You may have been following with some interest the statements made by an apparent biomedical science blogger, Dr. J., regarding the unacceptability of the use of cats in biomedical research. The post and subsequent comments from Dr. J follow a familiar track- the arbitrary personal standard (poorly defined), ignorance or intentional misrepresentation of the conduct of research and threats of violence against animal researchers. The only news here, I suppose, is that it is coming from someone who is engaged in some sort of biomedical research which, of course, relies directly and indirectly on the use of animals including vertebrates. (It is worth reading the comment thread because there are nice descriptions of why certain species are preferred for vision research over others.) If you would like additional discussion, see posts from Drs. Isis and Stemwedel.
A Voice of Lunacy From Within the Scientific Community
Non-rational lines, empathy, and animal research
[ This might be a good time to click on over and sign the Pro-Test petition in support of the responsible, well-regulated conduct of animal research, if you have not already done so. It has gone over 9,000 signatures recently but we must keep going. If the UK can gain 20,000 signatures on a similar petition, the US at 5 times the population should target 100,000. ]
I have little specific to add to the current discussion about Dr. J.'s blog comments because the usual misrepresentations about the conduct of feline research are too fuzzy to address meaningfully. It does, however, give me the opportunity to remind you about the Michael D. Hayre Fellowship:
The Americans for Medical Progress/Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach, established in 2008, promotes peer education about animal research among students and young adults aged 18-30. Named in memory of Michael D. Hayre, DVM, ACLAM, the Fellowship provides support for peer outreach and education projects in the United States.
The first AMP/Hayre Fellow was Tom Holder, a recent graduate of Oxford University and a leader of the U.K. research support group Pro-Test. Tom toured the U.S. in 2008, speaking to students and others on campuses and at biomedical research facilities. Tom's work as a Hayre Fellow included the creation of Speaking of Research, an outreach and advocacy website and online network.
Although the deadline for this year's applicants has just passed, be sure to pass this around to any trainees you think might be looking to go into a science-policy or science-communication direction.
I also ask you to consider making a small donation to continue funding this program and, dare we hope, expand it. Education on the value and reality of animal research continues to be the key. As we have discussed here and around the blogosphere, much of the anti-animal research ground game depends on the misrepresentation of reality. Misrepresentation of the value of the scientific findings, misrepresentation of the current alternatives and misrepresentation of the regulatory and oversight conditions of the research. In my view, the first Hayre Fellow, Tom Holder has done a magnificent job in promoting outreach and awareness*...but it is only a relative drop in the bucket. We can do better.
*are you on Twitter? Are you following @RaisingVoices, @uclaresearcher and @medicalprogress?