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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). SR describes itself as "an international advocacy group that provides accurate information about the importance of animal research in medical and veterinary science."[1]

SR has described its role as including "grassroots activities" on campuses are aimed at "generating student and faculty support" for animal testing.

SR previously overlapped 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). Pro-Test UK is no longer active, winding down its activities in February 2011.[2]

SR has stated that it is "now entirely volunteer-based," and gets its "funding from small donations" of supporters.[3]

Key Personnel

Tom Holder is the listed as "Founder" of SR.[4]

Holder graduated from Oxford University in 2007 with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

In January 2006, he became the Press Officer of Pro-Test, a position he held for approximately six years, until 2011 when Pro-Test ended operations. In 2007, 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 for six months and his role was to "take on animal rights groups." That work in the U.S. was funded by Americans for Medical Progress and Pro-Test. During "World Week for Animals in Laboratories" in 2008, Holder traveled to West Coast universities including UCLA, University of California, Berkeley, Oregon Health & Sciences University (ONPRC) and the University of Washington. [5][6] 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. [7], [8]

Holder has given interviews to the BBC, Sky and Fox News.

He has been a regular contributor to the groups' blog and travels around the world to give talks on SR issues. He worked on a project funded by Pro-test and the Americans for Medical Progress (AMP), see more below on this funder.[9][10]

While Pro-Test UK is no longer active, as of 2011, SR is said to have "played an instrumental role in the formation of Pro-Test groups around the world."[11]

There are Pro-Test movements in California (Pro-Test for Science)[12], Germany[13] and Italy.[14]

Controversies involving Pro-Test

Labs at Cambridge and Oxford

Pro-Test has publicly stated opposition to SPEAK, a grassroots animal rights group. SPEAK held protests opposing the construction of animal labs at both Cambridge University and Oxford University. See SPEAK's website here.

According to Pro-Test:[15]

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...”

Primate Experiments at Cambridge and Oxford

BUAV investigation of Cambridge University. - 2000-2001

SPEAK and others have expressed many concerns about animal testing at Cambridge and Oxford. Here are some examples of the concerns that have been raised:

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

Experiments are described as "life saving" by SR. However, SR does not comment on the suffering endured by animals previously involved in experiments conducted by Oxford, Cambridge and UCLA, but has questioned claims made by BUAV.[17]

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. Scientific "discoveries" included the finding that "brain damage in monkeys increases their fear of toy snakes."[18]

In one experiment, 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. [19]

It is not clear how such experiments promote "the welfare of mankind." (For more information on Oxford primate research, see also Painful and Pointless.)[20] (For descriptions of UCLA primate and other animal research, see also UCLA. For general information on primate research, see also NPRC.)

Animal Cruelty and Welfare Violations

Many of the institutions visited by Holder during his work in the U.S. for Pro-Test have long histories of gross animal welfare violations, abuse and neglect of primates and other animals.[21][22][23][24][25] Yet, according to 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.” [26]

SR on Animal Welfare

According to SR in January 2010:[27][28]

"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.

The fact is that animal rights groups do not exist to promote better animal welfare, but rather to ban – 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.

More than 90% of the animals used in experimentation are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the only federal law which oversees 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.[29]

According to various animal rights groups, the AWA places no real restrictions on animal testing, animals are routinely subjected to addictive drugs, electric shock, food and 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. [30] See also animal testing, section 2.

According to Project R&R, the minimal requirements under the AWA are not always enforced.[31][32] 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.

According to PrimateLabs.com, "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."[33]

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.[34] See also NABR & the Animal Welfare Act.[35]

Even though 90% of animals are excluded from the AWA, any experiments that use public money must adhere to PHS Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Animals and most private institutions rely on AALAC accreditation which gives them additional standards, according to SR.[36]

SR Funding

According to its website, "Speaking of Research exists on a very small budget," all costs are associated with the website and total about $150/year.

Previously, SR operated with money donated by its "UK sister-group," Pro-Test, "who received 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," which include universities engaged in animal research.[37]

Past Funder of Pro-Test: 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. As of June, 2016 they include:[38]

As of September 3, 2011 the Board of Directors included:[39]

Charles River Laboratories is the world's largest supplier of laboratory animals.[40] It has been described as the "General Motors of the laboratory animal industry." [41] 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 in 2011 are listed on a previous version of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals's (PETA) list of ten worst laboratories[42] according to worst violations of the Animal Welfare Act;[43] largest numbers of animals killed; most painful and invasive experiments and least willing to make improvements. See also Americans for Medical Progress.

SR Committee Members

  • Tom Holder- Founder

Former Committee Members

  • 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 [44]

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

Pro-Test's Founder

SR's leader, Holder, worked for nearly six years with Pro-Test, and his U.S. work was funded by Pro-Test.

