Adventures in Ethics and Science

i-9a085c172997651cddfdf2c5b43ef1bf-Lab_mouse_copy-thumb-500x339-44276.jpg

(Click to embiggen)

Tomorrow, April 8, 2010, Pro-Test for Science will be holding its second rally in Los Angeles in support of humanely conducted, ethical animal research and the people who conduct it. Their first rally last April drew approximately 700 people to the streets to support the scientific research that offers hope to patients (both human and veterinary) and their families.

Speaking of Research has details on tomorrow’s rally:

This rally, on the UCLA campus seeks to:

  • Communicate a better understanding of animal research to the public, its importance to medical progress, and what we all stand to lose if such work were to stop.
  • Celebrate the successes of animal research in the development of treatments for disease, new diagnostic procedures/instruments, and surgical techniques.
  • Defend the rights of researchers to pursue their work free from harassment and intimidation.

The rally will begin on Thursday April 8th at 11:30 AM, on the north-east corner of Westwood Blvd. and Le Conte Ave., which will be followed by a march to Wilson Plaza, where speakers include UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor Scott Waugh and Dr. Kevin Quinn from the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you can’t come to the rally (like me — I’ll be in San Jose, teaching class and doing committee work), you might consider leaving a message of support for those marching in the comments on this post or signing the Pro-Test petition. UPDATE: The petition is actually closed, since those rallying will be passing it to NIH reps and sending it to their Congressperson.

And, you might consider taking your own stand on the issue in a small but visible way — perhaps by grabbing or printing out the image above to let the people you interact with know that you support humane, ethical research with animals and to invite them to have a conversation with you about why.

You don’t need to be someone who conducts animal research to take this kind of stand, just someone who recognizes the ways that animal research helps us take care of some of the most vulnerable members of the human community.

Researchers put up with a lot of harassment (and worse) to build the knowledge base we depend on. It seems like the least we can do is stand up to support their efforts.

Comments

  1. #1 Tom Holder
    April 7, 2010

    A powerful message Janet. People forget that sometimes the most effective tool for advocacy is the little conversations between individuals about the research they do (or have read about).

  2. #2 Dario Ringach
    April 7, 2010

    Thank you Janet. Wish you were here!

  3. #3 Allyson J. Bennett
    April 7, 2010

    Janet, thank you for the message and for the image that people can use to help encourage conversations about why they believe animal research is important. Those conversations with neighbors, friends, colleagues, students and family members make a tremendous difference. Many people want to learn more about how humanely-conducted animal research contributes to progress and understanding of human and animal health. And many really welcome opportunities to talk to scientists and others who can provide information about research and about why they believe it is essential. Thank you for all of your efforts to support and encourage that dialogue.

  4. #4 vera
    April 9, 2010

    What I am missing here is Listen to people who feel that animal research isn’t humane enough.

    Cannot support it in this shape and form. Sounds pretty much like turf protection.

  5. #5 Tsu Dho Nimh
    April 9, 2010

    @4 Vera, are you aware of the current laws and regulations governing animal research?

    If so, how would you make it more humane?

  6. #6 Cleveland
    April 9, 2010

    More importantly Tsu Dho Nimh, vera perhaps you could outline what “shape and form” you understand it to be and what is lacking in humanity about it.

    The reason I ask is that commenters such as yourself are almost universally ignorant of even the most basic aspects of how animal research in the US and other industrialized countries is regulated, overseen and most importantly, how it is actually conducted.

    I am Listening to you vera. Educate me. What is the problem as you understand it to be?

  7. #7 vera
    April 9, 2010

    Tsu Dho Nimh: I am aware that there are some protections built in. I am not convinced that such “formal” protections can be effective enough at this time, when people’s careers depend on continuing with the status quo. Laws cannot remedy a situation where personal ethical restraints are inadequate. I would prefer that animal-based research to be much rarer than it is today. Are you yourself happy with the current status quo?

    Cleveland, by shape and form, I was referring to Dr. Stemwedel’s three points above. Whether I am ignorant or not is not the point… though I most certainly am, this being the human condition.

