Speaking of Research

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

Speaking of Research (SR). According to its website, Speaking of Research is a "campus-oriented group that seeks to provide university students and faculty with accurate information on and resources about the importance of animal research in medical science." Research is generally described as "life saving". [1]

Speaking of Research overlaps with the group Pro-test in the United Kingdom as well as a Pro-test group affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Tom Holder is the listed as "Founder" of SR and as well as the "Press Officer" for Pro-test (UK). He lives in the UK.

Overview

Tom Holder graduated from Oxford University in 2007 with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. In January of 2006, he became the Press Officer of Pro-Test, giving interviews to the BBC, Sky and Fox News. During 2007, Mr. Holder took over the communications and internal operations in addition to his role as press officer.

In March of 2008, he moved to the United States to found Speaking of Research and "take on animal rights groups". According to its website, its "grassroots activities" on campuses are aimed at "generating student and faculty support" for animal testing. In October of 2008, he returned to the UK where he continues to assist with both groups. He is a regular contributor to the groups' blog and travels around the world to give talks on behalf of both Speaking of Research and Pro-Test. This project is funded by Pro-test and the Americans for Medical Progress (AMP). [2], [3]

Pro-test

According to it's website, Pro-Test was formed in January of 2006 by 16 year old Laurie Pycroft, who was "frustrated with the way that those who opposed vivisection were dominating the public debate on animal research". According to Pro-Test, they are "funded entirely by donations by private individuals on a no-strings-attached basis".[4] Laurie Pycroft has quickly been elevated to the teenage mascot and moral compass of the vivisection movement. [5] According to an April of 2006 article by Allan Cowell in the New York Times:

"He was just one more 16-year-old, drawn to the music of Placebo, Blur and Travis, and when, by his own account, he spent nocturnal hours on the Internet — a high-school dropout living in his parents' suburban semidetached home in Swindon, near Oxford, roaming the Web and posting his ruminations on his blog."

All of this was before he "burst forth onto the barricades", becoming the "youngest and most closely scrutinized campaigner in Britain" against a "militant animal rights movement that wants to block the building of new animal testing facilities." Apparently not too scrutinized. At no point are 16 year old Laurie's credentials questioned nor his meteoric, seemingly inexplicable ascension to junior spokesperson for biomedical research. He adds that:

"The transition has been rapid and perilous. Praised for his courage, Mr. Pycroft — along with a slightly older group of Oxford University undergraduates — has tilted against what he calls 'animal rights terrorists'. ...talk among his contemporaries turned to a possible profile of him in Bliss, a magazine aimed at teenage girls, there was a hint of something that a 16-year-old — or even an older person — might call cool in this abrupt rise to celebrity."
"It's quite flattering, really", Mr. Pycroft said as an anonymous passer-by stopped him to shake his hand and congratulate him. "I have always believed that humans should ethically and morally come above animals as far as science is concerned. I believe that if a human can be saved by animal research, all the evidence I have seen points to it being extremely useful." [6]

Americans for Medical Progress

AMP's board of directors consists of senior executives and other representatives employed by the pharmaceutical and vivisection industries. Board members represent multinational, billion dollar corporations as well as universities and institutions receiving government grants for vivisection. They include: Charles River, Abbott Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis and Merck. Charles River Laboratories is the world's largest supplier of laboratory animals. It has been described as the "General Motors of the laboratory animal industry". [7] Board members also represent universities and institutions receiving government grants for vivisection. Many corporations and institutions on AMP's board have amassed a history of gross animal welfare violations in the United States and Europe and been the focus of animal, health, consumer and human rights advocates.

Three of the universities represented by AMP board members are listed on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals's (PETA) list of ten worst laboratories according to worst violations of the Animal Welfare Act;[8] largest numbers of animals killed; most painful and invasive experiments and least willing to make improvements. See also Americans for Medical Progress.

