Neuromag May 2017 - Page 13

Pro-Test Deutschland: A grassroots organization spreading awareness of animal research* Written by Renée Hartig Pro-Test Deutschland e.V. started out as a small grassroots organization, fueled by the disinclination of scientists t o 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 re- search to the public, I thought my personal safety might be jeopard- ized by expressing my opinions about animal research. You have heard it all before: the crazy animal rights group planting a bomb underneath some- one’s car, What if that turned out to be your car one day? I guess anything is possible. Admittedly, I have seen pro- testers 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 opposi- tion is peaceful and poses thought- ful questions, rather than engaging in smear campaigns, the politics of this controversial debate become less violent and more focused on finding a middle ground that both parties may agree on. Going public for the cause, I found that people were hardly ever violent; only in some cases were verbal ex- changes less-than-pleasant. Never had I witnessed, after all the times I’ve gone out to speak about animal re- search, a reaction that I did not under- stand. There will always be someone strongly positioned against animal re- search, 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 informa- tion for a very long time. As said best by the organization’s mis- sion statement: Pro-Test Deutschland lends its voice to science. We supply information for eve- ryone to help understand the role of ani- mal 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 re- ally hard time speaking about animal research if it were not for two things afforded by Pro-Test. The first be- ing education and the second being solidarity. After I co-founded Pro-Test Deutschland, the tools for public rea- soning and speaking about such a controversial topic were suddenly in my hands. Next spring, it will have been two years since we started this organiza- tion, and I am already amazed by its success. We are limited only by our manpower and financial resources, but the foundation and principles we have established are priceless. Pro- Test Deutschland is building on some- thing 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 be- ing 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 Tübingen, 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 going to fade out. Those who would like to join us can reach out over the web or email. Website: Twitter: protestde Email: * Also printed in Max Planck PhDnet’s Off- spring Magazine Renée Hartig graduated from the Neural and Behavioral Sciences master’s program in 2015. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Functional and Comparative Neuroscience laboratory with Dr. Henry Evrard. May 2017| NEUROMAG | 13