You argue, in an Editorial discussing a university's decision to cancel a primate-research project (Nature 462, 699; 2009), that such decisions should be guided by consultation between administrators, researchers and members of university communities. I contend that it should be extended to include animal-rights activists.

Although such consultations would not necessarily lead to consensus, they could result in learning and transformation on both sides. It is unlikely that animal-rights activists believe that no research on any organism is ever justified. We should therefore try to understand what motivates their deepest concerns — possible examples being the use of primates in testing, the treatment of test animals, the killing of animal subjects or the questionable value of testing.

Attacks are activists' way of forcing themselves into the conversation. Mutual deliberation over possible ways forward could enable universities to make the informed, rather than arbitrary, animal-research decisions that the Editorial is asking for.