Respectful Insolence

I have two brief observations to make before I launch into my latest bit of insolence. First off, it figures that, whenever I go away to a meeting, there’s simply an embarrassment of blogging riches. People have been sending me stuff to which, even if I were at home and having a slow week, I could probably never get. Good stuff. Interesting stuff. Unfortunately, I’m now forced either to try to blog about them when I finally get home, which might as well be months later in blog-time, or let them go by uncommented upon, which hurts Orac’s mighty ego. Oh, well. My next observation is that I feel a bit queasy taking on this next topic, but it’s very important. The reason I feel a bit queasy is because the person writing the piece to which some insolence, both respectful and not-so-respectful, must be applied is almost certainly going to die of leukemia, and I hate to be perceived as kicking a person who’s dying.

The problem is, she’s an animal rights activist, and she’s trying to justify her hypocrisy of having taken treatments for her cancer that had been tested by spreading the same misinformation about animal research that animal rights are known for spreading far and wide. Dying or not, she needs to be called out for spreading falsehoods. Her name is Simon Chaitowitz, and she is the former Communications director for the animal rights group masquerading as a legitimate physicians’ group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a crank organization dedicated to eliminating animal research that has had as one of its luminaries the apologist for animal rights terrorism, Jerry Vlasak. Her article is entitled Why I Take Animal-Tested Drugs, and was posted both to–where else?–The Huffington Post and to Common Dreams. The article is incredibly odious because in essence it argues that she is dying because she took animal-tested drugs, not because she was unfortunate enough to develop breast cancer, then develop complications from the chemotherapy, and then develop leukemia. She is, in essence, arguing that she might not be dying if she hadn’t done what she had done, that a cure might have been found for her condition already if scientists didn’t use animal models so widely.

Before Ms. Chaitowitz proceeds to the big lie, she starts out with on only slightly smaller lie:

The truth — mostly hidden from public view — is that animal research is horribly cruel. Despite what the research community claims, federal regulations are extremely weak and poorly enforced, and some species — mice, for example — are completely excluded from any protection. Many investigations have shown just how bad conditions are.

This is about as far from anything resembling the “truth” as I’ve ever seen. Although fellow SBer Janet briefly fell for this lie, DrugMonkey set her straight in excruciating detail how it is not true that mice are excluded from protection from cruelty. Since DrugMonkey listed in excruciating detail the various animal regulations and how the fact that one law excludes mice and rats bread for research from certain protections does not mean that research mice are excluded from protection under certain mechanisms by the Helms Amendment, I won’t rehash the details. Suffice it to say that the laws and regulations covering animal research are many and overlapping–even for mice. What I’ll do instead is point out the view at the single investigator level

I happen to have five mouse protocols for various cancer and angiogenesis research project. For each protocol, the application was 13 pages long. Required were detailed experimental protocols, exact doses of any medications given, and detailed descriptions of how pain would be minimized or eliminated. Also required were literature searches showing that the research was not duplicative, along with a justification (with references) why no non-animal alternative could answer the same research question. Our institution has a highly helpful mechanism by which a veterinarian reviews all animal protocols before they are considered by our university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in order to catch problems or questions that IACUC would be likely to bring up. The vet found some, and I made some changes. Even so, it took another round of questions from IACUC and revisions to my protocols to get them approved. I estimate that I spent several hours on each one. Now that my protocols have been approved, we have veterinarians observing my lab personnel as they do procedures, monitoring the health of the mice, and calling us if they think any of them need to be euthanized. Moreover, we have to do exactly what we say in the protocol. If we deviate from our protocol without first getting an amendment describing the desired changes through the committee, we get in trouble.

So, it’s just not true that mice are not protected, and it’s also not true that federal regulations are weak and poorly enforced. Our school will get dinged by AAALAC and the feds if we do not adhere to strict regulations governing animal research.

However, that was just the appetizer. Here’s the main course:

But as someone who recently signed up for hospice, I have another major problem with animal research. I wonder if science would have found a cure for my leukemia by now if they weren’t sidetracked by misleading animal tests. I wonder if the chemo that I took for breast cancer would have been safer it hadn’t been tested in species that are so unlike our own.

The truth is that using animals to develop and test drugs is a system that doesn’t work very well. It’s an old paradigm, one that is fortunately beginning to change, however slowly. A growing number of scientists are developing some exciting (and more effective) non-animal alternatives. These changes have been inspired partly by concern over animal cruelty but also because animal research and testing have so often failed us. Some government agencies are even starting to call for more alternatives.

More than 90 percent of all new drugs which proved effective in animals end up not working for humans. It’s because animals — however similar they are to us — have different physiological systems. What works in a mouse usually doesn’t work in a human.

History is filled with stories of drugs that didn’t work in animals — Aspirin, for example — that ended up working in humans. And the obituary pages are filled with stories of people who died from drugs that looked safe in animals. The painkiller Vioxx, for example, tested safe in mice and five other species but ended up killing many thousands of Americans.

Ms. Chaitowitz’s story is very sad. I do not know the presentation of her breast cancer; so I do not know how much additional benefit she would have derived from her chemotherapy in terms of increasing her odds of survival, had she not suffered her complication; it could vary from a few percent absolute benefit to much more. However, in general, the benefits of chemotherapy outweigh the risks, even in early stage breast cancer, where the benefits are relatively small on an absolute scale. Unfortunately, individual patients are not statistics. For example, when I counsel patients on the risk of a wound infection after surgery, I will often say something like, “The risk is around 2%, but if it happens to you it’s 100%, and you won’t be reassured that you are in a small minority of patients.” The same applies to Ms. Chaitowitz’s case, but even more dramatically. Myelodysplastic syndrome is a known, albeit uncommon, complication of chemotherapy and radiation (around 0.3-0.7% risk in most recent series) that any competent medical oncologist would have informed her of, along with all the other risks as part of informed consent. Moreover, Chaitowitz in essence admits that the bone marrow transplant that she underwent gave her an additional two years of life. How were bone marrow transplants developed? In animals.

It is a frequent canard of the animal rights activist fringe that testing drugs in animals is only poorly predictive of how drugs will perform in humans. It is indeed true that there are inter-species variations in how drugs work. Indeed, one example discussed at the SSO Meeting (where I am now) was tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). When human TNF-α was tested in mice, tumors shrank and tumor cells died with few side effects. In humans, however, TNF-α, although it can also shrink tumors, is so toxic that it’s impossible to achieve tumor-killing concentrations in the blood stream without life-threatening toxicity. However, when mouse TNF-α is used in mice, the same toxicities as seen in humans are observed. The difference was in how human TNF-α does not bind to one of the mouse receptors that mediates the toxicity.

In any case, I’ve written about these sorts of bogus arguments very extensively before; so I’ll only give you the CliffsNotes version here. Many are the features of tumor biology that have been discovered through animal research that could not possibly have been discovered through modeling. One example that comes to mind is tumor angiogenesis, the area to which my scientific hero, the late, great Judah Folkman, made the greatest contribution. Basically, tumors secret factors that lead to the ingrowth of new blood vessels ( a process called angiogenesis) to feed their oxygen and nutrient requirements. Without angiogenesis, tumors do not grow beyond a ball of cells less than 1 mm in diameter, because that’s as far as oxygen and nutrients can diffuse adequately in an aqueous medium. Blocking angiogenesis is one strategy by which to treat tumors, and antiangiogenic drugs are now becoming standard of care.

Now, it is true that animal models are not as predictive as we would like them to be. However, the distortion and misinformation comes in when animal rights activists make grandiose claims for various other non-animal methods. For example, if animal models don’t do as well as we would like, the alternatives that they propose either do much worse or are completely unvalidated. For example, cell culture models are in general even less predictive of drug activity than animal models. The NCI maintains a bank of tumor cells against which they test various compounds, and if animal rights activists think animal testing is inefficient, they should check out how few of the drugs that pass the first screen (which is all these cell lines are, a screening test) and go on to be used in humans. As for computer models, someday they may indeed decrease the need to use animal models, which, contrary to the animal rights portrayal of scientists as close-minded and cruel animal torturers, virtually all scientists would love to move away from. After all, most of us don’t like doing things that may hurt animals, even mice, and using animals is very expensive and onerous from a regulatory standpoint. Here’s the problem. Computer models are only as good as the assumptions underlying their algorithms and the data used to construct them, and we simply do not understand human physiology at a detailed enough level to obviate the use of animal models. If animal rights activists think that we do, I invite them to be the first to test new drugs on themselves that have only been tested in “computer models” or “microdosing” (which she mentions later), the latter of which is really useful only for excluding candidate drugs that are unlikely to do what they are predicted to do based on their pharmacokinetics from further development. To the extent that such techniques reduce the use of animals, that is all to the good, but animal rights activists don’t realize that such techniques complement, rather than replace, animal testing. It’s designed to reduce the number of drugs that go through animal toxicology testing.

Finally, Chaitowitz blames the system, rather than her disease:

If the chemo drugs I’m trying now don’t work, I do have one last option. I could try a Phase One trial. That’s when a drug looks promising in animals and is first tested in humans. My doctor started to tell me why so many participants die in Phase One trials — but it turned out I already knew the answer. Drugs that work in animals, he explained, usually don’t work in humans.

Wrong. Clearly Ms. Chaitowitz doesn’t understand the very purpose of a phase I trial. Phase I trials are not–I repeat, not–intended to test drug efficacy. What they are intended to do is to take a drug that looks promising based on preclinical studies in cell culture and animals and test it for the first time in a small number of human subjects, but not to determine if it “works” in humans, but rather to determine toxicities in humans, in essence identifying the maximal tolerated dose (MTD) and exactly what the dose-limiting toxicities are. This is done by what’s called dose escalation, where different patients get different doses, and the side effects and toxicities are tabulated. There is no expectation that the people participating in phase I trials will receive a benefit, although sometimes–uncommonly–they do. You will never see patients with a treatable cancer referred for a phase I trial, because to do so would be unethical, for instance. For cancer drugs, because patients with advanced cancer often have derangements in physiology that change the toxicity profile of drugs, drugs are usually tested in those patients. Occasionally, tumor shrinkage is observed, but because the number of patients are small, response rates can usually only be calculated after phase II trials. In any case, Ms. Chaitowitz, if she has not deteriorated too much, should participate in a phase I trial. It is the ultimate in using humans to test drugs. Of course, she probably wouldn’t like the fact that the dosage ranges to be tested in phase I trials are generally derived from animal data (although microdosing is being used more to estimate such doses). However, in Ms. Chaitwitz’s desired world, humans would face the risks of phase I tests without even the imperfect guideposts that prior animal studies have provided.

I’m sorry that Ms. Chaitowitz is dying. If she happens to see this, she probably won’t believe it. However, having just lost my mother-in-law to breast cancer, having watched a once vibrant woman wither away in a manner of months, I am more dedicated than ever to eliminating this scourge, and I would never wish such a fate on anyone, even J.B. Handley. However, if Ms. Chaitowitz thought to use the sympathy that her plight evokes to spread her nonsense about animal research, secure in the knowledge that few would be willing to criticize her because our sense of pity is such that we are loathe to criticize someone who is suffering, she’s got another thing coming. Chaitwitz should not be allowed to use her own impending death to falsely claim the role of a martyr to animal rights research, a martyr whose life would have been saved if it weren’t for those nasty, cruel, animal researchers who are too blind to accept her faith-based belief that animal research causes more harm than good and who also are, ironically enough, trying to find ways to save the lives of patients just like her.

Comments

  1. #1 Terrie
    March 6, 2009

    Computer models are only as good as the assumptions underlying their algorithms and the data used to construct them

    And how good are the results? Well, as one professor of finance law here noted, flawed models used by banks were probably a strong factor in the current economic crisis. Not exactly a strong recommendation for using computer models for things that are meant to be put into our bodies, instead of our banks. I’d rather not see my health go the way of the economy.

  2. #2 Interrobang
    March 6, 2009

    I’d really like to know where this meme that computer models are better than anything else comes from. As someone who tests software professionally, I find it baffling. I think it’s related to the equally baffling phenomenon I encountered years ago when a friend of mine asked me, “What’s the deal with all this Y2K stuff? Computers are smart, right?” I can’t figure out why that would be, though.

  3. #3 Paul Browne
    March 6, 2009

    A good post Orac.

    The attrition rate at each stage of drug development (including clinical trials) is a classic example of the Anna Kerenina principle; successful drugs are all alike, every failed drug fails in its own way.

    I see the anti-vivs are pushing the Vioxx angle again.

    “The painkiller Vioxx, for example, tested safe in mice and five other species but ended up killing many thousands of Americans.”

    A classic half truth, the cardiac risk for Vioxx was relatively rare, and subtle in the sense that it raised an already existing risk rather that causing an adverse reaction that would not otherwise be expected.

    As usual the PCRM memberignors the fact that Phase I and II testing of humans also failed to predict the cardiotoxicity of Vioxx. Actually animal studies that went beyond the standard pre-clinical safety tests from the mid 1990′s onwards were suggesting that Vioxx, and other Cox-2 inhibitors might increase the risk of heart attacks, starting with Cox-2 knockout mice in 1995. By the time that some clinical trials of Vioxx were sparking concern the evidence from animal models was already stacking up, for example

    “Hennan J.K. Et al. “Effects of selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibition on vascular responses and thrombosis in canine coronary arteries.”Circulation. 2001 Aug 14;104(7):820-5. PMID: 11502709

    “In celecoxib-treated animals, vasodilation in response to arachidonic acid was reduced significantly compared with controls. CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate important physiological roles for COX-2-derived prostacyclin and raise concerns regarding an increased risk of acute vascular events in patients receiving COX-2 inhibitors. The risk may be increased in individuals with underlying inflammatory disorders, including coronary artery disease.”"

    In 2001 a report of UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency cited several animal studies indicating that COX-2 inhibitors might raise the risk of heart attack, so there is no contradiction between the results observed for Vioxx in animals and in humans. Pre-clinical testing will always involve a compromise between covering any possible problem and getting drugs into human clinical trials, where the system fails the task is to find out why the problem wasn’t seen and introduce changes to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’ve yet to see the anti-vivs suggest a non-animal pre-clinical test that (assuming the knowledge available about the role of COX-2 at the time) could have prevented the Vioxx debacle.

