Researcher 1: So, did the technician check out?
Researcher 2: I hope so.
Researcher 1: No ALF affiliation? No hidden camera?
Researcher 2: We hope.
Researcher 1: No backpack full of leaflets saying death to vivisectors?
Researcher 2: Nope. Of course we don’t know about the truck drivers and workmen.
Researcher 1: How do they attract the techs anyway? An ad that says, “Decapitate cute mammals and prepare brains for histologic studies. Section animals over 50 lbs for incineration. Must like animals and working with fume hoods.”
Researcher 2: You forgot, “Speak to press and go to jail.”
Researcher 1: Or write a blog.
Researcher 2: P.S. Your background check will be proctological.
Researcher 1: You know after the UC Santa Cruz firebombs they put a security cam outside our house. I don’t know if I should feel more secure or less. I never thought we needed security. Joan’s terrified every time the doorbell rings. She’s got Maria opening the mail.
Researcher 2: Wait until they put your name and address on the Internet.
Researcher 1: Not that we even trust Maria.
Researcher 2: Or throw paint stripper on your car.
Researcher 1: I worry about the kids. Their friends have said things.
Researcher 2: Or tell your neighbors you’re a puppy killer!
Researcher 1: How did we become the bad guys, dammit? How did we end up needing laws to keep our identities secret and people away from our homes? You spend half your professional life chasing mice, finally get to primates or dogs or even cats and suddenly you haven’t arrived scientifically–you’re a murderer!
Researcher 2: No kidding!
Researcher 1: Changing “animal” to “animal model” didn’t help a thing. They still see Lassie and Rin Tin Tin in the lab. We might as well say animal martyr.
Researcher 2: Or “your pet.”
Researcher 1: Right–no one cares that they’re purpose bred these days instead of pound seizures.
Researcher 2: A dog is a pet is a stray is a lab animal.
Researcher 1: Replacing dogs with pigs didn’t help. Look what happened when Webster at the University of Wisconsin-Madison tried to Taser pigs. All they see is Babe.
Researcher 2: In my day it was Wilbur.
Researcher 1: It’s not like the pig’s going to live out his natural life on a tropical isle. He’s food dammit. He’s lucky we saved him from a farm.
Researcher 2: They don’t believe in killing animals for food.
Researcher 1: And you can’t even debate these idiots and expose how little they know about science because you’d have to reveal your identity and what you’re actually working on in the lab. Not to mention your salary and grant funding.
Researcher 2: Nothing to hide? Let us inside!
Researcher 1: And because they don’t understand science, they don’t understand there’s not a one-to-one correlation between animals used and scientific breakthroughs.
Researcher 2: You don’t count Botox for wrinkles a scientific breakthrough?
Researcher 1: And they don’t know how many animals have benefited from what we do!
Researcher 2: In the pet and livestock industries.
Researcher 1: Or the fact that it is in our interests to treat animals well.
Researcher 2: Except in head injury, pain, toxicity, and burn studies.
Researcher 1: And that we are inspected and governed by guidelines!
Researcher 2: And the room has to be 72 degrees and the cage 18 inches while the beagle is exsanguinated.
Researcher 1: Fine; make jokes. It isn’t funny. We try like hell to convey the idea that lab animals makes our drugs safe; that it’s your daughter or your dog and then a Vioxx or Avandia happens and blows the whole thing to holy hell.
Researcher 2: Keep your eye on Chantix.
Researcher 1: And when Hollywood steps in–we get the Jerry Lewises and they get the Pam Andersons!
Technician: Hello, I’m the new lab technician.
Researcher 2:Yes, we were just talking about you.
MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at email@example.com