April 16, 2009

Statement Deploring Terrorism Against Researchers

Animals used in federally-funded research benefit both human and animal health. Recently, domestic terrorists have targeted researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with acts of violence, including firebomb attacks against biomedical researchers and their families. Homes and vehicles were burned. These acts against researchers and institutions who use animals in their research are intolerable. Research using animals funded by NIH is based on the health needs of the nation and is held to rigorous standards. These senseless acts not only threaten the individuals and their families, but endanger the health of the entire nation.

In order that scientists can provide effective and essential treatments for people who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and addiction — diseases that can devastate patients, families, and communities across the nation — scientists need to study brain function. Sadly, the scientists working on these devastating diseases are the most often targeted by terrorists. These scientists are investigating the underlying complex processes of addiction, impulsive behavior, learning, memory, and attention in animals, in order to help discover treatments and cures. Mental illness and the illnesses of addiction to alcohol, nicotine and illegal substances have a huge impact on individuals, families, and coworkers, costing America more than half a trillion dollars a year in combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact.

It is important that everyone know that all animals used in federally-funded research, are protected by laws, regulations, and policies to ensure they are used in the smallest numbers possible and with the greatest commitment to their comfort and welfare. The search for cures for devastating diseases depends on cumulative evidence gained from quality research. The appropriate use of animals in medical research has enabled the development of successful therapies and preventive measures for a wide-range of human diseases such as polio, Parkinson’s disease, and hepatitis A and B.

Federally-supported scientists are accountable, from the time they first plan their research to the time the research is completed, to protect the welfare of animals in their research. NIH insists on the highest standards of animal care and scientific merit in all activities it supports, and oversees federal regulations protecting the welfare of laboratory animals.

Terrorist acts against our nation’s biomedical researchers, the men and women who devote their lives to biomedical research are unconscionable. The NIH stands firmly in support of the biomedical research it funds to advance the health of the Nation and the world.

Terrorism is not expression of opinion nor point of view — it is a violation of law. Terrorism at its most obvious and visible immediately destroys life and property. However the more subtle but devastating toll will not be realized for some time — if more scientists, fearing for themselves and their families, leave their research. Irretrievable time will be lost in finding as yet undiscovered treatments and cures.