Written by Renée Hartig
Also printed in Max Planck PhDnet’s Offspring Magazine
Pro-Test Deutschland e.V. started out as a small grassroots organization, fueled by the disinclination of scientists to speak openly about the use of animals in research. It was the reluctance to open up about science to the general public, whether because of poor communication strategies or fear of rebuke by anti-animal research organizations. The founders of Pro-Test Deutschland were entirely willing to speak about animal research and earn a public face in the debate.
Before ‘coming out’ about animal research to the public, I thought my personal safety might be jeopardized by expressing my own opinions. You heard it all before, that crazy anti-animal rights group planting a bomb underneath someone’s car, well, what if that turned out to be your car one day? I guess anything is possible. Admittedly, I have seen protesters demonstrating outside of my workplace and outside the homes of renowned scientists. Nevertheless, I think that in this day in age, protest organizations are getting smarter with their strategies, understanding that violent actions may actually ricochet and do more harm than good for all parties involved. When the opposition is peaceful and poses thoughtful questions, rather than smear campaigns, the politics of this controversial debate become less violent and more thoughtful about finding a middle ground that both parties may agree on.
Going public for the cause, I found that hardly were people ever violent, only in some cases verbal exchanges were less than pleasant. Never had I witnessed, after all the times I’ve gone out to speak about animal research, a reaction that I did not understand. There will always be someone strongly positioned against animal research, and it is highly improbable that anything you could say would change their mind, but that is the point where we can agree to disagree. Sometimes that’s an effective strategy. Honestly, Pro-Test Deutschland was not started to change the positions of anti-animal research proponents, rather the group was initiated to provide factual and credible information to a public that has been receiving polarized information for a very long time.
As said best by the organization’s Mission Statement:
Pro-Test Deutschland lends its voice to science. We supply information for everyone to help understand the role of animal experiments in research. By offering clarification on many scientific, ethical, legal, social, and psychological aspects of animal research, we provide a common platform to all those who wish to stand up for science.
Personally, I would have had a really hard time speaking about animal research if it were not for two things afforded by Pro-Test. The first being education; the second being solidarity. After I co-founded Pro-Test Deutschland, the tools for public reasoning and speaking about such a controversial topic were suddenly in my hands.
Next spring, it will have been two years since we started this organization, and I am already amazed by its success. We are only limited by our manpower and financial resources, but the foundation and principles we have established are priceless. Pro-Test Deutschland is building on something big, a movement where more and more scientists, politicians, and even the general public are addressing animal research in a way that enables reasonable and logical discourse.
Science is breaking tremendous ground, policies are continuously being renovated, and more people are speaking out with the facts – this is a monumental time. As one of the initiators of Pro-Test Deutschland in Tuebingen, I am so pleased to see the movement expand across Germany. From Berlin to Freiberg to Leipzig to Frankfurt, we are spreading our voice, and this is one trend that is not about to fade out. Those who would like to join us can simply reach out over the web or email.
Renée Hartig is from the USA and graduated from the Neural and Behavioral Neuroscience Masters Program ’15. She is currently a GTC doctoral student in the Laboratory of Functional and Comparative Neuroscience with Dr. Henry Evrard.