TCS Daily

The Campus Strikes Back

By Jeremy Slater - March 14, 2006 12:00 AM

An article of faith for Europe's alternative mindset has been questioned recently, giving some hope that opposition to it is growing along with much-needed support for science over scare-mongering.

At a recent demonstration in Oxford, students, teachers and others showed their support for the building of a biomedical research laboratory to carry out scientific tests on animals. Pro-Test, the group that organized the demonstration was formed by a 16-year-old student, Laurie Pycroft, to counteract the vicious campaign of bullying and intimidation carried out by antivivisection groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). These groups have targeted researchers and their families in unpleasant attacks that have included letter bombs being sent to their homes.

The ALF and others have also used intimidation tactics to scare off companies associated with the building of the laboratory. One building firm found the pressure of the animal rights protesters too much and halted work on the contract. Construction was then left untouched for nearly a year and a half before a new contractor was found. To ensure the safety of its employees and avoid the type of threats that were made to the original construction team, managers and workers onsite wear masks and are ferried to work in unmarked minivans.

Many in the research community and those associated with it have had to contend with this kind of harassment for almost two decades, and the authorities have done little effectively to try to stop the threats.

Similar antivivisection groups have also launched attacks on both people and property involved with another research laboratory some 80 miles from Oxford run by Huntingdon Life Sciences. Campaigners also threatened its financial backers with terror tactics and succeeded in frightening many British financial institutions into not supporting the company. This led to the business almost collapsing in 2001 and having to seek government aid to keep going.

But the effort may finally be backfiring with the public and with opinion leaders. It was not just students who were backing Pro-Test, but senior college fellows, including neuroscience professors Tipu Aziz and John Stein, who recognize that animal testing has a role to play in the advancement of medical science.

"The [animal rights groups] have had it all their own way," Stein said. "They have intimidated people, but the time has come to speak up and risk it. Who knows what the risk is?"

He was expressing an opinion now held by a majority of the British population, who believe that some sort of animal testing is unpleasant, but necessary. Stein and the other protesters are also trying to counter the bitter misanthropy that appears to drive many of the wilder elements of the animal rights movement.

A local Member of Parliament, Evan Harris, told the protesters that he had acted as a human guinea pig in tests for HIV and AIDS treatments. "My message to the extremists is that you will never win," he defiantly said. "Every single action of harassment, of intimidation or violence undermines any legitimacy your case ever had."

However, such intimidation has worked before and public opinion is ignored by campaigners who seek to terrify those that work in laboratories into submission. This has led to scientists leaving the U.K. for work in other countries such as the U.S., as they feel their contribution to society is being ignored. This hurts Britain's science base as well as the economy.

Perhaps the science community should have spoken out before, but too many in it seemed to have hoped someone else would instead. This lack of engagement in open debate has allowed an anti-science culture to establish itself in the U.K. and other parts of Europe and affect advances in other fields of science.

If a stronger case had been made for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, the take-up might have been as strong in Europe as it has been in the U.S. However, Green lobbying has been highly effective, with the European Union currently maintaining a near-total ban on GMOs in farming. Scientists are arguing more strongly now than before that GMOs offer a chance to feed the world, but their lack of vocal support previously has meant the argument in Europe is lost. Last week a specialist committee set up by the European Commission advised that a decision to start a greater use of GMO crops be put off until 2008 at the earliest.

So, perhaps those plucky hundreds in Oxford were not just protesting against the terror tactics used by their opponents, but against a world in which science and reason has lost out to other forces and a future in which many could die needlessly of disease or starvation. Such a future is, I am sure, not the one that most of those who are against animal testing or GMOs would want. It's a possible future that should appall us all.



I guess the same arguments could be presented about listening to global warming science
The author praises some scientists, students, and other workers for speaking out against the ALF (I though it was the groups called SHAC, not ALF that were casing the trouble there and at home in the US).

On the other hand, when scientists speak out and talk about industry supression of facts regarding global warming, many on Tech Cntral Station label scientists as mis-directed academics with left-leaning political tendencies.

I would suggest that we support scientists. This ati-cience trend in the US is trickling into the mind-set of the children. So we will have fewer scientits because it is implied in our media and in what is being taught in schools that the scientists are bad guys.

Are we really ready to accept the consequences of getting our way by bullying scientists?

Reap what is sown...
As long as some choose to abdicate their personal reality
and submit to the delusions of humanism, determinism, and
collectivism, just so long will they be subject and re-
acting only, to be tossed by every impulse emanating from
others. Those who abdicate such reality may, in perfect
justice, find themselves weighed in the balances of their
own choosing.


minor problem
There is no industry suppression of data.
On the contrary, it is the AGW fanatics who are threatening the careers of anyone who dares to question their ideology.

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