    I have participated in several discussions here on ScienceBlogs recently on this topic, and I saw a tremendous sense of entitlement, lack of reflective morality, and kneejerk reactions to attack me personally. I have also inquired into whether some efforts at raproachment toward the more mild mannered AR people was not, at heart, an effort at cooptation, and got myself attacked again, with nobody responding reflectively. My personal sense of it is that the people on the side of status quo feel embattled and lack empathy toward those who see things differently. If there is so little empathy toward me, will there be empathy for the monkey, the rabbit? My confidence has not been inspired.

    You say you are listening, Cleveland. Show me.

  8. #8 Cleveland
    April 10, 2010

    You say you are listening, Cleveland. Show me

    You haven’t answered the question so there is nothing to listen to.

    Your feelings are hurt because we do not magically know what you are talking about? And you refuse to engage in substantive discussion while retreating to a position of offense, where it is not clear any has been given?

    This is pathetic.

    Specify for us exactly what protections you think are lacking. Explain why despicable comment about people only doing this because it is there career is anything other than an unfounded ad hominem? (By your logic anyone who gets any sort of notoriety, kudos, academic recognition or even financial support from their AR position is similarly compromised? Their positions are thereby falsified, right? Therefore anything they say you are automatically highly suspicious of. right? )

    The fact that somebody finds your comments imprecise, ignorant, insulting and illogical does not mean that they are not “reflective”. It does not mean that they “lack empathy”. And even if that were true that means absolutely nothing about any empathy they might have for their research subjects.

    You are very fond of deploying ‘status quo’ as if this is an automatic insult or critique. All people in this thread are asking you for is to demonstrate that you really understand what the status quo is with regard to research and state clearly what is wrong with that status quo. You have yet to do so and simply bleat on about how offended you are that we do not magically grasp your unstated position. This is asinine. Make your case.

    I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that you never will. We’ve been quite a few rounds with those of you who are the so-called moderate voices who act the concern troll. You and your ilk never make it past the first hurdle, i.e., never demonstrate even a first approximation of an understanding of the conduct of animal research. All we hear, at best, is a recitation of ARA lies.

    Prove me wrong. As I said, I’m listening.

  9. #9 vera
    April 10, 2010

    I will ignore for the moment your belligerent tone, Cleveland, and ask you a question. Do you think only experts get to have ethical views worth listening to? Only, for example, those who understand in depth the biology and legal issues surrounding abortion get to have a view worth listening to regarding that particular issue?

    Your strategy in past posts seems to be to challenge people to quote studies, then jeer at them for poor understanding. If this is indeed your intent with me, where is the listening part?

    And finally, I don’t know what you mean by a recitation of ARA lies. I am not part of any “movement”, I am simply a citizen who has taken an interest in the discussion. If you see me telling a lie, why don’t you point it out?

    If you answer my questions with civility, I will attempt to clarify what my core problem with animal research is. If not, I will assume that listening to me is not really on your mind.

  10. #10 Cleveland
    April 10, 2010

    You are still beating around the bush and refusing to tell us what your problem is. This is your belief structure we’re talking about so no citations are necessary. Until you base those beliefs on a testable assertion, that is.

    Look, iI is not such a horrible thing to be ignorant, that’s okay, the question is how you respond when corrected.

    I repeat, what is it about the status quo that you find objectionable? You still have given no concrete reason.

  11. #11 vera
    April 11, 2010

    So you answer none of my questions and accuse me of beating around the bush? Hah.

    You know, I am no spring chicken, and in my experience, people who act as enbristled as you do rarely have what it takes to listen to other people. But hey, let’s put it to the test. Maybe, as you say, you can listen.

    There are several reasons why I’ve sided with the AR people on these forums, and why I object to the status quo:

    1) Because the areas I have researched pretty heavily, the drug war, and lymphoma research have shown me that whether for political or career reasons, animals suffer and die on behalf of research that I is either politically motivated and bogus (gov’t trying to prove that marijuana is the devil weed) or poorly conceived (years of pointless rehashes of toxic brews for low grade lymphoma, when it was already understood that more of the same does not add anything to patient survival… but hey, people had to make a living!). I figure if I took a stick and poked at other areas, I would find more of this. Do you figure otherwise?

