Animal rights activists have long demonstrated on campus, registering their opposition to the use of animals in legitimate research that benefits society. These demonstrations most often take the form of chanting, pickets and the like – a common scene at a university that values the free exchange of ideas.
In recent years, however, animal rights extremists have escalated their activities in a disturbing manner. They post home addresses and phone numbers of researchers on the Internet, along with inflammatory images and slanderous rhetoric about faculty members.
They harass researchers with threatening phone calls and e-mails and demonstrate outside homes, damaging property and frightening small children and neighbors.
Such despicable tactics reached a crescendo last month, when a group identified by the Department of Homeland Security as a domestic terrorism threat took credit for attempting to firebomb the home of a UCLA researcher. The powerful incendiary device, placed on the doorstep of a neighbor's home, fortunately did not detonate and nobody was hurt.
Although UCLA is an institution that encourages free speech, we condemn and deplore such tactics in the strongest possible terms. Using violence and physical threats to advocate policy or advance a political view is unacceptable in a civilized, democratic society.
Such tactics recently led a UCLA researcher – the target of multiple home demonstrations and the father of small children – to discontinue research involving animals. As a community of scholars we are deeply troubled by this decision but understand and sympathize with our colleague's plight. As we move forward in this difficult environment, however, it's important for the university community to know that UCLA remains committed to utilizing humane and tightly regulated animal research to help improve human health.
UCLA takes very seriously its responsibility for humane care and ethical treatment of animals. Every research project involving animals is subjected to a rigorous application and review process. Before any project can begin, it must first meet stringent federal and state laws and university protocols. The university's Animal Research Committee ensures that research strictly adheres not only to the federal Animal Welfare Act but also the "Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals" issued by the National Institutes of Health and guidelines issued by the National Research Council .
A staff of dedicated, highly trained veterinarians and technicians monitors all research projects to ensure proper care of animals. Campus facilities are regularly inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, and UCLA regulators. Federal and state agencies have found UCLA in full compliance with all existing laws.
Laboratory animals are a critical component of modern research because they serve as effective models for the study of human disease. Research involving laboratory animals has served as a vital cornerstone in the development of life-saving procedures and medicines that enhance quality of life. Among them are radiation therapy and other cancer treatments, tuberculosis vaccine, organ transplantation, fetal circulatory health treatments and mental health treatments.
UCLA will continue to advance biomedical knowledge while strictly observing the laws that regulate the use of animals and ensure that they are treated humanely. Discontinuing all animal research would diminish hope for people with cancer, AIDS, heart disease and hundreds of other diseases.
We will also continue to work with law enforcement agencies to help protect the safety of faculty members who, faced with harassment and violence, perform research that carries direct benefits to society.
Peccei is the UCLA vice chancellor for research.
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