Worried about stepped up activity by militant animal-rights groups, administrators at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater abruptly cancelled an anthrax vaccine study that would have killed dozens of baboons.
“There are regrettably some violent acts committed by animal-rights groups, and the president felt we should take our breath here and not do this project just yet,” OSU vice-president of research, Stephen McKeever, told the journal Nature.
A different face of the heightened tension over animal research has dominated billboards and cable TV commercials in the Twin Cities recently. Stressing medical benefits from animal research, a consortium of scientists sponsored the national campaign to defend their work.
The “ResearchSaves” campaign stresses that animal studies have helped find better treatments for breast cancer, heart disease and a wide range of other ailments — including diseases that threaten animal health. Videos from the campaign are available here. The campaign is sponsored by the Foundation for Biomedical Research and the National Association for Biomedical Research.
In Oklahoma, the project, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by Shinichiro Kurosawa of Boston University School of Medicine, had been approved by the OSU animal-care committee in September and was awaiting review by the biosafety committee when OSU President Burns Hargis vetoed it, calling the study “controversial,” Nature reported.
Kurosawa had hoped to use the OSU animal facility because it has the required level of biosafety containment for anthrax. Along with collaborators, he had planned to investigate the biochemical pathways that lead to death following anthrax infection, and to test an anthrax vaccine.
Scientists who conduct animal research in California found firebombs on their doorsteps and received threatening phone calls and emails last year, the Los Angeles Times reported. And animal-rights activists have infiltrated labs at the University of Utah this year and at the Oregon National Primate Research Center two years ago, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Research labs in Minnesota and Iowa have been attacked in the past, and some Minnesotans have been implicated. But the state also is home to animal-rights activists who reject violence as a tactic.