Good Math, Bad Math

This post is off-topic for this blog, but there are some things that
I just can’t keep quiet about.

Via my friend and fellow ScienceBlogger Janet over at Adventures in
Ethics and Science
, I’ve heard about some absolutely disgraceful
antics by an animal rights group. To be clear, in what follows, I’m not saying that all animal rights folks are scumbags: I’m pointing out that there’s a specific group of animal rights folks who are sickening monsters for what they’re doing.

The background: There’s a neurobiologist named Dario Ringach. Professor
Ringach used to do research using primates. Back in 2006, when he did
that, animal rights targeted him, and his children. The did things
like vandalize his house, put on masks and bang on his childrens windows, and
protest at his children’s schools. Professor Ringach disappointingly but
understandably gave in, and abandoned his research in order to protect his
family.

Fast forward a couple of years. Last week, Dr. Ringach, along with Janet and
several other people, participated in a public dialogue about animal
research at UCLA. Dr. Ringach spoke about why animal research is important. That’s
all that he did: present an explanation of why animal research is
important.

For that, for being willing to participate in a discussion, for saying
something the animals right people didn’t like
, the animal rights thugs
have decided to protest. That’s bad enough: to stage disruptions against a
professor simply because he said something that you didn’t like. No, that’s
not enough for these rat bastard assholes. They’re going to stage protests at
his children’s school. They’re going to harass his children
to punish him for speaking when they want him to shut up.

I don’t care what you think of animal rights. I don’t care what you think
about any topic. Harassment isn’t an acceptable response to speech.
And no matter what, children should be off limits. Even if their father were
everything that the AR people claim that he is: if he really were a person who
tortured and murdered people for fun, going after his children would be
a disgusting, disgraceful, evil thing to do. To do it just because
he dared to talk about something they don’t like? These people deserve
to be publicly condemned, and criminally prosecuted. Threats and harassment
have no place in public discourse.

Personally, I’m a strong supporter of animal research. Of course it’s
important to minimize any pain and suffering that is inflicted on the animals
used in research – but people who do the research, and the organizations that
oversee them, are extremely careful about ensuring that. And animal research
shouldn’t be done for trivial purposes: the work must be important enough to
justify subjecting living creatures to it. But the results are worth the cost.
I can say for certain that I wouldn’t be alive today without the
results of animal research: I had life-saving surgery using a technique that
was developed using animals. I rely on medications that were originally
developed using animal models. My mother is alive today because of animal
research: she’s diabetic, and relies on both insulin and medications which
were developed using animal research. My father survived cancer for 15 years
because of animal research: his cancer was treated using a radiation therapy
technique that was generated using animal research. My sister isn’t a cripple
today, because of animal research. She had severe scoliosis which would have
crippled her, but which was corrected using a surgical technique developed
using animals. My wife would be terribly ill without animal research: she’s
got an autoimmune disorder that damages the thyroid; people with it need to
take thyroid hormone replacements, developed – all together now – using animal
research. I could easily go on: there’s probably barely a person alive today
who hasn’t benefited dramatically from animal research. It’s an essential
tool of science.

While I’m ranting: one of the common responses from the animal rights
people is that we don’t need animals for experimentation: we can use computer
simulation, which will (supposedly) be more accurate, because we can use human
biology in the simulation, whereas animals used as models are often
significantly different from humans, so that the results of tests on animals
don’t translate well to humans.

Everyone must, by now, have heard of the programmers mantra: GIGO: garbage
in, garbage out. A simulation is only as good as the knowledge of the person
who wrote it. You can only simulate what you understand. The problem
with computer models for medical tests is that most of the time, we don’t
know
how things work. The research is being done on animals precisely
because we don’t know enough about it to simulate it. For one simple example,
consider cancer. There’s a lot of animal research done where we basically
deliberately give cancer to an animal. We can’t simulate that, because the way
that cancers grow and spread is still a mystery. We don’t understand exactly
what triggers a cancer; we don’t completely understand the biological
processes going on in cancer cells, or exactly what the difference between a
cancer cell and a normal cell is. We can’t simulate that. Or, rather,
we can, but only as an experiment with a real-world counterpart to verify it.

In any case, getting back to the original point: it really doesn’t matter
whether you agree with animal research or not. The important point here is
that using intimidation, threats, and harassment the way these AR groups are
doing is absolutely, unequivocably wrong. And to extend it from the
scientist to his children is beyond wrong. It’s downright evil. And
to harass both the scientist and his children not for doing the
research that they object to, but for talking about why that research
is important? I simply do not have the words to express how repugnant it is.

Comments

  1. #1 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    “if he really were a person who tortured and murdered people for fun, going after his children would be a disgusting, disgraceful, evil thing to do.”

    I disagree, if Hitler had children I would have no problem harassing his children and have a clean conscious.

  2. #2 AnyEdge
    February 24, 2010

    Animal rights activists of this sort (again, like you MarkCC, I agree that not all are abhorrant.) are like the intolerantly religious (or the intolerantly irreligious). They have an idea, and they believe that the ends justify their myriad rerehensible means.

    This sort of harrassment ought be prosecutable, and might be in the jurisdiction they are in.

  3. #3 AnyEdge
    February 24, 2010

    @1: That’s not a clean conscience, that’s no conscience.

    But regardless, it would still be conscience not concious.

  4. #4 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    Thanks for the correction, but just imagine that Hitler decided to stop the holocaust in order to stop the harassment of his children, thus saving millions of lives. That would result in a clean conscience. Furthermore, doesn’t that depend on the individual’s moral compass anyway? So for you to designate something as having ‘no conscience’ would not be valid for myself, rather only yourself.

  5. #5 AnyEdge
    February 24, 2010

    @4: This just leads us down counterfactual alleyways like: would you allow a baby to be tortured to save everyone from starving forever?

    I respond: mu.

  6. #6 Paul Clapham
    February 24, 2010

    Come on, Doug, saying you have a certain view is one thing, but trying to justify it by asking us to imagine a ridiculously unlikely outcome is just… ridiculous. At least try to be realistic if you’re going to do something unconscionable.

  7. #7 Paul Browne
    February 24, 2010

    Doug I think you’re missing a couple of very important points.

    1) The USA is a democracy, not a perfect one I’ll admit(if such a thing exists), but a democracy nonetheless. Nazi Germany was not a democracy.

    2) The holocaust was directed at eliminating human beings.

    These two things (amongst others) made the war against facism morally justifiable, though even still not all actions taken by the allies in that war were morally justifiable (e.g. the destruction of Dresden).

  8. #8 F!ght for An!mals
    February 24, 2010

    If we are true vegan, we refuse medical treatments based on this torture!

  9. #9 Jamie Brandon
    February 24, 2010

    It seems that their position is that it is acceptable to torment an innocent being for the greater good. Which is an interesting position for someone who is against animal research on principal.

  10. #10 AnyEdge
    February 24, 2010

    I suppose, @9, that their point would be that they are tormenting a non-innocent being. They, of course, are not rational actors, and are there for justifiably marginalized.

  11. #11 Mu
    February 24, 2010

    Congratulations Doug, you’d made Hitler proud. He was a big proponent of “Sippenhaftung”. Btw are you fine with just the kids, or do you prefer the old testament version of seven generations?

  12. #12 Andrea Vezzosi
    February 24, 2010

    And, anyhow, the idea that there are ideals for which violence is justified sounds a lot like what Hitler did, he was claiming to save the german people from the horrible corruption of the jews.

    This is important also because Hitler got elected, Germany was a democracy at the time, it could happen again if we don’t repel the idea of violence from the start.

    What’s frustrating, though, is that in current democracies it seems that you need a lot of money to make your arguments matter, regarless of how sound they are.

  13. #13 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    My mistake, I reread the sentence, and the author is clearly referring to this specific case, I took the quote out of context. That being said, it’s still important to check for unreasonable but possible cases when using words like “evil”. Adding, “usually” to such sentences makes a lot more sense in most cases.

  14. #14 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @11 “Congratulations Doug, you’d made Hitler proud.”

    If it meant saving millions of people from death, I’d be more than happy to accept his congratulations.

  15. #15 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    February 24, 2010

    @1:

    If Hitler had children, would they have been guilty of his crimes? Or would they have been, simply, children who had the bad luck of being born with Hitler as a parent? I don’t think that tormenting children for the actions of their parents is acceptable. Even if the parent is really, truly horrible.

    The “what if it would have prevented the holocaust” is, frankly, ridiculous. The holocaust wasn’t the work of one person: it was the mass insanity of millions unified behind a leader, who needed a scapegoat to blame for their problems. There were literally millions of things that could have prevented the holocaust. But none of them happened. And speculating, now, on what might have prevented it is a total waste of time.