SPEAK

According to Pro-test:

"For well over a year, groups like SPEAK had been protesting the University of Oxford's construction of a new Biomedical Research Facility on South Parks Road, Oxford. Their campaign of intimidation had forced the University's original contractors off the job in July 2004. Construction did not recommence until November 2005, after which anti-vivisectionists renewed their campaign, abetted by extremist groups such as the ALF, which announced it would target students. Similar campaigns led to the cancellation of a very similar laboratory project in Cambridge in 2004.
Pro-Test aims to counter the irrational arguments of anti-vivisectionists by raising public awareness of the benefits of animal research and creating an environment where scientists can speak out about their work and be proud of the contributions they make. We stand for science, reasoned debate and, above all, the promotion of the welfare of mankind. Pro-Test exists to support the construction of the Oxford lab...” [9]

Cambridge University

In 2002, Cambridge University announced plans to build a massive new primate laboratory. However, after a two week public inquiry commencing on November 26, 2002, it was found that when both sides had an opportunity to present their cases, the animal researchers could not substantiate their claims. In two and a half hours of evidence and two hours of cross examination, Dr Ray Greek, Medical Director of Europeans for Medical Advancement, cited a succession of scientific papers supporting his case against the lab. The university had made rash assertions, but could provide no solid evidence of the lab's benefits. Dr. Greek also noted that:

"Scientists are so scared to speak out against their employers and the scientific establishment that one researcher resorted to having his face blacked out and his voice disguised for a television debate about the use of animals in research." [10],[11]

The government appointed inspector canceled the project. [12] However, Prime Minister Tony Blair and billionaire Lord David Sainsbury, (who effectively bought the title of Science Minister) issued a decree overturning the decision. It was during this period that SPEAC (Stop Primate Experiments at Cambridge) was formed by a coalition of animal rights groups to fight the proposed labs. Through non-violent actions, they organized an effective assault of relentless pressure against the university. On January 26, Cambridge halted construction citing “substantial financial risks for the University.” [13], [14]

Oxford University

In March of 2004, attention focused on an £18 million animal laboratory being constructed at Oxford University. SPEAC (now SPEAK) conducted a similar campaign at Oxford. That month, Oxford finally admitted that the laboratory would be used to breed and experiment on colonies of monkeys. Determined not to allow another activist victory, the British government stepped in. It promised to underwrite the new lab for up to £100 million as well as other support. In October of 2004, Oxford began a drawn out and expensive civil court battle to impose draconian injunctions on demonstrations. Attempts to ban all protests within the city failed, though an exclusion zone was put around the laboratory. Building began again in December 2005 with high security that included an unidentified contractor, anonymous vehicles, builders wearing balaclavas and a security team who had previously worked as mercenaries in Iraq. The Thames Valley Police also provided a private security service, which conducted illegal arrests at legal demonstrations.

On 11 November 2008, Oxford announced that the lab would be fully operational by mid 2009. [15]

Primate experiments

BUAV investigation of Cambridge University. - 2000-2001

For 10 months, an undercover investigator from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), witnessed miserable conditions and depraved experiments performed on marmosets at Cambridge. (right) [16]

Experiments are generally described as "life saving" by SR. However, for the most part, they are not described at all; certainly not the shocking and pointless experiments conducted by Oxford, Cambridge and UCLA. A dossier published by Animal Aid revealed some of the most meaningless, horrific and barbaric primate experiments conducted at Oxford. Most of the experiments are clearly being done to satisfy morbid curiosity. In projects lasting months and even years, groups of monkeys are deliberately brain damaged with chemicals and put through a battery of tests. Most of the experiments end with the monkeys being killed to conduct necropsies. Prior to death, animals suffer from seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and uncontrollable body movements. Some vital scientific discoveries included the finding that "brain damage in monkeys increases their fear of toy snakes."[17]

