Science takes case for animal research to the people
By JIM SPENCER, Star Tribune
November 4, 2009
"Ever had leprosy? Thanks to animal research, you won't."
That message, emblazoned on 15 billboards around the Twin Cities, strikes at the heart of a largely hidden but heated health care battle being waged beyond the national debate over access to medical care.
The billboards are part of a new, aggressive national push by biomedical researchers to promote and defend the use of animals to test drugs and medical devices. Across the country, the campaign is also playing out on cable TV commercials, websites, Facebook postings and Twitter tweets.
Campaign organizers say a serious drop in public support of animal research for scientific and medical reasons forced their hand. From 2000 to 2008, they say, Americans' support for that research using animals shrank from 70 percent to 54 percent. A Pew Foundation poll in July found that only 52 percent of Americans support such research.
That's why the Foundation for Biomedical Research is investing more than $1 million in its "Research Saves" campaign. Pollsters told foundation president Frankie Trull that without a widespread public education effort, Americans' support for scientific animal research will drop below 50 percent next year and could lead to legislative and regulatory research restrictions that Trull says would have huge implications on public policy and human health.
"We need a celebrity spokesperson, but can't find one," said Dick Bianco, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School, who is part of the campaign. "If we could get a celebrity, that would change everything. By nature, we're a bunch of introverted nerds."
Not anymore. Supporters of animal research believe advances in the treatment of many diseases are at stake in this campaign. The result is a full frontal assault on the emotions of average citizens and a no-holds-barred verbal attack on the violent methods of a few extreme animal rights activists. While the leprosy billboards speak unequivocally and, organizers believe, effectively, the campaign's most effective weapon so far seems to be a TV commercial featuring a physician who is a breast cancer survivor who also conducts breast cancer research using animals. In the spot, she holds and addresses a mouse. Read More
The ability to develop and test new life-saving medical procedures and drug therapies on animals is being threatened in this country. It’s mostly been an extension of the campaign that animal rights groups are waging on animal agriculture. There is no doubt that there is a right and wrong way to test on animals. None of us would advocate for anything being done to them that is needlessly painful. However, in order to achieve the best results possible from these time consuming and expensive studies, every thing needs to be done correctly, including the animal handling. Animal testing has played an important part in nearly every major medical breakthrough. To end this practice would threaten our ability to continue improving the human condition. I would suggest to those that are opposed to animal testing that if they ever require medical treatment, they request the doctor not use any type of medicine or equipment that has been tested on animals. Good luck with that.