1996 Washington demonstrators receive surprise

By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 01/15/2012 Category: | Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare |

Each year, animal rights activists converge on Washington DC in mid-June to demonize animal use and animal users, but this year they had a surprise in store: animal welfare proponents got there first, and they received solid press coverage for their message of support for the use of animals in biomedical research.

Even the feminists and AIDS activists came, this time to support the use of animals in research to find cures for breast cancer, cervical cancer, osteoporosis, and AIDS and to carry the message that support for animal rights is also support for human death by disease.

Susan Paris, president of Americans for Medical Progress and a prime mover in the pro-animal use events, organized sessions to highlight the use of animals in biomedical research, particularly in AIDS research. AMP brought Jeff Getty, AIDS victim and recipient of a baboon bone marrow transplant, to speak at a press conference early in the week.

Getty said that PETA and other groups have hounded him since the transplant, calling him a "victim of mad science" and sending "obnoxious messages." Other AIDS activists spoke eloquently about the progress made by use of animals in disease research and condemned the delays caused by animal rights protests, vandalism of laboratories, and harassment of scientists.

During the week, other groups held press conferences and receptions to speak in favor of humane animal use. The Independent Women's Forum commended the value of animal-based research, particularly for diseases that affect women, and chided those women who campaign for its end.

"It is the epitome of self-destructive behavior to protest against humane research that may one day save you from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or osteoporosis," said Barbara Ledeen, IWF executive director. "If the women marching this weekend want to be self-destructive, I suppose that's their business. But working to end humane animal research could harm millions of women - that's our business and that's unacceptable."

Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, echoed Ledeen's message on a broader research base: "For too long, animal rights activists have tried to stand in the way of medical progress for human life," Trull said. "This unification sends a strong message to the animal rights movement. The research community will no longer be intimidated by its scare tactics, and we are determined to fight to preserve this invaluable form of research."

FBR backed up its presentation with Endangered Cures, a report that outlined the use of animals in research to find cures for AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, drug addiction, head and spinal cord injuries, breast cancer, and heart disease and the use of animals for xenotransplants. Each section of the report details the efforts of animal rights activists to derail the research solely on the grounds that it use animals.

In an unprecedented show of support, leading AIDS organizations signed a letter of consensus endorsing the use of animals in HIV/AIDS research.

"Eight thousand people become infected with the AIDS virus every single day," said Michael Shriver, director of public policy for the National Association of People with AIDS. "We cannot afford to set HIV/AIDS research back another 10 years by shutting down one of the most important avenues to cutting this deadly disease."

In 1989, the Animal Liberation Front set research back two years when they broke into a laboratory at the University of Arizona and released mice that were part of a study to develop treatment for cryptosporidium, a potentially lethal disease for HIV-infected patients. As a result, cryptosporidium infection of a water supply in Wisconsin killed several AIDS victims, one AIDS activist told reporters.

The use of animals in AIDS research has drawn the contempt of Ingrid Newkirk, founding member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Newkirk said that PETA would oppose animal research even if it resulted in a cure for AIDS. PETA has been a public apologist for the criminal activity of ALF.

The stand of AIDS activists and the Independent Women's Forum on behalf of animal research posed a conundrum for performers who work for AIDS cures and women's health issues and espouse animal rights. Paris and AMP have pointed out, first at Hollywood's Academy Awards celebration and then in Washington DC, that the issues are irreconcilable: allegiance to the animal rights agenda means death for friends and co-workers who suffer from AIDS or cancer.

Indeed, Hollywood was conspicuous by its absence at the march; only a handful of actors and musicians attended.

Family farmers and ranchers joined research advocates in the city to debunk the myths promulgated by animal rights activists about the business of food and fiber production. During the activists' March for the Animals on June 23, livestock producers and biomedical researchers hosted media representatives for interviews, rebuttals, and reactions to the animal rights agenda at the Holiday Inn near the National Mall - the site of the march.

This day-long opportunity to hear the animal welfare side of the issues was coordinated by The Animal Industry Foundation. Participating organizations included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, American Feed Industry Association, Animal Health Institute, Livestock Conservation Institute, National Broiler Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, United Egg Producers, and the National Cattleman's Beef Association.

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