Pro-Test: Standing Up For Science
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25/06/06

Permalink 08:18:00 pm, by admin Email , 361 words, 885 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

Nothing to hide, so why hide it?

The press has continued to report Home Office figures showing the total number of animal research procedures has increased for the first time in 14 years, as explained in the previous blog entry. Today, the Oxford Mail asked Oxford University if it would release details of the number of animals used in its laboratories. Its spokesman said:

"We will not be releasing a breakdown of the figures because we are concerned about possible retribution from animal activists."

This is an incredible statement for all sorts of reasons. First, universities simply don't release breakdowns of figures, anyway. The figures are compiled by the Home Office and individual institutions do not publish their own figures. So the remark betrays considerable ignorance.

But more importantly than that, it betrays the University's continued refusal to come out fighting in defence of its academics and the huge contributions they make to science and to society. Months after Pro-Test first urged them to end their ostrich strategy and help make the positive case for animal research, they are still burying their heads in the sand and hoping the problem will go away. It won't, until people are convinced of the positive reasons why they should support continued animal research in the UK.

Pro-Test believes in openness, because scientists have nothing to be ashamed of, and the more information people have, the less ammunition is lent to anti-science campaign groups who can claim that the university has something to hide. We are proud of the work Oxford's scientists do, even if their own university isn't. And finally, saying "we don't want you to know something that will make you attack us", is tantamount to saying the university deserves to be attacked -- the use of the word "retribution" actively concedes that the university is doing something wrong!

Retribution, noun, 1. the act of punishing or taking vengeance for sin or wrongdoing; 2. deserved punishment, especially for sin or wrongdoing; vengeance (Chambers English Dictionary).

It's high time Oxford University ditched this hyper-defensive attitude and proudly stood up for its scientists and the work they do. Their failure to do so is the only "sin or wrongdoing" being committed here.

Originally Posted by Lee.

31/05/06

Permalink 10:03:11 pm, by admin Email , 577 words, 734 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

University sends official representative to march with Pro-Test

For the first time, Oxford University is sending an official representative to speak on its behalf at a Pro-Test event: Dr Ken Fleming, Head of the University's Medical Science Division and Member of Council. We are delighted that the University has seized the opportunity to come out and defend the work of its scientists and students in public.

Dr Fleming spoke at our recent public meeting but only in his capacity as Head of Medical Science. He will be appearing in his capacity as a University official on Saturday and we are grateful to him for his participation.

In the meantime, it's become clear what SPEAK will be doing on Saturday. They recently announced that they would be staging a counter-demonstration but were keeping the details secret for 'tactical' reasons - presumably like the location of their forthcoming training camp where they train 'activists' how to violently incapacitate and blind people.

So what are they up to? Well, as an email to their supporters revealed, they have found where the construction workers building the Oxford lab are living - at the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh - and, after an initial show of force today, they'll be rallying their supporters to harrass and intimidate the builders there.

How sad that instead of making the arguments and trying to win people over in the public domain, SPEAK will again be targeting a group of people whose only interest is to do an honest day's work, in a vicious attempt to yet again delay building on this vital project - and to thereby delay the crucial, life-saving experimentation that is due to take place once the lab is finished. Back in 2004, SPEAK's campaign of intimidation forced Montpellier to pull out of the lab, leading to a 14-month hiatus in building. This was shortly after spiralling security costs - thanks to another SPEAK campaign - caused plans for a similar lab at Cambridge to be shelved. Just last week, a steel company withdrew from the Oxford lab, citing fears of intimidation, and SPEAK are obviously hoping for another success for their campaign of harrassment.

It reflects pretty badly on the anti-vivisectionist movement that they dare not stage a counter-rally in Oxford itself for the very justified fear of being outnumbered, that they would rather bully builders than engage in rational debate and try to win the public over. As the recent Telegraph poll showed, SPEAK and their ilk are losing the argument, haemorraghing public support, and so retreat to trying to frighten people at the margins.

