Respectful Insolence

Animal rights: Fetishizing violence?

As much as I hate to bring more attention than I did a couple of days ago to the truly evil animal rights extremist website run by a truly despicable animal rights terrorist wannabe Camille Marino, a website whose very title, Negotiation Is Over (NIO) tells you everything you need to know about the attitude of the loons running the site, especially given their targeting of researchers’ children for harassment, I can’t help but notice that the efforts of fellow science bloggers and myself have been noticed, both at NIO and another animal rights site Thomas Paine Corner.

Good.

The reaction of Marino to the valid criticism of her advocacy of violence against researchers that flowed into her blog after a Pharyngulanche led science-based individuals there, where those who saw the unhinged rants against scientists were understandably disgusted, was most instructive, as is her formal “response.” It is very clear that Marino is not used to having to defend her hate-filled, violence fetishism, as her responses consist mostly of rants against “vivisectors” coupled with “invitations” to critics to be interviewed by her. Thanks, but no thanks, Camille. Why on earth would any scientist want to come within 100 yards of you when you make it clear that you consider us to be the enemies of all that is true and good in the world and your fellow travelers to be the righteous instrument of animal vengeance:

The UCLA Pro-Test network of animal mutilators are incensed that some of us have no desire or inclination to be civil, respectful, and obedient — our disruptive behavior is a distraction when they sit down to carve up their victims. And, as they have graciously demonstrated, they feel intimidated, they are frustrated, and they are forcefully striking back in an attempt to derail our new model of non-tolerance and militant confrontation. To the pretentious pseudo-science community, get used to it. You are hereby advised that those carefree days of bathing in blood and peaceful evenings spent dreaming up torture regimens are over. Someday you will look back nostalgically at an innocent time when you had only the ALF to fear.

Of course, I have no wish to be civil or respectful to Camille, because she has forfeited any right to such considerations by her spittle-flecked rants against scientists and her advocacy of violence against them and her view that we apparently are all “serial murderers.” I am, however, glad that she included me in her list of “pro-vivisectionists.” I’d hate to think that my going to the trouble of writing such a finely constructed bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence (if I do say so myself) went to waste. Besides, the entire mentality behind the post is fascinating. Camille apparently really does think that scientists enjoy “bathing in blood” and that scientists who do animal research are all sadistic beasts who get a sexual charge out of “torturing” helpless animals. In fact, I think Ambivalent Academic and PalMD might be on to something when he points out that this is all a bit of projection, that it is animal rights extremists who get off on descriptions of the very violence that they claim to deplore. Indeed, Ambivalent Academic strikes me as being particularly insightful when she writes:

The language used by some ARAs to incite violence against researchers and their families strikes me as particularly troubling. It is not accurate for starters, but I don’t think that we’re really expecting that. Most ARA terrorists clearly have no first-hand experience with how ethical animal research is conducted, and they sensationalize their rhetoric to amplify this ignorance into an inflammatory statement.

What really strikes me is that a lot of this rhetoric reads like snuff-porn.

There is intense focus on graphic descriptions of grisly procedures (which would never be allowed under any IACUC), illustrations of the targets wearing bloodied clothes and carrying medieval torture instruments, caricatures of researchers taking pleasure in exacting pain upon animals. It’s all very sadistic-sounding, and it’s all untrue.

It’s a hook. It’s meant to grab the reader. Shock is a very effective tactic for accomplishing this and they’re employing it well towards that end. But there’s more to it than that. There is an undercurrent of appetite for the kind of violence they describe. It reads as if they take pleasure in imagining the violence they describe (starting to sound familiar?), and they are inviting the reader to join in that sadistic pleasure. You can almost hear the drool. The reader is encouraged to be titillated by violence too, to want more violence –this time, not imagined violence.

I think that Ambivalent Academic is definitely on to something here. The descriptions of violence done to animals are so over the top, so unlike anything anyone who has actual experience doing animal research has seen, that they really do read like snuff porn.

It’s not hard to find examples right on the NIO blog itself. For example, there is this description of researcher Dario Ringach:

At least intellectually, I think I understand how you are able to commit such despicable atrocities. Like all torture-murderers, you devalue and objectify the victim in order to enjoy the fetishized obscenity. I think the closest comparison I can draw is to David Parker Ray. He imprisoned, restrained, terrorized, and, with masterful precision, sadistically tortured and mutilated his victims — exactly like you. Ray referred to his victims as “packages.” You refer to your victims as “research.” The two of you may have been twins separated at birth. But Ray is dead.

Isn’t it rather creepy how seemingly detailed and–dare I say?–lovingly or admiringly this description of a serial killer is presented? I’d say that David Ray Parker isn’t the only one fetishizing violence. It’s almost as though the writer of the above passage really enjoys writing about violence. As does the writer of this description:

It appears from the latest evidence that Ringach has resumed doing vision experiments on innocent non-human primates, confining them in metal restraint devices and inserting electrodes into their brains, gluing metal coils on to their eyeballs and then allowing them to suffer immeasurable pain before killing them.

Snuff porn indeed. In fact, animal rights activists have been busted before for making their very own snuff films to inflame their allies and horrify everyone else. Then they follow with inflammatory rhetoric like Camille’s:

At UCLA we take our stand. In the guarded stench of privilege and speciesism on the green hills of this campus, where terrorism and murder have for too long been ignored and tolerated, here is where we draw a line in the sand and reinvigorate the militant direct action tactics that the pundits and pacifists say are outmoded and counter-productive. Here is the Rubicon for us to cross, and once we do, we fight, and we take the fight anywhere and everywhere animals are imprisoned, held captive, tortured, and murdered, as we burn into our hearts the words that species terrorism is never justified under any conditions!