  4. #4 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    I am an animal rights advocate and I think this woman is batshit insane. Just saying we’re not all marching in lockstep here.

    I do not think all animal testing is flawed from a methodological perspective, and I certainly don’t think there is malicious intent behind it. I object to animal experimentation for the same simple reason most people object to bestiality: the animals can’t consent. In cases where beings can’t consent (be they animals or children) decisions affecting them ought to only be made to advance their own well-being, not that of someone else.

    I, as most reasonable animal rights advocates do, use animal-tested drugs because there is no alternative, as drugs are required by law to be tested on animals. I would imagine alternatives to animal testing that might now not be up to the job would improve rapidly were animals no longer an option.

  5. #5 Orac
    March 6, 2009

    I would imagine alternatives to animal testing that might now not be up to the job would improve rapidly were animals no longer an option.

    Perhaps, but what to do in the meantime? Eliminating animal testing first in order to “force” the development of non-animal alternatives is, quite frankly, a really dumb idea. During the transition stage, drug development would suffer from the worst of both worlds: crappy models that could take many years to improve to the point of being as useful as the old animal models AND no more availability of even the flawed animal models we use now.

  6. #6 Dianne
    March 6, 2009

    I would imagine alternatives to animal testing that might now not be up to the job would improve rapidly were animals no longer an option.

    Maybe, but without animal tests to compare them to, how would anyone know? I agree with the premise that funding to explore ideas of how to improve non-animal models so that less research depended on animal testing and even agree that the goal of ending up needing no animal testing at all is a good one, but simply saying that if we outlaw animal testing non-animal test procedures would suddenly become so good that we would never miss animal testing is just not realistic.

  7. #7 daedalus2u
    March 6, 2009

    I think it demonstrates the complete disconnect with reality that anti-science extremists have, and their complete and disingenuous hypocrisy. She doesn’t feel those animal-tested drugs and treatments helped her, but she chose to do them anyway and admits that they extended her life.

    “If you wonder how I can justify taking the drugs, the truth is that like all living beings (“lab animals” included) I desperately want to live. And because of government regulations, I don’t have a choice.”

    What disingenuous hypocrisy. She does have a “choice”. No one is forcing her to take any drug or to undergo any treatment. She is choosing to take animal tested drugs. Drugs that (if her earlier efforts had been successful) would not be available to anyone because the animal research they were based on would have been banned. She is exercising a “choice” that she would bar everyone else from exercising.

  8. #8 Ian
    March 6, 2009

    I don’t know enough about the full story regarding the effectiveness of animal studies and trials as opposed to alternative methods of research but I doubt that animals would be used as extensively as they are if a reliable alternative were available (unless the cost was seen as prohibitive I imagine); and this womans story – while quite tragic – does seem to miss the target by quite a long way. However it also seems clear to me that we should be supporting attempts to reduce animal experimentation as much as safely possible. The use of animals for human purposes is ethically charged and whichever side of the issue you come down on it would seem wise to have a degree of uncertainty and humility.
    For myself, I am vegan in diet and avoid animal products as much as possible in daily life. I also work as an acute care hospital RN administering drugs and taking care of patients who have received treatments at least partly derived from animal research; and I would not hesitate to take myself, or urge my family to take, treatments derived from animal research. So even though I am vegan, I do not feel able to see animal medical experimentation as something which cannot be justified at all (which would make some vegans consider myself non-vegan [internal movement politics!]). I think that it falls into the category of acts that we decide are necessary and morally justifiable but which we nonetheless feel some discomfort with, because any actions involving harm to sentient beings are morally charged and problematic. Our discomfort with the use of animals hopefully leads researchers and regulators to fully reflect on the need in each particular instance to use animals and to do as much as possible to minimize suffering. It would be worrying if researchers had no such qualms as there would be no incentive to reduce use and minimize harm.

    To see other sentient beings as objects for our use is a view which I hope is fading away. But this is an imperfect world and not all moral dilemmas can be easily or satisfying fixed. While supportive of much of the animal rights agenda, I am dismayed by the amount of ignorant or reflexive or abusive commentary that takes place in the AR blogosphere; but this is mirrored by much of the blogging or commentary that comes from those who support animal experimentation and respond to questioning or criticism by denial of harm done to animals, refusal to consider that some animal experimentation may be redundant or unjustifiable (in this I am referring to all the areas in which animal are used for research – not just medical) or simple scorn and abuse (the one bad thing about blogs is the absence of an intelligence or manners filter such as traditional “Letters to the editor” have).
    It can be uncomfortable to have to live with doubts or discomfort about one’s actions and I have a great deal of admiration for those researchers who are able to do their work on animals honourably while retaining an awareness of the moral weight of their use of other sentient beings.

    I would like to see a move to eliminate as much animal testing as possible and strong efforts to develop truly effective alternatives. It seems defeatist to deny point-blank that reliable alternatives to using animals are possible – especially as animal research itself is not perfect. At the moment there is minimal public support to eliminate animal testing (how could there be as at least 95% of the public eat animal products, which being unnecessary strikes me as much more unjustifiable than medical research), so perhaps you do not need to worry too much. There would however I think be strong support for initiatives, possibly state supported or assisted by tax breaks, to develop truly effective alternatives to animal use. Would those of you who are involved in animal based research be willing to move away from it if a truly reliable, scientifically verified alternative were available?

    And for those of you who might know. Might stem cell work in the future lead to the ability to grow human or other animal tissues or organs that could be used in research instead of live animals?

  9. #9 Dianne
    March 6, 2009

    Ryan: One other point that I want to ask you about. How much do you know about cell culture? Are you aware that it depends on the availability of fetal bovine serum? Do you consider cell culture to be part of the “animal testing” that needs to be eliminated or part of the useful alternatives to animal testing?

  10. #10 RSN
    March 6, 2009

    @Ryan McReynolds

    “I, as most reasonable animal rights advocates do, use animal-tested drugs because there is no alternative,”

    Surely the alternative is not to take the drugs? Isn’t this the definition of hypocrisy?

  11. #11 daedalus2u
    March 6, 2009

    Actually it would be humorous if it were not so sad.

    “I would imagine alternatives to animal testing that might now not be up to the job would improve rapidly were animals no longer an option.”

    Oh really, well it takes more than “imagining” to come up with alternatives to animal testing.

    Non-scientists telling scientists that they “imagine” how to do science more effectively. When one is unconstrained by reality (i.e. facts or logic), it is easy to “imagine” how to do things better.

  12. #12 AnthonyK
    March 6, 2009

    Another great post, informative, and given the misanthropic, violent leanings of the animal-rights crowd, courageous.
    On a much lighter, but connected note, have you seen The Onion’s take on this subject?
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30800

  13. #13 SimonG
    March 6, 2009

    Ms Chaitowitz has decided that her life is more important than that of some laboratory animals, (eminently reasonable, IMO).

    She can’t have it both ways: either it’s wrong to benefit from the exploitation of animals in this way, or it isn’t. But like most extremists – animal rights and others – what she really wants is to control other people’s decisions.

  14. #14 Rita
    March 6, 2009

    Thanks to Ian for an encouragingly balanced comment – it does seem incredibly difficult not to stray off the objective path in this area.
    Animal rights activists think of themselves as trying to bring about a reduction of suffering, just as do experimenters. Simply using emotive terms about their activities only reinforces prejudices.
    Thinking scientists, like Orac, are aware that animal suffering, fear, deprivation of liberty etc must be considered – hence the three “R”‘s, hence legislation, and so forth – they know that they are “doing evil that good may come”, justifying the means with the ends. Animal activists, when they take decisive action, think they are doing the same.
    Like Ian, I am a vegan, and do not think animal experimentation is morally correct, however useful it is. As for taking advantage of past research, I believe some of the work done on humans in WW2 has also been of use but I don’t imagine anyone would wish to shelve possible benefits from this past horror, or from earlier barbarisms in animal experimentation. However, the way forward has got to be Reduction, Refinement, Replacement as far as possible – there seems almost universal agreement on this. It is a little disturbing to see the triumph with which animal sympathisers are taunted by those who know that the balance of power is entirely with humans at the moment. Scepticism surely should be directed at pseudo-science and quackery, not at compassion.

  15. #15 Daniel J. Andrews
    March 6, 2009

    “Despite what the research community claims, federal regulations are extremely weak and poorly enforced, and some species — mice, for example — are completely excluded from any protection. Many investigations have shown just how bad conditions are.”

    As Orac points out, this is nonsense. The regulations are also very stringent if you just want to have animals in a university biology classroom for demonstration purposes, or as a pleasant counter to all the pickled specimens in jars. The Animal Care Committee insisted on numerous protocols and we had to fill out pages of information on how the animals would be housed, what their requirements were, how we would meet those requirements (e.g. heat lamps for reptiles) etc.

    During the time the animals were in the lab the ACC would do spot checks to ensure we were following the protocols, and to ensure we had posted the signed permit form where it could be viewed by all. It didn’t matter if the animals were never going to be handled, or if they were there just for the week before the owners took them back home…if they were on university property, you needed a permit, and that was a time-consuming process.

    This isn’t limited to terrestrial vertebrates either. The fathead minnows are also protected by many protocols and regulations. Our university had to hire a full-time person to look after them. Water quality had to be tested every day, even the parameters that wouldn’t change (e.g. dissolved oxygen in fully aerated tanks), and paperwork filled out.

    There is one easy way to confirm the amount of regulations and protection animals in labs have–Volunteer to be on the Animal Care Committee (or its equivalent) at a university. My opinion is that we’ve gone too far in the other direction yet people are still saying we’re not doing enough…I’m not sure what else we can do…hire a feng shui practioner to properly align the hamster wheel and water bottle?

  16. #16 gym
    March 6, 2009

    “The difference was in how human TNF-α does not bind to one of the mouse receptors that mediates the toxicity.”

    sooooooo is anyone testing mouse TNF-α in humans?

  17. #17 Paul Browne
    March 6, 2009

    Ian “And for those of you who might know. Might stem cell work in the future lead to the ability to grow human or other animal tissues or organs that could be used in research instead of live animals?”

    Almost certainly, there’s a lot of weork being done on this at the moment though it is “early days” and how soon and to what extent it will be able to replace animal research is anyones guess. Some pre-clinical toxicity tests will be relatively easy to replace (less than 10 years?), but basic research into biological processes and efficacy evaluation of new procedures such as stem cell transplant itself will be much harder to replace.

    I have to point out here that the field of stem cell biology, from early work on embryonic stem cells http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2007/evans-lecture.html to the first clinical trails of therapies http://speakingofresearch.com/2009/01/23/a-new-era-for-embryonic-stem-cells/ and the development of iPS cells http://www.pro-test.org.uk/b2evo/index.php?blog=7&title=mice_show_the_way_to_safer_stem_cells&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1 has depended on animal studies. It could even be argued that with stem cells animal research is busily developing its own replacement.

  18. #18 Leslie
    March 6, 2009

    “‘The difference was in how human TNF-α does not bind to one of the mouse receptors that mediates the toxicity.’

    “sooooooo is anyone testing mouse TNF-α in humans?”

    That reminds me, some medical knowledge gained from work on humans does later get used for veterinary patients:

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/346922_gorilla11.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmx5YgxmCdw
    http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2007/09/20/chicago-gorilla-get-any-kind-of-care-she-wants/

  19. #19 Kelly
    March 6, 2009

    That was my question as well Gym! :)
    BTW Orac, Janet of Adventures in Ethics SB has done a nice job writing about this incident as well. Since she is a vegetaraian, some of the vegan posters above might like to take a look.

  20. #20 DLC
    March 6, 2009

    Crazywoman: “I’m dying because I took drugs that were tested on animals”

    Reality: “You’re still alive now, after all those horrible illnesses, because of drugs that were tested on animals.”

  21. #21 R.A.N.
    March 6, 2009

    My sentiments echo those of some of the other posters here. I do not agree with Simon Chaitowitz; I feel anti-scientific viewpoints dominate much animal-rights/animal-welfare/vegan propaganda. It’s too bad the most misguided and dogmatic activists are the most vociferous (and create fodder for strawman arguments against even sensible aspects of animal-rights/welfare theory). I can’t really call myself vegan anymore due to not falling in line with dogma about the sanctity of insects’ lives, for instance (they aren’t sentient! Is that not the point?) and due to my agnosticism about animal testing. I wish I had better role models who balanced all various ethical concerns (the mainstream AR movement in the U.S. is quite white- and class-biased and ignores intersecting forms of oppression) with science….Of course, I do not think animal testing can be entirely eliminated, though I fully support continuing efforts to find alternatives to animal testing when possible (like LD50 tests) and diminish the number of animals used, the severity of their treatments, etc. As a budding scientist, I can’t ignore scientific reality and feign knowledge about complicated things that I don’t. I’m studying molecular biology, taking toxicology next year, etc., along with reading about ethical theories to try to form sensible opinions, even though moral ambiguity will always exist. I may work again in a lab where some animal testing may be conducted, and I shudder to think of the lab being attacked by AR activists. (It is important to note that there exist instances of vandalism purported to committed by AR activists that were instead committed by astro-turfers. The Green Scare blog has some examples.)

    As far as animal rights activists taking medication is concerned, well, the author of that article is so full of crap I won’t begin to comment….if someone feels so strongly that animal rights experiments should be abolished immediately, despite the welfare of, you know, human animals and scientific reality, I can definitely see how that person is hypocritical for taking that medicine….but it’s only understandable to value one’s life over someone else’s (animals), in general. That being said, many of us benefit from inventions and institutions in our society that were created using morally questionable or ambiguous methods. The testing that has been done in the past cannot be changed (and probably less alternatives existed as do today), and humans have as much of a right to life as animals. As I said, I’m for researching alternatives to testing as much as possible or researching less invasive measures, etc., and I still take medication to control my seizure disorder and panic disorder. The belief that (not implying anyone has said this here) animal exploitation, suffering, and death is not entirely unavoidable doesn’t mean any efforts to not support it or ameliorate it when possible are without basis; to say so would be to fall prey to a continuum fallacy. I’ve seen it alleged that ninety-eight percent (wish I could find a citation for that) of animals killed by humans in the U.S. are killed for food….I think education about animal agriculture would be a better area of focus for animal-rights/vegan advocates. Please pardon my long-windedness.

