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Oral history interview with F. Barbara Orlans, 2002

Creator: Orlans, F. Barbara
Project: Animal Advocates Oral History Collection
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcript: 69 pages Sound recording: 12 sound cassettes
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
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Biographical Note

F. Barbara Orlans, (1928-2010) was an animal activist raised and educated in England. As an undergraduate she studied physiology and anatomy. Between her undergraduate and graduate studies, Orlans worked as a biochemist, performing diagnostics analysis. While completing on both her master's PhD degrees she performed animal research. Upon completion of her doctorate in 1956, she moved to the United States. Orlans worked, during her early years in the states, at Johns Hopkins University before moving to the National Institute of Health (NIH) where she was a productive researcher with a consistent publication record. Her interest in animal activism grew from an awareness of the lack of training provided to laboratory technicians (animal caretakers) as well as animal treatment by high school students at the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. Orlans collaborated with animal activist Christine Stevens (1918-2002) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) to lobby Washington D.C. lawmakers to implement regulations on animal housing, care for laboratory animals, and licensing requirements for laboratory staff. Orlans left NIH in 1979 and founded Scientists Center for Animal Welfare (SCAW), a nonprofit educational organization, where she served as its president. In 1989, Orlans joined the faculty at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She has authored and coauthored several books related to animal testing and treatment. The two most recent are In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation (1993), and The Human Use of Animals: Case Studies in Ethical choice (1998), both published by Oxford University Press.

Scope and Contents

In this two session interview, F. Barbara Orlans discusses her early life including family, her choice to become a vegetarian as a youth, hometown, the place of religion in her life, and her undergraduate and graduate education in England. Orlans discusses her decision to come to the United States in the years following World War II because of more abundant job opportunities. She details her work at Johns Hopkins University and her transition to the National Institute for Health (NIH); the impetus for her interest in animal advocacy, as well as her role in founding the Scientists Center for Animal Welfare (SCAW). Orlans discusses the politics within SCAW which lead to her departure, the organization's decision to revise its bylaws, and the personal effects ten years of working to build the organization. Additional attention is devoted to her partnership with Christine Stevens and their efforts to lobby elected officials in Washington, D.C. to create guidelines and regulations for people involved in animal care, and the possibility of requiring licensing to ensure the humane treatment of animals. The interview includes a critique of the American animal care standards versus other countries and their use in medical research and experimentation. Orlans also discusses the perils of publishing related to two of her books, Scientific Perspectives on Animal Welfare, and Animal Care: From Protozoa to Small Mammals; as well as article publication in scholarly journals. Orlans discusses her views on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) tactics in the late 1980s; other animal rights; gains in animal advocacy over the last 30 years; professional scientific associations, such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and American Physiological Association (APA); and the lack of action among groups that use experimental animals.


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Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2016.

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