It's Hard Out There for a Biomedical Researcher

A scientists reveals the harassment he experienced from animal rights activists.

By Karen RowanJun 25, 2008 5:00 AM


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Threats, booby-trapped envelopes rigged with razor blades, and beatings with baseball bats have scared biomedical researchers out of the field and slowed advances in human health care, say endocrinologist Michael Conn and his coauthor, James Parker. Twenty years ago animal rights activists would meet with scientists to discuss their concerns openly, the authors write, but over the past decade a wing of the movement has become so violent that in 2005 the FBI called it “one of today’s most serious domestic terrorism threats.”

Since Conn began his tenure as associate director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center in 1994, animal rights extremists have followed him when he traveled, harassing him every step of the way. They have spread lies about his methods, accused him of electrocuting monkeys when in fact he was working with cells in culture dishes, and limited his job opportunities. The Animal Research War is a passionate (if sometimes disjointed) rant against these tactics by a scientist on the front lines of modern medicine. Animal research saves lives, Conn argues, including the lives of animals. The discovery that insulin treats type 1 diabetes, for instance, came from experiments in 1921 on laboratory dogs; today even house pets—like Conn’s own golden retriever, Chestnut—benefit from the breakthrough.

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