Of course, Camille apparently thinks nothing ofintraspecies terrorism directed at her fellow human beings, even children. Again, knowing that animal rights extremists like Camille Marino view scientists as implacable enemies and pure evil personified, I see no reason even to attempt to engage her ilk. Like Ambivalent Academic, I also marvel at how she and her ilk can be so self-unaware, so utterly clueless about their hypocrisy.

Comments

  1. #1 peter
    February 26, 2010

    AR are nothing but an ersatz religion, where evidence does not count, where the mistreated “animal” becomes the revered symbol of what they think is wrong with society, the animal a god that has priority to anything human or human needs.

    They are simply not – as any good disciple – open to rational argument.

    Unwilling to address wrongdoings in any of the realms of concern – environment, globalization, resource depletion etc. – by appropriate political action, they redirect their anger against humanity itself, gloryfying and romaticizing animals.

    What is there to discuss with them?
    I was a labtech in privately and publicly funded institutions, and to provide excellent care for the animals needed for med. research was paramount, simply from self interest alone to produce valid test results, not to mention any ethical issues involved with justifying the use of animals for any research.

  2. #2 Pareidolius
    February 26, 2010

    Methinks the lady doth protest too much . . . indeed. She’s almost like a poe in her intensity, that is, you really couldn’t make up a charater to parody her. I think she saw American Psycho a few too many times and snapped. The fact that she’s now under surveillance will only fuel her paranoia. I don’t think this will end well.

  3. #3 Iason Ouabache
    February 26, 2010

    It’s like they stole the playbook from the crazed anti-abortion nuts and just changed a few words. How long before they get really violent and get someone hurt or killed?

  4. #4 mus
    February 26, 2010

    Hm, the post by Peter (AR = ersatz religion) brought me to think: I don’t think that AR is necessarily a ersatz religion, but it comes awfully close to a kind of nature worship, or the mindset of noble primitivism that has historically been embodied in the character of the noble savage.

    These people, like many other people who reject evidence from their lifestyle, are (irrationally, of course) longing for the better times gone by, when man was one with nature, etc pp. Sadly delusional, actually.

  5. #5 mario
    February 26, 2010

    It is easy to see that these people are terrorists “militant direct action tactics” sound a lot like terroristic threats to me…I would advise the people in those lists to contact the proper authorities and legal council; a civil law suit might be useful in stopping these instigators of violence.

  6. #6 Michael
    February 26, 2010

    If the lovely Camille showed up at your surgery, sick, and really needed you to operate, would you? Just curious.

  7. #7 Bill
    February 26, 2010

    I am an (ex) veterinarian. When I was at University, we used local pound dogs to learn surgery. These animals were going to be euthanised, because of the indifference of our society to their plight – they were excess to demand. We used them, in a humane and caring way, to learn our profession.

    The local Animal Liberationists protested, claiming that we perpetuated the throwaway attitude of society to companion animals. This was insulting in the extreme. They forced the local pounds to ‘cease and desist’ in providing the University with these animals. It didn’t matter to them that the end result was the same number of animals dying; but less education, less skill development, less advancement of human and animal welfare.

    We had a debate at the University. It was pretty much over when our head of faculty stepped up to introduce the protaganists and said that he was thankful of animal research; he was the recipient of a heart/lung transplant, a procedure that would not have been possible if not trialled first in animals.

    I have ‘saved’ research animals, including a darling little white rat who insisted on sleeping next to me, on my pillow. But I know that this is not a sustainable approach.

    Towards the end of my veterinary career, I ended up at an animal shelter, to do my part to alleviate the suffering of other beings in the world. Instead, I found myself at the blunt end of a needle, mopping up the excesses of society’s indifference. 30 000 unwanted animals were euthanised every year at that shelter. A measure of the disgusting attitude of my city towards dogs and cats; individuals who would give their all to humans in exchange for a little love, care, shelter and food.

    Two veterinarians were employed to take on this grisly task. To simplify the maths for you, I was personally responsible for hastening the end of 15 000 lives per annum.

    After a couple of years, I was pyschologically destroyed. 14 years later, I still cannot describe this properly; it is too painful; too raw. Yet, that work, that I was not strong enough to continue in, goes on – others have taken my place, others suffer in my place, but it is work that must continue, in the end, because it increases the overall welfare of the animals that share our lives.

    I fully support animal research. I fully support such research to be undertaken under appropriate controls. Given my experience and insight, I find it incredibly offensive that animal rights activists would suggest that any researcher does it for pleasure. Any that does should be drummed out of the field. But I am sure that most, if not all, suffer for their profession – they empathise with the animals that they are asking so much of. They actively work to minimise the discomfort of their subjects. They move forward every day because they see the greater good, for both human and animal. They do not enjoy the details of using animals for experimentation; but they gain great satisfaction from the outcomes. They recognise they are working for the greater good.

    The thing here is that all the progress that is being made in the animal research area, it is not driven by the crazies, who have only one, inappropriate, indefensible view on this area; but by the empathy and sorrow of the researchers who strive always for a better position. I feel for every researcher who works with animals. I feel their pain. I know how they feel and I can only express my gratitude for what they do.