    The real question is a moral one: is it OK to torment children because you don’t like what their parents did or said?

    I think that the answer is a clear “No”.

  16. #16 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @12 “the idea that there are ideals for which violence is justified sounds a lot like what Hitler did”

    By the way, I never mentioned violence, if you read my first reply I wrote about, “harassing the children” in the same way that the scientist’s children were harassed.

  17. #17 Paul W. Homer
    February 24, 2010

    The ends can never justify the means, no matter how noble your goals. If you’ve done horrible things in order to win, you’ve still done horrible things.

    MarkCC said: “And animal research shouldn’t be done for trivial purposes: the work must be important enough to justify subjecting living creatures to it.”

    Well, it is best that we try not to make those types of judgment calls. It’s another huge morale quicksand if we start saying which research is valid, and which is not. Some trivially sounding things turn out to be significant, some do not. It’s the nature of research to (mostly) let it go where it will.

    We do seem to live in a weird age, where so many people have become so self-absorbed that they are unable to see someone’s perspective. This is some type of marketing age, where most people are far more concerned about ‘how it sounds’ than they are about ‘what it really is’.

  18. #18 Cyan
    February 24, 2010

    Trolled on the very first comment. [golf clap]

  19. #19 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @15 “The “what if it would have prevented the holocaust” is, frankly, ridiculous.”

    Ridiculous, but theoretically possible, and as a phd computer scientist, isn’t it important to test for extreme cases?

    “The real question is a moral one: is it OK to torment children because you don’t like what their parents did or said?”

    This goes back to @5. If harassing the children resulted in saving of lives, it would be ok. I realize this is a theoretical case, but nonetheless, the answer is, “Almost always, “No”.

  20. #20 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @18 Sorry Cyan, this is not a troll.

  21. #21 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    February 24, 2010

    @17:

    I think that there’s a place for moral judgement in deciding what experiments are worth hurting living creatures. We shouldn’t just throw our hands up in the air and say “Whatever scientists want to do with animals is fine”. There are research protocols that are pointlessly cruel. Those shouldn’t be permitted. The question is where to draw the line, and that’s a hard thing to do; but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.

    There needs to be a valid scientific reason for pursuing the research, and enough justification to explain the amount of suffering inflicted on the animal subjects. That’s what IACUCs (institution animal care and use committees) at research institutions are for: to look at research protocols, and judge whether or not a proposed research project is justified and minimizes the suffering of the animals used.

  22. #22 Elfie
    February 24, 2010

    I wonder if he can get a restraining order against these nuts? Totally despicable behavior – there’s got to be laws against harassment to these lengths.

  23. #23 AnyEdge
    February 24, 2010

    For example – and this is really the crux of the matter, isn’t it? – How do we determine if pain medication works? How do we determine if it is safe?

    We need animals, in pain, to be given the medication. This must be done to observe the effects of the drug or intervention (there are also electro-stimulation pain treatments).

    So, it is actually medically necessary to torture animals. Or we have no pain medication. So, @8, I hope you don’t use anaesthesia.

  24. #24 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    February 24, 2010

    @19:

    Questions like that are always theoretical. If you’d been in Germany before Hitler rose to power, would you have known what he was going to do? No.

    So it comes down to: do you think that what someone is trying to do is sufficiently bad to justify tormenting innocents in the name of maybe, theoretically, preventing an uncertain but terrible future outcome?

    Plenty of people believe that the current president of the US is some kind of maniacal white-hating socialist who’s building concentration camps to imprison his political opponents and their followers. Can those people justifiably torment his children? After all, they truly believe that he’s planning on killing millions of people, and perhaps by harassing his children, they can convince him to withdraw from politics! Would that be justified by your reasoning? If not, how would it differ from the actions of someone in Germany before the Holocaust?

  25. #25 Elf Eye
    February 24, 2010

    Me: hypothyroidism–on daily thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

    Thank you, animal researchers.

    My older sister: surgery to replace valve damaged by infection.

    Thank you, animal researchers.

    My dad: adult onset diabetes–relies on daily shots of insulin

    Thank you, animal researchers.

    My mother: atherosclerosis–stent inserted into heart after heart attack.

    Thank you, animal researchers.

    My daughter: vaccinated against a multitude of serious diseases, including polio, which was still striking my generation.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, animal researchers!

  26. #26 eric
    February 24, 2010

    @18: we were Godwinned on the first post, not trolled.

    Doug, forget about Hitler for a moment. Do you think its ethical for animal rights activists to harass the children of someone like Ringrach for participating in a panel discussion on the value of animal research?

  27. #27 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @24 “how would it differ from the actions of someone in Germany before the Holocaust?”

    If the holocaust had already started, I believe harassing the children would be “good”, not “evil” if it led to the end of the war. In other words, the benefit of saving millions of people would override the wrongness of harassing the children.

    However, the “if” makes it difficult to argue from a practical standpoint. After all, the case could be made that more people would be killed because of this harassment.

  28. #28 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @26 I didn’t even know about Godwin’s law, ok, I guess I’m guilty of that, and therefore I lost the argument even before it began. I hereby request that all references to “Hitler” be changed to “Stalin”. Thank you.

    As for the second part I am biased because I completely support animal research. It’s wrong and they should be charged under existing laws.

  29. #29 Mu
    February 24, 2010

    Doug, you’re not getting the point – there are lines you NEVER cross. You harass Hitler’s children to get to their father, what’s next, waterboarding Osama bin Laden’s kids to make him come out of his cave and save soldiers from attack?
    To say it with a joke:
    “Madam, would you sleep with me for a million” “For a million dollars, sure”
    “How about $10?” “Never, how can you think that of me” “Why, we’ve already established you’re a whore, we’re just haggling about the price”.

  30. #30 reboho.pip.verisignlabs.com
    February 24, 2010

    I would be all for computer simulations if we could feel confident they were good models, but I have worked with programming too long that I agree with Mark that we are no where near where we need to be for sim to be a replacement for animal models. The times I have encountered people who think all animal testing should be banned, I bring up this very idea. I personally can’t imagine any of my pets being subjected to testing but I know it’s necessary. I don’t agree with the tactics but I have some sympathy. I don’t wish to have any animal suffer but our world would not be what it is today without the necessary.

  31. #31 anotherscientist
    February 24, 2010

    Doug, besides missing the key point that harassing children is never ok, your entire argument misses another even more key point.

    Dario doesn’t do animal research anymore.

    They used unjustifiable techniques to harass him, including scaring his children. And in response to that he stopped doing it. It is a shame that he didn’t have the support behind him at that time to be able to continue contributing to science, but that is besides the point.

    Your Hitler analogy is not only offensive, it doesn’t even logically work- the real version would be something like, you harass Hitler because the Holocaust is bad (ignoring the essential differences between the Holocaust and animal research for the sake of this point). Then, Hitler stops participating in the Holocaust. You, however, continue to harass him, and now threaten to harass his innocent children, as if he is still participating in it. You thereby remove any motivation for anyone to listen to you anymore, or respond to your threats, because the threats continue regardless of whether the behavior you claim to want to change does in fact change. It also makes the extremist animal rights groups impossible to take seriously as anything other than insane and irrational terrorists.

  32. #32 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @31 “the key point that harassing children is never ok”

    Let me give you a different analogy, this one related to scientific work. If you did a medical study that showed a new experimental vaccine caused 1 out of a billion children to die while saving countless others from potentially dying, according to your logic, the new vaccine should not be approved. I strongly disagree with you.

    As for this particular issue with animal research, I already stated I am biased as I fully support animal research.

  33. #33 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    @29 “there are lines you NEVER cross.”

    Actually, you don’t seem to get the point, see my vaccination study example above. According to your logic, the vaccine would never be approved because a child will die because of it, and you should never cause harm to a child. In fact, nothing is ever black and white, and there may be cases where causing harm to a child or others for the benefit of society as a whole is “good”, not “evil”.

  34. #34 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    February 24, 2010

    @32:

    That’s *not* the same situation at all.

    In one case, you’re talking about a vaccination that you know will save a huge number of children, but which will harm a single child. In that case it’s obvious what’s right. In all medicine, there are risks, and pretty much any lifesaving treatment will harm someone. But we try to find a balance, where the lives saved far outweighs the harm caused.

    What you’re talking about isn’t that tradeoff. It’s targeting a child – deliberately harming a specific child, for no reason beyond cruelty, as part of an attempt to punish their parent.

    That’s never right.

  35. #35 Doug
    February 24, 2010

    #34 “for no reason beyond cruelty, as part of an attempt to punish their parent.”

    This statement does not make sense. If there is “an attempt to punish their parent”, then by definition there IS a reason beyond cruelty, that being, “to punish their parent”.

