I've written before about UK Animal Rights activists targeting Oxford University (here and here, for example). In response, Oxford filed an injunction to protect it's people from AR intimidation, a gesture which seemed futile to me:
In any event, given who and what these people are, an injunction is a non-starter. No piece of paper, no legal decree, no pleas of the "come, let us reason together" variety will dissuade terrorists from sneaking in and plying their sick trade.
But the folks at Oxford are desperate. Work has been stopped for 2 months, and it doesn't sound like contractors are beating down the doors to pick up where Montpellier left off.
So what else can the good people at Oxford do, but impotently appeal to the courts for paper help?
Now, the Animal Rights people have turned their attention to Oxford University's financial backers:
Animal right activists campaigning against an animal research testing laboratory at Oxford University have turned their attention to the university's financial backers.
The university obtains about half its annual funding each year from private sources. A court order granted to Oxford in November protects its employees and contractors from harassment from activists. The order does not cover its donors.
The main group of protesters, called Speak, told members they should contact, in particular, members of the organisation representing the City of London Solicitors' Company, the leading lawyers working in the Square Mile. It provides funding for the university's law faculty.In an e-mail to activists, Speak said the group had granted up to £100,000 to the university in recent years and gave out contact details of dozens of members, who include lawyers at Clifford Chance, Norton Rose, Herbert Smith and Denton Wilde Sapte.
Speak told members: "Please contact them and politely inform them of what type of experiments are going on at the university and about the professor involved in the recent cruelty case. Ask them to make a statement that they will not be providing funding to the university until animal abuse at Oxford University is ended."
[ . . . ]
. . . A spokeswoman for the university said: "It is legitimate for these people to make their views known but we would be very concerned by any suggestion of intimidation or harassment."
The tactic announced by Speak echoed the successful campaign run by another group of activists against Huntingdon Life Sciences, an animal testing business. City institutions connected with Huntingdon were targeted, along with suppliers and customers.
Speak said: "One of [Oxford's] most important sources of funding comes from donations from private sector companies, foundations and individuals. Without these, the university would soon become financially insolvent. In other words, they are not going to have the money to finish building their new animal research laboratory, let alone fill it with animals to be butchered."
Of course, AR people are perfectly free to conduct just this sort of campaign. Indeed any group should be accorded the right to speak their piece and attempt to influence policy through the expression of their opinions, however misleading and flakey such opinions might be.
In fact, by doing so, Speak presents to Oxford University and other defenders of animal based research a marvelous opportunity to respond, should they so choose.
What form should the response take? Well, in my opinion, it should show two faces.
The first would be to defend animal based research — not by relying on vacuous generalities, but by citing specifics. For example, when AR people claim that animals are so different from humans that the results from animal experiments cannot be extrapolated to humans, defenders might ask the AR people what distinguishes the sliding filament mechanism by which non-human mammalian muscle contracts from that of humans, what differences there might be between the physiology of neuromuscular transmission in cats or dogs, and that of humans, or what distinguishes depolarization in the giant squid axon (!) from mammalian axon depolarization, or what differences might exist between normal and osteoarthritic cartilage of dogs and humans. These are just a few examples from an endless list of characteristics that scientists use in their animal based experiments. (For what it's worth, when I was teaching, somewhere above 60% of the slides used to teach normal human histology actually came from non-humans . . ..)
The point: animals and humans share a huge number of biological similarities that make animals appropriate models for a wide range of normal and abnormal human conditions.
But why would we expect otherwise? The nature of evolution dictates that all mammals (a group within the larger group vertebrates) share a great many biological characteristics. Some of these characteristics are merely awfully similar (or trivially different . . .), some are identical. For example, though the temperatures of different species might be slightly different, the mechanism of temperature control is identical across mamalian species, and though the dog's pulse rate of 80 — 120 is greater than the normal human pulse of 70 — 80 (my own is 44 . . .), the physiological mechanism by which pulse rate is generated in the dog is virtually identical to that of humans, and the cardiac muscle of the two (dogs and humans) is identical.
Not only are there similarities between vertebrates (and more so between mammals), but certain principles govern how biological processes work that are species-independent. For example, the fluid dynamics that describe and govern the circulation of blood are identical in non-humans and humans; the Nernst equation applies equally to human and non-human animal cells, as do Wolff's Law of bone adaptation, pulmonary gas exchange and the principle of saltatory nerve conduction, to "finger" just a few of countless examples of principles that apply to virtually all (air-breathing) vertebrates.
We mammals — humans and non-humans alike — are prisoners of our evolutionary past, and no amount of ideological verve can make our identical and nearly identical biological characteristics suddenly "non-identical."
When AR people point to the highly publicized adverse side effects of some drugs, and claim in them proof that animal testing doesn't work, Oxford's defenders should point out the logic of the AR position: if animal tests cannot predict the effects of agents on humans with reasonable accuracy, then the warning sounded by dead animals is false, and we should proceed post-haste to test all drugs that were lethal to animals and subsequently withheld from humans . . . on humans!
Perhaps Jerry Vlasak, MD, and non-spokesperson spokesperson for ALPO (Animal Liberation Press Office), could experiment a little on his human patients!
I would also hope that Oxford University's defenders would describe how clinical trials work, the problem of numbers and how removing animals from the "drug testing" pre-clinical trials wouldn't make things any safer for humans entering Phase I clinical trials (removing animal testing would place the humans in Phase I clinical trials at greatly increased risk). I touched on these topics here, as well as some others.
The second face of opportunity would be for Oxford's defenders to question the moral authority of the AR people themselves. From whence does it come, and why would the world be a better place for adapting itself to the AR fantasy?
I would also hope that Oxford's defenders would call attention to the contradictions that are rife within the AR/AL movement, a movement which confuses "attitude" with "lofty moral principle." As Thomas Sowell points out, attitude and principle are two entirely different things:
The sad fact is that many issues that are argued as if they were matters of principle are in fact only matters of attitude. We are used to hearing denunciations of "unsafe" drugs, cars, water, and various other things that crusaders and the media happen to have singled out.
This has created attitudes, rather than anything that could be dignified as a principle. Far more dangerous things not only escape criticism but are even promoted by some of the same people who create hysteria over more fashionable fears.
The banning of the insecticide DDT is a classic example. Unsubstantiated claims of dangers to human beings from using DDT have led to bans on this insecticide in many countries around the world, leading to a resurgence of mosquitoes carrying malaria, whose documented deaths have been in the millions.
It is attitude, not principle. An attitude of reverence has been created for Rachel Carson by the environmental movement because she claimed that DDT would wipe out song birds by its effects on their eggs. Yet she has probably been responsible for more deaths of human beings than anybody without an army.
One death in a boxing ring will set off loud demands to ban that sport but hundreds of deaths from boating accidents will elicit no such response. Nor are such gross double standards confined to safety issues. . . .
And so it is for the Holier than Thou AR activists, who turn blind eyes to the extermination of rats in large cities and around grain storage facilities, advocate and rationalize the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats (that's not a violation of their reproductive rights??), and ignore the maiming and killing of field animals by farm equipment used to grow, harvest and transport the vegan's cruelty-free vegetables.