  22. #22 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Perhaps, but what to do in the meantime? Eliminating animal testing first in order to “force” the development of non-animal alternatives is, quite frankly, a really dumb idea.

    Well, yes. But eliminating animal testing would not be for the purpose of forcing the development of non-animal alternatives. It would be for the purpose of ending rights violations. I understand that few people believe animals have rights, but in any hypothetical world in which animal testing is eliminated on the basis of an appeal to rights, the elimination would be akin to stopping experimentation on unconsenting humans — it wouldn’t really matter if there were or weren’t substitutes ready, because the act itself is morally unjustifiable. Medical research would undoubtedly improve if we just rounded up some random humans and started using them for invasive testing, but those gains don’t give us license to violate their rights. It’s because of that very fact we have to “settle” for animals in the first place. So in a world in which animal interests were not subordinate to those of humans, the choice would be similar.

    Ryan: One other point that I want to ask you about. How much do you know about cell culture? Are you aware that it depends on the availability of fetal bovine serum? Do you consider cell culture to be part of the “animal testing” that needs to be eliminated or part of the useful alternatives to animal testing?

    I don’t have any a priori issue with the use of fetuses — I’m not opposed to abortion. I generally think of the capacity to suffer as the morally significant characteristic, and there is little evidences anything but the most advanced fetuses have such a capacity.

    On the other hand, fetuses generally come from cows which, unfortunately, can’t consent to having the fetuses removed. I believe in rights, equally firm for humans and animals. Just as I would not say that a human can be arbitrarily imprisoned or used for any “greater good,” even a medical one, the same applies to animals, despite the difficulties this may cause for medical research. If it were magically found that Steve’s blood cured cancer, it would simply be wrong to tie him down and start draining. Unless you’re a utilitarian, of course, in which case it might be right were one to account for secondary effects. But I’m not a utilitarian.

    It’s my understanding, and I do not claim any expertise, that there are synthetic alternatives that are rather expensive and often difficult to produce. So are most things when they aren’t yet in high demand.

    Surely the alternative is not to take the drugs? Isn’t this the definition of hypocrisy?

    Depends on why one would choose or not choose to take it. Look, I’m vegan, so obviously I choose not to use a great many animal products as a form of boycott and, when in the presence of other people, as a form of activism. My not eating meat doesn’t magically make dead animals come back to life, it doesn’t directly eliminate any suffering. But as a protest, it at least makes some people think about issues they wouldn’t otherwise think about.

    But medicine is different. Because animal testing is required by law, boycotts are rather pointless. Even if enough people started doing it that it had some financial impact, companies would still have to continue by law. No amount of people avoiding the drugs will prevent any animals from being experimented on, so what would be the point of avoiding them — other than some silly smug desire to feel morally superior? That’s not really my game. I do more for animals being alive and active than, well, dead. Ask me again when alternatives are legal.

  23. #23 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Quick followup: I just want to reiterate that the argument against experimentation turns entirely on the argument for substantive animal rights. If animals are property, then experimentation is obviously justified. If animals have a right not to be used as a resource, then experimentation is just as obviously not justified. The details are really irrelevant as long as there is disagreement about this foundation.

  24. #24 Dianne
    March 6, 2009

    Ryan: First, I want to thank you for providing thoughtful answers to questions that people here have asked you. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to maintain a polite conversation on a thread where your opinion is distinctly in the minority.

    If I understand your response to my question, you don’t approve of the use of cell culture. (And would probably approve even less if you knew that FBS isn’t obtained through cow abortions but rather, when a cow which is slaughtered is found to be pregnant, the fetus is extracted and the blood squeezed out.) You mention synthetic alternatives, but I’m not aware of any. The only alternative I know of right away is the use of human serum. Which is possible, but then diverts human blood products from the clinical system, which is already working on a narrow margin. A nicely consistent position which makes sense for someone opposed to animal testing, but what techniques do you propose for the pre-clinical study of new medications or for basic attempts to improve our understanding of biology?

  25. #25 Rorschach
    March 6, 2009

    I don’t why everybody bleats about computer models as though they could somehow someday replace actual bench science. Any model is only as good as our understanding of the system it represents. If don’t understand all the possible reactions and interactions that occur in a physiological system when we add a new chemical, then how can we program those elements into our model? In other words, to build a good model we have to have already done the science, and since we never totally understand all the interactions in a complex system, we can never build a perfect model.

    Now, granted, given a lot of time and research, we can come pretty close to approximating most of what we’re interested in, but until we’ve pretty much laid bare the complete workings of human life, models will be limited in their power and use.

  26. #26 Dianne
    March 6, 2009

    My not eating meat doesn’t magically make dead animals come back to life, it doesn’t directly eliminate any suffering. But as a protest, it at least makes some people think about issues they wouldn’t otherwise think about.

    People eating meat is, IIRC, the force that drives the slaughter of most animals. So your not eating meat decreases demand and therefore may decrease the number of animals slaughtered. So not eating meat is a good place to start if one is concerned about the fate of animals raised in stockyards and is more than symbolic.

    I don’t eat meat either, incidentally. But I don’t have to, being a modern US-American human with ready access to alternative protein sources and not, say, a tiger which can’t digest vegetable protein and needs to eat animals to live. However, I consider the use of animals in research to be more akin to a tiger eating a gazelle than a person eating a steak: I can’t get the information I need–information that may keep me or others alive–without the use of animal models. Plus, I never do anything to a lab animal that would cause it more pain than a person might experience during a minor procedure like a blood draw. So I’m even “nicer” than tigers, which sometimes start digging in while their prey is still alive and screaming.

  27. #27 Ellen
    March 6, 2009

    I’m not following her logic. If it is cruel to test on non-human animals, isn’t it also cruel to test on human animals? But isn’t that what she is suggesting? Because even if you managed to conceive of some treatment using models, the initial use in humans would be testing, like it or not. Until actually used in humans, the efficacy and safety couldn’t really be known. So that would be testing in humans.

    Sounds a bit…oh crud, I can’t say it or Godwin’s Law will get me. But wait – does Godwin’s Law apply if it really was something the Nazis did, rather than an inappropriate analogy?

    Anyhoo, it seems to me that nothing could be more cruel than giving someone untested treatments, raising not only the possiblity of serious side-effects, but also hope in something untested.

    Oh well. No better way to end the week than arguing with creationists and AR crazies.

  28. #28 Mu
    March 6, 2009

    Not eating meat or using other animal related products does not eliminate animal suffering, it eliminates the animals all together. The reason cows are the second most prolific large mammal on earth is not that they are so evolutionary successful, it’s that humans breed them. So, if vegans win, no more cows. And that quickly becomes the same philosophical quagmire as the discussion about whether abortion is better than existence as the 12th kid in a Bombay slum.

  29. #29 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    First, I want to thank you for providing thoughtful answers to questions that people here have asked you. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to maintain a polite conversation on a thread where your opinion is distinctly in the minority.

    For the most part people have been polite with me. I’m happy to talk about it.

    A nicely consistent position which makes sense for someone opposed to animal testing, but what techniques do you propose for the pre-clinical study of new medications or for basic attempts to improve our understanding of biology?

    Not my field! I don’t mean to be flippant, but I’m not a scientist. I do, however, have confidence in scientists’ collective ability to solve these sorts of problems when confronted with them.

    However, I consider the use of animals in research to be more akin to a tiger eating a gazelle than a person eating a steak: I can’t get the information I need–information that may keep me or others alive–without the use of animal models.

    On the contrary, you have a much better way of getting the information you need than using animals: use humans. If the danger or pain is too great that none would volunteer, then just do it without their consent. After all, it is information that may keep people alive, it’s worth it! I’m obviously being facetious, but the very real question is what morally significant difference is there between using nonconsenting animals versus nonconsenting humans? If it’s simply a matter of cognitive sophistication, then how about using orphaned infants, or the mentally disabled? If it’s just a matter of them having human DNA, well, that’s pretty arbitrary.

    So I’m even “nicer” than tigers, which sometimes start digging in while their prey is still alive and screaming.

    Heh, I’d certainly hope you’re nicer than a tiger! The key difference between an animal and a human, when dealing with the infliction of suffering, is that a tiger can’t choose not to — we can. Neurotypical adult humans are moral agents, but tigers aren’t.

  30. #30 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    So, if vegans win, no more cows.

    Wait, we invented cows? I’m pretty sure they were around in some form before we domesticated them…

    Seriously, though, we have a duty to treat the cows we are currently imprisoning in ways that respect their well-being, and that probably doesn’t mean turning them loose to invade the countryside. But rights are held by individuals, not species. If cows are now ill-adapted to surviving in the wild, that’s due to our interference. Just as there is nothing particularly immoral about natural extinction, there is nothing particularly immoral about the end of domestication so long as we aren’t intentionally harming those still here. It might be sad, and I’d certainly hope a stable population could be reintroduced to the outside ecosystem, but it’s better than their continued use.

  31. #31 Dr Benway
    March 6, 2009

    It might be sad, and I’d certainly hope a stable population could be reintroduced to the outside ecosystem, but it’s better than their continued use.

    Hmm. Are you sure? How did the cows convey their wishes to you?

    It’s reasonable to assume some cows are unhappy with their situation. But maybe some are happy. I’ve seen cows that appear to be contented.

    Shall we no longer keep cats or dogs for pets?

  32. #32 HennepinCountyLawyer
    March 6, 2009

    Ellen: I think the animal-rights activists’ point is that humans can consent to testing but animals can’t. If you believe animals have the same sorts of rights as humans (which I don’t), that’s certainly a defensible position.

  33. #33 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Hmm. Are you sure? How did the cows convey their wishes to you?
    It’s reasonable to assume some cows are unhappy with their situation. But maybe some are happy. I’ve seen cows that appear to be contented.

    It is not inconceivable to me that cows outside of factory farm situations might live relatively decent lives. That’s beside the point. It is also not inconceivable to me that humans raised from birth in some kind of “Truman Show” setting might live relatively decent lives. Both the peaceful family farm and the “Truman Show” are imprisoning people without their consent. Neither animals nor humans ought to be property.

    Don’t get me wrong: I think it is acceptable to do something to a being without consent if it is actually in the best interest of that being (or a matter of self-defense). A person about to blindly step off a cliff can be grabbed and restrained without having consented. It’s a judgment call. Post-meat-eating cows that lack their ancestors’ survival mechanisms will probably need to be taken care of, and that probably means at least sometimes doing things to them or isolating them. The difference is that these would be done because it’s good for the cows, not because it happens to taste good to us.

    Shall we no longer keep cats or dogs for pets?

    We should take care of the domestic animals that already exist, pets included, and make every effort to stop making more of them. I have two cats myself, and while I certainly get enjoyment out of the arrangement, I would turn them loose if I honestly thought they’d be better off on the streets. But just as I wouldn’t try to keep a wild animal as a pet, I wouldn’t try to let pets be wild. Too many millennia.

  34. #34 Dianne
    March 6, 2009

    the very real question is what morally significant difference is there between using nonconsenting animals versus nonconsenting humans?

    Most animals are not self-aware. That is, only a few animals pass the “mirror test”, indicating that they are aware that the image they see in a mirror is themselves. Quite a few demonstrably think it to be something else, i.e. attempt to fight with the image. I would assert that there is a large difference between using a self-aware entity without its consent versus using a non-self-aware entity*. Otherwise, why restrict ourselves to saying that it’s wrong to use animals in research? Why wouldn’t it also be wrong to use plants or bacteria or cell culture (even assuming a reasonable solution to the problem of serum requirement)?

    In a related issue, how do you feel about attempts to exterminate rats and mice? For example, poison is left in subways to keep the rat population down. Favor or oppose?

    Neurotypical adult humans are moral agents

    Technically, I’m probably not neurotypical. I am, however, capable of recognizing myself in a mirror.

    *I’m generally opposed to using elephants, great apes, and dolphins in research unless their assent can be reasonably demonstrated to be obtained. For example, a study in which the researchers went to the ocean and provided dolphins an opportunity to play with them in a way that gave them the desired result: any dolphins that participated could reasonably be assumed to be doing so voluntarily.

  35. #35 Christena Lundy
    March 6, 2009

    How much discomfort and pain have been inflicted upon animals by veterinarians,sometimes secondary to heroic but futile interventions? No informed consent there. I”m with Dr. Benway-no more pets. We’ll be done with the sadistic vets, and all animals will roam freely. Good plan.
    Chris

  36. #36 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    Hmm. Are you sure? How did the cows convey their wishes to you?

    Humans invented the notion of “survival of the species.” You are not so dumb as to think that cows can care about it. But you troll with the question anyway. Cute. You are not a serious person.

    If people are really concerned about keeping cows around, without exploitation, they can find a way.

  37. #37 Dianne
    March 6, 2009

    How did the cows convey their wishes to you?

    Dairy cows come to the barn to be milked. That seems to imply that they want to be there and want to be milked. I’d like to see changes in how people treat dairy cows as well…like leaving the calves with them for a decent amount of time. But forgetting domestication altogether seems a more questionable premise.

  38. #38 samuel black
    March 6, 2009

    In my view, it is not hypocritical for an AR advocate to use animal-tested drugs. Using the drugs does not directly harm more animals, and there is no way of knowing if the drugs would have been developed in the absence of animal tests, had it been necessary.

    If insulin had been discovered by using human subjects with their pancreas deliberately removed, instead of by using dogs, would we condemn all diabetics who use insulin as either hypocrites or supporters of invasive human research?

    I wear leather, eat meat, and fully support the use of animals in research, but I don’t think it’s fair to make discoveries off-limits to those who object to the methods of discovery.

