University News

Campus leaders emphasize commitment to animal research as opponents rally

UCLA leaders today reiterated their long-standing commitment to legal and humane research involving laboratory animals as activists rallied on campus in opposition to any animal research.

"We will not be deterred from our mission as a public university to create new knowledge that benefits society," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. "Every day, members of our world-class faculty are developing a greater understanding of the human body and moving closer to new treatments for millions of people battling a wide variety of ailments, such as AIDS, addiction and schizophrenia, and research involving animals is indispensable in that effort. Animal research at UCLA is closely monitored by federal and campus regulators, and we are committed to the highest standards of care."

Approximately 75 activists gathered at the corner of Westwood Boulevard and LeConte Avenue and walked to several locations on campus, including Murphy Hall, the main administration building. Under the watchful eye of campus police, they chanted slogans and waved signs. Many had been bussed in from a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport where a five-day national animal rights conference concluded today.

Anti–animal research gatherings on campus have become common in recent years as extremists wage a campaign of harassment designed to intimidate UCLA researchers into discontinuing their work with animals. Illegal acts have included the firebombing of private vehicles and other property damage, as well as violent threats.
UCLA officials have long said they will not meet with those who have failed to renounce violence against scientists who use lab animals in research.

Among those targeted by extremists have been Edythe London, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and of medical and molecular pharmacology, and David Jentsch, a UCLA professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. They issued a statement describing their addiction-related research, which seeks to understand brain chemistry in order to treat the disorder.

"It is our ethical obligation to pursue studies that may alleviate the suffering caused by methamphetamine addiction," London and Jentsch said. "(Human suffering) is ultimately avoidable, if we understand the problem deeply enough. We believe that people suffering from addictions and the people that love them deserve that every reasonable effort be made to address their problem, and we will, consequently, continue our work."

During the rally, activists criticized UCLA for a warning issued by U.S. Department of Agriculture regulators following a December 2010 inspection of an animal research lab.

Campus officials emphasized that the issues were immediately corrected with the personal involvement of the vice chancellor for research. Two subsequent USDA inspections, in January and June 2011, found nothing out of compliance, officials said. The USDA noted that the prior issues had been corrected.

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