The latest pathetic assault on a scientist came from ALF against UCLA scientist Edyth London. Using a garden hose they flooded her home, causing tens of thousands in damage. However, rather than intimidating her out of performing research in addiction she has written an article for the LA Times, defending animal research.

For years, I have watched with growing concern as my UCLA colleagues have been subjected to increasing harassment, violence and threats by animal rights extremists. In the last 15 months, these attempts at intimidation have included the placement of a Molotov cocktail-type device at a colleague’s home and another under a colleague’s car — thankfully, they didn’t ignite — as well as rocks thrown through windows, phone and e-mail threats, banging on doors in the middle of the night and, on several occasions, direct confrontations with young children.

Then, several weeks ago, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the work I have been doing to understand and treat nicotine addition among adolescents informed readers that some of my research is done on primates. I was instantly on my guard. Would I be the next victim? Would the more extremist elements of the animal rights movement now turn their sights on me?

The answer came this week when the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for vandalism that caused between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of damage to my home after extremists broke a window and inserted a garden hose, flooding the interior. Later, in a public statement addressed to me, the extremists said they had been torn between flooding my house or setting it afire. Maybe I should feel lucky.

Having come to the United States as the child of Holocaust survivors who had lost almost everything, I appreciate that perhaps “only in America” could I have fulfilled my dream of becoming a biomedical scientist, supported in doing research to reduce human suffering. But it is difficult for me to understand why the same country that was founded on the idea of freedom for all gives rise to an organization like the Animal Liberation Front, a shadowy group identified by the FBI as a domestic terrorism threat, which threatens the safety of researchers engaged in animal studies that are crucial to moving medicine forward.

I have devoted my career to understanding how nicotine, methamphetamine and other drugs can hijack brain chemistry and leave the affected individual at the mercy of his or her addiction. My personal connection to addiction is rooted in the untimely death of my father, who died of complications of nicotine dependence. My work on the neurobiology of addiction has spanned three decades of my life — most of this time as a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health. To me, nothing could be more important than solving the mysteries of addiction and learning how we can restore a person’s control over his or her own life. Addiction robs young people of their futures, destroys families and places a tremendous burden on society.

Animal studies allow us to test potential treatments without confounding factors, such as prior drug use and other experiences that complicate human studies. Even more important, they allow us to test possibly life-saving treatments before they are considered safe to test in humans. Our animal studies address the effects of chronic drug use on brain functions, such as decision-making and self-control, that are impaired in human addicts. We are also testing potential treatments, and all of our studies comply with federal laws designed to ensure humane care.

While monkeys receive drugs in the laboratory, they do not become “addicted” in the same sense that humans become addicted. Still, we are able to see how changes in brain chemistry alter the way the brain works — knowledge that is vital to the design of effective medications.

My colleagues and I place a huge value on the welfare of our research subjects. We constantly strive to minimize the risk to them; however, a certain amount of risk is necessary to provide us with the information we need in a rigorously scientific manner. Since the incident at my house, our research has gotten a lot of attention. Some anti-smoking groups have raised questions about the fact that our work was funded by Philip Morris USA. Is it moral to allow the tobacco industry to fund research on addiction? My view is that the problem of tobacco dependence is enormous, and the resources available for research on the problem are limited. It would, therefore, be immoral to decline an opportunity to increase our knowledge about addiction and develop new treatments for quitting smoking, especially when teens are involved. Few people are untouched by the scourge of addiction in their friends or family. It is through work like ours that the understanding of addiction expands and gives rise to hope that we can help people like my father live longer, healthier lives.

Thousands of other scientists use laboratory animals in other research, giving hope to those afflicted with a wide variety of ailments. Already, one scientist at UCLA has announced that he will not pursue potentially important studies involving how the brain receives information from the retina, for fear of the violence that animal rights radicals might visit on his family. We must not allow these extremists to stop important research that advances the human condition.

Edythe London is a professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences and of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The reason I consider animal rights extremists denialists is because like other ideologues with an anti-science agenda, they lie about science to accomplish their goals. They routinely assert there is no need for animals to be used in research, that animals don’t relate valuable information, or exaggerate claims and examples of abuse to malign scientists as a whole. That they also use physical intimidation, threats against scientists, and violence just makes them that much worse.

By the way, students and faculty at Hampshire college in Amherst can do their part to stop terrorist groups like ALF by opposing their “Smash the state crush the cage” conference occurring next week.

I’m sure my other sciencebloggers will agree (unlike the cranks who do no science and presume to tell us our business) that animals are critical for biomedical research. We need to stand up to intimidation and not just attack ARAs when they stoop to violence, but when they misrepresent science and animal research as uneccessary. Groups like Americans for Medical Progress are a good start. But I would like to see scientists and sciencebloggers explain why they use animals and how it is critical for the scientific enterprise. The problem is, by trying to keep our animal work out of the spotlight, it’s made it appear as though we have something to hide, and has confused the public about the critical role of animals in biological research. We need to reverse this trend and inform people so they know that what we do in the lab using animals ultimately benefits humans knowledge in way that saves lives.

I’ll start. I use knockout animals, you know, that unimportant little technology that won the Nobel Prize this year. I use it to study the function of a gene that may be critical for heart development, is involved in pathological hypertrophy and appears to have the capability of turning on the cardiac developmental program in stem cells. One future use is a combined therapy potentially benefiting patients post-myocardial infarction with an autologous stem cell transplant of mesenchymal stem cells activated with this gene. A long way from bench to bedside, but the studies in animals have so far been pretty exciting.

Consider this a tag. If you do science and use animals in research explain on your blog and link back here. No blog? Tell me in the comments.

Update: Two of my scienceblogger colleagues have already recommended their extensive writings on the topic:
Nick Anthis and
Bora.
But I’d still like to hear from the people who actually do research (you’ll find the sentimental nonsense and hand-wringing mostly from those that don’t) about how animals are necessary for your work, and why you think your work is important. Don’t be afraid to share.

Update 2: Nick Anthis has even more, and for anyone who is foolish enough not to think this is terrorism, read his post and tell me you still think it’s just a prank.

Update 3 ERV contributes to the cause and brings up the point of the importance of clonal or inbred populations.
Shelley at Retrospectacle contributes her 2 cents. As does Orac.

Update 4 – PZ weighs in, Angrytoxicologist gives us a Karmic pass.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul
    November 2, 2007

    Well said Mark. I certainly agree with your point on communication, far too often the only sources of information available to the public on particular aspects of animal research are the scientific literature which most people can’t easily access or anti-viv propaganda that misrepresents the situation.

    I’d go further though, what is also needed is for staff and students at UCLA (and private citizens) to demonstrate their support for Edyth and other scientists threatened or attacked by anti-viv extremists. A good model for this might be the Pro-Test movement in Oxford which united staff and students against the extremists who were threatening Oxford University.
    http://www.pro-test.org.uk/
    http://education.guardian.co.uk/businessofresearch/story/0,,1722690,00.html

  2. #2 Bronze Dog
    November 2, 2007

    I’m sure some genius out there might come up with some clever technique that’ll reduce the number of animals necessary.