  39. #39 Irene Delse
    March 6, 2009

    Ryan: Wait, we invented cows? I’m pretty sure they were around in some form before we domesticated them…

    Yes, humans did “invent” cows. During the Neolithic period, humans started to try keeping animals for meat, milk, hair and other products, or for labor, or simply by curiosity. They selected certains types of cows, pigs, hens, sheep, etc., for desired traits. In the case of cows, they selected for milk and meat production, but also made domestic cows more docile and easy to handle. Today’s cows would generally be unable to survive on their own in the wild. The same goes for horses, sheep, pigs, etc.

    @ Dr Benway: “Shall we no longer keep cats or dogs for pets?”

    This is precisely what the most extreme of the animal rights activists want, or what their policies would lead to, in effect. In this, they differ from advocates of animal welfare, who oppose cruelty in the use of animals but not a total separation of animals and humans.

  40. #40 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Most animals are not self-aware. That is, only a few animals pass the “mirror test”, indicating that they are aware that the image they see in a mirror is themselves. Quite a few demonstrably think it to be something else, i.e. attempt to fight with the image. I would assert that there is a large difference between using a self-aware entity without its consent versus using a non-self-aware entity*.

    Is there then no problem with using mentally disabled humans that fail the mirror test for medical research (aside from sheer numbers, of course)? What about orphaned newborns? If there is, how are they morally different from cognitively similar animals?

    Either non-self-aware animals can be treated arbitrarily cruelly because self-awareness is not morally significant, or we ought not be cruel to animals and self-awareness is not the moral dividing line. Since I would wager most compassionate people think it is wrong to be unnecessarily cruel to animals (to say nothing of human infants), it is clear that it is not just self-awareness that enters one into the moral community.

    Otherwise, why restrict ourselves to saying that it’s wrong to use animals in research? Why wouldn’t it also be wrong to use plants or bacteria or cell culture (even assuming a reasonable solution to the problem of serum requirement)?

    The difference is the capacity to feel pain and therefore have at least one interest (that is, not suffering) that ought to be considered and protected through a right. A right is, after all, nothing more than a formalized protection of an interest deemed important enough — so things without interests can’t well benefit from them.

    Before anyone brings them up, let me head off a few obvious things:

    1. “But how do we know plants/bacteria/rocks don’t suffer?” Seriously, if anyone says this you’re just trying to fight. If you actually believe plants can suffer, that’s between you and your salad. But at the very least, it doesn’t give one an excuse to then go and harm animals. At least the consumption of plants can be defended as necessary.

    2. “What about insects/fish/whatever?” There is obviously a huge gray area. I prefer to err on the side of caution and am vegan for three reasons. First, benefit of the doubt until there’s more evidence — which may honestly never come. Second, it’s easier to not have a checklist of acceptable things and just avoid it all. Third, making exceptions reinforces the message that some animals animals are property, which doesn’t help from an activism standpoint.

    3. “But the capacity to suffer only implies a right not to suffer, and doesn’t have anything to say about being used harmlessly.” True, as far as it goes, though that pretty much eliminates 99% of animal use in itself. But the point about suffering is that if animals are in fact beings with interests, even from a purely legal standpoint they cannot be said to truly have those interests protected so long as they are considered property and could, at any time, be arbitrarily bought, sold, moved, imprisoned, or killed.

    In a related issue, how do you feel about attempts to exterminate rats and mice? For example, poison is left in subways to keep the rat population down. Favor or oppose.

    Not living in a city with subways, I honestly don’t know what the motive is. If the rats pose a threat to people through disease or something along those lines, then killing them is justifiable as self defense. If they are just unsightly or a nuisance, then I would oppose it.

    But of course, there are probably ways of dealing with pest animals that don’t involve outright killing them, such as eliminating their food supply and forcing them to find a new place to live. Not saying that’s easy in a subway system, but again, once the leap is made to equal rights, simplicity has to take a back seat to justice.

  41. #41 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    This is precisely what the most extreme of the animal rights activists want, or what their policies would lead to, in effect.

    Of course, go on addressing people who aren’t even here, as though they were representative, rather than engaging an animal rights activist who’s right here in the thread with you.

    It’d be a shame if someone got in the way of you building that straw man.

  42. #42 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Dairy cows come to the barn to be milked. That seems to imply that they want to be there and want to be milked.

    Or that they’re well-trained, or simply that they’re in the habit. If they had calves on a normal timetable, without being intentionally impregnated, and those calves were never removed, do you suppose they’d keep coming to be milked? I’m inclined to think not, but as far as I’m aware nobody’s tried… because cows are productive resources, after all, so why would we?

  43. #43 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Damn, I wrote: Either non-self-aware animals can be treated arbitrarily cruelly because self-awareness is not morally significant, or we ought not be cruel to animals and self-awareness is not the moral dividing line.

    Please disregard the first “not” before “morally significant.”

  44. #44 daedalus2u
    March 6, 2009

    Actually, Ryan has just given us the answer. By his definition “neurotypical humans” are moral agents and should object to treating animals as property and using them for experiments. By that definition, all humans who think that it is ok to treat animals as property and use them for experiments are not “neurotypical” and hence are not capable of acting as moral agents.

    It isn’t the suffering per se that is objectionable, it is suffering inflicted by a moral agent.

    So we should just think of scientists as tigers, as entities incapable of acting as moral agents in the same way that AR activists are capable.

    When AR activists inflict suffering on scientists doing research on animals and on their children, the AR activists (as moral agents) are inflicting suffering on entities which makes the AR activists actions unacceptable by their own standards.

    Ryan, if I may ask, what do you feed your cats? Do you feed them a strictly vegetarian diet? Do you let them hunt, torture and kill animals?

  45. #45 Emp
    March 6, 2009

    As a long-time vegan and proponent of animal welfare, it’s this kind of bullshit that irritates me the most. Like anyone who cares for animals, I long for the day that animal testing is not necessary to keep crucial drug research afloat, but that day is not today.

    Her reasoning is illogical to the point of being offensive, and it casts a negative light both on the sane animal activists and the scientists. All I can say is “arghhhh.”

  46. #46 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Actually, Ryan has just given us the answer. By his definition “neurotypical humans” are moral agents and should object to treating animals as property and using them for experiments. By that definition, all humans who think that it is ok to treat animals as property and use them for experiments are not “neurotypical” and hence are not capable of acting as moral agents.

    I think this is a clear and deliberate misreading for humorous effect. Hah.

    It isn’t the suffering per se that is objectionable, it is suffering inflicted by a moral agent.

    Yes, obviously. Suffering is always unfortunate, but when a tornado hits we don’t generally think of anyone as being blameworthy for it.

    When AR activists inflict suffering on scientists doing research on animals and on their children, the AR activists (as moral agents) are inflicting suffering on entities which makes the AR activists actions unacceptable by their own standards.

    This is, of course, a red herring. Not biting, beyond commenting that most people who believe animals have rights tend to believe humans do as well. We generally lean towards MLK rather than Malcolm X, but there are always exceptions. There are something like 15 million vegetarians and 800,000 vegans in the United States, and maybe a couple dozen serious ALF assholes — who have still managed to not do more than property damage for all the rabid anti-terrorist press.

    Guess I bit after all.

    Ryan, if I may ask, what do you feed your cats? Do you feed them a strictly vegetarian diet? Do you let them hunt, torture and kill animals?

    I feed them pretty standard-issue fish-based cat food. I do try to stay away from the birds and mammals. Cats, being pure carnivores, don’t tend to do well on vegetarian diets. Dogs can do fine, cats not so much.

  47. #47 daedalus2u
    March 6, 2009

    Do you let your cats hunt?

  48. #48 Ryan McReynolds
    March 6, 2009

    Do you let your cats hunt?

    The fact that you ignored four paragraphs of reply to ask this question a second time pegs it pretty solidly as an attempt at a “gotcha,” so don’t let me deprive you of the unmitigated joy of sticking it to an AR nutter: no. Or rather, I “let” them, but there’s not much to hunt in a third-floor apartment other than the occasional bug and my scratch-scarred hand. Have at it.

  49. #49 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    Her reasoning is illogical to the point of being offensive, and it casts a negative light on the sane animal activists

    Well, it doesn’t have to. I mean, we could ask Orac and others to be responsible once in a while and make the distinction between most AR people and this minority among a minority.

    Most people are capable of seeing the distinction. Some people would prefer to blur it.

  50. #50 Paul
    March 6, 2009

    Of course, go on addressing people who aren’t even here, as though they were representative, rather than engaging an animal rights activist who’s right here in the thread with you.

    It’d be a shame if someone got in the way of you building that straw man. Babylon Mary

    It’s not a strawman, unless you consider yourself the most extreme of animal activists. And if you’ve never heard one rail against humans keeping pets, you haven’t been around other animal activists long.

    Also, I just thought I’d point out that I haven’t seen one serious proposal in this thread on what could possibly fill the gap if animal medical testing was no longer performed.

    It’s easy to *imagine* that scientists could do something differently, but why are animal activists always so sure that there are no scientists that would like to find a way to reduce reliance on animal testing? Surely there are scientists (like our host) who are pet lovers. They would not keep silent if there was an alternative that would allow them to continue to develop new medicines and save lives without requiring animal testing. It makes me think of the conspiracy theorists that think there’s a cure for x/y/z fatal disease and the medical establishment keeps it secret so they can sell treatments instead of cures (nevermind that their family gets x/y/z at the same rate as everyone else). As if scientists aren’t human like the rest of us. It’s really cruel and callous, and they don’t even realize it.

  51. #51 sophia8
    March 6, 2009

    Dairy cows come to the barn to be milked. That seems to imply that they want to be there and want to be milked.
    Dairy cows come to the milking parlour because getting milked stops their udders from getting painfully full (ask any breast-feeding woman what that feels like); so yes, in that sense, they *want* to be milked. Another reason is that they also get their noses into some nice feed at the parlour. So naturally, they have plenty of reasons to like the place. But that’s all there is to it.

  52. #52 JustaTech
    March 6, 2009

    I posit a question to the thread: My research is to develop a mouse model for testing HIV vaccines. Right now, that is impossible, and even if/when we get it to work, it will not be a protection model (still can’t give the mice AIDS). By doing this we will hopefully reduce the number of vaccines that *don’t* work that go to non-human primate trails, and then to human trials. Chances are good that we will use a greater number of mice than the number of simians, but I would say that it is always better to use fewer primates, both human and non-human. We are trying to prevent the vaccine trials that made things worse, rather than just having a null outcome.

    While we are doing this we are learning more about the murine immune system, data that might someday be used in a computer model.

    Thoughts?

    (Aside to Mu: Evolutionarily speaking, cows are fracking brilliant! They’ve convinced humans that we need them, and then we go about creating new habitats for them, stomping out all those other herbivores. It’s like human and corn. Corn wins because we like it.) And yes, I do eat meat and wear some leather. No fur, but that’s mostly because it isn’t cold enough here to need it, I’m not terribly fond of it, and I’d rather not get beaten up over it.

  53. #53 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    It’s not a strawman, unless you consider yourself the most extreme of animal activists. And if you’ve never heard one rail against humans keeping pets, you haven’t been around other animal activists long.

    It is a strawman, because it’s not representative of the majority, and it’s thrown around as a way to discredit everyone else (even though as a way to discredit anyone, it’s a logical fallacy: argument from incredulity).

    It’s a strawman because you have people right here who you can talk to and engage honestly, but instead you prefer to point to some vague terror over the horizon. There are a few people out there who think this! OMG, all animal rights people are nuts.

  54. #54 Paul
    March 6, 2009

    In what language is “the most extreme” meant to represent the mean? You’re delusional.

  55. #55 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    The point is who gives a crap what the most extreme think? It’s not relevant. But it’s easier to focus on them than to talk to AR people here. As for instance where in one breath you call them extreme and then in the next breath present them as normative: “And if you’ve never heard one rail against humans keeping pets, you haven’t been around other animal activists long.”

    I don’t expect you to make up your mind. I know the point is to blur the distinctions.

  56. #56 Prometheus
    March 6, 2009

    HennepinCountyLawyer makes a good point:

    “Ellen: I think the animal-rights activists’ point is that humans can consent to testing but animals can’t. If you believe animals have the same sorts of rights as humans (which I don’t), that’s certainly a defensible position.”

    If animals have the same rights as people, then they should also have the same responsibilities, right? After all, we don’t give underage children full legal rights and we don’t expect them to bear the same responsibility as an adult.

    If we are to assume that animals can withold “consent” to testing, then we are granting them full adult rights. Along with these rights come responsibilities. If an animal assaults or kills another animal, they will be arrested, arraigned and tried (I assume that they will have court-appointed counsel – of whatever species they choose – if they cannot afford counsel). If found guilty of assault or murder, they will be sentenced and imprisoned.

    There are parts of this “animal rights and responsibilities” idea that I like very much. Instead of haranguing my neighbor about his dog defecating in my yard, I can have the four-legged miscreant hauled off to jail for malicious mischief and public indecency. When one of the local cats kills a bird, we can put it in the slammer for twenty years to life (premeditated murder). And when the local starlings get tanked on partially fermented berries and make a scene, we can have them hauled in for public drunkeness.

    Personally, I think the animal “rights” people are not using the part of their anatomy that makes them different from most other animals. I refer, of course, to the overdeveloped human brain. We should, as a matter of course, object to cruelty to any living creature, whether it be a mouse, a dog, an insect or a plant. That does not mean that we cannot kill them for food or materiel (e.g. leather, fish meal fertilizer, lumber) or use them for scientific experiments.

    A lot of work goes in to making sure that experimental animals are treated well and that any suffering is minimized. In general, we are not permitted to allowed animals to experience the sort of suffering that humans with cancer, trauma or other disorders are routinely allowed to experience. This is not because we like animals more than humans, but because we are not allowed to withold medical care from (or euthenize) suffering people.

    Prometheus

  57. #57 Paul
    March 6, 2009

    The point is who gives a crap what the most extreme think? It’s not relevant. But it’s easier to focus on them than to talk to AR people here. As for instance where in one breath you call them extreme and then in the next breath present them as normative: “And if you’ve never heard one rail against humans keeping pets, you haven’t been around other animal activists long.”

    I don’t expect you to make up your mind. I know the point is to blur the distinctions.