    As to the vaccination analogy, this ties back to @5, “would you allow a baby to be tortured to save everyone from starving forever?”

    They responded that no, it’s not allowable. So in that case, they should also not allow the new vaccine to be introduced as it will cause a baby to die.

  36. #36 Elfie
    February 24, 2010

    So, theoretically, if a vaccine were made that caused Doug to quit obsessing over all the possible ways in which tormenting and harrassing children would be morally justified, would you test it on your hypothetical virtual pet cat, living in that alternate universe known as *TEH INTERWEB*?

    Seriously Doug, get out into the real world a bit, you can spend your whole life arguing over theoretical things that *eleventy billion people will never come up against*. And that one guy who *actually* had a chance to torture Hitler’s kids? Do you really think he cares what you think? In the meantime, keep proving why Godwin’s law is a *law*, and will never, ever be broken.

  37. #37 Doug
    February 25, 2010

    Relax Elfie, I brought up several issues that go against the absolutist position taken with some of the replies in this post (I was mistaken about the post itself slightly). I personally think the discussion on here proved useful, albeit in a roundabout way. What’s wrong with some discourse, or are only certain opinions allowed here?

  38. #38 woupiestek
    February 25, 2010

    Animal rights activists must appreciate that if harassing the children of Ringach is acceptable as part of the fight for animal rights, then it is acceptable if human rights activists harass their children, to defend the right of free speech… just a thought.

  39. #39 Sean
    February 25, 2010

    Can someone please harass Doug’s family to get him to stop?

  40. #40 Stefano
    February 25, 2010

    I heard of Godwin law, but a reference to Hitler in the very first comment ??

    Anyway, I searched for poll data, and found that 20-50% of people tend to oppose animal research (the difference lies in how the poll question is posed, some people accept animal research only for medical purposes, other accept it so long it doesn’t cause too much pain to the subject, etc.).

    On the other hand, only about 1% of the population is vegan.

    I sense some cognitive dissonance.

  41. #41 DSimon
    February 25, 2010

    I’m a vegetarian (in the process of slowly going vegan) for animal rights reasons. I agree that these guys are scumbags, and I wish they’d stop their crappy behavior.

  42. #42 Moses
    February 25, 2010

    “if he really were a person who tortured and murdered people for fun, going after his children would be a disgusting, disgraceful, evil thing to do.”

    I disagree, if Hitler had children I would have no problem harassing his children and have a clean conscious.

    Posted by: Doug | February 24, 2010 2:25 PM

    Hyperbole much? If you harassed Hitler’s kids, you’d have been arrested, then tortured to death.

    It’s the fact that these scumbag know that nothing will happen to them allows this anti-social, immoral behavior. And that’s what it is — anti-social and immoral. No matter how you dress it up, Shirley.

  43. #43 Ava Odoemena
    February 25, 2010

    Aloha, greetings from Berlin

    It should be considered that *nasty* protests, are *staged* false flag operations to discredit the Animal Rights Movement. That is, some people who are not even vegan are paid to behave in a way, it would damage the reputation of vegans. (I see vegans because animal rights activists who are not vegan – that is just a silly idea.)

    REAL vegan ARA’s consider animal tests are fringe issue. Non-vegan vegetarians alone are – by proxy of milk and eggs – responsible for more deaths than animal testing and hunting combined…

    This doesn’t in any way reduce the importance of informing people about the alternatives to animal testing. It strikes me as odd that the author of the blogpost is a computer scientist, yet seems uninformed about the fact, that the most interesting alternatives to animal testing are coming from that field. Simulation of very complex systems is around the corner, especially since computing power is becoming cheaper all the time.

    That said, I also do think it’s OK to voice opposition to animal testing, because there *are* alternatives. People who ignore the alternatives seem to have other issues going on, for example a sort of pleasure at the idea of power over others – also nonhumans.

    Another commenter listed her “Thanks” to animal researchers, and pointed out the sickness in her family that is being managed by modern medicine. Not only does she ignore that there may be already, or at least in the future, alternatives. But she also lists deseases which are flat out preventable by an adequate vegan diet.

    If you care so little for yourself, that you would choose a sickening lifestyle over healthy and non-cruel eating, is it any wonder you’d also narcisstically point to shelves with rats and mice, as if their lives belong to you?

    Being vegan has a lot do with being proud about yourself, to take responsibiltiy for the effects your actions have in the world. It’s the change, after you’ve looked into the mirror. Think about that.

    The tragic irony for me as an animal rights activist, is, that probably up to 85% of illness is preventable with a better lifestyle, and with it the torture of animals that are used for tests to develop the medication and methods needed to cure them.

  44. #44 Moses
    February 25, 2010

    @31 “the key point that harassing children is never ok”

    Let me give you a different analogy, this one related to scientific work. If you did a medical study that showed a new experimental vaccine caused 1 out of a billion children to die while saving countless others from potentially dying, according to your logic, the new vaccine should not be approved. I strongly disagree with you.

    As for this particular issue with animal research, I already stated I am biased as I fully support animal research.

    Posted by: Doug | February 24, 2010 8:45 PM

    When in a hole, stop digging. This is as dumb as your Hitler analogy.

    For the record, some people are going to be allergic to vaccines. They will die. And it’s more than one-in-a-billion.

    Forty-seven people have died within one month after receiving the Gardisil vaccination to prevent HPV. It is not established that all of the deaths were because of the vaccination. The anti-vaxxers have a way of stretching the truth to include people dying of diseases they already had and blaming the vaccine.

    So, while I feel sorry for them and their parents, I’m not an idiot.

    Thousands and thousands of lives that WOULD have been lost to the various medical issues surrounding HPV have been saved. Let’s face it, the cervical cancer death rate in the US is about 4,000 per year (pre-vaccine). The death rate from the vaccine (using the most outrageous anti-vax numbers) in the US is about, per year, is about 8 to 10.

    Since the vaccine prevents the most common strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer, it is estimated that 95% of those cancer deaths will be avoided. As well as 95% of the 12,000 cervical cancer cases we have every year.

    But no medicine is without risk. Aspirin can be fatal if over-used on a therapeutic basis, especially in children. But even adults can suffer death due to the long-tern side-effects of therapeutic doses of aspirin.

    So, pretending your morally inept and ludicrous position was okay and then moving the goal posts with another ridiculous analogy…

    Really, STOP DIGGING.

  45. #45 Moses
    February 25, 2010

    The tragic irony for me as an animal rights activist, is, that probably up to 85% of illness is preventable with a better lifestyle, and with it the torture of animals that are used for tests to develop the medication and methods needed to cure them.

    Posted by: Ava Odoemena | February 25, 2010 9:36 AM

    No, the tragic irony for you is that for all your being a holy-roller, you’re health and lifestyle are completely dependent on animal research and harvesting animals for food and related products.

    And you don’t realize it. While being on your high horse.

  46. #46 eric
    February 25, 2010

    Doug @32: Let me give you a different analogy, this one related to scientific work. [Vaccination analogy here]

    Your analogy with vaccination fails because the tradeoff they are seeking is not ‘harass 1 innocent human to save many innocent animals,’ its harass 1 innocent human to prevent discussion.

    What’s never right is harassing an innocent kid to prevent an adult from voicing their opinion. Your analogies to stopping Hitler, stopping disease etc… compare doing some action X (your analogies) with talking about X (the actual case), which is why they fail.

    As an aside, not only are such attacks vile, they’re just plain stupid from a tactical perspective. Animal rights activists should want to promote discussion about animal rights, not shut it down. Harassing kids to prevent discussion doesn’t just make them look bad, it prevents exactly what they should be trying to promote.

  47. #47 AnyEdge
    February 25, 2010

    In a spirited attempt to be incredibly fair, I suppose that all Doug is doing is saying that using the superlative ‘never’ to describe the harrassing of children to alter their parent’s behaviour is inappropriate.

    And I guess I can sort of agree: after all if I don’t get my kid to school on time, his teachers will harrass him about being late. They do this to ostensibly change his behaviour, but it’s really mine: I’m the responsible adult.

    Nevertheless, the rest of Doug’s justifications are kinda sad.

  48. #48 AnyEdge
    February 25, 2010

    Ava Odoemena,

    Do you grow your own grain? Hundreds of millions of rodents are killed each year in the commercial production of grain, even organic grain. Unless your wheat is harvested by scythe and stored in a silo with no pest control (including CATS), you are as guilty of murder for food as any of the rest of us. I personally think it is “not guilty at all” even if you eat meat. But nevermind. Your guilt is equal to mine and all others.

  49. #49 Wilson
    February 25, 2010

    Your analogies to stopping Hitler, stopping disease etc… compare doing some action X (your analogies) with talking about X (the actual case), which is why they fail.

