The recent report, “Animal Research Activism: Update and Recommendations to Promote Communication, Transparency, and Public Outreach about Animal Research,” outlines the misunderstandings about humane research practices and provides strategies for managing extreme opposition. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the Americans for Medical Progress (AMP), the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), and the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) collaborated on the report and webinar.
Whenever possible, researchers use nonanimal biological models, including organs-on-chips, cell cultures, and computer simulations for their research. However, these models do not have the capacity to assess how the whole-body responds to treatments required to develop life-altering interventions.
According to the report, Animal rights groups use misleading statistics, mischaracterizations of research, and adulterated images to provoke emotional sentiment to promote policies that hinder essential research. These strategies are particularly effective when engaging the public and policymakers who do not have a scientific background. For instance, according to the June 2022 poll by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), 67 percent of Americans do not know that veterinary specialists are present to care for animals during biomedical research, and 74 percent of Americans are unaware that animal testing was critical for COVID-19 vaccine development.
Animal rights groups target researchers who use animal models. They do this through several methods, including:
- Requesting burdensome numbers of institutional records, requiring response by the Freedom of Information Act.
- Harassing individual scientists through personal threats, spreading defamatory information to their neighbors and close contacts, and through protesting outside the researcher’s home
- Pressuring legislators, funding agencies, and news outlets to limit or eliminate animal research through campaigns and distorted, emotionally provoking stories
Research institutions and researchers can mitigate animal rights groups’ activities through improving communications both within their institutions and among the public. Recommendations include the following actions, among others:
- Establish or update your crisis management plan to include animal research
- Stay in close contact with your communications, security, and legal offices
- Set up an animal research communications and security team
- Do not engage with animal rights groups over social media
- Stay alerted to emerging threats and records requests
- Create advocacy/ public education materials
- Omit non-essential names from records
- Respond to Requests for Information
Animal rights groups can dramatically shift public opinion when they are the main source of information on how animals are used and treated in research. Researchers and institutions’ voices are needed to expand public education to communicate the aspects considered when, why, and how animals are used in research.
FABBS supports animal research when it is the only option to advance human health and if done ethically. To learn more about animal research activism, read the below letters supported and written by FABBS advocating for the humane use of animals in research.