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Meeting Addresses Opposition to Use of Animals in Research
Animal rights activists are becoming increasingly sophisticated and aggressive in their efforts to stop researchers from working with animals, and they are currently winning the war, according to the speakers at a recent meeting convened at AAAS.
"It is clear that we are losing ground," said Mark S. Frankel, who directs the Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law Program of the AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs, which organized the 21 May meeting of the Professional Society Ethics Group (PSEG).
"Animal rights groups are intimidating researchers, funders, and corporate officials. Our job is to reach out to teachers, students, members of the policy community, and the media to condemn their activities." Held under the aegis of AAAS, the PSEG met to consider the status of animal research and discuss current trends in the conflict between the research community and activists who oppose the use of animals in research.
In her introductory remarks, AAAS senior program associate Deborah Runkle noted that opposition to the research establishment has gone beyond the presentation of legal and political obstacles. "While some of these challenges are regulatory and legal, others include harassment, threats, and even violence." said Runkle, with the AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs.The event was a regular meeting of the PSEG.
The first speaker, J.R. Haywood, a professor in the pharmacology department at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, discussed the continuing need for using animals in research. He was followed by Barbara Rich, executive vice president of the National Association for Biomedical Research, who talked about the legal and regulatory climate in which researchers operate. The last speaker was Kathryn Bayne, the associate director of the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International. The members of Bayne's organization are scientific and professional societies and educational institutions interested in making sure that laboratory animals are properly cared for, said Runkle.
"We talked about whether the era of using animals for research is over," Runkle said. "We're now down to testing molecules and proteins, but you still need to know what happens in the living organism." Runkle and other AAAS staff work with voluntary health organizations to develop ways their officials can respond to attacks. Another AAAS project, called "Science for Life," will help teachers understand the role of basic research in scientific progress, as well as the role of animals in carrying out that research, Runkle said.
More than 11 years ago, the AAAS Board and Council approved a joint resolution in support of the use of animals in scientific research, with the understanding that the animals should be well treated and that researchers would be encouraged to consider "alternative research or testing methodologies...where applicable and efficacious.
" Runkle notes that the Association continues to resist the efforts of animal rights activists to prevent researchers from doing their work.
"The first challenge we must address is the professional obligation to conduct the research in a responsible and humane manner," Runkle said when she introduced the speakers at the 21 May meeting. "The second is the challenge posed to this research by animal rights activists. This morning we are going to address both types of challenges."
For more information, contact Deborah Runkle by telephone at (202) 326 6794, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.