    I was trying to be polite, but now I’ll retort in kind.

    I don’t expect you to make up your mind. I know the point is to play the martyr.

    You’re reading what you want to read. People here aren’t making logical points, they’re attacking the perfectly nice normal Animal Rights crowd. People are so mean, why don’t they just see things the same way as you do?

    This is easily evidenced by the fact that you tried to deny the fact that there are extremists at all, and played the persecuted card. This instead of admitting, “yes, there are some weirdos, but we’re not all like that”. That would be the logical tack to take. All you did was deny and attack, which is why I chipped in in the first place.

    Yes, there are animal rights extremists. My “in the same breath” statement was simply my noting that if you’ve never heard the extremist point of view, you haven’t been part of the movement long at all. The fact that you took that out of context as an attack on Animal Rights advocates as a whole, instead of simply noting that there are crazies as part of the group, just shows that you had no intention of arguing in good faith.

  58. #58 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    If animals have the same rights as people, then they should also have the same responsibilities, right? After all, we don’t give underage children full legal rights and we don’t expect them to bear the same responsibility as an adult.

    We do give children a minimal right not to be murdered or tortured. And we do not impose responsibilities in return.

    If we are to assume that animals can withold “consent” to testing, then we are granting them full adult rights.

    I think it’s more apparent that, like children, animals cannot give consent.

    Otherwise you’re saying that because children cannot legally give or withhold consent, it’s okay to do whatever you want to them.

    We should, as a matter of course, object to cruelty to any living creature, whether it be a mouse, a dog, an insect or a plant. That does not mean that we cannot kill them for food or materiel (e.g. leather, fish meal fertilizer, lumber) or use them for scientific experiments.

    If animals don’t deserve consideration for their lives when we’d like to make leather from them, why should they deserve consideration when we’d like to torture them for fun?

    It’s not a waste. Some people really like hurting animals, and they derive great pleasure from doing so. That pleasure doesn’t last as long as leather, but then neither does a meal.

  59. #59 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    This is easily evidenced by the fact that you tried to deny the fact that there are extremists at all

    Whoops! There you go, lying. Looks like you aren’t here to argue in good faith.

  60. #60 Paul
    March 6, 2009

    Whoops! There you go, lying. Looks like you aren’t here to argue in good faith.

    Up to this point you have not conceded the initial point of contest regarding extremists(that “the most extreme” activists hold that keeping pets is immoral). The closest you’ve come to admitting there are extremists is by saying “nobody cares what they think”. Your whole line of argument has had the effect of denying that there are any extremists by saying “look over here instead!”. What is that other than trying to pretend they don’t exist?

  61. #61 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    What can “go on addressing people who aren’t even here, as though they were representative,” possibly mean if it isn’t an acknowledgment that those people exist? If I wanted to deny their existence, I would have denied their existence. For your edification, here’s what such a statement might look like: “such people don’t exist.” Update your heuristics accordingly.

    My whole argument has been that these people don’t matter. They are rare, they are not representative of the AR movement, and they are a fantastic scapegoat, as evidenced by the fact that you want to keep talking about them, over and over and over, even though there aren’t any of them in this thread, even though the AR people in this thread disagree with them.

    I realized that you actually started lying earlier, when you said “I was trying to be polite”. If that were true, you wouldn’t have jumped immediately to say “You’re delusional.”

    This is boring, Paul. Can we drop it?

  62. #62 SarahNicole
    March 6, 2009

    @Babylon Mary: as to rarity and being unrepresentative, it’s my understanding (based on hearing such statements come out of her own mouth) that the positions to which Paul is referring are actually held by Ingrid Newkirk, who is the current president and co-founder of PETA. PETA’s pretty mainstream, isn’t it?

  63. #63 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    PETA is an animal welfare organization, not an animal rights group. Neither are they mainstream within the welfarist movement; the Humane Society is an example of one of their mainstream groups.

    Now, besides that Newkirk is one person and not even necessarily representative of PETA members, and PETA is not animal rights, here’s a quote from Newkirk:

    Question from 4 The Animals: I read that you believe having “pets” is keeping them in captivity. Is this true?

    I prefer the term “companion” to pet, as that is more respectful, don’t you think? Semantics can be important in how we view others. It drives me wild to see Britney Spears and Paris Hilton acquiring dogs as arm candy, which is why I wrote a book called Let’s Have a Dog Party! I wanted to draw attention to the fact that these dogs are individuals with needs and wants. They aren’t fashion accessories; cigarette smoke, loud music, and being left alone to stare at the apartment walls bothers them – it isn’t a real life. I ask that people stay clear of pet shops and breeders, who exacerbate the dog and cat overpopulation crisis. But if a person has enough love, patience, understanding, time, and money for veterinary care, I would ask him or her to go to the animal shelter and get two dogs or cats so that the animals can keep each other company when their guardians are at work or play.

    She’s telling people to adopt pets. She just doesn’t like the word “pet.”

  64. #64 SarahNicole
    March 6, 2009

    Yes. That’s a quotation from Newkirk. Clearly, I have, as I said, heard (and read) others. *shrug* I think, based on the opinions of a co-founder of the organization, published in many many places, it can easily be argued that PETA is an animal rights organization, especially as Newkirk herself has often presented it as such. *shrug*

  65. #65 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    That’s a recent quote. Maybe Newkirk changed her mind. I couldn’t care less.

    If an anti-choice group calls themselves feminists, is that sufficient? Do we just take them at their word?

    I would say no. Someone else might say yes. We might both have good points, and a legitimate difference of opinion. Perhaps it’s not a simple question.

    I don’t take PETA at their words. Their actions, such as the one I linked, indicate to me that they are working from an animal welfare perspective.

  66. #66 SarahNicole
    March 6, 2009

    From PETA’s website: “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 2.0 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world.”

    “Ingrid and PETA believe that animals deserve the most basic rights—in particular, consideration of their own best interests regardless of whether they are useful to humans.”

    Why don’t you take them at their word? They seem pretty serious and straightforward about it.

    I’m asking because you’ve characterized the positions as extreme, and I think PETA is about as mainstream as they come, as well as being quite popular and the “go to” icon of animal rights activism in the U.S. You might disagree, but I don’t think you’ve provided good evidence for arguing that.

    And, actually, there are plenty of people who are morally opposed to abortion who provide pretty good evidence that they hold feminist positions on many other issues. You can argue whether that makes them “good” or “strong” feminists, but not necessarily whether it makes them feminist at all.

  67. #67 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    Why don’t you take them at their word? They seem pretty serious and straightforward about it.

    I indicated why: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/?p=144 The act as welfarists.

    I’m asking because you’ve characterized the positions as extreme, and I think PETA is about as mainstream as they come

    Eek. I’m perturbed that this is your perception. I invite you to hang out on some animal rights blogs, and without jumping in before you’ve gotten a feel for the atmosphere, ask them what they think of PETA. My own experience is that they are disdained more than supported.

    as well as being quite popular and the “go to” icon of animal rights activism in the U.S.

    This is all about the money and marketing, though.

    Either way, Ingrid Newkirk is Ingrid Newkirk. Her opinions are not the opinions of every other PETA member. If she were against pets, then she would be in disagreement with most of the PETA membership. Not to mention the PETA store. So again, if that is her opinion, she is not representative.

    And, actually, there are plenty of people who are morally opposed to abortion who provide pretty good evidence that they hold feminist positions on many other issues.

    Sure. But being morally opposed to abortion doesn’t necessarily mean being anti-choice. Plenty of people think that abortion is bad, but that making it illegal would be even worse.

    The anti-choice crowd, on the other hand, presume to make their beliefs into a personal decision for other women. They choose embryos over women’s freedom. That’s anti-feminist. This is where actions trump rhetoric. You can’t be feminist and anti-choice.

  68. #68 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    and I think PETA is about as mainstream as they come

    Anyway, you can demonstrate to yourself that this is not at all true. Ask random people, not just AR people, whether they like the Humane Society, the ASPCA, and PETA. You will find a lot of support for the first two, very little for the third. That’s what I mean. The Humane Society is mainstream, both within the welfarist movement and within society at large.

  69. #69 SarahNicole
    March 6, 2009

    Okay. Clearly you and I know entirely different groups of people. And those that I know that characterize themselves as animal welfarists DO in fact think that PETA is distasteful. But those that I know that characterize themselves as animal rights activists are perfectly fine with PETA. And given how many “random” people I’ve seen with the PETA made and marketed “mean people wear fur” t-shirts, what I mean by “mainstream” and “popular” is the quite successful way in which PETA has mainstreamed its message and many of its tactics. And, also, I don’t think comparing PETA’s very principled and above-board stance as an explicitly self-defined animal rights organization is at all comparable to the co-optation of feminist language by decidedly anti-feminist organizations. And I am comparing words AND actions here, just as I believe I have in discussing PETA. While many, probably most, people in the U.S. think PETA is controversial and fairly extreme, their actual position within the market is not off in the fringes somewhere. It’s directly in the mainstream market of ideas surrounding what “animal rights organization” even means.

    You clearly don’t agree, and I don’t think your evidence is good for holding the position you do. But, whatever.

  70. #70 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    A feminist organization cannot call for the outlawing of abortion.

    An animal rights organization cannot support KFC and give an award to a slaughterhouse designer.

    And given how many “random” people I’ve seen with the PETA made and marketed “mean people wear fur” t-shirts, what I mean by “mainstream” and “popular” is the quite successful way in which PETA has mainstreamed its message and many of its tactics.

    They are financially successful. Next time you see one of those T-shirts, ask the wearer if he or she is a vegan. Generally not. So if their slogan-bearers usually aren’t even animal rights people, it’s hard to say that PETA is the mainstream of animal rights. Perhaps they are the mainstream of the anti-fur, pro-meat crowd. I’ll grant you that they seem to be very successful with that demographic.

  71. #71 Orac
    March 6, 2009

    Okay. Clearly you and I know entirely different groups of people. And those that I know that characterize themselves as animal welfarists DO in fact think that PETA is distasteful.

    Look up the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, because that appears to be what logical fallacy you are using here:

    http://atheism.about.com/od/logicalfallacies/a/notruescotsman.htm

    You’re arguing in essence that no true animal rights group or advocates would do all those crazy things, or that, if PETA does such things, it can’t be a true animal rights group.

    Then, after using that fallacy, you’re trying to disassociate yourself from the mainstream animal rights activists because you quite correctly find them to be a bunch of loons. However, deny it as you might, PETA is mainstream in the animal rights world. It’s about as mainstream as it gets.

  72. #72 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    Anyway, even if PETA were an animal rights group, it would be irrelevant to the earlier topic. Their store demonstrates that they are not anti-pet. Their membership is not anti-pet. Ingrid Newkirk does not appear to be anti-pet at this time, and if she was in the past, she was just one person, not representative of the animal rights movement.

    These little distractions and scapegoats are useful though. It’s so much easier to cherry pick one person’s views and talk about them endlessly than to engage on the same topic with people right here who can actually speak for themselves.

  73. #73 SarahNicole
    March 6, 2009

    @Orac: Um. That’s what *I* was saying. Babylon Mary was the one saying that PETA isn’t an animal rights group. I was the one that said “I think PETA is about as mainstream as they come” first. And I wasn’t trying to disassociate myself from them, as I’m neither a member nor an animal rights activist. What I was trying to say in my last comment was that although I know people that consider themselves animal welfarists who are not supporters of PETA, I also know people who consider themselves to be animal rights activists who support PETA.

    Babylon Mary is the one that has been arguing that a) PETA represents animal welfarists and NOT animal rights activist and b) that PETA is not mainstream and doesn’t represent animal rights movement members anyway. I have been arguing the opposite based on what PETA itself says about itself, and based on their actions.

  74. #74 Babylon Mary
    March 6, 2009

    There’s no fallacy. It’s not “no true Scotsman.” It’s “no true plain porridge eater puts sugar on his porridge.” This is a definitional question. Animal rights is animal rights, not just animal welfare. This is just animal welfare.

    What the hell the point of this argument is, though, that I can’t tell you.

  75. #75 Annie
    March 6, 2009

    Darn, can find the early quote about TNFs “‘The difference was in how human TNF-α does not bind to one of the mouse receptors that mediates the toxicity.’

    “sooooooo is anyone testing mouse TNF-α in humans?”"

    Actually-correct me if I am wrong, I am not a scientist. Mouse TNF is in Remicade which is an IV that modifies the diseases of RA, AS, PsA, Crohn’s. It does not cure but is like a miracle to many crippled people. I know that for a fact. Gebil or hamster cells are in the TNF Enbrel, which does the same thing as Remicade only since the cells are different it helps people that aren’t helped by Remicade and viversa. Finally there is a human cell TNF called Humira which also works the same diseases. I thank the mice, gerbils and humans who keep me functioning. Thanks to the researchers and scientists too.

    That woman must have thought really hard to figure out a way to explain away chucking her beliefs. At least the idea is pretty thin and most people will see it that way. Do you know how many people still want to take Vioxx and take the risk? Many thousands, there were many people trying to find leftovers from other people, begging for them. It was the only NSAID that helped them long term. Besides, it wasn’t many thousands who died.

    Its ok to have such beliefs but stop trying to shove them on the rest of us.

  76. #76 alison
    March 6, 2009

    Cats, being pure carnivores, don’t tend to do well on vegetarian diets. Dogs can do fine, cats not so much. Just in passing – there is very good evidence that humans – as we know us – would not have evolved without a reasonable amount of meat in their diet. Homo erectus was eating meat 1.5mya. We may choose not to eat meat now, for ethical reasons, but that’s a rather different story.

  77. #77 Chris
    March 6, 2009

    I think you make the unsubstantiated assumption that Ms. Chaitowitz is actually dying of cancer. Based on previous news about the Physicians’ Committee, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s cured and just writing up a fantasy she had.

  78. #78 phil
    March 7, 2009

    @orac

    I can’t see it as the “no true Scotsman” myself. Isn’t it
    “Argumentum ad Populum (Appeal to Numbers)”? How are we
    going to distinguish between the two terms otherwise? Does
    it really matter anyway?

