A rally in defense of scientists who use animals in research drew between 300-400 supporters to the campus of the University of California Los Angeles today.
The rally, organized by the group Pro-Test for Science, was a follow-up to a similar rally at UCLA last year. Speakers at today’s rally included organizer and neuroscientist David Jentsch, who formed Pro-Test after his car was firebombed by animal rights activists last year; Kevin Quinn, a branch chief at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health; Michael Steinmetz, a program officer at the U.S. National Eye Institute; and UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor Scott Waugh.
Jentsch said that one animal rights activist protested the rally.
Jentsch said that in some ways, conditions for researchers have improved since the 2009 rally. For instance, no criminal attacks have taken place against UCLA researchers in the past year, and two activists with the Animal Liberation Front have been indicted for harassing UCLA researchers. In March, one pleaded guilty to the charges; the other pleaded no contest and will be sentenced next month.
Jentsch says that Pro-Test has worked to confront anti-research protesters on campus, and has built opposition to violence by organizing dialogues with peaceful groups that oppose animal research.
As a result, Jentsch said, animal rights groups have stepped down their attacks on UCLA researchers.
“These groups never expected that anybody on the scientific side would challenge them openly when they came to campus and marched around, so when they come to campus and we’re there, it’s quite remarkable – it has a chilling effect on their behavior,” Jentsch said.
“They still come to my house and scream obscenities at me,” Jentsch says. “But the most important objective has been achieved, which is that nothing has been burned or blown up.”