Exposing the American Medical Association Plan
to "Defeat the Animal Rights Movement"
from No Compromise Issue 28

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.]


  • 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 appropriate
  • Support and endorse legislation protecting biomedical research and animals and oppose that which impedes research.


  • 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 of research.
  • 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.