    But until that magical, probably far off day comes, scientists just gotta save lives with the technology and tests at hand.

  3. #3 Alan
    November 2, 2007

    Actually Bronze Dog, there are continuous reductions in the numbers of animals used in individual experiments. In fact, in the UK, where many of these militant groups originate, it is the law that your animal license renewal application shows the “three Rs”. Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. You have to show that you have either replaced some animal experiments with alternatives, reduced the numbers of animals you use or refined procedures to decrease potential suffering or improve data collection (listed in decreasing order of priority). Of course, you also have to demonstrate that it is necessary to use live animals and not other models, to get the license in the first place.
    There is a national center now for the promotion of these principles and it awards prizes each year to researchers who’s work furthers these goals. I am proud to say that an ex-colleague of mine won the inaugural prize a couple of years ago and has continued to refine a widely-used animal model to reduce the number of animals required for scientific (and future medical) advancement.
    There are many non-invasive imaging systems which are used to study e.g. cancer in the same animal over time, rather than using separate animals for each timepoint (e.g. Xenogen’s IVIS system). These have greatly reduced the numbers of animals used in anti-tumor research, as well as improved accuracy, since you can observe tumor reductions day-to-day in the same animals.
    Scientists have the same goals as many activists here, reduction in animals and their eventual elimination from much of research. Animals are expensive, variable, not amenable to high-throughput and cute – the fewer we can use the better.

  4. #4 Colugo
    November 2, 2007

    Animal rights terrorists are utterly vile.

    Animal rights fanatic says killing of researchers could be “morally justifiable”
    http://tinyurl.com/motfd

    SPLC on former ELF spokesperson
    http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=389

    This is somewhat Godwinist, but animal rights extremists compare researchers to Nazis all the time : Nazi propaganda cartoon on animal research (scroll halfway down)
    http://www.armyths.org/

  5. #5 Paul
    November 2, 2007

    Good points Alan. It’s also worthwhile to point out that most of the research done by Prof. London is on human subjects using techniques such as PET rather than monkeys. Just look up “London ED” on PubMed. She’s clearly well aware of the “alternatives” and only uses monkeys where human subjects would not be appropriate.

  6. #6 catswym
    November 2, 2007

    i’m hesitant to reply but…

    the point is not that animal experiments are “necessary”–inevitably human experiments are also necessary, beyond a certain point.

    the point is using non-consenting living beings for your own purposes. it is this regard which, i think, is impassable for the two sides.

    that sad, i certainly do not agree that it is okay to terrorize or endanger the lives of those conducting animal experiments.

  7. #7 douchebag
    November 2, 2007

    haha, owned

  8. #8 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    November 2, 2007

    the point is using non-consenting living beings for your own purposes. it is this regard which, i think, is impassable for the two sides.

    I’ll believe that When those animal rights terrorists stop eating plants. Yes, they kill them and they eat them!

  9. #9 bsci
    November 2, 2007

    I’ll add a voice that often quiet on these issues. I do not do animal research. In fact, I do neuroscience research using fMRI, which is often trumpted as one of the technologies that should replace wide swaths of animal research. Not only is that wrong, but the entire technology I use and future development of human noninvasive imaging depends on animal research.

    The first evidence of the effect we measure in fMRI was done in rats. Most of the confirmations of what we measure with fMRI and MRI in general are done in non-humans because we need some way to understand how the extremely complex signals we measure relate to actual physiology. Even after fMRI started in humans in the early 90′s, it was very slow to gain respect among the larger neuroscience community. It was only in 2001/2 when some researchers directly measured neural activity in monkeys during an fMRI scan that fMRI started its transition to a real clinical/scientific tool. Much work currently done in rats and monkeys are finding better ways to collect data and giving us a better understanding of the data we have.

    I believe the developments with MRI will decrease the number of animals used in research, but animal research is required to get to this point and will still be required for future technologies with even greater benefits.

  10. #10 Kevin Heckman
    November 2, 2007

    The current issue of Skeptic has an article extremely skeptical of the degree to which animal models predict human results. (Unfortunately, the article doesn’t appear online.) The article doesn’t appear to be written from any kind of animal-rights stance, nor does it even mention it (at least as far as my quick reading at the newsstand saw). Is there anyone more knowledgeable than I who can offer critique?

  11. #11 Tom Tolleson
    November 2, 2007

    I have to say, as a scientist, that her defense of being funded by Phillip Morris on a tobacco expirement is shaky at best. A lack of funding is no excuse to continue with funding from a private corporation that has a very clear conflict of interest. The fact that this potentially corrupt research apparently arises from a personal vendetta against nicotine caused by her father’s addiction does not give me any more confidence.

    Additionally, the rhetorical use of the term ‘terrorist’ in the above posts seems a bit unscientific and puerile. I understand this is an emotional issue, but as scientists, we can do better than that.

    If there are no other options to using animals in specific research, we must develop technology to quickly change that. Reducing the number of animals needed for experiments, or creating technology to replace animal experiments is the only humane way in which to proceed. The ends does not justify the means in every case. We owe it to other sentient, living things to respect them as much as we can.

  12. #12 MarkH
    November 2, 2007

    Kevin,
    Don’t worry, that’s very much an ARA canard. It is true that animal models rarely mimic a human disease exactly – for one thing, our major experimental animals are rodents and they simply don’t live long enough. Also, experiments need to be completed in reasonable amounts of time, limitations on making “perfect” models or using longer-lived animals. Another key issue to remember is that lots of science fails, most experiments don’t work, but if you do get a working system or animal model it’s like gold. A good model system will generate thousands of papers, incredible amounts of knowledge, and sometimes cures for diseases (one recent example I love is from Robert Gallo’s group – Shelly blogged about it). Even if only 1% of animal models worked (in that they recapitulate human disease), it would be worth looking for that 1% (although the rate of success is of course much higher). It’s something the ARAs simply don’t get since they don’t do science. They would see a 99% failure rate and say, “that’s terrible what a waste”. Most biological scientists would say, “that’s about how many of my experiments fail before we figure out what works”.

    This is different than saying even if they’re wrong that they are uninformative, we also learn from mistakes, and contrary to what ARAs say, we don’t put all our faith in one kind of study. Animal models of human disease are one small part of the big picture, and we don’t put our faith in them.

    Remember that everything in biomed research is dependent on animals. We get our primary cell lines from animals (not everything can be done in immortal cells – very little really), we have to feed those lines with serum, almost always from animals (synthetics don’t work in most systems), we use animals to generate antibodies to probe for proteins, we use animals to study the basic physiology of tissues, we need animals to know what genes do (knockouts did win the Nobel this year after all) etc.

    The ARA view, which I’m sure will inevitably appear usually boils down to animal models are often wrong (to which we say – so what, even if that were true if we find a good one it’s gold), that using animals is morally equivalent to slavery (a false animal/human equivalence that I find absurd), that klling to expand our knowledge isn’t a good enough reason (like we don’t kill when we drive our cars, build our homes, for food, for comfort etc.), or worst of all, that we can use computers (the greatest idiocy of all – without knowledge of even the basic rules or even what the components of a system do, how could we hope to model how the millions of variables interact?).