    I must say though that this has been about the most civil
    blog I can recall reading, informative and thought provoking
    too. I’d never thought that there might be a difference
    between animal rights and animal welfare advocates.

  79. #79 Tracy Wilkinson
    March 7, 2009

    Just as I would not say that a human can be arbitrarily imprisoned or used for any “greater good,” even a medical one

    Humans are imprisoned for the greater good in NZ at least. In NZ you can be legally forced to complete a TB treatment course no matter how innocently you acquired the TB in the first place. And there is a mentally-disabled man who is kept in secure conditions because he is HIV-positive and no one has been able to make him understand that he can’t have sexual relationships without precautions such as warning his partner because of the HIV. (Some HIV +ve people have been convicted for having unprotected sex without warning their partners, but they were judged legally competent).

    This is of course not arbitrary imprisonment, the purpose is to protect public health. But then the use of animals in drug testing to improve public health isn’t arbitrary either.

  80. #80 John
    March 7, 2009

    BM wrote:

    ” This is a definitional question. Animal rights is animal rights, not just animal welfare.”

    Baloney. NO ONE actually grants rights to animals in practice.

    If you disagree, please explain your views on the following:

    1) You want to buy a pregnancy test at the drugstore. Are you increasing net demand for vivisection?
    2) You want to learn if you are HIV=positive. Are you increasing net demand for vivisection?
    3) You want to buy some organic rice at your health-food store. How many animals had their alleged rights violated in the production, harvest, storage, and transportation of that rice?

  81. #81 Sarah
    March 7, 2009

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Sarah

    http://www.craigslistdecoded.info

  82. #82 Joseph C.
    March 7, 2009

    @Orac,

    No true nerd posts links to about.com.
    :)

  83. #83 Emp
    March 7, 2009

    I just read the entirety of the posts in this thread after my post, and I honestly have no idea what you are arguing about.

    It’s quite apparent that in any group of people, there are the reasonable, sane ones and the loons. I consider myself a “sane” vegan in that I don’t pull some hypocritical nonsense like Ms. Chaitowitz above. The idea is to reduce suffering wherever possible, not to govern one’s life with arbitrary blanket ideas like “animal testing is ALWAYS wrong.”

    As it happens, my boyfriend, best friend, little sister and FIVE other close friends are all vegan (we travel in packs, apparently) and none of us support PETA, ALF or other organizations that use scare tactics and/or terrorism to get their message across. This is not an attempt to “turn a plural of anecdote into data” as I know Orac would have my head for that, it’s just to demonstrate that yes, the reasonable AR people exist. Some are right here on this blog, actually.

    What else is there to bicker about? I think you may already agree with each other. You just don’t know it yet. :P

  84. #84 John
    March 7, 2009

    Emp wrote:
    “It’s quite apparent that in any group of people, there are the reasonable, sane ones and the loons. I consider myself a “sane” vegan in that I don’t pull some hypocritical nonsense like Ms. Chaitowitz above.”

    Are you a vegan when it comes to medical care, Emp? The sleaziest thing about Simon’s rant is that she elides the fact that her stem-cell therapy not only came from gruesome, atypical animal research, but that the sorting of stem cells away from differentiated cells uses animal antibodies (i.e., present-tense, commercial vivisection).

    If you do claim to be a vegan, please list the clinical tests that you prospectively refuse.

    “The idea is to reduce suffering wherever possible, not to govern one’s life with arbitrary blanket ideas like “animal testing is ALWAYS wrong.”"

    Interesting. How exactly did you determine that your veganism reduces suffering wherever possible? If you eat dinner at my house, will you choose the elk (<0.5% of a humane vertebrate animal death/serving) or organic rice (~50 gruesome vertebrate animal deaths/serving)?

    “As it happens, my boyfriend, best friend, little sister and FIVE other close friends are all vegan (we travel in packs, apparently) and none of us support PETA, ALF or other organizations that use scare tactics and/or terrorism to get their message across.”

    It’s not the scare tactics as much as the lying, particularly the lying to conceal the very practices they claim to oppose.

    “This is not an attempt to “turn a plural of anecdote into data” as I know Orac would have my head for that, it’s just to demonstrate that yes, the reasonable AR people exist.”

    I don’t know of anyone who consistently grants real rights to animals. Do you claim to?

  85. #85 John
    March 7, 2009

    …the elk (<0.5% humane vertebrate animal death/serving) or organic rice (~50 horrible vertebrate animal deaths/serving)?

  86. #86 Mijnheer
    March 7, 2009

    I don’t doubt that much valuable information can be obtained from animal experimentation. But the moral issue is not resolved by pointing to beneficial consequences. Few of us would condone vivisection on human infants or mentally disabled humans. Take any pig, baboon, dog, or rat and you can find humans who are no more intelligent and often less autonomous. Unless you can point to (and rationally defend) a morally relevant distinction between these animals and such humans, your defense of animal experimentation is irrational — a prejudice that goes by the name of speciesism.

    But mentally disabled humans have families who care about them, you say. — Okay, let’s imagine that these mentally disabled humans are orphans or abandoned street people. Let’s imagine they are clones, genetically engineered specifically for scientific research. Is it okay to experiment on them?

    But they are still human, you say, so they have the right to be treated like typical humans, who are not mentally disabled. — But now you’re begging the question by assuming the very thing that needs to be demonstrated. Further, you have reverted to a pre-Darwinian idea of species essentialism.

    Well, you say, nature isn’t fair. It’s a struggle for survival. We humans have clawed our way to the top of the heap and we’re going to defend our own kind. — Congratulations. At least now you have abandoned any pretense of impartial moral reasoning. Might makes right. Go for it.

  87. #87 Emp
    March 7, 2009

    John,

    I don’t really understand what the purpose of nitpicking all the details of my post is, especially considering that it was intended to bring both sides of this argument together, but I will do my best to answer your questions.

    - Yes, I am a vegan when it comes to medical care – not in that I refuse all products that were tested on animals, but in that I hope to one day see an end to animal testing. As I posted earlier in this thread, I recognize that this day is not today, and an abrupt halt to animal testing would do untold damage to pharmaceutical research and human health.

    - Veganism reduces suffering by not supporting the slaughter of animals. Some will contest this, saying “but what about all the animals that are killed in grain harvesting!” While this is quite unfortunate, it is important to note that it takes MORE crops to produce meat products for human consumption than it takes to simply eat the crops. I also grow my own vegetables when possible (although I live in an area that is not very conducive to this.) Again, the goal is to REDUCE suffering when you can, not completely eliminate it as that would be impossible.

    - “Animal rights” is a loaded term. Nobody is petitioning for canine suffrage, here (it would be irrelevant to them.) people have different ideas about animal rights, and I can’t claim to speak for even a fraction of them. I only claim to grant those rights that are relevant to the individual animal. For instance, I believe a dolphin should have a right to free swimming space, a chicken should have a right not to be slaughtered for the sake of our personal taste, and so on.

    Please keep in mind that I’m not trying to impose my beliefs on anyone… but ask and ye shall receive.

  88. #88 John
    March 7, 2009

    Emp wrote:
    “- Yes, I am a vegan when it comes to medical care – not in that I refuse all products that were tested on animals, but in that I hope to one day see an end to animal testing.”

    Jeez. I hope that you just played a tape in your mind without thinking and didn’t read what I wrote.

    Try reading it before answering. A great deal of medical PRACTICE involves present-tense vivisection, in the same way that eating meat involves present-tense slaughter. Not testing, not research.

    Why did you ignore my point completely?

    “As I posted earlier in this thread, I recognize that this day is not today, and an abrupt halt to animal testing would do untold damage to pharmaceutical research and human health.”

    But I was pointing out the vivisection in medical PRACTICE, which you and every other alleged vegan ignore.

    “- Veganism reduces suffering by not supporting the slaughter of animals. Some will contest this, saying “but what about all the animals that are killed in grain harvesting!” While this is quite unfortunate, it is important to note that it takes MORE crops to produce meat products for human consumption than it takes to simply eat the crops.”

    BS, Emp. If I offer you a choice between a serving of elk from my freezer–0.5% of a humane vertebrate death per serving and ate NO crops at all, versus a serving of organic rice for ~50 gruesome vertebrate deaths per serving, you will choose the food that causes MORE suffering. Veganism is a false choice, because it utterly ignores the animals who aren’t eaten in recognizable bits after they are ruthlessly slaughtered for your eating pleasure. You don’t give a damn about choosing within broad categories.

    “I also grow my own vegetables when possible (although I live in an area that is not very conducive to this.)”

    That is a rational choice.

    “Again, the goal is to REDUCE suffering when you can, not completely eliminate it as that would be impossible.”

    But my point is that you refuse to REDUCE suffering when you can, because only the suffering of animals that are eaten counts in your perverted moral calculus. In the same way, the suffering of the animals that are vivisected in the PRACTICE of medicine is simply nonexistent in your mind.

    You just don’t care about the actual animals.

    “- “Animal rights” is a loaded term. Nobody is petitioning for canine suffrage, here (it would be irrelevant to them.) people have different ideas about animal rights, and I can’t claim to speak for even a fraction of them. I only claim to grant those rights that are relevant to the individual animal.”

    No, you can’t.

    “For instance, I believe a dolphin should have a right to free swimming space, a chicken should have a right not to be slaughtered for the sake of our personal taste, and so on.”

    Real rights, such as the rights we grant to fellow humans, don’t specify the reason for the slaughtering. A murderer is no more or less guilty if he eats the corpse of his victim. I don’t care what happens to my body after my death. Why is the disposition of the animal’s body the ONLY relevant criterion for rights in your book?

  89. #89 John
    March 7, 2009

    Mijnheer set up a ludicrous series of straw men:
    “I don’t doubt that much valuable information can be obtained from animal experimentation.”

    Don’t forget the routine use of animals in medical practice as mere tools.

    “But the moral issue is not resolved by pointing to beneficial consequences. Few of us would condone vivisection on human infants or mentally disabled humans.”

    Yet male human infants are routinely subjected to surgery without anesthetic postnatally. Haven’t you heard of circumcision?

    “Take any pig, baboon, dog, or rat and you can find humans who are no more intelligent and often less autonomous. Unless you can point to (and rationally defend) a morally relevant distinction between these animals and such humans, your defense of animal experimentation is irrational — a prejudice that goes by the name of speciesism.”

    There is an obviously relevant distinction that has escaped your muddled mind–I may become a mentally disabled human. I can never be a pig or a baboon.

    Again, your concentration on experimentation is intellectually and morally dishonest.

    “But mentally disabled humans have families who care about them, you say. ”

    No, I only say that in your morally empty mind.

    “– Okay, let’s imagine that these mentally disabled humans are orphans or abandoned street people.”

    Not a problem. I may belong to one of those categories, therefore there is reciprocity and rights.

    “Let’s imagine they are clones, genetically engineered specifically for scientific research. Is it okay to experiment on them?”

    That’s really stupid for two reasons:
    1) You obviously don’t understand the meaning of “clone.” A pair of identical twins is a single clone.
    2) We already “experiment on” real, live humans all the time. Your problem is that you are using “experiment on” euphemistically, not in any coherent way.

  90. #90 Emp
    March 7, 2009

    Dear John,

    May I invite you to chill the fuck out?

    No one was attacking you, so there’s no need to get so defensive. Recognize the fact that you’re talking to an actual human being behind the screen here and at least try to be polite if you wish to be taken seriously.

    When I can grow all my own vegetables, I certainly will. I’m twenty and in college (feel free to take a jab at my youthful idealism here), so my growing space is pretty limited. Until then, I try to make simple choices that make an impact. Hunted meat, hell, even roadkill, is obviously superior to farmed meat in terms of lives needlessly wasted – and may in some cases harm less animals than vegetable products. I never addressed this, probably because I didn’t have any idea what your vague comment about eating elk in your first reply to me was even about.

    This is all irrelevant, though, because you seem not to have realized that I’m actually NOT JUDGING anyone else for their choices, whether they’re vegan, eat hunted meat, or even if eat meat from factory farms. Maybe you should try to do the same.

    Relax dude. It’s the internet. :P

  91. #91 Dianne
    March 7, 2009

    In the same way, the suffering of the animals that are vivisected in the PRACTICE of medicine

    1. Could you back this assertion up? For example, give a reference to any published paper in the last, say, 20 years in which animals were vivisected as part of any experimental protocol?

    2. I think you mean research not medicine anyway. I can’t think of any standard diagnostic or therapeutic test which involves vivisection of any animal. Bacteria, perhaps, but animals…not that I can think of anyway.

  92. #92 Dianne
    March 7, 2009

    I think one question one might reasonably ask is whether animals raised for and used in research suffer more than animals in the “wild”. Take, for example, the mouse.

    Start with a lab mouse. It might be born lacking a given gene (a “knock-out” mouse) or over-expressing a given gene (transgenic). The genetic alternation may cause it to die at birth or have a major or minor physical defect or it may cause no apparent problem at all. If the alternation causes a problem, the researchers are ethically obligated to alleviate any suffering caused by the genetic alteration. For example, if the alteration causes the mouse to have a defective immune system, it is kept in a germ free environment. If it has eating problems, it receives a special diet to compensate. It will probably live to adulthood but may be killed young. If so, the worst it will suffer during euthanasia is a needle stick. On the other hand, it may live up to twice as long as it would in the wild. It will be ensured food, shelter, and company. If its bodily integrity is damaged (i.e. surgery or experimental drugs) it will be given pain relieving drugs and anesthesia. If it appears to be suffering for any reason at all from an inner ear infection to terminal cancer it will receive medication to relieve the suffering.

    Compare that to the life of, say, the average city mouse. It will be born under random conditions. Maybe it will have shelter, maybe not. Maybe it will starve to death as a baby because its mother is killed before it is weaned. Maybe it will eat warfarin rat poison and die of internal bleeding or drown in its own blood. Maybe a cat will catch it and torture it for a period of time before eating it, possibly starting before it is actually dead. Maybe it will die of disease.