    The loonies who threaten, who rant and spit, who have no rational input to this debate should be locked away as soon as they transgress the law. They should not be let out. I understand their passion; but to claim the only moral position is indefensible.

  8. #8 symball
    February 26, 2010

    Well said Bill,

    Having worked in a CRO doing animal research in the past I can only echo your words. Although I did not work in the animal houses myself (my speciality is immunoassay), my colleagues in the animal houses were without exception caring and professional people who did their utmost to ensure the minimum of suffering for their charges.

    One thing that makes me agree with the idea that the AR mob fetishise violence, is that any such violence is counterproductive to the aims of the scientists. There simply is no point in doing any procedure that significantly hurts or distresses the animals involved as this would invalidate any results gained from the experiment.

  9. #9 Rogue Medic
    February 26, 2010

    @6 Michael,

    What you do not seem to realize is that medicine is not about judging whether a person deserves treatment. All people are treated according to their medical condition, not according to the whims of the doctor. If there were another surgeon around, who could provide competent care, then Orac would be justified in stepping aside and having the other surgeon provide care. If there is nobody else, then Orac is obligated to provide appropriate care, regardless of how despicable Camille Marino is.

  10. #10 DLC
    February 26, 2010

    Yup. as I’ve been saying, these people are nothing more than bullies. They want someone to terrorize, because it gives them a boost.

  11. #11 Rogue Medic
    February 26, 2010

    @7 Bill,

    Don’t let these terrorist get to you. You are far more aware of their hypocrisy than most. Things will improve as people learn about the importance of animal research.

  12. #12 Necandum
    February 26, 2010

    I think the poster above highlights the contrast best of all:
    Bill and those like him have honour.
    The ‘animal activists’ do not know the meaning of the word.

  13. #13 Paul Browne
    February 26, 2010

    I think it is absolutely true that some AR extremists fetishize violence, and often manipulate evidence in order to provide support their fantasies. You can see the same in some of the claims made by groups such as Shac and Speak in the UK. In the case of Speak some of the claims were so outlandish, for example monkeys being brought for walks in Oxford city parks following brain surgery, that I had the distinct impression that they had either made them up or had lapped up nonsense that had been fed to them by somebody who wanted to make them look ridiculous.

    The similarity to the propaganda of extreme anti-abortion groups is obvious, but it also isn’t a million miles from the “most oppressed people ever” style propaganda produced by some extreme national liberation and religeous fundamentalist groups. The obsession with martyrs is another common feature of such movements.

    Anyway if you’d like a break form the craziness I’d suggest taking a look at David and Dario’s writings on the Speaking of Research blog http://speakingofresearch.com/news/

  14. #14 sophia8
    February 26, 2010

    Thank you Bill. You’ve shown up what these fanatics for what they are. If they really cared about unwanted pets being euthanised, they would do it themselves to make sure the animals dies with the least suffering. Or they would pay for a network of hundreds of new animal shelters so that all the thousands of unwanted pets that are thrown out each year would live happy and cared-for lives; they would fund free pet sterilisation clinics so that less unwanted animals would be born; they would round up feral cats and dogs in their area, give them shots and get them sterilised.
    But do they as heck! Yeah, these AR people – well, some of them – take in animals but there just aren’t enough of them to even make a dent in the numbers. Just like the “pro-lifers”, they are all about ignoring reality and refusing to take action to remedy the root causes of the ‘evil’ that they are so passionate about.

  15. #15 Orac
    February 26, 2010

    If the lovely Camille showed up at your surgery, sick, and really needed you to operate, would you?

    Yes, if she would permit it. My Hippocratic oath demands no less, and whether I find a human being to be a despicable piece of scum or not is irrelevant to my doing my duty as a physician and a surgeon.

    Back in residency when I used to do trauma surgery, I operated on injured criminals from time to time, including on one occasion one accused of murder.

  16. #16 Michael
    February 26, 2010

    Thanks for humouring me – I appreciate the question was a bit tangential to the post. I was just thinking that the Hippocratic oath demands doctors procede in the face of potentially serious perceived conflicts of interest. Most other professions insist the extact opposite.

  17. #17 Orac
    February 26, 2010

    Remember, though, they hypothetical situation we are talking about is in an emergency. For a medical problem that could be treated with elective surgery, I’d strongly suggest that Marino find another surgeon.

    Of course, I highly doubt that Marino would ever let a “vivisector” operate on her; so it’s probably all a moot point anyway.

  18. #18 Tsu Dho Nimh
    February 26, 2010

    A comment on Camille’s site wondered why they didn’t go after dog fighting and the trainers. Or protest against leather wearing at a biker bar. Because they are chickenshit cowards, that’s why. When the cops raid a dogfighting ring, they do it heavily armored, armed and in large groups. Labs are less likely to shoot back.

    And ewwww she does really get vicarious pleasure from all the supposed sadism, mutilation and torture that she claims takes place in labs.

    I have been involved in animal research projects and I feel no guilt.

    Yes, we made partial and full-thickness burns in pigs while developing and testing artificial skin. They were anesthetized for it, and the sensory nerves leading to that area were blocked for the duration of the experiment. If you or your loved ones get burned today, what we did with the pigs may save their life, speed their healing, and overall make things better.

    Yes, I put a litter of kittens into a research program testing an almost-released for humans drug to see if it would work on cats … for an eye-eating infection that had no approved treatment at all. Without it, they would have all gone blind. With it, 3 recovered completely, one had partial damage to one eye and only one was badly affected. One might consider that the human babies in the Phase II trials were the “lab animals” for my kittens.