    Ultimately it shows a complete disregard for the value of basic science research, an ignorance for how science works from a practical perspective, and a fundamentally deluded view of how our species should be allowed to behave.

  13. #13 Tom Tolleson
    November 2, 2007

    Mark H said: It’s something the ARAs simply don’t get since they don’t do science.

    That’s painting with a rather large brush, isn’t it, Mark? What’s your evidence for this?

  14. #14 Dustin
    November 2, 2007

    Yeah, Mark. How dare you suggest that Pamela Anderson and the naked chicks with banners aren’t scientists!

  15. #15 Tom Tolleson
    November 2, 2007

    Yeah, Mark. How dare you suggest that Pamela Anderson and the naked chicks with banners aren’t scientists!

    Oh, sorry. I thought this was a scientific blog. You guys are just kind of pissed off at people. Carry on, I guess.

  16. #16 bsci
    November 2, 2007

    Tom T:
    “terrorism: The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”
    ALF is definitely a terrorist organization. If Al Queda et. al. didn’t raise the bar for what defines violence so high, there is no question that ALF members are terrorists.
    If you don’t like the above definition of terrorism then find one that doesn’t clearly include the actions of ALF.

    Kevin and others: Aminal research doesn’t always perfectly transfer to humans, but it does happen. Even when it isn’t a clear transfer, the research vastly narrows the range of experiments that need to be done with humans. In cases like my own described above, animal research also builds the technologies that allow for human-based research.

    I’d augment the protested statement It’s something the ARAs simply don’t get since they don’t do science.
    I respect people who say that SOME animal research has crossed a line and we should lower the threshold for what is acceptible. The ARA organizations like PETA and ALF don’t say that. They say all animal research is bad and useless. No intellectually honest biological scientist would believe that because if someone is a biological scientist, your own research depends on animal research whether or not you directly do that research.

  17. #17 Evinfuilt
    November 2, 2007

    ALF/ELF are pure and simple a terrorist organizations (yes, they’re not very well organized, but heck neither is AQI.)

    They are of the same mentality as Abortion Clinic bombers. They use the exact same reasoning process (which I believe requires a frontal lobotomy to make sense.)

    I feel very bad for any Scientist that has to confront these people. Thankfully for me, all the animal research I did back in college was on long long long dead animals (Paleo nerd here) so they’ve never had an excuse to bother me (the Christianists did though.)

  18. #18 MarkH
    November 2, 2007

    To answer your question Tom, long experience. For instance, from the view of a “scientist” you say something rather odd:

    A lack of funding is no excuse to continue with funding from a private corporation that has a very clear conflict of interest. The fact that this potentially corrupt research apparently arises from a personal vendetta against nicotine caused by her father’s addiction does not give me any more confidence.

    Potentially corrupt research? What is the evidence of that? Do you realize how much research is funded by Pharma? Do we throw it all out? Do you realize how much this makes you not sound like a scientist to make such an accusation against an eminent researcher without any real proof?

    If there are no other options to using animals in specific research, we must develop technology to quickly change that. Reducing the number of animals needed for experiments, or creating technology to replace animal experiments is the only humane way in which to proceed.

    Tell you what Tom, you figure out how to make specific antibodies to antigens from scratch, and the Nobel is yours. Have you ever considered the reason we’re not quickly changing our technology is because we recognize the barriers are insurmountable with our current tools?

    Searching you out I can’t find a matching scientific citation on your name, what kind of science do you do? I don’t think biomed. And I think that also happens to answer your question about my evidence the people making these arguments don’t do the research they presume to lecture us on. Give me a citation showing your biomed cred, and I’ll say I’ve found one scientist doing biomed that believes this nonsense.

  19. #19 Tracy
    November 2, 2007

    Mark, I wanted to thank you for describing the group of people who flooded the researcher’s house appropriately as “animal rights extremists.” So many people who are opposed to animal rights group us all under one label. I support animal rights, but I do not support violence or destruction of property, etc.

  20. #20 Leukocyte
    November 2, 2007

    We also use knock-out mice (my PI was a post-doc in Capecchi’s lab), keeping around 650 cages to study the development of the pharyngeal region. Mice are incredibly useful model animals with many similarities to human development, and our research could really not be done in another system. We take good care of the animals, giving them unlimited food, water, nesting material, and even chew toys, and their lives are far longer and more comfortable than they would be in the wild.

    Incidentally, lab mice are bred from domestic mice and are remarkably tame. These animals were never meant for the “wild” and would be dead within hours of leaving the lab. None of us enjoy having to euthanize mice, but it is better to study these things in mice than in humans, and they never feel any pain.

  21. #21 Leukocyte
    November 2, 2007

    I would also like to point out that all animal research (at least in the US) has to be approved by a very skeptical board, and researchers have to demonstrate a need for the type and amount of animals used. If there is another system that the studies can be done in, the board will not approve animal research. In addition, there are independent certification groups that inspect our facilities every three years to certify that our procedures as as humane as possible. Scientists are not capriciously using up animals, and there is fairly significant oversight of animal research (often to the point of annoyance for those of us who use animals, but we understand the need for caution).

  22. #22 AngryToxicologist
    November 2, 2007

    As a member of the profession that ALF hates most (that would be toxicologists), I’d like to make two points.

    1) Animal models aren’t perfect, but they’re the best we’ve got and, in fact, they’re pretty good. As a general rule, the toxicities you see in one species are the same ones you seen in another. Not always of course, that’s why the FDA requires tests in two species before putting a drug into a person. Instead of continuing to play defense here, let me throw this out: what’s the alternative? Allowing chemicals to enter people’s bodies from the environment without having any idea what they do? And forget about the harmful effects of drugs, we won’t be able to develop them in the first place. So ALF, is this what you really are gunning for, a world where nothing is manufactured and all medical research stopped? I wouldn’t be surprised.

    2) Researchers HATE working with animals. They are expensive, a pain in the ass, tempremental, and expensive, expensive, expensive. We don’t do this because we get our jollies from dosing up rats with ethylmethyldeath; trust me, it’s not pleasant, but it’s better than the thought of somebody’s kid getting it without knowing what it does. If there was a good alternative, believe me, we (and especially industries) would use it. But so far, in vitro models suck. Look at the number of methods validated by ECVAM. And this isn’t for lack of trying.

    See my post “Toxicologists will be killing animals for a long time” here.

  23. #23 MarkH
    November 2, 2007

    Tracy, I would further distinguish between animal rights advocates, who I also disagree with, and animal welfare advocates. I see little distinction between ARAs and the extremists. The extremism is the natural result of the ARA arguments which suggest equality between humans and other animals.

  24. #24 trollanon
    November 2, 2007

    “Don’t be afraid to share.”

    while the flooding of one’s house may seem like small potatoes let us recall the prior attempts at firebombing the fronts of houses that backed up on steep hills that were essentially unescapable. the nutso’s don’t give a crap about your mice, Mark. it’s nice that you are willing to come out strongly but c’mon, it isn’t like anyone has you in the crosshairs…

    Tracy, the question for people like you is, do you get even more bent about anti-human terrorists than you do about your ‘support [for] animal rights’? of do you say “not my problem, this other thing is my issue”? if the latter, you are just as bad as the terrorists…in thought if not in deed.