    Or a mouse living in the country, maybe even far from humans. Again, it may easily die of starvation if its mother is killed before it is weaned. Any number of animals may kill it and eat it and a few besides domesticated cats may “play” with it before killing it. It may have been born in a food boom and die of starvation when the food runs out. It may die of thirst during a drought or drown during a rain storm. It may or may not have food, shelter, companionship. If it is hurt or sick it will either recover or die without aid. No one is going to relieve its pain if it hurts.

    The only real reason the life of a mouse in the wild might be better than the life of a mouse in a lab is that it is “free”–not artificially constrained and able to live as best it can by its instincts. But does freedom mean the same thing to a mouse as it would to a person? If not, should it matter to humans just because they wouldn’t like to be in the same situation. In other words, are we personifying and ignoring the reality of what a mouse is and what it wants from life even while we attempt to help the mouse? (These are questions, not assertions.)

  93. #93 John
    March 7, 2009

    Dianne,

    I am pointing out that you ignore the vivisection of animals in the practice of medicine, so your demand to cite an experimental protocol is ludicrous. They are being vivisected as tools, not in any experiments. You can’t even get your indignant demands right!

    “1. Could you back this assertion up?”

    Easily. For starters, consult:
    http://www.answers.com/topic/flow-cytometry
    The antibodies are the part that involves present-tense vivisection. Note that flow cytometry is used for diagnosis as well as sorting before transplantation.

    “2. I think you mean research not medicine anyway. I can’t think of any standard diagnostic or therapeutic test which involves vivisection of any animal.”

    I don’t. I mean clinical practice. If you can’t think of any standard diagnostic test which involves vivisection, why don’t you tell me precisely how you think an HIV test works? Western blot or ELISA–your choice.

  94. #94 John
    March 7, 2009

    Dianne asked:
    “But does freedom mean the same thing to a mouse as it would to a person?”

    Not even close. One of the most cruel things you can do to a mouse is to put it in a vulnerable position in an open field when the mouse has no idea about the nearest hiding place.

    Of course, that’s precisely what the animal “rights” loons did to lab mice in Minnesota a few years ago.

  95. #95 Dianne
    March 7, 2009

    John, you have a broad definition of “vivisection”. Monoclonal antibodies are produced by immunizing animals (mice, rabbits, goats, whatever) with the desired antigen then drawing blood from them. Terminally, for mice, but for large animals, simply through venipucture. Once a mixed lymphocyte population is withdrawn then the lymphocytes fused with myeloma cells to produce hybridomas which produce specific antibodies. If the lymphocytes are collected in any species in a manner that could be characterized as “vivisection” (dissection of a living animal) I am unaware of it. (Incidentally, I couldn’t get your link to open so if it gives data to the contrary, I don’t have it.)

  96. #96 Dianne
    March 7, 2009

    Ok, I got the link to work. It strikes me as an odd choice of a link since it doesn’t tell you how the antibodies are produced. However, I would be very surprised if any company’s antibody production protocol involved slicing animals open alive, though I must admit that I don’t know how blood is collected when small animals are used as the initial producer. Cardiac puncture would be my guess, but that’s hardly vivisection.

    So I still don’t see any situation in which vivisection per se, that is, dissection of a living animal, is used in medicine or medical research currently. Vivisection is a highly loaded term and its use implies a great deal of suffering on the animals’ part. Not what goes on in a modern lab or biological supply company. (And if it does then someone’s IACUC is not doing its job.)

  97. #97 John
    March 7, 2009

    Dianne claimed:
    “John, you have a broad definition of “vivisection”.”

    No, I don’t. The AR movement includes even painless experiments in their definition.

    “Monoclonal antibodies…”

    The antibodies used in flow cytometry are not limited to monoclonal antibodies. In fact, most monoclonal Abs are detected with polyclonal secondary Abs, so all your attempts at handwaving to pretend that “antibodies” necessarily means “monoclonal antibodies not produced by ascites” are irrelevant.

    Immunizations that maximize titers are painful.

    For commercial polyclonal secondaries, the smaller animals are typically killed by exsanguination to maximize yield. Since a lot of this is no longer done in the US, I have little confidence that they are adhering to US animal care standards.

    The fact that the antibodies come in sterile vials does nothing to sanitize their production. Note that

    Now, Dianne, point me to a single AR advocate–just one–who will either admit that animals are vivisected as tools for medical practice, or admit that she/he has been duped by the constant fingerpointing at research and testing.

    Show me an AR advocate who will picket a drugstore because they sell pregnancy tests that contain animal antibodies.

    Note that Chaitowitz, the professional liar who wrote the essay in question, got stem cell therapy but pretended that only the animal testing of the drugs she takes is an issue.

    “(Incidentally, I couldn’t get your link to open so if it gives data to the contrary, I don’t have it.)”

    It worked just fine when I clicked on it from this page.

    If you’d like to denigrate immunizations and exsanguinations as vivisection, maybe you could comment on cardiac puncture of unanesthetized bovines (no longer fetal) to produce the serum used in the “nonanimal alternative” of cell culture.

  98. #98 John
    March 7, 2009

    Dianne wrote:
    “Ok, I got the link to work. It strikes me as an odd choice of a link since it doesn’t tell you how the antibodies are produced.”

    Yet you imagined that they were all monoclonals. How did you do that?

    “However, I would be very surprised if any company’s antibody production protocol involved slicing animals open alive, though I must admit that I don’t know how blood is collected when small animals are used as the initial producer. Cardiac puncture would be my guess, but that’s hardly vivisection.”

    In what way would cardiac puncture and exsanguination not qualify as vivisection?

    “So I still don’t see any situation in which vivisection per se, that is, dissection of a living animal, is used in medicine or medical research currently.”

    That’s because your eyes are firmly closed.

    “Vivisection is a highly loaded term and its use implies a great deal of suffering on the animals’ part. Not what goes on in a modern lab or biological supply company.”

    The AR movement applies it to ANY procedure done on animals. I’m playing on their turf. Moreover, there still are cases in which animals suffer in modern labs. The negative control animals that don’t get stem cells after lethal irradiation during the development of stem cell therapies, for example…

  99. #99 Ace of Sevens
    March 7, 2009

    John: you also may become a dead human. In fact, this is pretty much guaranteed. I don’t think anyone here is opposed to using those in research. What you may become is irrelevant.

  100. #100 daedalus2u
    March 7, 2009

    What about flu vaccine. That is grown on living chicken embryos.

  101. #101 Mijnheer
    March 7, 2009

    John: You shout and jump around so much in your posts that it’s often hard to make sense of what you’re saying. Like almost all those who condone experimentation that harms the animals who are experimented on, you fail (and continue to fail) to find and justify any morally relevant distinction between sentient non-humans and mentally disabled sentient humans. The fact that you yourself may become mentally disabled some day does not provide a MORAL prohibition against doing nasty things to you when the time comes. You are simply shouting, “Don’t do it to me! Do it to her instead!” Your claim that since you may become mentally disabled, “therefore there is reciprocity and rights” is just mystical mumbo jumbo that begs the question. (“Begs the question” means you’re assuming the thing that needs to be demonstrated.)

    The topic of animal rights really pushes people’s buttons, doesn’t it? Touchy, touchy. I wonder why.

  102. #102 daedalus2u
    March 7, 2009

    One difference is that animals are property and humans, even disabled humans never can be.

  103. #103 John
    March 7, 2009

    Ace,

    So the saying, “There but for the grace of God go I…” does not ring true to you? And here I thought that it resonated with believers and nonbelievers alike.

    I’m having trouble understanding why you would claim that this saying, along with the Golden Rule, are irrelevant.

  104. #104 John
    March 7, 2009

    Mijnheer, who’s got a real thing for straw men, wrote:

    “John: You shout and jump around so much in your posts that it’s often hard to make sense of what you’re saying.”

    I’m saying that everyone who claims that animals have rights ignores their exploitation in medical practice and pretends that they are only experimental subjects. Is that so hard to understand?

    “Like almost all those who condone experimentation that harms the animals who are experimented on,…”

    See, you still don’t get it! The concept that I’m trying to get through your thick head is that:

    1) Animals are harmed even when they are not the subjects of the experiments.
    2) Animals are harmed when I do experiments on cells under the microscope.
    3) Animals are harmed when clinical HIV tests are manufactured.
    4) Animals are harmed to produce the antibodies used to sort Simon Chaitowitz’s stem cells.

    Note that in none of these cases is anyone doing an experiment on animals.

    Now, why don’t you care about all those animals?

    “… you fail (and continue to fail) to find and justify any morally relevant distinction between sentient non-humans and mentally disabled sentient humans. The fact that you yourself may become mentally disabled some day does not provide a MORAL prohibition against doing nasty things to you when the time comes.”

    Sure it does. I have a coherent morality based on reciprocity. When it comes to animals, my morality is far more coherent than that of any phony who runs around yelling that animals have rights, but only sees those rights when the animal is the subject of the experiment. My moral code is that my obligation to protect animals from suffering is proportional to the extent to which I am exploiting them. Whether I am exploiting the animal as a tool (or paying someone else to do so) or as a subject of an experiment is irrelevant.

    “You are simply shouting, “Don’t do it to me! Do it to her instead!”"

    You are manufacturing quotes after your multiple straw men failed to stand up.

    “Your claim that since you may become mentally disabled, “therefore there is reciprocity and rights” is just mystical mumbo jumbo that begs the question. (“Begs the question” means you’re assuming the thing that needs to be demonstrated.)”

    I know what it means. You’ve failed to show that I am begging any question.

    “The topic of animal rights really pushes people’s buttons, doesn’t it? Touchy, touchy. I wonder why.”

    It’s the lies. When I go into the tissue culture hood and put 50 ml of precious “fetal” (biologically, not morally) calf serum (collected by cardiac puncture without anesthetic) into a bottle of medium, I am offended when dishonest and ignorant ARAs lie and claim that I am using a “nonanimal alternative.” The fact is that I am employing an adjunct method that still uses animals, and those animals suffer much more than any animal I use as an experimental subject.

    So yes, I find the AR movement to be profoundly corrupt and immoral. There is no other movement that blatantly lies to conceal the very thing it claims to oppose.

  105. #105 samuel black
    March 7, 2009

    Mijnheer wrote: “Take any pig, baboon, dog, or rat and you can find humans who are no more intelligent and often less autonomous. Unless you can point to (and rationally defend) a morally relevant distinction between these animals and such humans, your defense of animal experimentation is irrational — a prejudice that goes by the name of speciesism.”

    I for one have no difficulty admitting to being speciesist. It is one of many favoritisms that are completely acceptable in our society. Some are not only acceptable, but required, like familyism and nationalism (also known as patriotism). We are required to favor our own offspring over others in the sense that we must provide them with food and shelter. In war, we kill people based simply on their country of allegiance.

    Speciesism is a necessary part of natural selection, and I’m not prepared to fool with nature. The arguments against unpleasant prejudices like racism don’t apply to speciesism. E.g. there are no differences between races that are relevant to the granting of rights, but that can’t be said of different species.

    But apart from that, it would simply not be practical to make distinctions within our species. Intelligence or morality or sentience could not be quantified to the extent that humans could be unambiguously divided. So if intelligence is the criterion, a practical code of ethics should favor all members of a species, which is on average demonstrably more intelligent than another species. It is fortuitous that the overlap in the distributions for humans and animals occurs only in extreme examples of human disability.

  106. #106 Babylon Mary
    March 8, 2009

    I don’t know of anyone who consistently grants real rights to animals. Do you claim to?

    By John’s reasoning, almost no one believes in human rights.

    Does anyone here only buy products that were produced in worker-owned cooperatives? Or, next best thing, all unionized labor in states with strong labor laws? Capitalism is coercion; no one is free who must choose between working for a boss or starving. There are still sweatshops right here in the United States, and most clothes made overseas were made with child labor. It’s probably too generous to make a serious distinction between chattel slavery and wage slavery, but plenty of products fund what everyone would uncontroversially call slavery. Many men have bought at least one diamond. Even without accepting that all employment is coercion, you probably have recently bought food, clothing or something else produced under conditions that would qualify as human rights violations under international charters. That’s free trade for you. A person has to be very conscientious to avoid it.

    Does that mean you don’t believe in human rights?

    I pay taxes that go to fund multinational corporations that produce long-range weaponry that cannot be used practically without murdering innocent civilians. My government calls murdering civilians in aggressive war a legitimate tactic, euphemistically names it “shock and awe.” I call my representatives and tell them to end the wars, but I still pay my taxes. Many of you do the same. Does that mean we don’t believe in human rights?

    I just checked some labels. I have underwear that was made in China. Does that mean I don’t believe in human rights?

    According to John, it does.

    I disagree. I think it’s possible to take a long view, working to raise awareness, and working to minimize while accepting that one might not currently be able to eliminate one’s economic involvement in human rights violations. I think our best attempts at a vegan lifestyle today can similarly raise awareness and clear paths for more options in the future. I think we can equally be said to believe in and work for animal rights, if anyone can be said to believe in human rights.

    John, and less feverishly Orac, offer a counsel of despair. I see hope.

  107. #107 John
    March 8, 2009

    BM wrote:
    “I think it’s possible to take a long view, working to raise awareness, and working to minimize while accepting that one might not currently be able to eliminate one’s economic involvement in human rights violations. I think our best attempts at a vegan lifestyle today can similarly raise awareness and clear paths for more options in the future.”

    So how does the failure of any vegan to refuse procedures and diagnostics whose production involves vivisection raise anyone’s awareness? More importantly, how does the deliberate lying to conceal animal use by the AR movement raise awareness?

    “I think we can equally be said to believe in and work for animal rights, if anyone can be said to believe in human rights.”

    But you’re rationalizing ignoring (the PCRM is actively lying to conceal) violations of the rights you claim for animals.

    “John, and less feverishly Orac, offer a counsel of despair. I see hope.”

    What hope is there for the animals who are exploited to produce antibodies for clinical diagnostics if you won’t even acknowledge their existence?

    How is it hopeful to ignore animal exploitation just so that you can demonize a smaller group of humans? That’s the only hypothesis that explains your highly selective outrage.

  108. #108 daedalus2u
    March 8, 2009

    So according to BM, it should be ok for researchers to use animals in their research so long as they are working to minimize the use of animals in research.