  19. #19 Pen
    February 26, 2010

    Well, I would have to presume she is a vegetarian. I can’t imagine what attitude she takes to the forms of ecological management that involve culling. I suppose she is anti-guns, at least so far as hunting guns are concerned. All that would seem to be called for by mere logic. So why on earth has she singled out researchers for violence? Why not abattoirs? Or farmers who raise animals for food generally? Why not hunting groups? Hell, why not the national parks and other ecological protection organisations (although maybe I’m assuming you have to use culling in the US. In Europe we do because of the lack of predators). Errm, what about the stray animal round-up people?

  20. #20 arrzey
    February 26, 2010

    When I sat on my uni’s IACUC, I used to take the community members on a tour of a Pediatric CA ward or the local Shriner’s inpatient wards (burn victims). The rationale, non-fringe ARA’s do learn from visiting children who have no idea of why they hurt. “Mommy, I promise I will be good if you make the hurt go away”. But people who can watch children suffering and not say that we must do everything in our power for those people are truly empathetic-deficient.

  21. #21 LC
    February 26, 2010

    @Tsu Dho Nimh

    Hmm, that’s an interesting point – how much animal research actually ends up benefitting animals even more than humans? Without the knowledge from animal research, vets would be flying blind with problems, and the vast array of veterinary pharmaceuticals would be reduced to a 12 gauge shotgun.

    And of course they’re gutless when it comes to target which can fight back – just like all bullies.

    It’s a phenomena called “Virtual Balls” – when they are safely shielded or disassociated from real consequences coming back to haunt them (picking on kids, vandalism, or ‘soft’ targets), they strut and swagger like they are superman. But when they are on the spot (a bikie about to punch their head in for pouring paint on his leather seat, or police about the charge them) they turn into blobs of jelly and cry about how those mean people pick on them.

  22. #22 Dr. Frankie
    February 26, 2010

    Ia agree with Orac when he write “Ambivalent Academic is definitely on to something here”.

    Essentially, what have we got here? People using and recording real violence administered to the very subjects they pretend to protect from the inflicted violence attributed to “the others” (a.k.a. scientists, that is, the “enemy”). The recording is then used to elicit indignation and repulsion form the public at large.

    Doesn’t that look and feel like a reverse and perverse “Heart and Minds” operation?

  23. #23 MikeMa
    February 26, 2010

    The slavering detailed descriptions (film and print) offered by Camille etal have maybe two major effects. One, they certainly seem very porn-like in their gruesome way which must satisfy them personally at some level. Second, they serve to shut down rational thought by the viewers/readers. Anyone watching/reading must respond with revulsion, anger and hate or be branded a heartless enemy. That shutting off of debate is what keeps these terrorists moving and focused without having to think much about the hypocrisy and stupidity of their own actions.

  24. #24 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    This isn’t fetishizing violence or snuff porn or any such nonsense. It is an attempt to eliminate what this person feels is researchers’ euphemistic description of what is going on, in order to advance the Animal Rights Activists’ position on these issues.

    It is fighting with words. It’s little different than what the pro-research people on this site do, by calling them terrorists, scum, purveyors of snuff porn or (my favorite for its brain-dead inanity) people with “ersatz religion.” It’s all just cheap and tiresome rhetoric. On both sides.

  25. #25 JohnV
    February 26, 2010

    Woody what do you call an organized group of people who use fear, intimidation and violence (or the threat of violence) to accomplish political goals outside of an established political system. Particularly when these actions are being directed against groups or individuals who are not engaging in the targeted activity.

  26. #26 Old Rockin' Dave
    February 26, 2010

    One simple fact seems to elude these violent sickos: humans are animals too, and would therefore seem to have rights as well.

  27. #27 Calli Arcale
    February 26, 2010

    Woody Tanaka: by any reasonable definition, someone who tries to halt an activity by making the practitioners fear for their lives is a terrorist. It isn’t simply a nasty name; it is the correct technical term when a person uses terror as a weapon. The message being sent is “you could be next”. That is terrorism at its purest.

    I wouldn’t go as far as Orac and others to suggest that perhaps the animal rights extremists get off on these gruesome descriptions, any more than anti-porn campaigners get off on descriptions of porn. That is, I am not convinced the whole animal rights campaign is, for some people, little more than an excuse to share graphic descriptions of torture.

    No, if it’s a fetishization of anything, it’s the fetishization of hatred. The descriptions of violence are not the end; they are a symptom.

    Hatred is very appealing to us as a species, because it fires us up, makes us feel *alive*, and makes us feel like throwing caution to the wind. It frees us to do things and say things which aren’t socially acceptable otherwise. This is probably why it survives as a trait in our species; being able to hate probably makes us much more effective at defending our tribe’s territory from interlopers, because it lets us take bigger risks. Downside, of course, is that taking bigger risks has individual consequences, and it doesn’t translate well into peacetime.

    Some people, I think, get hooked on hate (so to speak; I’m not talking an actual addiction here but more of a sort of psychological rut). They find a cause and attach themselves to it with a passion. They hate those who oppose them, and that hate burns hotter and hotter, distorting their views of the enemy. Propaganda isn’t always written by people calmly working out the best tools for recruitment; sometimes it’s written by people who are just really really angry and can’t see the truth anymore through the red haze.

    Spare me the false equivalence, Woody Tanaka. It’s not accurate. Sometimes both sides do not have equal merit, and this is one of them. I wouldn’t pretend to say that either side is more moral, but I do know that one side is more factual than the other.