  25. #25 Dan
    November 2, 2007

    MarkH said “The reason I consider animal rights extremists denialists is because like other ideologues with an anti-science agenda, they lie about science to accomplish their goals.”

    I would not agree that animal rights extremists are denialists. They feel that animal are living beings like humans and should also have certain rights like humans. While I do not agree with that premise as I also like most animals (to eat that is) this cannot be called denialism. This makes that case that animal research should be done in government labs in secret preferably on federal land to which the public has no access.

  26. #26 Abel Pharmboy
    November 2, 2007

    I would echo the comments of Leukocyte and The Angry Toxicologist to note further that the goal of US research funding agencies is also to reduce the number of animals used in research to the barest minimum. Moreover, the justification for use of any vertebrate animal must be described in agonizing detail, with statistical power analyses provided to support the minimum number of animals needed per group given the variation of the endpoint under evaluation. At NIH study sections, these issues are taken incredibly seriously and I have seen applications with otherwise fundable priority scores get administratively set aside because of inadequate attention to the required animal care, use, and precautions conditions. That’s without even getting into the institutional animal care and use guidelines that must then be met even if your proposal is funded.

    Until there is an adequate replacement for the use of vertebrate animals in research that benefits human health, we are all committed to using the fewest number of animals necessary under the absolutely most humane and respectful conditions possible.

  27. #27 factician
    November 2, 2007

    Anyone who does work with animals knows that the most expensive part of their research is the animals. If anyone could find a substitute, they would take it *instantly*. Animals are wicked expensive. There’s just no superior substitute.

    Somehow my earlier post got eaten, but my wife uses mice in her work to understand infectious disease. It’s not an ideal model, but it’s better than nothing. And her work is leading on the leading edge of an effort to develop a vaccine that will save millions. Pamela Anderson can go choke on that one.

  28. #28 Epistaxis
    November 2, 2007

    Additionally, the rhetorical use of the term ‘terrorist’ in the above posts seems a bit unscientific and puerile. I understand this is an emotional issue, but as scientists, we can do better than that.

    I think you’ve got it bass-ackwards. Extremists distribute flyers to inform; activists hold protests to raise awareness; terrorists damage property to intimidate (terrorize). To use the T-word is simply to employ a noun in its literal sense; to extend these low-grade terrorists an undeserved euphemism is to imply that you sympathize with their beliefs despite their tactics (as I do) and are willing to sacrifice verbal accuracy to make them more forgivable (as I’m not). That’s unscientific and puerile.

  29. #29 Epistaxis
    November 2, 2007

    I’ll believe that When those animal rights terrorists stop eating plants. Yes, they kill them and they eat them!

    Sadly, many people think this is a convincing argument.

  30. #30 Shaun
    November 2, 2007

    Tom T,
    I have to defend Dr. London regarding her acceptance of funding from Phillip Morris. In my previous position the lab I worked in had a long history of funding from that same source and we also worked on nicotine induced neurochemistry changes. In the many years that the lab receiveed funding there had never been any attmepts from any representative of Phillip Morris to alter the findings of any study. With the severe shortfall in research funding I can’t understand the objection to accepting funds from a private source as long as they do not taint the findings.

  31. #31 Gabe
    November 2, 2007

    Animals kill animals. Period. They even do this with cruelty, sometimes. A few like to toy with their prey, some prefer to eat them alive after paralyzing them, another kills anything that enter its territory, and there’s even one that kills for no reason. Any look at a good zoology textbook will show that up for you.

    We are animals, therefore we kill other animals to survive and by extending this concept, research is enhancing our prospects of surviving. While it might hurt our sensibilities to cut the head of a Wistar rat, cut his skull in four pieces, separate the two upper jaw pieces and then set it into inclusion in DMSO or Formaline, it’s still necessary to see what is going on in the teeth alveolus we just filled with carbon nanotubes/collagen a week ago. By the way, a few days messing with these rats and you will just see what a blood-thirsty little beasts they are. They will often eat their fellows alive who happens to be under the effect of anesthetics in their cage. That’s why recently operated rats ought to be put in separate cages, to avoid nasty cannibalism. And to think they’re so cute…

    Surely we should minimize their suffering since it’s the most humane thing we could do, after all, we are guilty for sympathizing with them. But to cut animal researches for that? This is as far as irrationality shouldn’t go. We should know better.

    As the Angry Toxicologist said, we don’t use animals in experiments “coz’ we are teh evil”, but because there’s no other way around. He is right about them being a pain in the ass. Working with mice and rat is a live nightmare, to clean the cages, to give food, to give water (although there are technicians, sometimes you need to do the work yourself), to operate, to anesthetize, to tolerate their awful smell, to get used to their nasty habit of peeing and defecating when you grab them by the tail, etc. I would love to get rid of these nasty motherfuckers, but I can’t: they’re way too useful. They report way too many data which there’s no way to actually know for sure in vitro.

    And now, besides having to deal with our uncoperative and nasty living subjects, we have to deal with terrorist groups or some other stalking group. For crying out loud, that’s way too much for me. I will start breeding violent dogs to show some “animal love” to these suckas. I suggest all the other scientists working with animals to do the same.

  32. #32 ERV
    November 2, 2007

    Gabe– I will start breeding violent dogs to show some “animal love” to these suckas.

    No, PETA wants family dogs to be killed. See, they took away that option for ya real quick, didnt they :P

    Ill have a post up on my animal research tomorrow, Mark. I shall link.

  33. #33 Dan
    November 3, 2007

    Gabe says “Animals kill animals.” Yes and humans are animals. Many of the higher forms look at us no different then we look at them. Food needed for survival. The problem is that we as humans (especially those religiously inclined) tend to see us as not being animals. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Throw the PETA folks into a survivalist situation and see what happens. It will be kill or be killed. It will be eat or be eaten. The folks who do harm to protect animals are no less then terrorists. If they believe in their cause so much, their punishment so be no less then being thrown into a wild lions den. They can argue with the lion about respect for animal rights.

  34. #34 Epistaxis
    November 3, 2007

    Gabe says “Animals kill animals.” Yes and humans are animals.

    Indeed, so whatever logic applies to animals also applies to humans and vice versa. Thus:

    Throw the PETA folks into a survivalist situation and see what happens. It will be kill or be killed. It will be eat or be eaten.

    If I’m thrown into a survivalist situation with you, it sounds like I should kill and eat you right away, because your outlook means 1) you don’t think my actions would be unethical anyway and 2) you’ll apparently do the same without regret if I don’t beat you to it.

  35. #35 scianon
    November 3, 2007

    I’m a biomed scientist who works with pigs. I’ve had my lab attacked, and it scared the hell out of me (and made me furious). If one has family or students or both, one immediately worries about them. Terrorists? Anyone who would harm my family or my students (who may or may not be using animals) is a terrorist in my book.