    This description of Doug’s analogy is not quite correct. He’s disagreeing with Mark’s original assertion that Even if their father were everything that the AR people claim that he is: if he really were a person who tortured and murdered people for fun, going after his children would be a disgusting, disgraceful, evil thing to do.

    This assertion by Mark is pretty close to an absolute: ‘X’ is always wrong. I’m always :) wary of statements like that myself, so I can understand Doug’s urge to explore if harassing a child/children because of the actions of a parent/parents can ever be justified, even in situations that would never actually occur in real life.

    Since ‘because of’ in that last sentence could be taken to mean ‘in retaliation for’ or ‘to prevent’, there are (at least!) two ways of looking at that absolute statement.

    The thing is, if it’s not an absolute truth, the trick then becomes to decide where, if anywhere, there’s a line. This is what makes the greyness and fuzziness inherent in real life uncomfortable for a lot of people.

    The abortion issue has the same problem. It is generally accepted that killing a newborn baby is wrong. For the same reasons, we accept that killing a baby the day before it is born would also be wrong. One can (and black-and-white thinkers, which most religious people tend to be) extend that all the way back to the moment of conception.

    Finding a point between the two extremes is the tricky part.

    I think some of Doug’s analogies are flawed (at best!), but I think an exploration of the legitimacy of the idea that Mark’s stated thesis is an absolute truth is a valid thing to do.

    Is there any hypothetical situation, however unlikely, in which harassing a child in order to prevent or to retaliate for the actions of the child’s parent is justified?

    If the answer to that question is yes, is there any such situation that could reasonably occur in real life?

    If the answer to that question is yes, then comes the tricky work of finding the (probably fuzzy) line between the obvious wrongness of the animal rights protesters in the present case and the other extreme.

    Doug went off the rails with the vaccination example, and invoking Hitler was at best unfortunate, but the intrinsic discussion, if restated as above, may well be a valuable one.

    Or maybe not, what do I know? :)

  50. #50 jim
    February 25, 2010

    Mark,
    100% support. The children are innocent people who have no control over whatever their parents do. In addition, they are minors. The harrassers are scum and lowlifes. And yes, computer simulation isn’t going to be effective or accurate. That is pure balderdash.

  51. #51 JohnV
    February 25, 2010

    @Ava Odoemena

    “Not only does she ignore that there may be already, or at least in the future, alternatives.”

    Are you suggesting she use her time machine to travel in the future when these, as of yet, undiscovered are discovered? Or that she just tough it out and die?

  52. #52 Anonymous
    February 25, 2010

    @43: I’d just like to point out that milk and eggs are probably two of the least animal-death-causing foods.

    A dairy cow will only produce milk for a certain time after being pregnant. This time period is much longer that what the calf needs to grow. The dairy industy is taking nothing from the calf, and is largely responsible for the proliferation of cattle. If you’re concerned about the treatment of the cattle, do a little research and vote with your wallet.

    Eggs are the same way. The eggs you eat were never fertilized. Chickens produce about an egg a day. Responsible farmers put aside a few of these to become new chickens, while the rest are sold for food. It’s completely unreasonable to think that all these eggs would ever become chickens. Again, do some research and vote with your wallet, but get off your high-horse.

  53. #53 Dave
    February 25, 2010

    Ava Odoemena @43:

    A debate about the rightness/wrongness of animal testing and/or the vegan lifestyle is not the point of this discussion.

    But, to nitpick one of your statements: “…the author of the blogpost is a computer scientist, yet seems uninformed about the fact, that the most interesting alternatives to animal testing are coming from that field. Simulation of very complex systems is around the corner, especially since computing power is becoming cheaper all the time.”

    Did you not read Mark’s post? He addressed that very argument and as a computer scientist, he knows–probably better than most–the limitation of computer simulations, specifically: “You can only simulate what you understand.” All the computer power in the universe won’t help if you don’t understand the basic details well enough to write the equations to put into the computer code (or worse, write the wrong equations).

    Back to the main topic, one of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from Michael Douglas’s character in “The American President”:

    America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.

    That ideal seems to be the fundamental thing that these extremist ARAs seem to miss. “Free speech” is a fundamental right in the United States, harrassment (especially of a non-involved or only superficially involved party) is not. I fully support ARAs’ right to speak against Dr. Ringach’s position, but they’ve taken it to a level way beyond civilized discourse and I suspect, ultimately, their tactics will end up backfiring on them because there are people like Mark and others who stand up to point out how the actions they’ve taken are way worse than any words Dr. Ringach could speak.

  54. #54 mike
    February 25, 2010

    I think it really boils down to whether or not human life is on a different level from other animals. Animals contain similar thoughts, emotions and pains, so maybe their life is as sacred as ours. The extreme activism comes from the fact that animals cannot fend for themselves and are being taken advantage of.
    I don’t agree with animal rights groups or their evil deeds but I understand where they are coming from.
    Also, while we’re pondering moral dilemmas, there is a true case of research that tests burn ointments by taking a blowtorch to rats and then treating them with the ointment. Imagine how that would make one who believes that rats and humans should have equal status feel.

  55. #55 Anonymous
    February 26, 2010

    @54, then can we take blow torches to these extremists instead? (Just kidding. I don’t agree with that particular use of animal testing, excepting my lack of information in the matter.)

  56. #56 ZaBong
    February 26, 2010

    >>
    This doesn’t in any way reduce the importance of informing people about the alternatives to animal testing. It strikes me as odd that the author of the blogpost is a computer scientist, yet seems uninformed about the fact, that the most interesting alternatives to animal testing are coming from that field. Simulation of very complex systems is around the corner, especially since computing power is becoming cheaper all the time.
    >>

    I’d like to know if you know any actual computer scientist who said something like this without being sarcastic.

  57. #57 jac kal
    February 26, 2010

    Animals contain similar thoughts, emotions and pains, so maybe their life is as sacred as ours.

    All animals? Cockroaches? Nematodes? Hydras? And is it ok to have parasites removed, or should we allow them to grow in and on us since they have thoughts and feelings too? It is hard to know exactly where to draw the line, but when an animal has a microscopic nerve cluster instead of a brain, I don’t think it is capable of experiencing “thoughts, emotions and pains” quite like ours. So while I was never the type of person to torment ants or pull the wings off of flies, I don’t feel too much guilt over the micro-dissections of fruit fly larvae I did last semester.

  58. #58 Pat Cahalan
    February 26, 2010

    Jamie won the thread at #9:

    > It seems that their position is that it is
    > acceptable to torment an innocent being for
    > the greater good. Which is an interesting
    > position for someone who is against animal
    > research on principal.

    If no utility function can defend the imposition of harm on a living creature, then… ah, no utility function can defend the imposition of harm on a living creature. Full stop.

    If you believe that research involving animals can never be justified because the root activity is morally or ethically axiomatically wrong, then by implication you accept as a root principle: that which is morally wrong cannot be used as a tactic regardless of the outcome.

    Well, uh, then yeah, attacking children to modify behavior of an individual is right out. By your own principle.

    Now, on the other hand, if you’re not a moral absolutist, you could conceivably have the position that the benefit of medical research does not outweigh the moral culpability of the use of animals; but simultaneously hold that ending animal research *does* outweigh the moral culpability of terrorizing children. I accept the theoretical existence of such a moral framework.

    I *really* doubt you could construct one without some really messed up self-contradictory ontological classifications, but if you honestly believe this, give it your best shot. Convince the world that you are correct.

    But you can’t argue one from an absolutist principle and one from moral relativism. That’s flatly ridiculous.

  59. #59 AnyEdge
    February 26, 2010

    Sadly, @Pat Calahan, they can and do. Because they are not constrained by rationality, logic, reason or dignity. They simply want what they want, and don’t care how they get it. They’re like little children or Islamic fanaticists. They are ids with no super egos.

  60. #60 Dave
    February 26, 2010

    @Pat Cahalan,

    I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head. Those guys are obviously hypocrites, but probably too blinded by their cause (and/or stupidity) to realize that their actions are hypocritical. It’s that whole “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality.

  61. #61 Ava Odoemena
    February 26, 2010

    @ Dave # 53

    First of, you’re right I must have overread the part where he wrote about calculative alternatives (it was late) and his claims on their limitations. I have to reread and check his claims for validity.

    > I fully support ARAs’ right to speak against Dr.
    > Ringach’s > position, but they’ve taken it to a level way > beyond civilized discourse and I suspect, ultimately,
    > their tactics will end up backfiring on them because

    What evidence do you have, that these are actual ARAs and not a false flag operation. Conduct aimed at children would not be vegan (as children are primates too), so if the conduct is aggressive as stated (an not pathetically overblown by people who project their guilt into aversion against ARAs / vegans), then they are not vegan, and if they are not vegan, then they can’t be animal rights activists.