In one experiment, "scientists" from Oxford, Cambridge and two other universities conducted a long-term study of brain behavior in two male macaque monkeys. Both monkeys underwent brain surgery to implant electrodes to record brain activity. The implant was held in place by stainless steel screws, a head bolt and dental cement. The monkeys were seated in a sound-proof room and locked into "primate chairs", which restrict body movement. The "task" of the restrained monkey was to stare at streams of pictures until he saw a fish. Experimental brain and eye recordings were computer controlled. An "incorrect stare" or "no response" from the monkeys resulted in the withholding of a juice reward. The monkeys underwent 67 experimental sessions. It is not known what became of them after this ordeal. [18]

It is not clear how such experiments promote "the welfare of mankind." For more information on Oxford primate research, see also Painful and Pointless.[19]

For descriptions of UCLA primate and other animal research, see also UCLA. For general information on primate research, see also NPRC.

Mel Broughton & SHAC

According to Tom Holder:

“The conviction of SPEAK leader, Mel Broughton, is a victory of democratic process over extremism. With the recent success of several highs profile prosecutions of animal rights extremists, we hope that debate can now move towards the important issue of why animals are necessary in medical research. For most people, the issue of animal welfare has always been more important than animal rights, and with most extremists now in jail, research institutions, such as Oxford University, can move forward unhindered in their efforts to set a new gold standard in animal welfare.”

Pro-test adds that the seven "extremists" from Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) "received a total of 50 years between them for conspiracy to blackmail."[20]

On February 13, 2009, Mel Broughton was sentenced to 10 years in connection with the SPEAK campaign. A jury cleared him of possessing explosive substances, but failed to reach a verdict on other charges. Following his retrial in 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for "conspiracy to commit arson". [21]

In November of 2008, his attorney had revealed an early 2007 recording of officers disparaging Broughton and candidly discussing ways to "get him". One was recorded as saying that he would wage a "dirty war". The recording caused Mr. Brought "great concern, as the tone went far beyond any possible harassment he might have expected." He testified that police at Oxford recorded his every move, from joining a protest to sitting in a coffee shop. He also stated that was now too old and too high profile for direct action.[22]

Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC 7)

In March of 2006, six young webmasters were the first individuals to be convicted for "animal enterprise terrorism" in Trenton, New Jersey. They posted videotape of tortured dogs and reported on legal and illegal activities, eventually causing the corporation to lose profits and be dropped from the New York Stock Exchange. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), unable to catch underground activists, instead targeted the website operators. They are currently serving up to six years in prison for their speech. [23]

Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is a contract research facility (CRO) with a long history of gross animal welfare violations. Corporations which contract test out to HLS include members of AMP's board of directors, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Abbott Laboratories Sanofi-Aventis and Merck. [24] See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.

World Week for Animals in Laboratories

World Week for Animals in Laboratories is a national week of protests and media events focusing on animal testing and the treatment of laboratory animals. It is held around the week of April 24th. [25], [26] During this week in 2008, Mr. Holder traveled to West Coast universities including, UCLA, University of California, Berkeley, Oregon Health & Sciences University (ONPRC) and the University of Washington. [27], [28]

Animal cruelty & welfare violations

Many of the institutions visited by SR rallies have long histories of gross animal welfare violations, abuse and neglect of primates and other animals. Yet, according to Tom Holder:

"There is round-the-clock treatment, there are people, veterinarians in research labs whose only job is to make sure that animals are treated well and are essentially happy in their lives.” [29]

SR on animal welfare

According to SR:

"The 3Rs are implicit in the AWA and any scientist planning to use animals (except rats, mice, and birds, which are not included in the AWA) in their research must first demonstrate why there is no alternative; and that the number of animals used, and any suffering caused, will be kept to a minimum.
The 3Rs are also important from an ethical standpoint, as research using animals has the potential to cause pain, suffering or distress – this can arise from the experiments themselves or from the way that animals are housed. In any humane society there is clearly a moral obligation to ensure that any harm caused is kept to an absolute minimum." [30]
The fact is that animal rights groups do not exist to promote better animal welfare, but rather to band – on principle – all animal experiments carried out in the US and beyond. Animal welfare is of crucial importance to research since stressed animals tend not to give good results. Therefore it has often been researchers and animal care technicians who have championed advances in animal welfare – such as better designed cages, improved training, and new enrichment toys and activities for animals." [31]