    As for animal substitutes, not all science is reductionist. The concept of “emergent properties” means that behavior/function at higher levels of organization is not necessarily predictable by understanding the lower levels. Thus interaction between muscles in locomotion, or even in recovery after brain injury or spinal cord injury can’t be done with cells or numbers.

    I say to all people concerned with the issue of animals in biomed research: go spend a week, fulltime, working on a pediatric cancer ward, or a pediatric rehabilitation ward, watching children in pain struggle. Then tell me we should not do everything we possibly can for these humans.

  36. #36 Dan
    November 3, 2007

    Epistaxis said “If I’m thrown into a survivalist situation with you, it sounds like I should kill and eat you right away, because your outlook means 1) you don’t think my actions would be unethical anyway and 2) you’ll apparently do the same without regret if I don’t beat you to it.”

    Never said that. But yes you are right if no others are around, in history how many other times have people eaten their companions in order to survive? You would win though as I cannot see myself taking another human life. On the other hand I have had no problems taking animal life even for sport (fishing, shooting birds, etc). However, humans do not seem to have a problem killing other humans in mass numbers all the time even if food is not necessary; see for example Iraq, the Holocaust, or your favorite war. Please do not apply ethics to animals that are not human. Please feel free to go to Alaska and give those fuzzy wuzzy bears a big hug for me.

  37. #37 Deech56
    November 3, 2007

    I have been a researcher involved in animal research for years, as well as a former Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee chair, so I do have some perspective on this topic. The biomedical researchers who have written in so far make some excellent points about reductionism of science, oversight and motivations of the researchers.

    I would only add that the animals do have strong advocates within the research community: the lab animal veterinarians, technical staff and animal care staff (and IACUCs). These people are usually animal lovers themselves (talk to the care staff and count the number and variety of pets they have had) and work hard with investigators (sometimes having to do a little bit of prodding) to reduce pain and distress in animals in their care. These people have done more to promote the legitimate cause of animal welfare than all the cabbage-adorned celebrities put together.

    Abel Pharmboy mentioned consideration by NIH study sections – having been involved in that process myself I can echo Abel’s words, and have seen study sections for large solicitations include veterinarians who, like statisticians, are charged with making sure that the proposals take these considerations seriously. In addition, journal articles carry the notation that studies were IACUC-approved. What I would like to see, though, is how refinements were considered (also more publication of negative results) to advance the field.

  38. #38 Gregoy
    November 3, 2007

    As a scientist who studies the social cognition and social learning abilities of animal I feel I can safely say your argument for the animal rights vs science dichotomy is flawed. In fact a major paradigm change is beginning under the weight of evidence amassed by cognitive ethologists and comparative psychologists about the cognitive and emotional lives of animals. Your opinions that biomedical research will not survive without animals not only limits the ethical considerations of your research field but also the innovative propensity of human beings. I don’t support violent animal rights organizations or there narrow ideologies, but I do consider myself an animal rights activist. There are other organizations, albeit who get less press due to there “moderate” stance of actually engaging in dialog with animal researchers, who are doing a lot of good for animals, and I believe science as well. Here is a few of them, Advocates for Animals http://www.advocatesforanimals.org/, Center for expansion of Fundamental Rights http://www.cefr.org/, and the animal legal defense fund http://www.aldf.org

    oh and closed minds have absolutely no place in science also.

  39. #39 Gregory
    November 3, 2007

    I almost forgot to post the animals I have used in my research

    Jackdaws, studied Directed social learning ability and conformist transmission, all individuals were rehabilitates from accidents, bad previous caretakers and abandonments. All were released from cages when matured but are habituated and can easily be used in experiments.

    Guppies- looking at demonstrator preferences and behavioral syndromes (or personalities, because this is acceptable now), all individuals housed in large cages, experiments designed to reduce stress,with no invasive procedures

  40. #40 MarkH
    November 3, 2007

    Your opinions that biomedical research will not survive without animals not only limits the ethical considerations of your research field but also the innovative propensity of human beings.

    Nearly every single commenter here who actually works with animals described how they would rather not, and how they are actively looking for alternatives.

    The toxicologists and molecular biologists here agree, there are simply limits of our abilities. Frankly, I take the word of a psychology researcher on the feasibility of moving molecular studies out of animals with a hefty grain of salt.

    Explain to me how we will understand cellular physiology, tissue physiology, gene function, etc. without animals? How about the reagents of molecular biology? The RNA, DNA, antibody production etc.? We can’t all sit around watching how they behave, some of us actually look at how things work, and the technology will likely not exist for centuries to fully understand, model, etc., the processes we study at the molecular level.

    You can’t explain how we’ll do it, because you can’t, and the systems we study might ultimately defy any attempt at reductionist understanding.

  41. #41 Gregory
    November 3, 2007

    “You can’t explain how we’ll do it, because you can’t, and the systems we study might ultimately defy any attempt at reductionist understanding.”

    So coming from a “psychologists” viewpoint (I consider myself a behavioral ecologist) I know that many attempts to look at the more reductionist neurological functions of behavior, even at the cell level, have been investigated using non-invasive technology, such as replacing electrodes with fMRI and other techniques. Thus it is not how do we do research “without” animals but how to we approach research problems in which our subjects will not be used SIMPLY as a means to an end. You understanding of animal rights as a separation between the human enterprises and animal world is a common misconception that is unfortunately backed up by many animal rights activists. Thus the solution may not be so grave as you think. I do not know the intricate details of every molecular biological technique using animals, but I do know enough to say that you argument that reductionist investigation of physiological phenomenon will always be rather invasive is rather baseless. A good thing about human technological innovative tendencies is that they are cumulative, building on complexity from previous innovations. If we put our energies into finding non-invasive alternatives we could doubtless uncover some methods which would suit the needs and wants of both animals and people. To say otherwise would severely underestimate human potential and scientific progress. Yes it might not come tomorrow (which is something more radical animal rights activist must come to notice), but I truly believe that most persons, including researchers themselves (there have been antrozoological papers which also support this as well, will find PDF and post em) would be happier if they could conduct there research while still maintain the integrity of there animal subjects as being an end and not a means to one.

  42. #42 MarkH
    November 3, 2007

    Stick to the behavioral ecology Gregory.

    How is fMRI going to tell us anything about gene function? How is fMRI going to make us antibodies?
    Did you read the post from the fMRI guy in this thread explaining why it won’t work the way you think it will?
    Tell me, how will we get fMRI to identify individual proteins, RNA transcripts and isolate the functional machinery of the cell? How about just cellular resolution? You have a 100 tesla magnet up your sleeve?

    I’m being a little mean here, I’m sure fMRI isn’t the extent of your technological solutions to our problems, but it is perfectly representative of how incredibly ignorant people are about molecular biology. There isn’t a noninvasive solution to these problems, and even if there were a magical solution it wouldn’t mean the end of animal “enslavement” for science. We wouldn’t be doing gene knockouts, toxicology, what have you on humans.

    This idea that technology will magically solve this problem reflects an ignorance of the problem, and an ignorance about the physical limitations of technology. And saying the cell might ultimately never be solved in a reductionist fashion is baseless? I’m sorry, but this is a profoundly ignorant position. Go to the bookstore and buy yourself a book, James Gleick’s “Chaos”. It applies.

