Be Prepared for the Unexpected


I have heard recently from various groups in our community that there are increasing calls to action from animal rights activists. Everyone has the right to voice their opinions and to work for causes they believe in. Unfortunately, when the call to action involves intimidation, threats and violence it turns from voicing opinions to inciting acts of terrorism. Threatening the safety of scientists and students both at their home and at their institutions is terrorism and, plainly put, is intolerable.

NIH supports the judicious and ethical use of animals in research to develop life-saving treatments for many diseases affecting the public health. All animals used in federally-funded research are protected by laws, regulations and policies to ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their humane care and use. Fulfilling these protections is a collaborative effort between NIH, federally-supported scientific investigators, and research institutions. I know that those of you who are federally-supported scientists and institutions, are committed to upholding the laws, regulations and policies that ensure the appropriate care and use of animals in your studies.   

Being prepared for the unexpected, whether it is from natural disasters or human-directed events, can help mitigate deleterious effects to both your animals and yourself. We have a variety of resources that you can use as you build your preparedness program. I hope you will take the time to prepare a plan but will never have the need to use it.


  1. Thank you for this important message.

    Indeed, we must plan for the unexpected.

    But we must also act to prevent what can be expected.

    There is much concern about the direction animal right extremism is taking and, I am convinced, our community can do much more to prevent the continued increase in violence seen directed at our students and scientists.

    Both prevention and planning must be part of a response.

  2. I would like to echo Dario’s comment above, one of the best ways to be prepared for animal rights extremist campaigns is to be proactive in public outreach on the subject of animal research, engaging with students, local people and local and national media.

    Improving outreach requires time and effort, but in most cases can complement and overlap with outreach and publicity efforts that are more focused on the science itself. For that matter, many areas of science that don’t involve animal research could also benefit from greater attention being paid to how a breakthrough is made rather than concentrating on the breakthrough and it’s implications, as in my experience there is still too little understanding among the general public of how the prosess of scientific research works.

    I’ll end by pointing out that distressing as animal rights hate campaigns are to their victim and their family, relatively few result in acts of direct violence against the targeted invividual and their property. Taking legal actions to prevent harassment and making sure the correct law enforcement and security measures are in place are vital, but don’t forget that those targeted by extremists also need support, both public and private, from their friends, neighbors and colleagues. UCLA has set the standard for this, with rallies by students and staff in support of those who have been threatened by extremists, and neighbors telling the extremists where to go (in no uncertain terms!).

    No scientist or student should have to face the lies and hate of animal rights extremists alone. The example of the Pro-Test rallies in Oxford shows that when students and scientists unite animal rights extremism can be defeated.

  3. It is very difficult for scientists to defend their research against animal activists without sounding self-serving. So it should not be left for them to have to do this. The real stakeholders are the patients themselves for whom this research is conducted. The NIH should be doing more to mobilize patient groups rather than leaving it to the scientists to defend their research.

  4. This is an issue I have covered for many years. Please see this page ( for an article that I wrote for the October 2010 issue of Report on Research Compliance. The headline is:” Animal Researchers Issue Call for Help, Say Protecting Work Is Everyone’s Duty.” It is based on a speech by Dr. Ringach and Dr. Jentsch from UCLA, delivered in October at OLAW/USDA’s symposium, “Animal Welfare and Scientific Research: 1985 to 2010.” I also devoted a full page to other resources/organizations. The headline is: “In Combating Opposition, Where to Go for Help; How to Help.”

    In addition, OLAW had an online seminar in 2008 for IACUCs and IOs, called “Preparing for Animal Rights Extremist Activities at Your Institution,” in June 2008. The speaker was Jim Newman, director of strategic communication, Oregon Health Science University. It can be viewed here:

    Also, the Society for Neuroscience released a publication, “Best Practices for Protecting
    Researchers and Research:Recommendations for Universities and Institutions.” It can be found here:

    Theresa Defino
    Editor, Report on Research Compliance

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