligent, strategic activism which is not undertaken by the animal protection movement, although it is well within our ability. Such activism would significantly speed up the abolition of animal experimentation, which will otherwise take a very long time.
  18. 18. Evidence-based websites Peer-reviewed studies of human predictivity/utility, governmental reports, reviews of alternative strategies. Over over 400 published studies of harmful animal use and humane alternatives, in various educational disciplines. The European Resource Centre for Alternatives in Higher Education Database: over 70 high quality educational alternatives, most with commissioned reviews by professional educators. The InterNICHE Studies Database provides references, abstracts and other details for over 750 published studies describing humane teaching methods, searchable by discipline, author and keyword.