  43. #43 bsci
    November 3, 2007

    Gregory, Definitely read my post above. fMRI (and future noninvasive technologies) would not exist without past and continuing animal research. Even so there is only so much that can be done with these noninvasive technologies even in the world of psychology and any cognitive psychologist who doesn’t understand the role of animal research in ALL current theories of the brain has not read the literature.

    I think the point you are trying to make is that as we understand more and more about the cognitive skills of non-humans, the threshold for acceptible research will go to almost zero. I suspect the threhold will decrease, but we humans value our own lives too much and as long as animal research will help us live longer and better lives, we will continue animal research.

  44. #44 ERV
    November 3, 2007

    Dont forget the benefits of clonal populations, Mark.

    Done with my little post :)

  45. #45 coathangrrr
    November 3, 2007

    “terrorism: The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”

    That covers every single government, police force and army in the history of the world.

  46. #46 The Societal Retard
    November 4, 2007

    Excellent post in my opinion…but then i’m known as the Societal Retard; well heck take positive feedback where & when ya can. As your post points out, positive feedback can be pretty hard to find these days.

    Your post also brought a recent incident to mind; I live in Ithaca, where Cornell is located in one part of town: COLLEGETOWN!!! C.Town is at the top of the ‘Hill’ in Ithaca, a hill a 3/4 of a mile long seemingly at a steep 35% to 40% grade.

    The Hill is a formidable boundary splitting Cornell’s student population, a mixture of brilliant Asian, Indian, & rarely smart, much less brilliant American students who share Cornell’s Ivy League reputatition with the remaining enrollees. They’re easily seen: Loud mouthed White people who can’t even attempt proper sentence structure, or usually don’t know “Oh My GOD!!!” is actually not proper. It’s pestulence preppy pitter patter.

    But I digress; let me finish by saying the purpose of having a Rocky Mountain like HILL seperating Cornell from the downtown section of Ithaca is never acknowledged but is clear…

    TO KEEP THE 75% OF CORNELL’S TRUST FUNDERS OUT OF PUBLIC SIGHT AS THEY’RE ANNONYINGLY DULL & DUMB; IT’S OBVIOUS THEY ONLY GOT INTO CORNELL VIA VIZ PARENTIAL ALUMNI ENDOWMENT CHECKS!!!

    I mean…they think Cornona with a lime in the bottle is worth 7 bucks at a Bar as it’s ‘classy’, just like the Land Rover or BMW Mommy & DA-DA bought them for school; I love those ‘GREENPEACE!’ B. Stickers I’m seeing on the back of parential bought Luxury Autos.

    Fight the Power you Trust Funding Corona drinking meatheads; which brings me to the incident spurring my anti Cornellian rambling…

    Unfortunately the HILL poses no obstacle for Cornellian Democratic Political Activists; as they’re fathers got the best jobs by graduating from a top school based only on birth luck and enabled them to buy the Mercedes Wagon for his daughter, like most Cornellian students, the Hill is an obstacle in one way only; it keeps the Cornell kids seperated from reality.

    SO…I’ve just finished Trout Fishing, having caught a 40 INCH 7LB Rainbow Trout in 6 ft of water on 4lb test with a size 0 Mepps Aglia spinner….HELL YEAH TO THE TROUT GODS!!!

    Everyone who sees me biking home with this veritable JAWS of the stocked Rainbow Trout world as I walk my bike down the “Outdoor Commons” of Ithaca are all giving me hearty Congrats, asking where, when, & what, precisely, I caught it on.

    Well…almost everyone…the Commons are downtown before the Hill starts seperating Cornell fantasy land from downtown Ithaca, not a bastion of sanity itself. But everyday, a pack of Democratic Activists drives down the Hill in a BMW or whatever, and sets up shop on the Commons.

    Are you registered to Vote???? Cause they can register you RIGHT THEN and while doing so explain why they’re democrats and you should be too!!!

    They apparantly aren’t aware that Ithaca is like 90% registered Democrats and hasn’t voted Republican in a state Governor or Presidential Race since, maybe the French & Indian War?

    They’re outraged at evil corporations that paid their parents well enough to allow them to buy a Porsche 2007 thanks to Cornell degrees gotten only due to parential contributions to alumni endowments: AND THE EVIL OF RACISM MUST FINALLY END ONCE AND FOR ALL!!!!

    (Now I know why MLK Jr said Liberal wealthy white Northerners were his most dangerous enemy of all; they kept a racist system in place and were totally blind to that truth, preferring to have a ‘Black Friend!’)

    So the Cornellian Democratic Activists see me walking down the commmons with my bike & mongo Trout; the sight of me happily strutting about in public with 7 lbs of freshly killed fish makes me all too inviting a target to pass up.

    “Registered to Vote?” Asked a girl wearing a shirt that said “Ivy Leaguer. Political & Enviromental Activist. Bull Dyke Activities Enthusiast.”

    “Independent. That way I never do have to ‘settle’ for the lesser of 2 evils; usually I have no single evil to consider voting for,” I responded, walking on by.

    “Nice Fish. Catch it yourself?” She asked, trying to extend the non existent conversation.

    “Yup.” I answered simply; its best to be simple with assinine individuals who may be the daughter of Owsley Stanley to ask such a dumb question.

    What should I say: “No; I bought it at Wegmans, thawed it, stuffed chicken where its guts are, and stiched it up so well you can’t tell…..”

    “Not gonna catch many more like that with Global Warming’s effects,” she said next.

    “Actually I get in two x tra months of fishing just as good as every other month; honestly, I like this G Warming deal. It was always too cold for too long and everyone bitched & bitched until God said, “Okay! I’ll make it nicer! Now everyone’s bitching its too warm! I caught over a 1,000 xtra trout thanks to the warmer weather; I like it!”

    The Lesbian Democratic Activist and living oxy-moron looked at me like I was a heretic; Damien from the Omen at best…

    “So you got to eat trout 1,000 more times, compared to what Katrina did to N Orleans, and you LIKE global warming’s effects???”

    “Oh I don’t eat trout,” I started.

    “What?” The Lesbian Bull dyke was about to charge me. “Then why catch them?”

    That question made me pause; why did I fish if I didn’t eat them? The answer was hard to admit but inescapably obvious.

    “I guess I like to trick trout into eating fake food that’s actually metal with concealed hooks; that way it pierces their lips and the barb keeps the hook secure. After they strike, I play them, reel em in, unhook em, and toss em back.”

    “Not that one,” she said, pointing at my 7lb trout.

    “No, this one i’m having stuffed to show off to others forever; the greatest fish I tortured by using metallic fake food with hooks out of countless fish i’ve tortured.”

    Now she was talking about me, the worst human ever born, the torturer of trout happy to have x tra fishing days from G Warmings effects, to the other activists; they all looked at me with death in their eyes. Although I am glad J Falwell is dead, and hate ‘Christocrats’, I decided to end it by telling them all “GOD SENDS QUEERS TO BURN IN HELL FOR ETERNITY!!”