  28. #28 KevinL
    February 26, 2010

    In response to those asking why pick on research, I don’t think it’s because it’s an easy target in the way people are suggesting – there’s no thought that “hey, we better pick on someone that won’t fight back”. If anything, the bigger the struggle, the grander the victory (or matyrdom, or whatever). So I think people have it wrong when they say it’s because of cowardice – more likely, it’s because research (particularly university research) is easy to find, and easy to demonise. People in small clusters with similar views tend to whip themselves into a frenzy, and the frenzy over “evil animal experimenters” is a really easy one to reach, and to do something about (try looking up dog fighters in the local phone book – they’re not as obvious as universities). It’s also obviously a fight – say “I hate dog fights” and almost everyone will agree with you, say “I hate animal experimentation” and that’s less so – every argument serves to strengthen their view of their own correctness, the same way it will with anyone certain of their position.

    So, basically, there’s a lot of material to draw from when describing the mis-use of animals in experiments; there’s a body of work out there that tries to provide replacements for animal experiments that means there’s a “solution” to this all; and people don’t agree with them. It looks like a no-brainer: Stop animal experiments, reduce suffering, find alternatives – why aren’t we already doing it? Every argument an AR extremist has with someone is more frustrating and more likely to strengthen their own views – that is, after all, how they become extremists. It’s made worse because the vast majority of people are actually quite clueless at these arguments – ask me how many people respond to “I’m a vegan” with “Oh, I just like meat too much” – that’s a massive trivialisation, and a huge slap in the face. Responses like that on their pet topic will help fuel it also.

    In response to the “appetite for violence” comment, I won’t speak for their mindset, but I know that when trying to get a message across – particularly one you strongly believe in – trying to shock people with graphic words is a common tactic. When you see that talking about animals being euthanized doesn’t work, you move to killed – when you feel that doesn’t carry enough gravitas, you move to murdered, then you start trying to describe the things you’ve heard of in snippets. I honestly didn’t see anything out of the ordinary (or loving or admiring) in Dario’s comments – they read very straight to me, they’re a description of what he believes is happening (and there is some evidence that researchers dehumanise their subjects – the difference between “the dog which is my subject” and “fido, my pet” is clear and real in people’s minds – if it weren’t, scientists would end up borderline psychotic in some cases).

    To put it another way, would you describe the nazi death camps in gentle phrases, or would you make the description brutal, if you were trying to convince an audience that didn’t care, that they should be shut down?

    Again, the filters come into play too – people hear and believe what fits with their worldview. Once you start believing that animal experimentation involves torture (and from that worldview, it does), then it’s easy to believe all the other horror stories you hear from like-minded people – every outlier of bad science becomes the norm and gets repeated, until the view is horrific.

    Fundamentally, these people believe that every animal in a research facility is worthy of a similar level of respect as a human, but they’re all caged, cut up, and killed. It’s very similar to the anti-abortion crowd, who believe that every abortion is a murder. There is a difference in that you can demonstrate a lack of nervous system / brain in an early-term abortion, but animals are definitely able to suffer – it should in fact be part of any recorded results, if the experiment is being properly run.

    So, faced with something truly horrific, and people apparently not listening, they hunker down, trade stories, wind themselves into a frenzy, and come out swinging. Once you’re committed to that view, it’s very hard to step away.

    For the disclaimers: I’m vegan, I believe in animal rights, I believe that we’re still too casual in our use of animals in experiments – but I do not condone violence or threats of violence in any way, shape or form. I can say that my views have changed over time on this issue, as on others, so I don’t _think_ I’m comparable to a religious fanatic. But I do think a lot of the commentary on here, from Orac and others, smells of a lack of understanding, and a bit of us/them demonisation – which is exactly what gets the extremist idiots into the position they argue from. Best not to make that mistake, imnsho. The nutters can be dealt with without resorting to their tactics.

    Oh, in response to a few of the “humans are animals too” type comments: Yes, but knowing what you know, given the chance to travel back would you kill Hitler or let him live? That’s the kind of comparison that gets thrown around (and the justification is the afore-mentioned belief that animals deserve equal respect as humans – I don’t think anyone here would suggest that humans be treated the same way lab animals are treated, let alone in the same numbers). Basically, they view it as the greater good to get rid of “mass murderers” – a number of fairly large countries still maintain a death penalty, let’s not forget, for crimes much less than the perceived crimes they’re talking about.

    The bottom line is, if you want to do a mind experiment to work out _why_ they’re so rabid about this stuff (and I do believe in trying to understand your enemy), replace every animal in an experiment with a human taken against their will. That’s the position they start from, and the response they come up with is, given that, pretty much to be expected. They’re trying to protect fellow creatures, and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care.

    Again, because I want to finish on this: I don’t in any way condone or support their behaviour – but if you don’t understand it, you end up assuming the wrong drivers are behind it. I disagree with Orac’s view of their motives and I disagree with the “they like the violence” assumption, and I think it’d be un-productive to attack them on grounds that are likely false.

  29. #29 mikerattlesnake
    February 26, 2010

    “This isn’t fetishizing violence or snuff porn or any such nonsense. It is an attempt to eliminate what this person feels is researchers’ euphemistic description of what is going on, in order to advance the Animal Rights Activists’ position on these issues.”