  62. #62 Ava Odoemena
    February 26, 2010

    @ 48

    You wrote:

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
    Ava Odoemena,

    Do you grow your own grain? Hundreds of millions of rodents are killed each year in the commercial production of grain, even organic grain. Unless your wheat is harvested by scythe and stored in a silo with no pest control (including CATS), you are as guilty of murder for food as any of the rest of us. I personally think it is “not guilty at all” even if you eat meat. But nevermind. Your guilt is equal to mine and all others.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXx

    You confuse avoidable, deliberate killing with accidents, accidents whose numbers you grotesquely blow out of proportion. I thought scienceblogs would attract an audience who can do better than outdated smear rhetoric.

    Even by simplest of logic you should realize, that *factual* and todays animal based foods, require much more agricultural surfaces, because any animal based food is a compression of plant calories. The animals need to be feed of course. If you were really serious about reducing farm *accidents*, you’d promote the vegan diet. As with it, the least amount of agricultrual surface is use, and with less land use, the amount of accidents goes down with it. 90% of the world soy is fed to animals, there are several gallons of soy milk in each gallon of cow milk, so to say.

    And as to growing my own grain. *eyeroll* In what forsaken Usenet group did you dig out that lame Ad Hominem:-) Like billions of others I’m landless and thus utterly dependend on food being grown for me by specialists. As has been done in the last 200 years or so.

  63. #63 Ava Odoemena
    February 26, 2010

    @45

    No, the tragic irony for you is that for all your being a holy-roller, you’re health and lifestyle are completely dependent on animal research and harvesting animals for food and related products.

    And you don’t realize it. While being on your high horse.

    Another Ad Hominem. What is this, Highschool?

    I’m vegan. NOTHING I use was tested on animals, as I research all the products I buy. There is nothing “holy-rolling” about avoiding AVOIDABLE harm. Of course if I had, say, broken a leg and needed surgery, then I’d likely be given antibiotics, or anesthesia which at one point was tested on animals. But no one would seriously claim, that this was avoidable.

    Eating non-vegan ice-cream is avoidable…

    So yes, I am in fact behaving more ethical than you. Who’s a better person, one who helps an old lad across the road, or one who pushes an old lad in front of a bus?

    I understand your desire to pull me down to your level, to the level where people push old lads in front of a bus for fun, or consume animal based foods, clothing or furniture.

    It doesn’t change the fact that I avoid avoidable harm, and you don’t. Deal with it the best way you can, by going vegan…

  64. #64 realinterrobang
    February 26, 2010

    Ava, how old are you? How healthy? How rich? I practically guarantee you’re not yet in your 30s and don’t have any major health issues, and almost certainly middle-class or richer.

    I cannot live on a vegan diet; I eat meat and I still have iron and B12 deficiencies I have to remedy by supplementation, because my digestion is simply not efficient enough (due to long-term chronic health conditions caused by a genetic disorder) to allow me to live adequately on an entirely plant-based diet.

    It’s damn easy to be a vegan when you’re 22, healthy, and rich. It’s damn hard to be a vegan when you’re old, handicapped and poor.

    Like you, I do try to minimise the harm I do in everyday life; I just simply don’t consider that eating animals constitutes “avoidable harm” in my case. Which makes me every bit as ethically consistent as you are, whether you want to admit it or not. I’m actually more ethical than you are, because I would never make the kind of equivocation that suggests pushing people in front of a bus is analogous in any way to eating an animal, simply to make some kind of skewed ideological point.

  65. #65 Ava Odoemena
    February 26, 2010

    @51

    Are you suggesting she use her time machine to travel in the future when these, as of yet, undiscovered are discovered? Or that she just tough it out and die?

    No, you are suggesting that.

    What I suggested is, that people who develop sickness which is preventable – by consuming animal based foods – are also contributing to an increase animal research. By switching to an adequate vegan diet, serious illness can be prevented. This not only reduced the great mass of animal tests which are being done especially for medication which is developed for *preventable* illness. It would also make healthcare affordable for all, something which could save many humans lives if you don’t care about nonhumans.

    So, and this it how it all goes, no matter how many times people try to turn it around, going vegan is simply the right thing to do for so many reasons that extend far beyond animal rights.

    And most of you know it too. I can only help by talking or writing, but it’s you guys who have to make the effort. Make a radical change in your life, do the thing you know it’s right, go vegan.

  66. #66 Ava Odoemena
    February 26, 2010

    Ava, how old are you? How healthy? How rich? I practically guarantee you’re not yet in your 30s and don’t have any major health issues, and almost certainly middle-class or richer.

    Your “vegan is for spoilt middle class brats” smear attempt is completely off the mark, I’m 40 and I’m unemployed. I spend around 120 Euro a month on food.

    I cannot live on a vegan diet; I eat meat and I still have iron and B12 deficiencies I have to remedy by supplementation, because my digestion is simply not efficient enough (due to long-term chronic health conditions caused by a genetic disorder) to allow me to live adequately on an entirely plant-based diet.

    I also happen to be quite well informed on nutrition, and therefore it’s quite easy for me to bust this justification attempt as well. People with chronic digestive illness are generally injected with B12, which bypasses the intesting completely. Same can be done for Iron.

    Your claim opposes current sciences, do I need to say any more? Please research the ADA’s (updated) position paper on vegetarian and vegan diet.

    It’s damn easy to be a vegan when you’re 22, healthy, and rich. It’s damn hard to be a vegan when you’re old, handicapped and poor.

    Well I’m terribly sorry about your condition (healtwise, as there is no shame in poverty), but I and current science disagree with you that somehow age, financial limitation _or_ health would make it impossible to follow a vegan diet. As it relates to health, rather the reverse is true.

    Like you, I do try to minimise the harm I do in everyday life; I just simply don’t consider that eating animals constitutes “avoidable harm” in my case.

    And

    Which makes me every bit as ethically consistent as you are, whether you want to admit it or not.

    LOL! So you’ve set your arbitrary rule to define ethical value around YOUR interest, rather than around the bearer of the right. How practial.

    However your reasoning has one fundamental flaw. Humans are animals, mammals actually, so you’re in fact advocating cannibalism.

    I’m actually more ethical than you are,

    Says the potential cannibal:-)))

    Oh and yes, making a valid analogy is so much more cruel than paying someone to shoot a pig into the head.

    And I really wanted to refrain from sarkasm. Oh well.

  67. #67 Ava Odoemena
    February 26, 2010

    I’m outta here, this is silly.

    Main point: Watch out for ****FALSE FLAG**** operations relating to “animal rights”. There is a powerful industry whose interest is to repress vegan values, and they will try to convince you that we’re scum bags.

    Some fall for it…

  68. #68 Jesse
    February 26, 2010

    “False Flag” operations against a minority that is, actually, not that significant a player is simply silly. (I consider you a significant political player when someone runs for office with your issue as a major part of the platform. Animal rights hasn’t reached that point yet in the US).

    I hear that crap all the time from people who are serious conspiracy theorists; they tend to say (whatever their political persuasion) that a bunch of people acting badly was a set-up.

    Let me lay it out for you. I have a bit of experience with this– my own family has been involved in social change movements for a while.

    A “false flag” of this kind is actually a pain to set up. You need a whole stack of people who will keep their mouths shut. That never happens. More than one person can’t keep a secret. Most of the time one person can’t keep a secret.

    Now, the old COINTELPRO people had a much better way of discrediting and disrupting various movements. Among the methods were:

    1. Write nasty letters to leaders of the movement saying your wife is cheating on you, or something similarly emotional about someone close. This sows distrust.

    2. Show up at a meeting and try to convince a whole bunch of people to do something violent or stupid. Ninety percent of the time they never do that, but it does make for loud, contentious, and disruptive meetings at which nothing gets done and people trust each other less.

    3. Write more nasty letters (I guess nowadays this would be emails) saying the FBI is onto you and is watching. Or that someone in the organization is an informant. This works especially well if you tail someone and tell them you saw them doing something perfectly private and innocent, like going to the bookstore.

    Note that very little of this involves actually going out and doing anything, it certainly doesn’t involve gathering a group of half a dozen people to try and do violence.

    Now, the defense against this kind of thing was relatively easy in principle; a democratic organization in which everyone feels they are heard fairly has a sort of automatic immune response. You can’t accuse everyone of “selling out” when a position is discussed openly, and when people feel safe enough to bring up stuff that might be uncomfortable. That’s why good political organizations are relatively open and why open political systems are actually pretty stable. (You aren’t going to be a terrorist in a system where you feel you are heard non-violently). When the guy yelling for “action” was heard, debated, and voted down, it was a lot harder for him to get people to go along with violent acts.