    After they got done telling me what a pig I was, and defending Gay anythings, and claiming gays could go to Heaven too as I walked away, I turned and said one last pisser of a line.

    “NO NO NO Gays DO NOT GO ANYWHERE BUT TO MELT IN ETERNITY WHICH IS FOREVER! I KNOW! WHEN I OFFERED TO SUCK OFF MY PASTOR, & HE SAID NO & THAT I HAD TO STOP TAKING X AND SUCKING COCK OR I’D BURN IN HELL!!!! SO THERE!!!”

    No response; welcome to the nation plauged by Societal Retardation….

  47. #47 Qalmlea
    November 4, 2007

    I’m just curious. What can be done without using animals? What are the current limits? Can we, for instance, evaluate the effects of a new drug without using animals? I can’t see how, but this post just got me thinking. I’d love to see a post specifically on this topic, about where we’d have to stop if we could not use animals in experiments.

  48. #48 Brian
    November 4, 2007

    “Frankly, I take the word of a psychology researcher on the feasibility of moving molecular studies out of animals with a hefty grain of salt.” -Mark

    Play nice, Mark, most real psychology researchers (you know, the ones who are actually interested in BRAINS) realize that very few advancements in our field would have come without animal research. And I’m not talking fuzzy “the mouse liked the cheese” research, I’m talking massively invasive single-cell recordings (which usually require the slightly more-disturbing “the dehydrated chimp likes the juice”). Cue ARA drones on the complete feasibility of teaching a chimp to press the space bar when a T shows up on the screen, all without any reward-based motivation.

    Vision research would be absolutely lost without animal research. Our understanding of center-surround receptive fields in early visual areas, cortical layers, etc., all come from (and could only come from) single-cell recordings from primates. Without that important research, theories of vision would still be stuck in the 70′s. Cognitive psychology, in general, incorporates animal models, computational models, and behavioral research in its theories. It’s perhaps a tad disingenuous to label the field in such warm and cuddly terms.

    Gregory: do NOT use fMRI as an example of how to replace animal research. Ever. It is the out-of-element opinion equivalent of citing Freud or hearing your parents “rap.” fMRI is (and always will be) insanely limited in its temporal resolution, rendering it useless for precise measurements. This is not a result of “lack of ingenuity.” This is a result of the physics of how fMRI works. What you want is ERP, which hits the temporal resolution sweet spot. Problem solved! What’s that, ERP has the spatial version of fMRI’s temporal problem? Sigh. Guess we’ll have to stick an electrode in a monkey.

    Furthermore, the spatial resolution of fMRI, which presumably you think is very good, is far too low to capture the phenomena I mentioned above. One voxel represents thousands of cells, typically, and if you want to increase the resolution, you need to increase the power of the magnets. Guess who we are allowed to use the stronger magnets on? If you guessed “animals,” you’d be right! I’d say it’s because technological limitations make it hard to produce human-sized magnets at animal-strength, but that’s probably only part of the problem. There are other methodologies coming down the line like optical imaging, which might be a bit better. However, they’re limited in how deep into the brain you can go because of the way light scatters as it passes through your brain. Let me know if you have some ideas on fixing that problem (if you say “use a brighter light, I will cry).

    So, to sum up: fMRI isn’t saving the world, and if you’re a “real psychology researcher,” you understand the sad but necessary role of invasive animal research in understanding noggins. Surprise!

  49. #49 Lance
    November 4, 2007

    I am currently involved in ESR (Electron Spin Resonance) bio-physics research using rat blood to study protein-superoxide dynamics. While I have no direct interaction with the rats, the blood is provided by our colleagues in the medical school, I did have ethical concerns about the treatment of the animals.

    I was puzzled at first that the rats had to be euthanized after blood samples were obtained, even though the research requires relatively small amounts of rat blood. It was explained that each experiment had to be independent of the effects of other experiments. This seemed arbitrary at first but I can now see that as a researcher I wouldn’t want to have to worry that the specimens used in my experiment were tainted in some way from previous effects of other research.

    While our research is of a basic nature and has no immediate therapeutic use it may give insight into the nature of arterial plaques at a molecular level.

    I must admit that the death of these animals has given me pause. Of course I eat meat and that tugs at me ethically from time to time, especially when I’m eating with my vegetarian friends.

    I suppose that human volunteers could provide blood that would be of even greater utility due to it being from our own species. Of course there are obvious ethical questions involved with using blood that could be used directly to help those in need of transfusions, not to mention the greater cost of obtaining human blood and the risks to those donating it.

    Overall I think that so long as the animals are being treated as humanely and kindly as possible and that there are guidelines in place to make sure that the research using animals cannot be accomplished without them I have no rational objection to it.

    The overly emotional language on both sides is a distraction I’m afraid, such as MarkH’s remarks “The reason I consider animal rights extremists denialists is because like other ideologues with an anti-science agenda, they lie about science to accomplish their goals.”

    Having been called a “denialist” and “troll” by MarkH for expressing my skepticism about the scientific basis for CO2 catastrophism I feel that this kind of brown shirt assault has no place in discussions of science or ethics. Of course “denialism” is the raison d’ etre of his judgmental little corner of the blogosphere so I don’t expect he will agree.

  50. #50 Orac
    November 4, 2007

    Animal rights terrorists have long used intimidation, threats of violence, vandalism, and even occasional attempts at real violence, all the while proposing laughably pseudoscientific nonsense about how we can supposedly eliminate the use of animals tomorrow by using cell culture and “computer models,” all the while portraying scientists as some sort of ghouls who derive pleasure from inflicting pain on animals.

  51. #51 MarkH
    November 4, 2007

    It’s really simple Lance, if you don’t lie and misrepresent science, you don’t get called a denialist. Go to my about page and tell me if you disagree with the criteria. And the reason the animal rights movement gets the label is that they repeatedly and consistently lie about science, and the utility of animals in research. Don’t believe me? Check out what PETA says about chicken intelligence, or the PCRM on animal research. You don’t even need to visit the deep end to see the bullshit arguments about science, and the tactics they use are frankly the same as the HIV/AIDS deniers, evolution deniers etc. It’s all the same.

    And yes, the global warming deniers do this. The consistent problem that people like you and others who complain about being labeled unfairly or me stifling debate, is that denialism isn’t debate. It’s dishonesty. It doesn’t deserve to be engaged as legitimate dissent. To the extent that people use these tactics to debate global warming I will criticize them, and call them cranks.

    If you disagree with our fundamental thesis – that there are consistent set of tactics used by anti-science types to muddy the waters of scientific debate – then say so. But don’t pretend that I just sit around calling people I disagree with denialists. There are tactics and criteria that must be satisfied – hence my little icons on posts about cranks.

  52. #52 G. Tingey
    November 5, 2007

    Animal Rights?

    Certainly…

    Rights for the Cats, or rights for the mice?

  53. #53 Shelley Batts
    November 5, 2007

    Lance, I’m not qualified to speak about your specific study, but it is really common to take blood before euthanasia due to the confounding factors involved in the administration of drugs or gases to induce sleep/death.

    A ketamine/xylazine mix is a common anesthesia cocktail for rodents….and it can often alter the landscape of reactions, binding, antibodies, etc in experiments. Its just a way to eliminate that confound.

