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Translators in harm's way

Translators in harm's wayMost of the time, translation is a peaceful and positive endeavor. Particularly in medical translation fields, clients and service providers view translation as a way to reduce human suffering around the world. Every once in a while, this idyllic situation gets jarring jolt.

That happened earlier today when I read how animal rights activists are suspected of targeting Novartis' CEO by burning down a house of his and desecrating the grave of his mother.

It reminds me how we received angry emails after promoting a series of audio conferences that touched on European regulatory updates related to animal and human tissue. Similarly, when we were talking to a particular prospect about taking on their translation work, they outright warned us that by working with them, we would become the target of animal rights protesters.

Unfortunately, in war zones translators get threatened or even killed. But in medical translation?

I sympathize with folks targeted by organizations like Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. It's highly disconcerting when a conflict becomes personal.

At the same time, I understand where animal rights activists come from. As BNET's blog entry points out, if you want to spend an uncomfortable half hour figuring out what HLS is all about, check out Wikipedia.

Where do you stand on this? Do you avoid controversial topics in your work or do you take a damn the torpedoes approach?

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  1. Anonymous said...
    I am a translator and an animal protector. I support animal protection groups, in the supermarket I start discussions with people who buy battery eggs and explain what cruelty they support, in the streets I argue with people who wear fur. My fields of expertise make it very unlikely for me to get translation jobs from companies that have to do with animal testing or other cruelties against animals. However, should the situation come up, and if I knew a customer of mine was involved in animal abuse, I would turn down every job offer and never work for the customer again. I would not want to be a part of this, not even a silent third-hand part.
    MH said...
    I'm a medical translator specialising in clinical trials. I'm also an animal lover. While the vast majority of what I translate makes no mention of animals at all, I'm aware that of course every IMP (and comparator) in these trials has been tested on animals before it gets anywhere near a human. My own approach, which is certainly open to accusations of hypocrisy, is not to accept translations of trials on animals (although I've only been offered them once or twice in any case). I have translated a handful of articles which made passing mention of results from animal trials.

    WRT Anonymous' comment "if I knew a customer of mine was involved in animal abuse... never work for that customer again" - well, wouldn't we all? It depends what you class as abuse. Unnecessary cosmetics testing on animals? A restaurant that prepares lobsters in the traditional way (by boiling them alive?) Legally required animal tests on investigational medicinal products? Companies in the fur trade? Companies in the leather trade? Abbatoirs? Meat eaters? Wearers of leather shoes? Users of medicines that have been tested on animals (i.e. any medicine at all)?

    It's a meaningless statement, as everyone has their own definition of what counts as abuse.
    Anonymous said...
    I oppose abortion, I would not translate any documentation that would support taking a life of a human being.

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