Here is some information about Pro-Test's founder:

According to its 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 were "funded entirely by donations by private individuals on a no-strings-attached basis".[45]

Laurie Pycroft was quickly elevated to the teenage mascot and moral compass of the pro-vivisection campaign.[46]

According to an April of 2006 article by Allan Cowell in the New York Times:[47]

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." Cowell touted that:[47]

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.

In that interview, Cowell did not question Pycroft how a 16-year old rose so rapidly to become a junior spokesperson for biomedical research.

Contact

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

Articles and resources

SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Speaking of Research, About, organizational website, accessed June 13, 2016.
  2. Pro-Test, Welcome, organizational website, accessed June 13, 2016.
  3. https://speakingofresearch.com/about/#Funding
  4. Speaking of Research, Founder Biography, organizational website, accessed June 13, 2016.
  5. Richard Monastersky, Chronicle: Protesters Fail to Slow Animal Research, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2008.
  6. Speaking to the West Coast: A Review, Speaking of Research, April 2008.
  7. World Week for Animals in Laboratories, In Defense of Animals, accessed February 2009.
  8. World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! accessed February 2009.
  9. "Founder Biography", Speaking of Research, accessed February 2010.
  10. Micheal D. Hare Fellowship in Public Outreach, Americans for Medical Progress, accessed February 2010.
  11. Speaking of Research, Pro-Test - Standing up for Animal Research, organizational website, accessed June 13, 2016.
  12. Speaking of Research, Pro-Test for Science, organizational website, accessed June 13, 2016.
  13. Speaking of Research, Pro-Test Deutschland: Standing up for science in Germany!, organizational website, June 4, 2015.
  14. Speaking of Research, Pro-Test Italia, organizational website, accessed June 13, 2016.
  15. Pro Test, About Us, Pro-test, 2006.
  16. The Cutting Edge, X-Cape, accessed March 2010.
  17. Speaking of Research, The BUAV – More Unsubstantiated Claims, Spies and Inspection Reports, organizational wesbite, March 16, 2015.
  18. Rudebeck M, Buckley MJ, Walton ME, Rushworth MFS. A role for the macaque anterior cingulate gyrus in social valuation, Science, 2006; 313:1310-1312.
  19. 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.
  20. Painful and Pointless, Speakcampaigns.org, accessed February 2010.
  21. Carol L. Glasser, A Pattern of Abuse: Animal welfare violations in University of California laboratories, August 2010- June 2013, Progress for Science, August, 2013.
  22. Progress for Science, Animal Rights, Progress for Science, June 17, 2014.
  23. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA’s ‘10 Worst Laboratories’ List, organizational website, August 23, 2006.
  24. Michelle Pitcher, US Department of Agriculture fines UC Berkeley for 2011 lab animal deaths, The Daily Californian, February 20, 2014.
  25. Tracey Vedder, UW investigated for unauthorized monkey surgeries, Komo News, February 26, 2008.
  26. R. Allen Bogle Pro-Test, Primate Freedom, September 2009.
  27. Speaking of Research, Animal Welfare and the 3Rs, Speaking of Research, accessed January 2010.
  28. Speaking of Research, AR Undone, Speaking of Research, accessed January 2010.
  29. 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.
  30. Animal Experimentation in the United States, Stop Animal Exploitation Now! April 2005.
  31. Project R&R: Animal Welfare Act, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, 2009.
  32. Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Testing and the Law, organizational website, accessed January, 2017.
  33. Fact vs. Myth: FACT: State and local animal cruelty statutes do not cover animals in labs., Primatelabs.com, accessed October 2009.
  34. Jeremy Beckham Vivisectors and Robber Barons, PrimateLabs.com, accessed October 2009.
  35. NAVS, Explanation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), NAVS, accessed January, 2017.
  36. https://speakingofresearch.com/facts/research-regulation
  37. Speaking of Research, About, Speaking of Research, accessed January 2011.
  38. Americans for Medical Progress, AMP Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed June 13, 2016.
  39. Americans for Medical Progress, AMP Board of Directors, organizational website, June 3, 2011.
  40. Gina Chon and Anupreeta Das, [ http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704447604576007921979103968 Charles River Labs Pushed to Sell Itself], Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2010.
  41. C. Roland Christensen, Business Policy: Text and Cases, January 1982 p. 54, ISBN 9780256014518.
  42. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA’s ‘10 Worst Laboratories’ List, organizational website, August 23, 2006.
  43. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, November 2010.
  44. Speaking of Research, Committee, organizational website, accessed September 2009.
  45. Pro-Test, About Us, organizational website 2006.
  46. R. Allen Bogle Pro-Test, Primate Freedom, September 2009.
  47. 47.0 47.1 Allan Cowell A Geek, Sure, but No Patsy When It's About Research, The New York Times, April 1, 2006.

External articles