Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Guts! Targeted Scientist Defends Animal Research


Edythe London is a researcher at UCLA who has been victimized by terrorist threats and an attempted bombing by animal liberation criminals. Such assaults forced one of her colleagues out of the lab. But she is hanging tough. And now, she tells us why she uses animals in scientific research in a piece published by the Los Angeles Times. From her column:
For years, I have watched with growing concern as my UCLA colleagues have been subjected to increasing harassment, violence and threats by animal rights extremists. In the last 15 months, these attempts at intimidation have included the placement of a Molotov cocktail-type device at a colleague's home and another under a colleague's car-- thankfully, they didn't ignite--as well as rocks thrown through windows, phone and e-mail threats, banging on doors in the middle of the night and, on several occasions, direct confrontations with young children.

Then, several weeks ago, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the work I have been doing to understand and treat nicotine addition among adolescents informed readers that some of my research is done on primates. I was instantly on my guard. Would I be the next victim? Would the more extremist elements of the animal rights movement now turn their sights on me?

The answer came this week when the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for vandalism that caused between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of damage to my home after extremists broke a window and inserted a garden hose, flooding the interior. Later, in a public statement addressed to me, the extremists said they had been torn between flooding my house or setting it afire.
Why not walk away and let the Brown Shirts win? She comes from stock victimized in the Holocaust and believes in ideals of liberty and freedom in America. And she thinks her work is important and good result in the alleviation of much human suffering:
To me, nothing could be more important than solving the mysteries of addiction and learning how we can restore a person's control over his or her own life. Addiction robs young people of their futures, destroys families and places a tremendous burden on society.

Animal studies allow us to test potential treatments without confounding factors, such as prior drug use and other experiences that complicate human studies. Even more important, they allow us to test possibly life-saving treatments before they are considered safe to test in humans. Our animal studies address the effects of chronic drug use on brain functions, such as decision-making and self-control, that are impaired in human addicts. We are also testing potential treatments, and all of our studies comply with federal laws designed to ensure humane care.

While monkeys receive drugs in the laboratory, they do not become "addicted" in the same sense that humans become addicted. Still, we are able to see how changes in brain chemistry alter the way the brain works -- knowledge that is vital to the design of effective medications...

My colleagues and I place a huge value on the welfare of our research subjects. We constantly strive to minimize the risk to them; however, a certain amount of risk is necessary to provide us with the information we need in a rigorously scientific manner...

[Discusses and defends Philip Morris funding.]

Few people are untouched by the scourge of addiction in their friends or family. It is through work like ours that the understanding of addiction expands and gives rise to hope that we can help people like my father live longer, healthier lives.
If primates are to be outlawed in research, that decision should be made after democratic deliberation and the give and take of political elections. Thuggery, terrorism, and criminality should have no say.

Good on Dr. London for her work--and her courage in defending the benefit of using animals in research in such a public forum.


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