    2) Because the issue of animal testing of cosmetics came up years and years ago, many people spoke against it, and I had believed that the practice had ceased. But recently I found out that in this country, it still continues, and in fact a number of people here in these forums have defended the practice. I see that as more evidence that animal research in areas not dealing with human survival and dire need is taken for granted in the scientific community. People feel “we are entitled.” Is my estimate incorrect, in your view?

    3) Because I have not seen the scientific community be at the forefront of protesting such things (the bogus, the unnecessary, etc). Am I wrong? Can you point me to evidence they have been? What I have seen is collusion with power and money. Understandable. After all, why bite the hand that feeds you? But not morally inspiring. It is my impression that the ethics boards people here often refer to have been forced by citizen pressure and cultural changes, rather than scientists actively opposed to the (former) status quo. Not so?

    4) Because I know from personal experience that ethical behavior cannot be mandated. People don’t shit on the sidewalk because they fear a cop turning the corner. They do not do it because they consider it gross and reprehensible, and because their neighbors would be all over them like hornets. The scientific community does not generally consider animal research grossly reprehensible, to be used only with great restraint, and the response to the “neighbors” that have been the hornets has largely been one of contempt and fury, as far as I can see. Possible efforts at cooptation lately. Have I missed something here?

    5) Because I have not seen a well-thought out, reflective, moral argument on behalf of animal research. I would have thought there would be. I don’t consider a sense of human entitlement, or the statement of human need, a compelling moral argument by itself. I have looked around the web, no luck; have you seen one yourself? If so, I would appreciate you pointing me thataway.

    Looking forward to your response.

  12. #12 Marion Delgado
    April 12, 2010

    Thanks to the people like, e.g., ERV, I no longer trust any event in support of animal research whatsoever.

    There is far more dishonesty on the pro side than the anti, and many of the people pushing it are emotionally damaged or follow creepy, inhuman ideologies. They also confuse ethics with science in their endless McCarthyite attacks on animal welfare.

    Nearly all are market fundies, too. I trust them to do ethical research the way I trust Massey to maintain safe coal mines.

  13. #13 Cleveland
    April 12, 2010

    Thanks vera, now we’re making some progress.

    Let’s take Number 1. And not because of the specifics either. It is a good general case. You’ve decided in advance that the animal research science cannot be justified because you believe the research is a) politically motivated and b) against your politics, one presumes. The drug war is just one example. People with your rationale are against studying all kinds of things like AIDS/HIV, women as distinct from men, the non-traditionally-gendered / oriented, obesity, etc. The rationale is exactly the same. You have a political or moral position and therefore you don’t think the use of animals is justified. In many cases because you actually fear that the scientific investigation may falsify your convenient worldview. This is entirely different from evaluating current or potential good results and seeing how we arrived at them. This latter is a much more legitimate approach (since you brought up “bogus” and all) to the question of knowledge generation.

    This is not much different than any other political decision making. You make your best case, the other side makes their best case. You win or you lose based on the political process. Currently, animal research is justified politically. This is the arena you are arguing with your political-preference-justification point here. Just so we’re clear that you do not have any argument beyond the personal here.

    One thing you and people of similar logic conveniently overlook is the nature of basic science. Let’s take the marijuana issue since you raised it. Even if we do credit some “political motivation” this does not mean that the findings are somehow false or even useless. Much of the research along the way of studying endogenous cannabinoid systems was funded by the NIH institute interested in drug abuse. From this we are learning about pain sensation, potential new avenues for chronic pain medications, some things about immune function and a tie-in to neurodegeneration such as in Alzheimer’s Disease. Are you aware of this? Do these broader impacts change your calculation as to whether a given study on animals was justified in your view? Or are you dismissive of basic science because you cannot connect the value of current therapies to basic research conducted three decades ago?

    This also ties into your point about lymphoma research. Not that I’m up on those specifics but there are many cases to be made that progress at one time is slower than at another time. Yes, sometimes because a vein of understanding has petered out but also sometimes because the surrounding rock is just really hard right now. Until a breakthrough, whereupon all that incremental work will be seen as a critical basis for subsequent leaps of understanding or even healthcare practices. The scientific history is replete with this. (Actually one excellent example might be the state of marijuana/cannabinoid research just prior to the identification of the endogenous system in the early 1990s.)