    So, two people of equal experience are coming up with equally hyperbolic descriptions of the other side to stoke the flames of their particular ideologies? Sounds nice, but one of these groups has worked in labs with animal experimentation and the other hasn’t, therefore one has a factual basis from which to make their accusations. Also, one side is advocating intimidation and violence, and the other is just calling people who advocate for intimidation and violence (against children mind you) “scum”.

    I think the moniker fits.

  30. #30 Jon F
    February 26, 2010

    “…Yes, but knowing what you know, given the chance to travel back would you kill Hitler or let him live? That’s the kind of comparison that gets thrown around (and the justification is the afore-mentioned belief that animals deserve equal respect as humans…”

    Wow, it took 10 whole hours for Godwin’s Law to kick in on this post. I would’ve guessed it would have been less than that.

  31. #31 Rorschach
    February 26, 2010

    No, Woody, because people who advocate targeting children for harassment ARE scum. People who burn down research buildings or bomb scientists who are trying to better mankind ARE scum. People who fly into fury at the thought of an animal being injured, but who casually advocate violence against another human being ARE scum.

  32. #32 Sunderland
    February 26, 2010

    scum in the world must disappear, we must remember that if we speak or say something must be done the right way bque and innocent people should not suffer death or be victims of unnecessary accidents, we cherish our health and the best way is doing respect our rights.

  33. #33 Dianne
    February 26, 2010

    try looking up dog fighters in the local phone book – they’re not as obvious as universities

    Biker bars are easy enough to find. The Hell’s Angels have an open, announced hangout in the East Village in NYC. Why do I never see animal rights activists in front of obvious, easy to find biker bars and HA hangouts protesting leather? There are plenty of good substitutes for leather that don’t even have to be developed: they exist right now. Seems like the perfect opportunity. Yet they’re just not there. It’s cowardice all right.

  34. #34 daedalus2u
    February 26, 2010

    I think Bill hit it right on the head. The AR terrorists do fetishize violence against animals and against humans. They imagine that researchers who use animals in their research do so because of the enjoyment that committing violence against helpless creatures provides. That is pure projection. The ARA would get enormous pleasure from committing violence, so they project that everyone else does too, and that getting that pleasure is why researchers use animals in the first place.

    It is exactly like the homophobic Evangelicals. They are so attracted to homosexuals, they would adopt a homosexual lifestyle in a heart beat if it were acceptable. Some of them already do. Homophobic individuals are afraid to even think about homosexual activity because it is so attractive to them. That is why the ARA can’t negotiate, discuss or even talk about research with animals. They can’t think about their fetish without getting all hot and bothered.

    That is why setting animals “free” so they will die in pain and misery from starvation and cannibalism in a few days is such a thrill for them. They get to cause pain and misery to animals in the guise of “helping” them. That is why threatening children of researchers gives them such a thrill too. Imagining harming children gets them hot and bothered too.

  35. #35 Dianne
    February 26, 2010

    It looks like a no-brainer: Stop animal experiments, reduce suffering, find alternatives – why aren’t we already doing it?

    Only to someone with no brain! There are so many problems with this statement it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll just plunge in regardless:
    1. How does one “find alternatives” without testing the potential alternatives against the standard? Suppose you have a proposed method of, say, testing metastatic potential of cancer in vitro. How would you know whether it worked or not without comparing it with the standard model (ie nude or transgenic mice)?
    2. Ending animal experimentation would not reduce suffering. I and I think everyone here will agree that some experiment should not be done and some animals should not be used in experiments except in dire need. That’s what IACUC are for. But the average lab animal is a mouse. Does a mouse really live a better life in the “wild” than in a lab? In a lab it has shelter, food, freedom from predation, companionship, and a place to hide. And 99% of the time the worst pain it is likely to undergo is something like a needlestick or two in its life. A lab mouse “rescued” by PETA is likely to be dumped in an open field with no idea where to run, how to get food, or what to do. Probably the worst thing you can possibly do to a mouse, in fact. Mice in labs=mice not being eaten alive by predators, poisoned with warfarin, or chewed up by farm equipment.
    3. So what do you propose as an alternative method for testing toxicity, models of metastatic disease, function of genes in an organism, etc?
    4. Before you say “cell culture” as an alternative for ANYTHING, let me remind you that eukaryotic cells require fetal calf serum to live. Not really a vegan alternative to animal testing. If anything worse because there are no IACUCs looking after farm animal welfare.
    5. Actually, we are “doing it”, that is, finding in vitro alternatives for some animal testing models. But the people doing it are the researchers you’re interested in terrorizing and killing, not the terrorists and supporters who are at best whining about it not being done. Why don’t you do something positive toward reducing animal experimentation if you’re interested? Set up a foundation to fund alternative models. Become a researcher yourself. Volunteer for you local IACUC and help ensure that all animal testing being done is necessary. But giving money to PETA isn’t helping anyone or any animal.

  36. #36 daedalus2u
    February 26, 2010

    KevinL, if the ARA were really concerned about animal lives as if they were human lives, why aren’t they focused on farming? Orders of magnitude more animals are grown, killed and used for food than are used in research.

    The reason is that a majority of people like to eat meat, and they realize that eating meat is not possible without growing and killing the animals that are eaten. Most people don’t know enough about research, so they are able to be tricked by the ARA lies that animals are not necessary for research.

    If ARA really think that animals are not necessary for medical research, why don’t they refuse all medical procedures developed through the use of animal research? The real medical research community bars even the publication of data generated in violation of the Declaration of Helsinki. Why don’t ARA have a similar declaration that bars use of medical procedures developed through animal experimentation?