Over 90% of the animals used in experimentation are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the only federal law which over sees animal testing. Rats, mice, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish are expressly eliminated from all safeguards. Species not covered under the AWA do not even have to be reported. [32] The AWA places no real restrictions on animal testing, animals are routinely subjected to addictive drugs, electric shock, food & water deprivation, isolation, severe confinement, caustic chemicals, burning, blinding, chemical and biological weapons, radiation, etc. A researcher has only to declare that a procedure is necessary for it to be allowed. [33] See also animal testing, section 2.

Even minimal requirements under the AWA are rarely enforced. [34] Animal suffering in laboratories is pervasive even for the 5% covered under the AWA. Researchers may even obtain permission from their local animal care committee to conduct research that they openly admit is in violation of federal law. Such “exceptions” prevent a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector from issuing a citation. Never-the-less, the vivisection industry insists that all is well within laboratories and federal laws are being complied with.

As a result of industry lobbying, local and state animal cruelty laws frequently contain an explicit exemption for laboratory animals; therefore it is impossible to be charge in those localities for cruelty to a laboratory animal.[35] Lobbyists have fought every reform from the simple walking of dogs to larger cages for primates. Thanks to vivisection industry lobbying, over 90% of all laboratory animals receive no protection under the law. [36] See also NABR & the Animal Welfare Act.

Deflecting & redirecting issues

SR/Pro-test's primary function appears to be to deflect and redirect scrutiny from some of the world's more notorious and controversial laboratories and drug companies, as well as animal research in general. Also, from violence and civil liberties issues concerning activists. Unlike their "targets", animal and environmental activists have actually been the victims of fatal, generally under or non-prosecuted violence, including the unprosecuted murders of two British teenagers. See also Animal activists who have been injured or killed.

Vivisection 'debate'

See also animal testing, section 6.

Funding

According to it's website:

"Speaking of Research exists on a very small budget (all costs are associated with the website and total less than $100/year). This year (2010-2011) the money was kindly donated by our UK sister-group, Pro-Test, who receive their money from small private donations by scientists and other supporters. Travel costs and associated expenses of giving talks around the US and beyond have been generously met by the relevant host organizations."[37]

This is no doubt a highly advantageous arrangement. However, it is hardly a "campus oriented, grass roots" student movement if "host organizations" are paying or reimbursing Speaking of Research/Pro-test for speaking engagements and conducting pro-vivisection rallies on their campuses. Several committee members are also university faculty members. See also astroturf.

Animal researchers sometimes publish in hundreds of journals, much to their professional and financial success. There is also a huge and profitable industry built which includes animal breeders, suppliers of cages and equipment designed specifically for animal testing. [38] A 2001 audit for 30 facilities revealed that approximately 56% received over 100 million per year from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for animal research. [39] See also NIH.

Committee members

  • Tom Holder- Founder
  • Allyson Bennett
  • David Bienus
  • Gillian Braden-Weiss
  • Paul Browne
  • Charles Cates
  • Lynn Fairbanks, PhD - UCLA
  • David Jentsch, PhD - UCLA, board member, Americans for Medical Progress
  • Pamela Kay
  • Kathryn Knowlson
  • Dario Ringach, PhD - UCLA
  • Gene Rukavina - UCLA
  • Kathy Wadsworth - UCLA
  • Megan Wyeth - UCLA [40]

For more information animal research conducted by Dr. Fairbanks, Dr. Jentsch and Dr. Rigach, see also UCLA.