    So again, you are welcome to make your argument but it is not a strong one. Many successes of the past and present easily falsify your logic.

    Otherwise we come back to the same thing. The extreme arrogance of your individual political or moral preferences trumping people who have real and present health concerns that are not met at present but have a good chance of being met in the future.

    No. 2. Conflating animal research with product safety with cosmetics testing is an old and tired ploy. They are quite different. Generating new knowledge and treatments differs from product safety. Within the area of product safety, we can argue about what new products we “need” and don’t need but you should get yourself straight. Do you think we should not be protected from toxic consumer products? Or do you think that we do not need any *additional* consumer products in a specific area such as shampoo? These are very different arguments when it comes to product safety. As far as certain tests “still being done”, I’d have to see the numbers. I do know the favorite bugaboo of the AR propaganda machine, the draize test, has been sharply reduced in use. Instead of saying “omg, it is still being used”, tell us under which circumstances it (or whatever it is that you object to) is and is not being used. Perhaps I might even agree with you, who knows. Not a fan of new soaps and shampoos on the market every year, personally.

    No 3) Because you do not credit the arguments in support of animal research there is no answering you. You are incapable of seeing how it is the participants in the process of animal research that work in many ways to 1) identify the distress levels and 2) to work to create alternatives. Also to reduce and refine and all that federally mandated stuff. Nothing other than total opposition would appease you. Look at the history of the regulations and you will find those who work with animals (vets and researchers) are the ones contributing concretely to this process. It is of particular note that before the highly combative ARA crazy interval the scientists *were* the ones pushing animal treatment to a better direction. There was nobody else. You can see it in the evolution of laboratory practices from the turn of the past century well into the present day. in the published papers and in guiding documents and regulations. But since that is the current “status quo” which you find so objectionable you are totally unable to see this…

    4) Yeah. Again, you are applying your *personal* viewpoint of moral or ethical behavior. It is beyond ironic that you protest being lumped in with the ARA violent extremists and can still make these statements implying that all animal researchers are grossly reprehensible. All of these arguments can be turned back on your position. I find you grossly reprehensible for wanting to deny current or potential medical advances to those who need them. Dr. Stemwedel’s colleague in philosophy on the AR nut side raised the dog and boy drowning scenario awhile ago. All except the most insane ARA nuts admit that they would save the boy first. Medical/health philosophy does not differ, in my view, just because it takes place over a longer scale. You wanna talk neighborhood contempt? Just try saving the dog over the child sometime and see how much of the society agrees with you.

    5) You can only see what you want to see vera. this very blog has some very evenhanded treatments on the subject. You are setting up a ridiculous expectation here. Your personal morals, informed or not, lead you to be against animal research. therefore any argument in favor cannot possibly be reasoned or moral- because you have already made up your mind. Do the though exercise of telling us a case or two in which you could justify animal research. this will allow progress. we need to know if your theology is fundamental (no possible justification), magical (expectation of wild and instant success on the back of one perfect experiment conducted by field style observation of extant animals), hypocritically narrow (just for your own personally favored disease/health category) or realistic.

  14. #14 vera
    April 12, 2010

    Cleveland, when you speak to me with the following phrases:
    “You’ve decided in advance…
    People with your rationale are against studying all kinds of things…
    You actually fear that the scientific investigation may falsify your convenient worldview…
    The extreme arrogance of your individual political or moral preferences…
    You do not credit the arguments in support of animal research… nothing other than total opposition would appease you…
    You are totally unable to see this…
    You can only see what you want to see…”

    … I feel angry because I am wanting an atmosphere of mutual respect. Would you be willing to skip all this judgmental mind reading and jumping to conclusions and listen instead to what I am *actually* saying? I will wait for your response before responding to the issues you raise. Or maybe you are really looking to piss people off with this arguing style? Honest self-disclosure would be appreciated. Might as well warn me if the latter.

  15. #15 vera
    April 12, 2010

    Eh. Let me amend that. Maybe mutual respect is too much to hope for right now. How ’bout mutual toleration? ;)

  16. #16 Cleveland
    April 12, 2010

    I am *really* not grasping your point here vera.

    I am listening to what you are actually saying.