  37. #37 Brien
    February 26, 2010

    Reading through some of this stuff yesterday I was struck by the same thought, that some of the imagery at NIO had to be cover for some kind of psychological disorder or trauma. But lets not paint all the animal rights people with a broad brush. Some are delusional or psychotic but others are well meaning but hopelessly ignorant and misled by the crazies.

    At least KevinL up-thread seems capable of having a rational discussion on the matter and I assume there are others affiliated with the movement that are open to learning that the bizarre propaganda they’re getting maybe isn’t the story.

  38. #38 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    JohnV: “Woody what do you call an organized group of people who use fear, intimidation and violence (or the threat of violence) to accomplish political goals outside of an established political system. Particularly when these actions are being directed against groups or individuals who are not engaging in the targeted activity.”

    It doesn’t matter what I would call them. They wouldn’t call themselves terrorists, just as scientists don’t call themselves animal torturers. There is a symantic game on both sides of this (and most every argument). That was the point of my post.

    ===========

    Calli Arcale: “by any reasonable definition, someone who tries to halt an activity by making the practitioners fear for their lives is a terrorist. It isn’t simply a nasty name; it is the correct technical term when a person uses terror as a weapon. The message being sent is ‘you could be next’. That is terrorism at its purest.”

    Okay. Fair point. Forget “terrorist.” The remainder – calling them scum and snuff porn fetishists, and the like, is little different than that which they being called on the carpet for.

    You did a fine job, I believe, discussing the role of hatred in all this. I wonder whether you see that that is true on both sides of this equation. They hate the scientists for what scientists do to the animals (and often simply for holding different ethical standards than they do), and react. The scientists hate the activists for the way they react (and often simply for holding different ethical standards than they do), and they react. The activists hate the scientists for this reaction, and so on and so on.

    The hate exists on both sides, because that’s how humans react when there are two conflicting ethical standards, and both sides are convinced that theirs is superior and that of their opponents is evil. (And I’m not talking here about the tactics, but of the ethical problems of using animals as things, as means and not ends.)

    As someone who abhors the tactics of this groups, but has sympathy for both sides of this question, the equivalence is there, and it is not, in my opinion, a false one.

    ===============

    mikerattlesnake: “Sounds nice, but one of these groups has worked in labs with animal experimentation and the other hasn’t, therefore one has a factual basis from which to make their accusations.”

    Both sides do. At the most basic level, there is no disagreement that animals are used in experimental capacities, and the prime ethical question is whether that is ethically permissible or if it is evil. The question of whether the animal suffers is an important, yet subsidiary one.

    ===============

    Rorschach: “No, Woody, because people who advocate targeting children for harassment ARE scum. People who burn down research buildings or bomb scientists who are trying to better mankind ARE scum. People who fly into fury at the thought of an animal being injured, but who casually advocate violence against another human being ARE scum.”

    No, they are people. Criminal people, sure (and definitely so with regard to the targeting of innocent children, which is unquestionably criminally, morally and ethically reprehensible), but people nonetheless, not scum. Dehumanizing your opposition dehumanizes you. And they would be equally wrong to say, “People who purposefully inflict pain animals ARE scum,” and “People who use living creatures as means rather than ends ARE scum.”

  39. #39 Brien
    February 26, 2010

    “At the most basic level, there is no disagreement that animals are used in experimental capacities, and the prime ethical question is whether that is ethically permissible or if it is evil.”

    Woody, the problem with approaching the issue this way is that the nutcase terrorists are completely ignorant of what “used in experimental capacities” means. They have gone completely overboard with bizarre fantasies about mutilation and torture. They are ignorant fools who are inevitably going to hurt somebody. Stop apologizing for them.

  40. #40 rob
    February 26, 2010

    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
    He makes me down to lie
    Through pastures green he leadeth me the silent waters by
    With bright knives he releaseth my soul
    He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places
    He converteth me to lamb cutlets
    For lo, he hath great power and great hunger
    When cometh the day we lowly ones
    Through quiet reflection and great dedication
    Master the art of karate
    Lo, we shall rise up
    And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water.

  41. #41 madder
    February 26, 2010

    Woody, you and the animal-rights terrorists seem to forget that the entities generally called IACUCs exist. You probably live within driving distance of a university that hosts animal research. IACUCs are, by their nature, open to participation by interested members of the public. If and when you actually take the time to join one (or even read their protocol-review policies) instead of spending your time on the internet defending terrorists, you will find that not all “animal experimentation” is ethically equivalent, and that the abuses of the past are long gone. It is not any kind of ethical question, let alone a “prime” one, to ask whether all modern animal experimentation is evil. What is evil is to use violence and the threat thereof to stop research into causes of and treatments for human suffering, when that research has been examined for several months by an IACUC whose sole purpose is to minimize the suffering of the animals involved.

  42. #42 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    Brien: “Woody, the problem with approaching the issue this way is that the nutcase terrorists are completely ignorant of what ‘used in experimental capacities’ means. They have gone completely overboard with bizarre fantasies about mutilation and torture. They are ignorant fools who are inevitably going to hurt somebody. Stop apologizing for them.”

    Bizarre fantasies or not, the animals ARE being used for experimentation and the activists’ basic opposition is based on the belief that such use – even if done without pain or torture – is ethically objectionable. You can’t argue that their opposition is not based on fact when the core ethical objection is based on the uncontested fact that animals are being experimented upon.