    Isn’t that analogous to AR activists (such as Ms. Chaitowitz) who exploit animals in the course of receiving health care but are working to minimize the exploitation of animals?

    If you can justify wearing underwear made by exploited workers (I presume because it is cheaper), why can’t researchers justify using animals to make and test life-saving treatments? Because cheap underwear is more important than life-saving treatments?

  109. #109 Ace of Sevens
    March 8, 2009

    John, I’m familiar with the cocept, but don’t knwo how it applies here. If I ever end up like Terri Schiavo, I hope they use me for research. I’d be beyond caring and the results would be far more useful than alternatives.

  110. #110 Phoenix Woman
    March 8, 2009

    “The painkiller Vioxx, for example, tested safe in mice and five other species but ended up killing many thousands of Americans.”

    And the computer models then extant would have caught this how? Just because animal testing failed to catch Vioxx’s dangers doesn’t mean a computer model would.

    What is it called when people try to argue that “I know that X works because in one special instance Y didn’t”? It’s certainly not proof that X works.

  111. #111 geore
    March 8, 2009

    There is a new documentary coming on HBO out about factory farming you might be interested.

    http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/deathfactoryfarm/index.html

  112. #112 Joseph C.
    March 9, 2009

    Capitalism is coercion;

    And the state telling you what your occupation will be is freedom?

  113. #113 Tracy W
    March 9, 2009

    Capitalism is coercion; no one is free who must choose between working for a boss or starving.

    Well under capitalism you’re free to set up your own company and be your own boss, so therefore by your logic capitalism isn’t coercion. I do warn you though that setting up your own company means working for your customers, which isn’t necessarily the easy option. Eg, if you’re self-employed, what happens if you get sick? I’ve been both employed and self-employed, I don’t notice one state offering a lot more freedom than the other.

    And why are you picking on working for a boss? What’s so bad about working for a boss in particular?

    Humans have to work to avoid starving because food doesn’t fall like mana from the sky. No known economic system will get us away from that.

    Does anyone here only buy products that were produced in worker-owned cooperatives?

    Ah, that delightful form of organisation whereby if your company goes bust you not only lose your job, you also lose your capital?

    I have no objection to worker-owned cooperatives for those people who want to work in them, I certainly don’t think they should be banned, but they’re risky.

    Or, next best thing, all unionized labor in states with strong labor laws?

    These being the people who forced my mum to go back to the starting salary as a new teacher once she came back to teaching after having me?

    There are still sweatshops right here in the United States, and most clothes made overseas were made with child labor.

    Babylon Mary – poor people send their children out to work to avoid their families starving to death. Banning child labour has bad effects:

    In Bangladesh, studies conducted by local NGOs and UNICEF, following the initial publicity of the bill have shown that children displaced from garment factories in January 1993 did not rush to school. Most of them found alternative, less secure, and less lucrative employment in the informal sector. Common occupations for children in this sector include working as ticket collectors or tempos and/or as lunch boys ferrying heavy tiffin carriers from office to office. Girls have found work as domestic servants or flower sellers [Sobhan 1994, 6]. This is the result of poverty and low expectations from education.

    Children who work in the export sector are always better off than children who work elsewhere. A study by the ILO confirms that children in some export sectors often earn twice the wages of those in alternative employment, have better diets and health, and are less prone to accidents than those in other industries due largely to the nature of the working environment [Hasnat 1996].

    A series of follow-up visits by UNICEF, local NGOs, and ILO discovered that the children were looking for new sources of income and found them in work such as stone-crushing, street hustling and prostitution, etc., which are more hazardous and exploitative occupations than garment production.

    http://scilib.univ.kiev.ua/doc.php?4951753

    It’s probably too generous to make a serious distinction between chattel slavery and wage slavery

    Go and read some accounts of what it was actually like to be a slave. Slaves were desperate to escape and work for wages. Read Frederick Douglas’s autobiography and look at what he endured to escape to freedom in the north of the USA, before you say that there’s no serious distinction between chattel slavery and wage slavery. “Wage slavery” is a name used by people who wish to bash capitalism without bothering to learn anything about the world they live in.

    Even without accepting that all employment is coercion, you probably have recently bought food, clothing or something else produced under conditions that would qualify as human rights violations under international charters.

    And those are produced in non-capitalist countries. For example, Angola, where some blood diamonds come from, is 162 in the world in the Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom, with a rating of 47.0. Meanwhile Australia is number 3 in the world in terms of the Index of Economic Freedom, diamonds from there are not conflict diamonds (Singapore and Hong Kong are numbers 1 and 2 but I don’t think they produce any diamonds). (http://www.heritage.org/Index/Ranking.aspx)

    Of course correlation is not causation. But it seems odd to blame capitalism for violating human rights when it’s the non-capitalist countries that are generally the worse offenders.

    That’s free trade for you. A person has to be very conscientious to avoid it.

    Ah, the attitude that it is better for people to starve to death rather than for a rich person to buy something that might have been created with a humans rights violation.

    I just checked some labels. I have underwear that was made in China. Does that mean I don’t believe in human rights?

    I wear Chinese underwear and am proud of it, because millions of people in China have been lifted out of poverty since their economic system moved in a more free trade method.

    China is still not a democracy and still carries out many human rights violations, but having gone hungry myself I think lifting millions out of poverty is something worthwhile in and of itself.

    I think it’s possible to take a long view, working to raise awareness, and working to minimize while accepting that one might not currently be able to eliminate one’s economic involvement in human rights violations.

    Isn’t there a first stage, where you look around the world and try to decide on what makes for a better economic system in the real world?
    I think the first person’s awareness you should be raising is your own.

  114. #114 Dianne
    March 9, 2009

    Yet you imagined that they were all monoclonals. How did you do that?

    FACS antibodies? Are you serious? First off, if you look at any biotech company’s catalogue for antibodies, they’ll give you a description of the clone as well as the antigen (i.e. CD39 BU-61.) Second, if you did use a non-monoclonal source, you’d screw your results entirely. Different antibodies might have different affinities for antigen and therefore your results would be completely uncomparable.

    The AR movement applies it to ANY procedure done on animals. I’m playing on their turf.

    So? It’s still inaccurate. Vivisection refers to dissection performed on a live animal or, if you want to use the term _extremely_ loosely, surgery on live animals. Not to any research in which animals are used. The “pro-life” movement calls frozen embryos “snowflake babies” but that doesn’t make them either babies or snowflakes.

    Moreover, there still are cases in which animals suffer in modern labs. The negative control animals that don’t get stem cells after lethal irradiation during the development of stem cell therapies, for example…

    Unquestionably, animals suffer in modern labs. But, I would argue, far less than they do in the wild. To use your example, animals who are lethally irradiated but not transplanted nontheless receive pain medication, protection from infection, and, if their suffering can’t be relieved in any other way, are euthanized painlessly. Far less suffering is involved than in the death of a mouse bleeding to death from warfarin or being eaten by a cat or even being released by animal rights activists in an open, unknown area.

  115. #115 Tsu Dho Nimh
    March 9, 2009

    Dianne wrote: “2. I think you mean research not medicine anyway. I can’t think of any standard diagnostic or therapeutic test which involves vivisection of any animal. Bacteria, perhaps, but animals…not that I can think of anyway.”

    I can … but it’s not “vivesection” in the term of hacking open a living, unanaesthetized animal, it’s just using animal products.
    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/678865/vegan_beware_animal_products_used_in.html

    But even when we were hacking open rabbits for pregnancy tests, the rabbits were euthanised first.

    I did not anaesthetize the sheep I took blood from for making sheep’s blood agar, because that would mean the possibility of overdosing and all the other complications of anaesthesia. They were repeat donors, so treating them well meant cooperation instead of a 250-lb wether aiming kicks at your shins and belly.

  116. #116 Dianne
    March 9, 2009

    They were repeat donors, so treating them well meant cooperation instead of a 250-lb wether aiming kicks at your shins and belly.

    I’m tempted to say something about the same being true for patients…Drawing blood shouldn’t require anesthesia. And it’s not vivisection. Vivisection has a specific meaning and I don’t think we should let the animal rights movement (the crazy part of it) get away with trying to call every bit of animal research “vivisection”.

  117. #117 JustaTech
    March 9, 2009

    Oh! Oh, I’ve figured out John! He’s using the Creationist handbook, where you re-define terms so that you have to win. He’s using “vivisection” like Creationists use “kinds”. Except that he gets extra points because “vivisection” is a much more loaded term.

    Well, John, while you natter along I’m going to have lunch and teach mice how to have sex. You should have something to eat too, keep your blood sugar up. Might improve your mood.

  118. #118 Patrick
    March 9, 2009

    The Cheetah eats the Gazelle. Bats eat Bugs, so do Birds.

    One species eating another appears to be a regular practice.

    People die for stupid reasons, like some political leader deciding not to have enough health care resources available, other people just beating up the vulnerable, and some are put to death for what should be misdemeanors in some more extremist countries.

    At least those animals being used in medical research in USA are being treated with more respect than we show to some of our fellow Humans.

  119. #119 Rita
    March 9, 2009

    I posted above, and hold the position that viviection is not morally correct, however useful, but I’d like to ask those who eschew treatments based on animal research, testing etc., if they would consider using treatments of any sort deriving from Traditional Chinese Medicine (as it seems to be called)? – given that they derive from a system wherein animals are considered handy sources of medicines, or medicinally applied foodstuffs, with little regard paid to how these substances are obtained – bear bile, for instance…… I’m a vegan, and would certainly not want to have anything to do with these products, or homeopathy, for that matter, which also sources its remedies from animals wherever it sees fit. Let’s have a bit of consistency here! I continue to think that the end does not justify the means in evidence based medicine’s use of animals, so simply sacrificing them for unproven quackery passes belief.
    Rita

  120. #120 John
    March 11, 2009

    Dianne wrote:
    “First off, if you look at any biotech company’s catalogue for antibodies, they’ll give you a description of the clone as well as the antigen (i.e. CD39 BU-61.)

    I know. Here’s one sold for FACS:

    http://www.abcam.com/CD4-antibody-MEM-241-ab1089.html
    Raised in Mouse
    Clonality Monoclonal
    Clone number MEM-241

    Purified from *****ascites***** by protein-A affinity chromatography.

    “So? It’s still inaccurate.”

    I know it is! It’s just a more effective way to point out AR hypocrisy.

    “Vivisection refers to…”

    Fine. If you’d like to state it that way, my point is that that the AR movement lies to conceal animal exploitation THAT THEY DESCRIBE AS VIVISECTION IN OTHER CONTEXTS. Is that better? I personally prefer the shock value of calling it “vivisection.”

    “Unquestionably, animals suffer in modern labs. But, I would argue, far less than they do in the wild.”

    I would too! WTF is your point? My point is that the AR movement is full of screaming hypocrites. There is no other “ethical” movement that is so fundamentally corrupt that it lies to conceal the very practices (whatever you want to call them) that they claim to exist to oppose. Chaitowitz’s group (PCRM) is at the forefront of that lying.

    “Far less suffering is involved than in the death of a mouse bleeding to death from warfarin or being eaten by a cat or even being released by animal rights activists in an open, unknown area.”

    I know. The former is why veganism is a false choice if one’s goal is to reduce animal suffering.

  121. #121 darla hill
    March 12, 2009

    I think that by now ,if animal testing is so important,then by now we should be able to cure cancers and so many more major illnesses.its time to move on to non animal research and stop hiding behind research.Like the man who was blind, he said why put an animal thrue so….much pain when you could find out thrue him.by the way,the storie was about britches the monkey,on peta tv. someone rescued the monkey.there is no end to what people will do or want and willing to hurt,no matter what it hurts.animals can’t help.maybe they need to do research on how to find what there looking for other than animals.if they do come out with major cures,I would believe that, they have had it from yrs. ago and just sharing it now to justify animal research,
    to the out cries of people ,saying enough.Research has crossed the line forever.We are all going to die,no matter what.
    darla

  122. #122 daedalus2u
    March 13, 2009

    Darla, if finding a cure for cancer not using animal models is so easy, why don’t you just do it? No one is stopping you. Cure cancer not using animal models and you will get a ticket to Stockholm. You will become fabulously famous and fabulously rich. Nothing it stopping you. Go at it.

    Once you cure cancer not using an animal model, you will put out of business all the cancer researchers that do use animals. Research on cancer will stop, which means no more animals used for cancer research.

    If you know enough about cancer research to be able to state that animals are not necessary, then you know more about cancer than anyone else on the planet. As the person most knowledgeable about cancer, it is your responsibility to put that knowledge to use to end the suffering of people with cancer and animals used in cancer research.

  123. #123 Melody
    March 18, 2009

    Wow, that is just insane. I was on a vegan message forum, on a topic about animal testing, and someone was writing to inform other people that animal research isn’t “total crap” in terms of yielding results, and that while there are good alternatives, that they are used when possible and can’t replace everything. But this individual, who normally I got on quite well with, suddenly started to conflate what the other person was saying, as if they were implying that animal testing is ethically right, when in fact they were saying more along the lines of “there are two issues: whether it works and whether it’s ethical; I’m saying it works and is not ethical — furthermore, it’s not good to use it as an arguing point for why not to use animal testing because then you’re argument relies on a statement that can easily be demonstrated false, but should rest on the issues” or something like that.

    I think the main problem is that many people who get to be involved in advocating in AR issues, get told that that it’s not effective in addition to the belief that it’s not right, and most often not being of a particularly scientific bent (at least, not for the noisy activists discussed at this point), are convinced, particularly when there are organizations that promote not only that animal testing and such is wrong but that it is ineffective, and it becomes easy to think that because there is someone with “Dr.” or “M.D.” making these statements, that it must be evidence-based science position.

    Also, while I used the word “animal testing” throughout, I think this is primarily due to a couple reasons – for one, most people are not very scientifically literate, and so don’t consider the other contexts in which animals might be used in the language used (such as clinical practice), but do consider it, once informed about it. Also, some vegans come to know about these issues through animal testing in cosmetics, and continue to apply a familiar terminology without seeing other places it reaches.