In a statement today, the American Physiological Society writes:
Since July 2006, a number of California researchers who conduct animal studies have been the target of violent and threatening incidents directed towards them and their families. These incidents have included actual or attempted arson; home intrusion; criminal vandalism; and harassment such as aggressive home demonstrations by individuals wearing clothing that conceals their identities. The American Physiological Society condemns all acts of violence or intimidation against individuals engaged in legitimate scientific inquiries intended to advance knowledge and improve health.
The most recent such events took place in late November when a group of unidentified extremists sent a package containing razor blades and a threatening letter to UCLA neuroscientist David Jentsch. A claim was made that a similar package was sent to a graduate student in Jentsch’s lab, although the package has not actually been received.
Dr. Jentsch’s research is being conducted both lawfully and humanely with the objective of relieving human suffering. Jentsch is a professor of psychology and of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences. He utilizes vervet monkeys in research into genetic and neurochemical mechanisms that influence cognition, impulse control, and decision-making. The research, which receives competitive funding from the National Institutes of Health, has provided important insights into biochemical processes related to how the brain stores and processes information. These insights are important in terms of understanding methamphetamine addiction and tobacco dependence among teens, along with cognitive disabilities that affect behavior, speech, and reasoning in patients with schizophrenia.
Dr. Jentsch is one of many scientists who have been harassed or threatened because they work with animals. Research involving animals plays an essential role in efforts to discover causes, preventions, treatments, and cures for disease. Knowledge obtained through research with animals has saved many lives and improved the quality of life for millions of people and animals. Scientists recognize that they have ethical duties both to relieve suffering through research as well as to provide humane care for research animals. Moreover, the use of animals in research is subject to strict regulatory oversight.
The American Physiological Society condemns extremist actions against researchers in the strongest possible terms: It is thuggery, pure and simple. Harassment, threats, and violence contribute nothing to the betterment of animal welfare, nor do they promote dialogue or thoughtful consideration of serious issues.