Contact

Web address: http://www.speakingofresearch.com/

Articles and resources

SourceWatch articles

References

  1. About, Speaking of Research, accessed September 2009
  2. "Founder Biography", Speaking of Research, accessed February 2010
  3. Micheal D. Hare Fellowship in Public Outreach, Americans for Medical Progress, accessed February 2010
  4. About Us, Pro-test, 2006
  5. R. Allen Bogle Pro-Test, Primate Freedom, September 2009
  6. Allan Cowell A Geek, Sure, but No Patsy When It's About Research, New York Times, April 1, 2006
  7. C. Roland Christensen, Business Policy: Text and Cases, January 1982 p. 54, ISBN 9780256014518
  8. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, November 2010
  9. About Us, Pro-test, 2006
  10. Public Inquiry: Our Triumphant Performance, X-CAPE, accessed February 2010
  11. Proposed Cambridge University Lab Proven Unnecessary, Stop Whitecoat Welfare, accessed February 2010
  12. SPEAC: Stop Primate Experiments at Cambridge, Speak Campaigns.org, accessed March 2010
  13. About SPEAK: Stop Primate Experiments At Cambridge, Speakcampaigns.org, accessed February 2010
  14. Primate Research Facility at 307 Huntingdon Road: Notice, Cambridge University Reporter, January 26, 2004
  15. About Speak: Why Oxford?, Speakcampaigns.org, accessed February 2010
  16. The Cutting Edge, X-Cape, accessed March 2010
  17. Rudebeck M, Buckley MJ, Walton ME, Rushworth MFS. A role for the macaque anterior cingulate gyrus in social valuation., Science, 2006; 313:1310-1312
  18. Everling S, Tinsley CJ, Gaffan D, Duncan J. Selective representation of task-relevant objects and locations in the monkey prefrontal cortex., European Journal of Neuroscience, 2006; 23:2197-2214
  19. Painful and Pointless, Speakcampaigns.org, accessed February 2010
  20. Pro-Test welcomes Government action to combat extremism, Pro-test News, accessed February 2010
  21. Support Mel, MySpace.com, accessed February 2010
  22. Police planned 'dirty war' against animal rights activist accused of terror campaign, court told, Daily Mail, November 2008
  23. Charlotte Laws, PhD, AETA and the New Green Scare: Are You the Terrorist Next Door?, Counterpunch, January 2007
  24. Inside Customers, SHAC.net, accessed December 2008
  25. World Week for Animals in Laboratories, In Defense of Animals, accessed February 2009
  26. World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! accessed February 2009
  27. Richard Monastersky Chronicle: Protesters Fail to Slow Animal Research, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2008
  28. Speaking to the West Coast: A Review, Speaking of Research, April 2008
  29. R. Allen Bogle Pro-Test, Primate Freedom, September 2009
  30. Animal Welfare and the 3Rs, Speaking of Research, accessed January 2010
  31. AR Undone, Speaking of Research, accessed January 2010
  32. The Animal Care Program and the USDA's Authority Under the AWA: Q & A, U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS Fact Sheet, July 2005, page 2
  33. Animal Experimentation in the United States, Stop Animal Exploitation Now! April 2005
  34. Project R&R: Animal Welfare Act, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, 2009
  35. Fact vs. Myth: FACT: State and local animal cruelty statutes do not cover animals in labs., Primatelabs.com, accessed October 2009
  36. Jeremy Beckham Vivisectors and Robber Barons, PrimateLabs.com, accessed October 2009
  37. About, Speaking of Research, accessed January 2011
  38. Opposition from Vested Interest Groups, Americans for Medical Advancement, 2008
  39. Micheal A. Budkie The Animal Experimentation Scandal: An Audit of the NIH: Funding of Animal Experimentation: Audit Findings, SAEN, 2001
  40. Committee, Speaking of Research, accessed September 2009

External articles