    There’s a reason the Weathermen never consisted of more than half a dozen people.

    But it was a while before many organizations figured this out, a lot of the time the response was to become more secretive, less democratic, and most of them eventually splintered for that reason. In the process they started alienating potential allies. SDS was a great example of this, actually.

    “False Flag” stuff is for the movies. I might add, in cases where governments have tried to pin terrorist acts on groups that didn’t do it it almost never works. Why not? Because more than one person can’t keep quiet and the methods I outlined are just a few that were a hell of a lot easier to do. They don’t even require particularly sophisticated technology.

    (People usually bring up the Reichstag Fire at this point. The available literature indicates that it was probably one guy who set it, and the conspiracy on the part of the Nazis was to use it to their propaganda advantage and shut down opposing voices. The jury is out as to whether it was Nazi operatives who set it, though popular legend is that it was just such an operation. But the answer isn’t definitive by any means, and it’s just as likely the Nazis used the man who set it rather than directing him explicitly — which again, would have been easier to do).

  69. #69 Anonymous
    February 26, 2010

    Avoiding everything else, it’s simply not practical for everyone to be vegetarians; and some land in some places is better suited for grazing than for growing.

    To try to bring us towards being on-subject again, I’m not even sure how injections of things people are depriving their bodies of is a good idea for the entire population. I think if we tried it, we’d probably end up having to test it on animals first.

  70. #70 Ktesibios
    February 26, 2010

    First “Ava” tries to shift the burden of proof by demanding evidence that the thugs targeting Dr. Ringach are not a “false flag operation” instead of providing evidence in support of his affirmative insinuation that they are-
    and then he treats us to a version of ‘no true Scotsman” by claiming that said thugs cannot be “animal rights” activists because their acts don’t live up to his definition of veganism (perhaps I should note that most major religions have a prohibition against murder, but that has never restrained fanatical adherents of a religion from massacring adherents of a different faith).

    Two logical fallacies in one post. Not bad, although I was kinda hoping he’d find a way to work affirming the consequent or circular reasoning into the stew.

  71. #71 Epistaxis
    February 27, 2010

    Avoiding everything else, it’s simply not practical for everyone to be vegetarians; and some land in some places is better suited for grazing than for growing.

    It’s certainly much more practical than everyone being carnivores. Have you noticed it’s been getting warmer these last few years? The head of the IPCC says that’s due in large part to the production of meat. Which, by the way, is practically never grazed in this day and age. Look up the acronym “CAFO.”

  72. #72 PaulBrowne
    February 27, 2010

    Ava Odoemena “It strikes me as odd that the author of the blogpost is a computer scientist, yet seems uninformed about the fact, that the most interesting alternatives to animal testing are coming from that field. Simulation of very complex systems is around the corner, especially since computing power is becoming cheaper all the time”

    You haven’t stopped to think that as a mathematician and computer scientist with an interest in the life sciences Mark might be considerably better informed than AR activists about the current capabilities and limitations of computer simulations are, and how difficult it actually is to develop such simulations. To say that such systems are “around the corner” is a very glib remark, that shows little understanding of how much we have yet to learn about how living systems function. It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that a lot of the information that goes to build such systems comes from model organism research, not just mice but also more humble organisms such as flies, worms and bacteria.

    Ava Odema “Main point: Watch out for ****FALSE FLAG**** operations relating to “animal rights”. There is a powerful industry whose interest is to repress vegan values, and they will try to convince you that we’re scum bags. ”

    Are you really suggesting that Jerry Vlasak, Steve Best and Rick Bogle are in fact agents of the meat industry or FBI? I don’t think even Camille would take conspiracy theories so far.

    We had plenty of allegations of “false flag” operations in the UK but when it all came out in court it always turned out that AR activists were responsible for the crimes in question.

  73. #73 JohnV
    February 27, 2010

    “It’s certainly much more practical than everyone being carnivores.”

    I have never, in all my days, met a single carnivore.

  74. #74 Jesse Katzman
    February 27, 2010

    I agree with Doug, actually. For me, this is wrong because if they succeed they’ll end up killing more humans than animals, plus they’ll have harassed innocent humans on top of that. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. But yeah, Doug’s right; extremes allow us to figure out holes in our logic. Sorry, Godwin.

  75. #75 Douglas Watts
    February 27, 2010

    Carl Sagan said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Animal researchers have yet to provide the requisite extraordinary evidence to support their claim that this extraordinary level of lethal animal experimentation and suffering is justified.

    It’s their case to make. Thus far they have failed to make it, nor have they even really tried. It’s the lack of trying that gets me.

    In the end researchers need to convince the public. And to do that, researchers must accept they have an obligation to do so. If they do not wish to fulfill this obligation they can stop doing the lethal research. Nobody is forcing them to do it.

    There is no inherent right to conduct lethal experiments on animals. U.S. and state law have carved out very narrow exemptions for licensed animal researchers, ie. a privilege, as compared to run-of-the-mill animal abusers. And like a driver’s license, this privilege must be earned. Inherent within it is an obligation. There is no right to conduct lethal experiments on animals, any more than I have the right to starve my dog to death or feed it poison. This is settled law. The law already comes down on the right of animals in this context. That ship has sailed.

    What is left to discuss is the narrow window of exemption from animal cruelty laws which researchers have been allowed to operate within. Is the window too broad or to narrow? Too inclusive or too exclusive? That’s the discussion which needs to occur.

    50 years ago there were no limitations on lethal animal research. The legal limits which now exist had to have come from somewhere. Yet the arguments proffered for the status quo have not changed an iota from those used to justify what occurred 50 years ago. The only thing that has changed is that treatment today is, in some cases, not “as cruel” as it was 50 years ago. And that change has only happened because of public outcry — not internal policing by the researchers themselves. The lesson is that researchers themselves have failed to prove they can police themselves. This is why public involvement is essential if we are to move to phase two, just as it was to get to phase one.

    What’s needed is for the scientific community to wake up and acknowledge that lethal animal research, especially in its most egregious forms, is profoundly distasteful to society at large for the same reason that dog fighting is distasteful. Researchers need to engage the community in a discussion and offer solutions, not bunker-mentality defenses. A starting point would be to offer a plan to phase out and eventually end lethal experimentation, starting first with the animals most closely related to humans and with the most harmful and most egregious types of research. Such a plan, itself a gesture, would be the first step in a path forward.

  76. #76 sharky
    February 27, 2010

    Epistaxis: possibly true in some regions; not true in… all the world. Also, global warming can’t be blamed on one factor. It’s everything, every day, all adding up into one major problem.

  77. #77 Pteryxx
    February 27, 2010

    re Douglas Watts @75:

    “The only thing that has changed is that treatment today is, in some cases, not “as cruel” as it was 50 years ago. And that change has only happened because of public outcry — not internal policing by the researchers themselves. The lesson is that researchers themselves have failed to prove they can police themselves.”

    You know nothing of which you speak. IACUCs and research veterinarians routinely check that animals aren’t being mistreated. If they see animals in discomfort or pain, they have the right and obligation to ask questions, suggest alternatives, fix mistakes, and even censure and punish. Researchers can lose their right to work with animals *at all* if they handle them badly. I’ve seen it happen, more than once, and I’ve also brought concerns about animal treatment to the vets at my institution and seen that they were addressed. Vets will literally come look over your shoulder in an animal surgery suite to be sure all is well.

    Also, the general public isn’t qualified to make recommendations about the best methods of anesthesia, the most effective methods of pain control in different species, or the best ways to minimize stress during procedures. All those topics and more are constantly being refined, publicized, and taught to researchers by research vets.

    Every person working with live animals, from visiting student to head of department, has to take an annual refresher course on animal handling, given by the veterinary staff. They’ve trained us on isoflurane anesthesia machines, which keep animals under more reliably and safely than injectable anesthetics usually do. Vet staff pushes for the use of isoflurane even though it’s more expensive and more of a nuisance for the researchers than a quick needle jab would be. Research vets continue to push for environmental enrichment to be a standard of rodent care, when most institutions still consider it too expensive and troublesome. I don’t see any members of the general public leafletting for sunflower seeds, or holding toilet-paper-tube collection drives for their local research university. Or even fundraising to buy more isoflurane machines… and vet departments are chronically underfunded and could use them.

  78. #78 Abstruse
    February 28, 2010

    Animal researchers have yet to provide the requisite extraordinary evidence to support their claim that this extraordinary level of lethal animal experimentation and suffering is justified.

    This is done before any research endeavor even begins.

    What you’re really asking is for scientists to justify it to you. Of course this is a requirement that would be impossible to satisfy because you have no understanding of the most basic aspects of animal testing.

