In the 1980s, anti-vivisectionists were making significant
progress in exposing to the public the atrocities going on
behind closed doors. In 1989, the American Medical Association
(AMA) published its “Animal Research Action Plan”
to combat this exposure. The general idea behind the plan
was to identify ways to make the efforts of the anti-vivisection
movement less effective. [See Knowing the Enemy, NC#12.]
With this in mind, the plan recommended several courses of
action, beginning with an attempt to capitalize on differences
within the movement in order to turn activists against one
another. It also promoted the idea of an aggressive, well-funded
propaganda campaign to defuse public anger over what was being
done to animals. Finally it recommended a heightened role
in getting legislation passed to criminalize animal-rights
activism, as well as the creation of industry front groups.
The plan declared that “to defeat the animal rights
movement, one has to peel away the outermost layers of support
and isolate the hardcore activists from the general public
and shrink the size of the sympathizers.” Specifically,
the plan argued that hardcore activists should be labeled
as violent extremists who utilize “dangerous and counter-productive”
tactics. It concluded that “the animal activist movement
must be shown to be not only anti-science but also: a) responsible
for violent and illegal acts that endanger life and property
and b) a threat to the public’s freedom of choice.”
While this action plan was formulated specifically to combat
the success of the anti-vivisection movement, its underlying
goals are common public relations tactics used by industry
front groups in general to obfuscate facts and obscure the
animal-rights message. While these industry front groups have
tremendous financial resources and political influence, we
do have one overwhelming advantage: the truth.
By carefully examining the goals of these spin doctors, we
can get a pretty clear sense of how to combat their efforts
and continue to get the message out to the public about what’s
really happening to the animals behind closed doors.
The industry groups’ biggest fear is having to face
a united movement. To have any true measure of success-- to
even be considered a real movement for change-- we must find
a way to put aside our philosophical and tactical differences.
At a minimum, we must avoid publicly condemning one another’s
efforts. Going beyond that, to be truly effective we need
to find ways to work together on issues where we share common
goals despite our differences. [See Building a Movement, NC#19.]
AMA ACTION PLAN GENERAL STRATEGY
- Change the public agenda from “Animals in Research”
to “Advancing Biomedical Research.”
- Identify animal rights activists as anti-science and
against medical progress.
- Combat emotion with emotion (e.g., “fuzzy”
animals contrasted with “healing” children).
- Develop legal challenges to activists’ efforts wherever
- Support and endorse legislation protecting biomedical
research and animals and oppose that which impedes research.
AMA ACTION PLAN SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES
- Develop brochures on the importance of animal use in
development of medical techniques, drugs, etc., as well
as the laws and regulations already in place for distribution
at physicians’ offices, etc.
- Work with physicians and organizations (Incurably Ill
for Animal Research) to publicize specific cases that seem
likely to benefit from animal experimentation or cures that
have been found because of such research.
- Develop teaching modules, which include videos for elementary,
middle and high schools.
- Recruit “role models” to speak on behalf
- Develop guidance for laboratories on how to minimize
the impact of demonstrations, allegations of misconduct,
break-ins, etc. by activists.
- Develop legal means for contesting the tax-exempt status
of animal rights groups
- Consult with state, local, federal and international
policing authorities about illegal activities relating to
animal rights groups; stress importance of animal rights
being placed on high-priority list; lobby for creation of
Justice Department database to monitor and prosecute activities
of animal rights groups.
- Build private database on animal rights activities.
- Develop Foundation of Animal Health to attract funding
away from animal rights- groups and towards funding to support
research on animals.