  54. #54 Lance
    November 5, 2007

    Thanks for the info Shelley. I knew there were good reasons for extracting the blood ante mortem. My concern was why the rats needed to be euthanized after we already had the small amount of blood necessary for our research.

    I suppose that the stress of blood extraction could cause physiological and psychological stresses that might compromise further research done with those rats.

    I’m just glad I wasn’t the one that had to kill them. I guess I’d say the same thing about the cow that provided the meat for the Big Mac I had for lunch.

    Although, I’d probably get used to it. Meat’s yummy.

  55. #55 trollanon
    November 5, 2007

    Lance perhaps you are touching on a broader issue of the unintended consequences of animal welfare issues. I have two points.

    Let us suppose that there was no further scientific requirement or use for the animals. What “we” used to do in the old days is to get a relationship going with a local zoo or pet store (assuming a large enough community) to provide food for the big snakes, raptors, etc. This doesn’t happen very much anymore. Why? Fear on the part of the Institutes (and zoos for that matter) that the ARAs will find out and start a campaign of “those evil researchers now are taking their tortured rats and letting them be swallowed alive by a snake!”. Better just to trash them and let the zoos purchase their own rodent supply…

    Unbelievably stupid effect of ARA terrorism if the goal were really to reduce the overall number of animals used.

    Second reason pertains to the research domain. Suppose in this situation the rats were essentially fine and might be used by some other investigator for some other purpose. Or even the same investigator in a different research protocol. Good right? Heck no. The way IACUC oversight is going, the use of an animal in multiple protocols means you need extraordinary justification over using separate groups of animals in a single experiment each. The goal of “reduction” is totally subsumed by an assumption that the given animal used in two protocols is super-additively distressed or some such. The reality, of course, doesn’t matter because even though the IACUC might entertain a special proposal and be convinced, it is by far easier to just do “simple” protocols.

    Another example how fear of ARA types drives institutions into a sort of over-scrupulousness which does not really meet the spirit and intent of the (supposed) underlying goals.

  56. #56 pmay
    February 21, 2008

    It is truly revolting to read the pseudo-science blabbing of humans without a conscience. Make fun of Pamela Anderson. She may not hold a PhD in psychology or biochemistry, (are we supposed to be impressed?)but the woman has a much higher level of consciousness than you cretans here pontificating on the importance of your pathetic work. I am writing on behalf of my husband and myself. He has a PhD in math and I only have two lowly MS degrees. In the future people who cruelly use animals to give themselves an excuse for a job will be acknowledged for the unethical sociopaths that they are.

    Thank god for people with a conscience who stand up for the voiceless in this world.

  57. #57 Skemono
    February 21, 2008

    It is truly revolting to read the pseudo-science blabbing of humans without a conscience.

    I agree.
    But I finished reading your comment anyways.

    you cretans here pontificating on the importance of your pathetic work.

    Ah, animal research is pathetic?
    Well, let’s hope you never get sick, then, so you won’t have to rely on “pathetic” medicines.

    He has a PhD in math and I only have two lowly MS degrees.

    So what?
    (By the way: when you’re trying to impress people with your supposed intelligence, try not to misspell “cretin”)

    In the future people who cruelly use animals to give themselves an excuse for a job will be acknowledged for the unethical sociopaths that they are.

    Let me get this straight: people who use animals in their research to further our understanding of the world, to develop cures to diseases, to develop antibiotics and intravenous fluids, are all “unethical sociopaths” because… well, because you don’t have a fucking clue what animal research is really like.
    But terrorists who burn down houses are a godsend?
    What is wrong with you?

    Thank god for people with a conscience who stand up for the voiceless in this world.

    Yes, thank god for terrorists who burn down other people’s homes. That’s quite a conscience you have that considers such people a blessing.

  58. #58 Samia
    April 17, 2008

    I’m doing my undergrad in biochemistry and have an interest in proteins that pretty much need to come from animals. It bothers me a little that none of my classes have really tackled ANY bioethics issues (regarding animal experimentation or otherwise). It’s just kind of understood that animals need to be hurt and killed, and anyone who asks for specifics is a stoopid college hippie. I love science, am vegetarian, love the idea of helping synthesize new, safe medicines, and I also care about how animals are treated in research. Lately I feel like I have to defend myself against just about everyone because I don’t fit neatly into any one box. I can’t ask the questions I’d like to ask of my professors, and I can’t attend animal welfare organization meetings because they’re full of people majoring in Advanced Irrelevance.

    Am I an activist or a scientist? Can’t I just be someone who loves science and thinks it’d be kinda awesome if we could rely on animal models less? I guess I’m just grappling with my own cognitive dissonance right now. I predict at some point I’ll just settle for “doing as little harm as possible.” Anyway, it’s really great to hear about the experiences of people working in such diverse fields. I’m going to stop ignoring my homework now. :)

  59. #59 MarkH
    April 17, 2008

    We got our animal ethics course in graduate school. Maybe that’s when they’ll get to it. I’ll tell you that if you think animals are being mistreated in research that’s a problem. If you’re seeing that then do something, tell the principal investigator and try to change the lab’s approach. If it’s egregious and you are worried they are off-protocol then consider telling your ACUC to bring them into compliance. Animals shouldn’t be mistreated in any lab. If your questioning the use of animals as a whole you will likely run into a reasonable resistance though. It’s simply not possible to do biology without them.

    You also have to remember that they’re a bit paranoid because the PETA people like to sneak in and cause a ruckus. And PETA and other ARAs, which frequently assert that animals are not valuable for research represent a form of scientific denialists. If they get the impression you are repeating their propaganda you likely will be viewed with suspicion.

    Finally, “they’re full of people majoring in Advanced Irrelevance. ” is one of the best sentences I’ve ever seen. I’m going to have to steal that.

  60. #60 Ashley
    May 25, 2009

    I find Ms. Londons research to be complete BS.
    I am a Marine Biology major, so I am not in the same line of work as she, however, the work she does is simply unnatural.
    I personally do not see the need to try and figure out why people smoke or does illegal drugs. I smoke, why do I smoke? Because I choose to. Its a simple as that.
    Killing millions of innocent animals to try and save a junkies life, seems to be the EXACT opposite of what evolution has done for all species. It weads out the weak, and only the strong survive. People with bad eyes, are deaf or who are just not as smart as the rest of the population would have died a VERY long time ago, if we as humans didn’t eff up the natural order of things. We are so grossly over populated because of this. People who choose to smoke, do drugs or drink too much get NO sympanthy from me, why should they? They know the risks, I do not expect people to pitty me because I made the choice to smoke.
    We have all these brilliant minds in the scientific communuity trying to play God, trying to cure AIDS, Cancer and ANYTHING that is a treat to human life, but we destroy the Earth and any living thing that we can expolit for our own selfish and vain reasons.
    Death is natural, people die all the time.
    Perhaps, Ms. London should use her brilliance to actually save the Earth, not kill it by trying to save people who obvioulsy don’t want to be saved.
    Come on people, lets remember Charles Darwin and let Natural Selection do its thing.