  79. #79 FelixM
    February 28, 2010

    I suggest that the question of animal rights is not the most objectionable issue here

    and, despicable as they were, nor are the attacks on the professor’s kids

    no, the key issue here is that the prof was participating in a discussion on whether animal experimentation should be allowed

    and these fanatics won’t even countenance a discussion on whether they’re right or wrong

    of course, there are other parallels

    like the feminists who reacted to an article of mine, “Can we talk about abortion”, by trying to destroy the relevant edition

    and like adherents of a certain religion who react to criticism of their religion by riot and murder

  80. #80 Cat Faber
    February 28, 2010

    You can’t expect reasonable behavior from animal rights activists. That’s just not how they’re wired. When I was working at the University of Oregon they broke into our animal care facility, vandalized the place, and stole a bunch of white rabbits and hamsters, leaving a holier-than-thou letter about how they were all going to be adopted into good homes.

    Some of the rabbits were later found by chance, in a blinking and terrified huddle, in the desert south of Roseburg. Four actually survived. So either the animal rights activists are liars (you think?) or they have an odd idea of what makes a “good home” for a white rabbit that has lived its whole life in safety and comfort, with food, water and nesting material less than two feet away.

    Now it turns out that people who think it’s okay to abuse and endanger animals think it’s okay to do the same to humans, even children. What a surprise.

  81. #81 Dale Husband
    February 28, 2010

    Carl Sagan said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Animal researchers have yet to provide the requisite extraordinary evidence to support their claim that this extraordinary level of lethal animal experimentation and suffering is justified.

    It’s their case to make. Thus far they have failed to make it, nor have they even really tried. It’s the lack of trying that gets me.

    In the end researchers need to convince the public. And to do that, researchers must accept they have an obligation to do so. If they do not wish to fulfill this obligation they can stop doing the lethal research. Nobody is forcing them to do it.

    Involking Carl Sagan’s name and attaching it to a bunch of outright lies is as treacherous as it gets.

  82. #82 Hoosben Farteen
    February 28, 2010

    Hitler?!?!?!? What if?!?!?!? Jesus Harold Kriste, who’s stronger, superman or batman??? It sure didn’t take long for this conversation to degenerate–Doug you really are a moron and your comments are pointless. And you probably have no concious(ness), let alone conscience. Are you a Selfologist by any chance?????

  83. #83 paulmurray
    February 28, 2010

    @7

    Actually, Nazi Germany *was* a democracy. Hitler was democratically elected chancellor.

    And, yes – some things probably warrant a violent response. The problem is: are you wise enough to decide which? Who decides? Well, in our system we elect representatives who appoint experts to decide – judges, ethics panels, whatever. Their decisions are made publicly, scrutinised, and there are methods in place to dispute them. But at the end of the day, if a person flouts the decisions of those people they will be forcibly seized and (ultimately) forcibly thrown in prison. Yes, it all comes down to violence – but only at the end of processes put in place to safeguard against abuses of power.

    Vigilantes, on the other hand, are people who have absolute trust in their own ability to determine what is right.

  84. #84 ObsessiveMathsFreak
    March 1, 2010

    In the end researchers need to convince the public. And to do that, researchers must accept they have an obligation to do so. If they do not wish to fulfill this obligation they can stop doing the lethal research. Nobody is forcing them to do it.

    Why? Why should researchers have to jump through PR hoops just to get basic science done? No one asks meat producers to produce apologia for what they do. The meat industry is actually a good example of how animal testing should be dealt with by our society.

    Just like animal slaughter, animal testing is something which does need regulation. Otherwise you just end up with cases like Britches the monkey, which can only be seen objectively as exercises in sadism with no real scientific benefit. In fact, if you look at the history of the animal rights movement, you generally find that discovery of such cases of excess are what spurs real change (whereas harassment as outlined in the OP accomplishes nothing).

    But it must be said that it is all not sweetness and light on the animal testing front. Many animals do die and suffer under the effect of medication, treatments and surgery. But this is done for the purposes of necessary research, research that ultimately saves peoples lives. Without animal testing, a huge portion of biomedical research would effectively never happen.

    Since these animals suffer and die for our benefit, they do deserve to be treated with respect. But the way to accomplish this is not by showing gross disrespect to the testers. The way forward is through legitimate agitation, argument and dialogue, and if you look at the facts you will find that this is how the real animal rights movement has made progress over the last few decades.

    One of the hidden secrets of how this approach actually works (which the animal rights extremists will never mention) is that many animal handlers and researchers are actually sympathetic to the plight of their charges and do feel regret that they have to suffer. There was a Scientific American article on this I believe which someone might be able to dig up. Activists should bear in mind that the very people in the best position to help their cause are very often the very people who they harass.

  85. #85 AnyEdge
    March 1, 2010

    Ava, You choose to buy food which is produced by the corporate system, you choose to kill. Your ‘vegan lifestyle’ is just as cruel as any of ours. Your cosmetics may not be tested on animals anymore, but their componants were and are.

    To be a human is to kill. Nevertheless, a diet based more on plants than animals is a healthier one, usually. I commend that. But self-delusion is sad and pointless.

  86. #86 daedalus2u
    March 1, 2010

    With all this talk of Hitler, and comparing him to animal researchers, Hitler was actually a vegetarian.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler%27s_vegetarianism

    and Nazi Germany had very strong animal welfare laws.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_welfare_in_Nazi_Germany

    Hitler actually was an animal rights activist.

  87. #87 LNero
    March 6, 2010

    I’ve been reading the earlier comments and I had to reply in regards to the idea that it’d be okay to harass Hitler’s children if it could save millions of people. This is a completely ridiculous argument because you can use it to justify ANYTHING. Would you steal if that could save millions of people? Would you rape someone if that could save millions of people? Would you kill a person if that could save millions of people? Would you kill millions of people it that could save billions more people?

  88. #88 Tim
    March 7, 2010

    I’m fascinated that so many people responded so fiercely to Doug’s arguments. I’m glad to see that at least one or two took his point on board.

    All Doug set out to do was to pose the question: Under what circumstances is it alright to harm an innocent person? (And IMHO he did so with quite some patience.)

    Cue a flood of angry responses, most of which missed the point. I have seen several straw men lambasted thoroughly, but I have not yet seen anyone draw a clear line that separates the two ethical questions of “Is it OK to harrass someone’s kids to prevent the parent causing harm to many others” and “Is it OK to vaccinate kids to prevent illness and death of most at the cost of the illness/death of a few”.

    Let’s assume that we know that harrassing Mr. X’s kids will, with high probability, prevent Mr. X from harming 1,000,000 innocent people, in much the same way as we know that vaccinating 1,000,000 kids will, w.h.p., spare them all except a few, who will be made severely ill when they otherwise would not have been.

    Forget whether X == Hitler; that’s irrelevant and you (ought to) know it. Also, yes, this is a **hypothetical question** — if you think that disqualifies it from being serious, then you also must not care whether your partner *would* sleep with someone else given the chance.

    Finally, regarding LNero’s comment (87): Yes, Doug’s argument, taken to extremes, could be used to justify anything. But the converse, taken to extremes, would mean that almost nothing is justified. (Realise that almost every action you take affects others in some small way without their consent; it will affect some of those people negatively.) Is that more sensible?

  89. #89 Kevin McDonagh
    March 10, 2010

    @1 “if Hitler had children I would have no problem harassing his children and have a clean conscious.”
    Doug, you are the reason why hate lingers. Revenge yields little logical reward. We should acknowledge the mistakes of our forefathers, not suffer for them. Grow up.

    As for the animal testers and protesters; without animal testing we would not benefit from the today’s wealth of medicine. Instead of funding harassment animal protesters should spend their efforts on fine tuning mathematical modeling so that animal testing is no longer needed. No one wishes to harm in the name of advancement. Animal tested products will also be for the benefit of animals on which they are tested. Simply stomping feet and making noise is not an alternative, they should be offering an alternative.

    Harassment of humans is in fact unlawful, and so the perpetrators should be prosecuted.

  90. Children should always be off limits.

    “You want to be treated like a man, then ACT like a man”
    Real men wouldn’t stoop to these type of tactics. There should be a limit to what one will do for a cause and this is way beyond that.

  91. #91 mtgap.wordpress.com
    March 24, 2010

    I’ve been reading the earlier comments and I had to reply in regards to the idea that it’d be okay to harass Hitler’s children if it could save millions of people. This is a completely ridiculous argument because you can use it to justify ANYTHING. Would you steal if that could save millions of people? Would you rape someone if that could save millions of people? Would you kill a person if that could save millions of people? Would you kill millions of people it that could save billions more people?

    Yes, yes, and yes. It can’t justify just anything; it can only justify the lesser of two evils.