    And I am responding to it.

    Mind reading? no, not at all. interpreting. and telling you the way you sound to me. If you have some points to rebut that impression, have at it.

    Jumping to conclusions? Perhaps. But this is because of long experience with people who sound very much as you do so far as you have commented here. If you can show me where I am making an error, then, please let me know. Where did I get your positions, based on what you said, wrong?

    Respect- I don’t respect your positions as stated so far. Yes. Clearly. What does this “mutual respect” mean to you? That I have to credit your stated opinions as equal to anyone else’s just because you hold them? That all we are talking about is personal opinion and any discussion of facts, the quality or consistency of logic, the broad implications of narrowly construed personal theology, etc, etc is all beside the point?

    You seem to desire a discussion here but all you do is spend your time whining about how you aren’t being respected and how you suspect something is wrong. Why are you so afraid to engage with the substantive points being made here?

    The last question I left with is a great place to start. Under what circumstances could you find animal research justified?

    The nature of your answer to that will help tremendously in determining if their is any point going forward.

    There are people who will admit that no possible scenario of treatment or outcome justifies the use of animals in research. That’s all well and good but having a discussion with such people is just exactly as pointless as arguing over whether Christians or Jews or Muslims or New Atheists have the right view of the supernatural hypothesis.

  17. #17 vera
    April 12, 2010

    “Where did I get your positions, based on what you said, wrong?”

    Where did I say, anywhere, something like “nothing but total opposition would appease me”? In fact, I have indicated the very *opposite* a number of times in the various discussions.

    I am listening to what you are actually saying.

    So why are you acting as though you are on automatic? My impression is that you are talking to other people inside your head, and not to me.

    “… telling you the way you sound to me…”

    And I have been trying to tell you, politely, that you sound rude and condescending to me.

    “I am *really* not grasping your point here…”

    I believe you. My point is, ultimately, that I find arguing with people unable to communicate without rudeness and condescension boring and sterile.

    “…What does this “mutual respect” mean to you? That I have to credit your stated opinions as equal to anyone else’s just because you hold them?”

    If you cannot tell the difference between respect for persons (desirable) and for opinions (not so much) then we really have no common ground to build on.

    “… all you do is spend your time whining…”

    And you have a nice day too.

  18. #18 Cleveland
    April 13, 2010

    Well this exchange with vera certainly has been a new costume for the same-old, same-old.

    AR concern trolls want to suggest that “something” is wrong. They want you to know that they “have concerns”. They try to imply that the evul scientists are doing horrible things to animals that are beyond the pale. While directing all sorts of ad hominem attacks having to do with the scientists’ motivation for using animal models at all.

    And yet when it comes to making their charges concrete so that the issues may be discussed….they dodge, they weave, they whine about tone, they evade and eventually they disappear. Nary a clue to their real point left behind.

    Makes you wonder if they even so much as believe that they have a case, doesn’t it?

  19. #19 Pam in OR
    April 16, 2010

    There are flaws in every system. Since the above discussion is becoming personal let me simplify. I see an extreme reaction to the research issue.
    If this statement is true then so are the ones that follow:

    The small number of scientists that bend the rules or don’t treat the animals with the respect and compassion they deserve should be cause to end all research that benefits human kind using animals. Scientists can’t be trusted.

    The small number of teachers that bend the rules or don’t treat the children with the respect and compassion they deserve should cause all education to cease. Teachers can’t be trusted.

    The small number of doctors that remove organs unnecessarily to feed the black market recipients should cause all surgeries to cease. Doctors can’t be trusted.

    The small number of parents that abuse their children should cause childbirth to cease. Parents can’t be trusted.

    The small number of people that have road rage and kill others should cause motor vehicles to be abolished. Drivers can’t be trusted.

    Extreme reactions that do not allow for improvement, yet insist on ceasing activities are missing the big picture. The miscreants in any industry that is policed externally remain a small number in the grand scheme of things. To continue to improve the quality of life for those that suffer every day there must continue to be an effort to find new discoveries.

    Just say no is far to simple an answer. If you are truly against it in every way see if you can avoid every benefit already derived from the process. I don’t think anyone can bring themselves to boycott it that seriously.