Those of you who have been following along this year will know about the car incineration terrorist attack on a UCLA neuroscience researcher which subsequently galvanized the formation of UCLA Pro-Test. They held a rally at the UCLA campus in April which drew about 800 supporters of responsible animal research; the ARA counter protest drew maybe a few dozen individuals. This is important.
The amount of mainstream press coverage garnered by the Animal Rights extremist is far out of proportion to the public support for their position in the US. This is because they work hard at getting publicity, of course, and those on the side of the responsible conduct of well-regulated research activities do not do so to the same extent. It is therefore important to continue to emphasize what a fringe position is occupied by those who oppose animal research under any circumstances.
Ultimately the UCLA Pro-Test, Americans for Medical Progress and Speaking of Research organizations formed an online petition as follows:
We the undersigned believe:
1. That animal research has contributed and continues to contribute to major advances in the length and quality of our lives. It remains vital to understanding basic biological processes and for the development of new treatments and therapies such as antibiotics, vaccines, organ transplants, and cancer medicines.
2. That animal research is morally justifiable provided animal welfare remains a high priority and no valid non-animal alternatives are available.
3. That violence, intimidation and harassment of scientists and others involved in animal research is neither a legitimate means of protest, nor morally justified.
I will continue my request that you sign the petition if you agree with these principles. It is very important that the scope of public support for needed research remain in the mind of politicians.
In my prior note on this topic, I asked people to contact their Congressional representative and ask him or her to sign the petition. [Edit: As did Tom Holder of Speaking for Research, including a draft letter] I am just starting to get feedback from people who have heard from their CongressCritter. A sample that was forwarded to me:
Thank you for contacting me about the Pro-Test petition. I appreciate hearing from you. I apologize for the delayed response. I receive more than 2,000 letters and e-mails each week and find it difficult to personally respond as quickly as I would like.
I appreciate the passion and commitment behind petitions and pledges. However, as a matter of policy, I don't sign them because they commit lawmakers to non-negotiable positions when the legislative process often requires flexibility to meet your goals.
However, I can assure you that in Congress I have been a strong supporter of NIH funding. ... You can be sure that I will continue to ensure that the NIH has the resources conduct critical research that leads to innovation, discovery, and cures for diseases.
It is a reasonable, if frustrating, dodge. Still, the purpose here was accomplished which was to get some staffer in the relevant Congress Critter's office engaged. To let someone there know that these issues are important. Of course, the more of the constituents that write on a given topic, the more salient the message becomes.