  92. #92 Gk
    April 8, 2010

    SHAC tactics are fantastic. The UK group that targeted Huntingdon Life Sciences really showed how non human animal rights activists can make an impact. Instead of only going after the lab technicians who punched beagles in the face and laughed as they tortured a monkey, they decided to go after everyone. Make the sadist lose something on a personal level-and its LEGAL. Brilliant. If someone is really against vivisection, you cant just hold a sign outside a lab-you have to express your contempt. The children should be ashamed of what their father does. I know a very militant animal activist whose father was an animal researcher. Even he supports Shac like tactics. The people who complain are morally perverted and human supremacists. To think making children feel bad because their father is a coward and sadist like J Marion Sims? Get your priorities straight. You know nothing about ethics.
    I think the shame tactics came from scientology actually. It worked for them with critics.
    It is far more ethical than what a cowardly sadist vivisector does anyway.

    Anti-vivisectionists tend to use a poor argument. They try to attack it by pointing out the research fraud-Thalidomide, etc..but that isnt enough. You have to vivisect the ethics of vivisection.
    Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy understood that when they opposed vivisection 100 years ago.

    The iron clad anti-vivisection argument attacks the infantile and fantastically absurd concept of human supremacy and uses the reality of human predation on other humans to force the human supremacist to either extend rights status to nonhumans, or admit that humans have a right to prey on other humans(since Nature doesnt stop it).

    The Iron Clad Anti-Vivisection Argument

    1)It is a perversion of altruism and compassion–you attempt to heal Peter by torturing and killing Paul. It is like trying to help a homeless man by kicking a family out of their house, beating them to death and moving the former in (except that finding a home for the homeless man is a sure thing–animal researchers have been trying to cure cancer for hundreds of years without success). The fact that the number one answer to criticism of animal research is a citation of alleged benefits proves that animal researchers lack a common sense understanding of morality and ethics–since we wouldn’t allow murderers or thieves to cite the benefits they or their family attain from their actions to justify murder or theft.

    2)It is a medical fraud–if you wouldn’t think it is rational to find a cure for diseases in giraffes by experimenting on elephants why would you think it is rational to cure disease in humans by using mice, rats, dogs or chimps? Animal research is big business (from cage manufacturers to science grant applicants), and scientists have a vested interest in conjuring up new experiments to keep their paychecks, while telling the public that the research is important and a “breakthrough.” (If you think animal researchers are strictly motivated by compassion, how many new drugs they develop can you get for free?) Pagan priests sacrificed animals and read their entrails to encourage the hope and health of society (a good harvest, easy childbirth). Those that opposed it endangered society by angering the gods. Today, animal researchers claim that if nonhuman animal research stopped, the world would descend into a hell of disease and misery (without explaining why society and culture endured even during the Medieval plague. By their logic, humans should have been extinct eons ago, plus it grossly exaggerates the power of medicine since humans continue to die from disease–including scientists). Animal researchers promote the view that life works according to a quasi-Darwinian “Great Chain of Being” hierarchy where animals follow a ladder of complexity–starting with worms and ending with humanity, and that you can take them apart and reassemble them as easily as a jigsaw puzzle. If animal research is necessary for producing safe drugs and treatments why then do we need clinical trials on humans? Why does Pfizer have to conduct medical trials in Africa? Why do drugs like Thalidomide get pulled after being shown to be safe in nonhuman animals? If one had a choice between a drug tested only on rats or chimps, and a drug tested only on humans, which would you deem safer for people? The answer determines one’s belief in the importance on nonhuman animals in research.

    3)Animal research treats nonhuman animals in ways that would be considered an atrocity if done to even the most despised criminal in history–and yet, nonhuman animals commit no crimes. Why do they deserve such treatment?

    4)If finding a cure for disease is so important, why aren’t scientists and patients advocating the use of criminals or volunteers in medical experiments? Humans are the best and safest model for research, and we send healthy people off to be maimed and killed in wars for natural resources, religion and political ideology, and yet the war against cancer is only considered of dire importance when it comes to the discussion of abolishing nonhuman animals in research.

    5)Researchers say animal research is necessary–and yet they eat meat, and engage in all other activities that are clearly not necessary. It shows that the necessity argument isnt even a real factor–they simply regard non humans as less in value.

    6) Researchers and their proponents say animal rights activists can’t protest animal research if they have benefited from research that has been linked to animal research experiments. But they ignore that research on humans against their consent has also been done and the research preserved for the greater good-why don’t they make the same demands of human rights activists? Double standard.

    7)Researchers say they need to use nonhuman animals for research because they are like us–and yet they say they deserve no rights because they are not like us. This highlights the real issue–the motivation for animal research beyond money is an arrogant belief that humans as a species are superior in value to all other life, based upon arbitrary, non-absolute and subjective criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination and exploitation. The same reasoning was used by Nazi doctors to justify their experiments–a belief in the superiority of a group defined by those who stand to benefit from it. Ultimately, scientists engage in animal research because they, like researchers who were racial or Christian supremacists (J Marion Sims, Josef Mengele) believe their victims are inferior in value.

    Those who believe in a moral code of universal human rights but deny extending rights to nonhumans have two problems. The criteria(s) they use to justify this discrimination (faculty of reason, a soul, divine or evolutionary favor, moral reciprocity, survival of the fittest, individual selfishness, a bundle of characteristics or vaguely defined ones etc.) cannot be proven to be possessed by all humans or lacking in all nonhumans. Secondly, the importance of such criteria can be doubted– shown not to be objective absolute truth, but subjective arbitrary criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination they wish to justify. Nature (and deities), through environmental phenomenon, weather, earthquakes, etc. cannot be shown to care or favor humans over other lifeforms as an absolute objective fact. This subjectivity means that someone who may discriminate against other humans (which happens despite the laws and philosophy designed to curb such incidents) using criteria that is just as subjective (skin colour, gender, class, religion, survival of the fittest, individual selfishness, etc) cannot be effectively condemned by a human rights advocate who denies rights to nonhumans, since both are discriminating according to subjective criteria of value they deem to be important. The only way for a human rights advocate to consistently argue that one ought to have systemic universal human rights and an ethical code based upon this idea is to extend the concept of fairness and justice to nonhumans as much as possible. Because humans develop ethical codes to govern human behavior, and nonhumans do not appear to employ or require such codes in their social interactions, they benefit from the consistency requirement in human concepts of fairness and justice without needing to reciprocate. To expect them to adhere to human moral contracts in order to be eligible for moral regard is like expecting a blind man to be able to read and then punishing him for not doing so. That moral regard may not be possible or practical in all situations due to particular factors (such as scale or absentmindedness or the inability to be perfect), but since the same is true of human on human interactions, it does not invalidate the merits of the argument or provide a loophole for humans to justify systemic exploitation of nonhuman lifeforms (since one could then justify the same for humans).

    Further reading/info(on how we are all using research done on unsuspecting humans)
    :

    taken from: http://www.micahbooks.com/readingroom/Nazisandanimalresearch.html “In 1987, the Supreme Court heard a case in which a U.S. soldier sued the government for having used him as a test case for LSD experiments, without his knowledge (Stanley vs. The United States). The court voted 5 to 4 against the victim. For a recent review of experiments conducted on human beings in the U.S., without their informed consent, see Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests over Populated Areas, by Leonard A. Cole, Subjected to Science, by Susan Lederer, Johns Hopkins Press (This books studies experimentation on human beings between the two world wars); and Stranger at The Bedside by David J. Rothman, which studies this problem in the period after the Second World War. There are many more books on this subject. Many of them can be found on the Internet, under “Human Experimentation,” or at Amazon.com, under the same heading.”

    July 1, 2002 issue of The Nation. Globalizing Clinical Research: Big Pharma Tries Out First World Drugs on Unsuspecting Third World Patients by Sonia Shaw.

    Vivisectors are the filthy scumbags.
    And they have the moral understanding of infants.

  93. #93 Anonymous
    April 8, 2010

    “… for saying something the animals right people didn’t like, the animal rights thugs have decided to protest. That’s bad enough: …”

    No, that’s not bad enough, that’s perfectly fine, even if the authority is a professor. That’s not important. If you have a different opinion: protest!

    But don’t go for relatives, go to the source of your anger. Going for a spouse, for father or mother, an adult is wrong too. Disturbing the children is even more wrong, is coward.

    It’s an error to discuss their opinions meanwhile. If we don’t accept this way to handle a conflict we have to fix the rules how to solve conflicts first. We should not allow to mix the discussions. This would imply, that in some circumstances it could be right to punish relatives for things they didn’t do.

  94. #94 Stefan W.
    April 8, 2010

    Sorry for posting anonymously. ^ (11:07 PM). I forgot to fill the fields.

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