Category: Bioethics

PETA Should Rethink Its Campaign Against Animal Research

By The Intersection | June 30, 2011 3:14 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist and policy wonk, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process

I know I’m getting into controversial territory with this post, but for the sake of the safety of my fellow scientists, I feel compelled to comment.

Animal-rights group PETA is kicking off a new campaign to generate opposition to animal research.  The organization has created a series of billboards targeting researchers at the University of Washington.  The signs will feature compelling images of animals accompanied by the statement, “If you call it “medical research,” you can get away with murder.”

Now, I understand PETA’s position on this issue.  Really, I do. The practice of using animals for experimental research is a controversy with a long history.  However, I believe PETA has gone too far with their campaign tactics.  To those people at PETA, whom I consider to be members of the progressive family, I would like to say, this is a misleading and dangerous campaign.  The implication of the tag line is that scientists are using animal research in order to justify the unspeakable crime of murder.  To say, “If you call it medical research,” this campaign implies that researchers condone murderous behavior.  By falsely implicating scientists in this way, PETA is providing justification for moral relativist reactions.  This is no different than the message used by anti-abortionists to rationalize the murder of medical practitioners.  I believe this is risky language to use in this context.  By continuing this exercise, PETA is putting the lives of scientists at risk.

The organization should be well aware of groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front who are willing and capable of carrying out crimes that threaten the lives of scientists.  This campaign might be misconstrued as support for those types of actions.

Now let’s talk about the issue.  Read More


My Failed Mission to Hold Holdren Accountable

By The Intersection | May 5, 2011 11:17 am

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., an HIV research scientist and aspiring policy wonk, who recently moved to D.C. to get a taste of the action

Last night, the George Washington University and the University of Ottawa presented the D. Allan Bromley Memorial Lecture with featured speaker Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

I attended the event with the intention of getting to the root of a problem that has been irking me for months.  I wanted to ask Dr. Holdren why the scientific integrity guidelines that he requested from all agencies have not been delivered.  This has been a drawn out process mired in inaction and delays since President Obama made his request for the guidelines more than 2 years ago.

Initially, the President assigned to Dr. Holdren “the responsibility for ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes.”  Dr. Holdren was to confer with “the heads of executive departments and agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget and offices and agencies within the Executive Office of the President, and recommend a plan to achieve that goal throughout the executive branch.”  This task was to be performed within 120 days of the issuance of the President’s memorandum.  That would have been approximately July 9, 2009.  Instead, it took more than 18 months before Dr. Holdren produced his own memorandum on December 17, 2010 directing the heads of the executive departments and agencies to implement the Administration’s policies on scientific integrity.  In his memo, Dr. Holdren asked that “all agencies report to [him] within 120 days the actions they have taken to develop and implement policies” in these areas.

On April 21, 2011, OSTP reported that all 30 executive branch departments, agencies and offices had responded to Dr. Holdren’s request, six of which had submitted draft or completed policies.  This announcement, however, described the responses as “progress reports,” which for me changes the meaning of Dr. Holdren’s December memo.  Whereas last year Dr. Holdren asked for a report of “the actions that have been taken to develop and implement policies,” one might assume this means more than a progress report.  Personally, I would like to see a little more action on this issue.

Why am I so concerned about the establishment of these guidelines? Read More


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