Today's Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Humane Society of the United States has shifted the focus of its ongoing campaign to eliminate the use of animals in the nation's research institutions by encouraging smaller, teaching-based universities to sign pledges "not to subject any research animals to 'severe' unrelieved pain or distress."
So far, about a dozen have done so.
The Chronicle story by Jeffery Brainard includes the following quote:
"I said to myself, How could I not sign this and have a conscience?" says John
M. Carfora, director of sponsored research at Amherst. He said he hoped his
signature might influence researchers elsewhere to reflect anew on the necessity
of unrelieved pain in their laboratory animals.
With fewer than 1,700 students, the Amherst College research endeavor is probably not going to suffer much for Carfora's pledge. And that's precisely the point:
"...that is just what the advocacy group is counting on: a wave of no-fuss pledge signings that will put pressure on larger universities, which do conduct animal research, to follow suit."
"It's a place to start," says Kathleen M. Conlee, director of program management for animal-research issues at the group. "We will, over time, go up the ladder to those institutions in a different category."
Fair warning. Of course, HSUS and other groups have tried to reach that higher category before and been deterred. Turns out the major research institutions don't like being slandered or firebombed and rather quickly circle the wagons against these tactics.
This new approach, however, building a small-time 'coalition of the willing' with sweet talk and reasonable-sounding pledges, should fool no one. HSUS is still on its game: Extortion.
"The [HSUS pledge] attempts to strike a collegial approach—for example, the society offers to discuss with signatory institutions any instances of noncompliance it learns about and not to publicize them. That's a different approach from the picketing and vandalism that more-extreme activist groups have carried on at the University of California at Los Angeles and other campuses in a bid to end all animal testing (The Chronicle, April 18)."
In other words, "You sign our pledge and we'll look the other way when you break it. No smear campaigns, we promise. No harassment. No unfortunate accidents. But refuse to sign the pledge, and, well, who knows what might happen?"