Pro-Test is proud to stand full-square with the construction workers. We signalled our solidarity with the builders earlier this year and urge them to continue refusing to be intimidated off the job. We're campaigning for open, rational discussion of the science and ethics of animal research to build a mass movement in favour of continued vivisection and scientific progress that puts human beings in the centre of our worldview. In doing so, we aim to dispel the climate of fear whipped up by groups like SPEAK, encouraging scientists to defend and promote their work publicly, and showing the 'silent majority' that they don't need to be afraid, that they too can stand up for science.

So, while SPEAK are off bullying builders in an isolated rural town, Pro-Test and its supporters will be rallying on the streets of Oxford, marching for reason, science and progress, with speeches from leading scientists, patients' representatives and university officials. We are Pro-Test... are you?

Permalink 09:33:00 pm, by admin Email , 33 words, 718 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

'The shame of our silence'

There is a great op-ed piece on Guardian Unlimited this morning from Prof Lord Robert Winston, the famous genetics expert, encouraging his colleagues to stand up for science at our march on Saturday.

30/05/06

Permalink 03:34:00 pm, by admin Email , 52 words, 762 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

March speakers confirmed

Pro-Test will march again this Saturday, 3 June, in Oxford city centre - see here for full details.

Confirmed speakers now include:

Prof Colin Blakemore: Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council

Alan Duncan MP: Shadow Secretary for Trade and Industry

Dr Evan Harris MP: Liberal Democrat Science Spokesman

Niki Shisler: Author and journalist

29/05/06

Permalink 09:37:11 pm, by admin Email , 472 words, 737 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

New poll puts support for animal research 'at record high'

A new Telegraph/YouGov poll out today puts support for animal research at a 'record high'. 70% of people surveyed believed that animal testing is acceptable, while 72% felt that there was no alternative. In fact, other surveys have already revealed an even higher level of public support for vivisection, with 77% backing 'any research on animals' in a 1999 New Scientist poll, and 75% in 2002 and 2005 polls for the Coalition for Medical Progress, with 90% backing the research so long as suffering was minimised (which it always is). See today's poll data here and an op-ed piece by Prof Colin Blakemore describing the shift in opinion over the last 20 years here.

What the latest poll actually seems to show is outright opposition to animal testing at an all time low. Only 18% think testing drugs on animals before humans is unacceptable under any circumstances, with 11% saying they don't know; only 19% believe alternatives are available and 9% didn't know.

Today's survey mixes the questions on animal research with questions on animal rights extremism, and it's noteworthy that more people are firmly opposed to the extremism than are strongly in favour of animal research. This is to be expected, especially given that people continue to be targeted, but it shows that there is still a sizeable part of the population who are yet to be won over to the pro-testing side on the basis of the scientific and ethical arguments. As the Telegraph's leader notes, the results are partly due to Pro-Test's organisation of a public, pro-science movement, but also partly due to a backlash against extremism.

A huge, overwhelming majority back animal research. Scientists should take heart from today's figures, which are, as Blakemore says, a sign of the changing climate around the animal testing issue. As the Telegraph says, it certainly undermines anti-vivisectionists' claims to enjoy majority support. But neither scientists, nor groups like Pro-Test, can afford to be complacent. Around 10% of the public still don't know where they stand on the issue, while nearly 20% erroneously believe there are viable alternatives to animal research available now, and nearly 20% are opposed to testing medical treatments (not research in general - specifically, medical treatments) on animals before humans. Even if the tide has turned against animal rights extremism, we are still a long way from a climate where the science of animal research is properly understood and scientists can command the respect they deserve for the work they do, and the freedom they need to do it.

Also in the press: Kate Hoey MP alleges that the Labour party's acceptance of funding from animal rights groups 'gave them credibility'; The Glasgow Sunday Herald notes a small rush among GSK shareholders to remove their details from the public arena, and argues, as Pro-Test has been arguing, for business to rely on making the positive case for animal testing, rather than relying on secrecy.

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