    Now, you can disagree with their ethical conclusion, but that disagreement does not make the pro-animal research position objectively superior to the anti-animal research position.

    So you can’t simply dismiss all of their position by pointing out that they are wrong on some facts, when the core fact — the animals are being experimented on — is uncontested, because that fact, alone, is sufficient to support their ethical conclusion.

    Which is all my statement to mikerattlesnake was saying.

    And I’m not apologizing for anyone; I’m just giving my opinion. If you don’t like it so much, then feel free to not read it and move along to the next post.

  43. #43 madder
    February 26, 2010

    Shorter Woody:

    “I know that real animal research can involve minimal or even no discomfort to the animals involved. But animals are involved. This justifies terrorism against humans.”

    Bullshit, Woody.

  44. #44 nsib
    February 26, 2010

    田中、

    They hate the scientists for what scientists do to the animals (and often simply for holding different ethical standards than they do), and react. The scientists hate the activists for the way they react (and often simply for holding different ethical standards than they do), and they react. The activists hate the scientists for this reaction, and so on and so on.

    This is a lie. There is no vicious cycle going on. Here’s how it goes: Scientists do their job -> AR activists hate them for it, take action -> Scientists continue doing their job -> AR activists get even more batshit insane. Do you see what the difference is? The scientists aren’t escalating a single damn thing! And you have the nerve to say that scientists hate AR activists for their ethics? They wouldn’t give a damn if the activists didn’t resort to threats and violence? See this? Scientists are perfectly happy to have discussions about animal experimentation.

    In short, you are indeed making a false equivalence.

  45. #45 Todd W.
    February 26, 2010

    @Woody

    Your bit about semantics is off. If we actually look at the terms employed, we’ll see a discrepancy between how the ARAs are being described and how the researchers are being described. That the extremists are terrorists has already been illustrated as being a factual statement, not merely name-calling. So, let’s take a look at “animal torturers”. Specifically, the meaning of “torture”:

    the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, definition 2)

    This seems to be the sense in which the ARAs are using it. Going by this definition, we can see that researchers are not torturers. They do not inflict pain (intense or otherwise) for the purpose of punishment, coercion or to derive sadistic pleasure.

    Now let’s examine scum (also from Merriam-Webster Online):

    a low, vile, or worthless person or group of people

    The ARAs do engage in low and vile tactics (violence and threats of violence, esp. toward children), which you seem to agree is true. As to worthless, in this context, it is equivalent to “contemptible” or “despicable”, which is also a factual statement. So, we see that the ARAs are, in fact, scum, according to this definition.

    Now, purveyors of snuff porn. From Wikipedia, we have this definition of a snuff film:

    A snuff film or snuff movie is a motion picture genre that depicts the actual death or murder of a person or people, without the aid of special effects, for the express purpose of distribution and entertainment or financial exploitation.

    The ARAs, it can be argued, use motion pictures of the actual death/murder of animals for the purpose of (macabre) entertainment and (emotional) exploitation. They may also derive greater membership revenues from using such films to stir the emotions of the public. So they do, in fact, purvey snuff porn.

    And finally, ersatz religion. The ARAs have fervent belief despite (and often in spite of) the facts of the matter. This belief rises almost to the status of a religion (i.e. worship of X). But, since it is not as elevated as religion, it is an inferior substitute, hence, ersatz. So again, we see that their extreme beliefs are, in fact, an ersatz religion.

    When we boil it all down to facts, reality supports the nomenclature applied to the ARAs, but the ARAs have no factual support for their descriptions of researchers.

  46. #46 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    madder: “Woody, you and the animal-rights terrorists seem to forget that the entities generally called IACUCs exist. You probably live within driving distance of a university that hosts animal research. IACUCs are, by their nature, open to participation by interested members of the public. If and when you actually take the time to join one (or even read their protocol-review policies) instead of spending your time on the internet defending terrorists, you will find that not all ‘animal experimentation’ is ethically equivalent, and that the abuses of the past are long gone. It is not any kind of ethical question, let alone a ‘prime’ one, to ask whether all modern animal experimentation is evil. What is evil is to use violence and the threat thereof to stop research into causes of and treatments for human suffering, when that research has been examined for several months by an IACUC whose sole purpose is to minimize the suffering of the animals involved.”

    As I implied to Brien, I’m not defending anyone. I’m giving my opinion. If you don’t like it, feel free to move one without reading it. (And, given my repeated statements decrying the activists’ tactics, your charge is a rather silly one.)

    I do not forget that the IACUCs exist. On the core point of whether it is ethical to experiment on animals, they are irrelevant. You would, presumably, believe that it is ethically appropriate to experiment on animals if certain conditions are met, regarding reducing suffering, doing it for a good reason, and so forth. The activists, however, do not hold that same ethical position. They believe that even if these conditions are met, that it is still ethically wrong to do the experiment.

    I presume that you would oppose medical research on unwilling children, even if no pain or torture occurred and even if the matter were somehow approved by an IACUC. The animal rights people simply do not believe that the distinction you would draw between the situation where the subject is a human animal and where the subject is a non-human animal is an ethically valid one. Now, you can disagree with that premise, but that disagreement does not make the pro-animal research position objectively superior to the anti-animal research position.

    Which is the sum total of the point I was making.

  47. #47 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    “’I know that real animal research can involve minimal or even no discomfort to the animals involved. But animals are involved. This justifies terrorism against humans.’

    Bullshit, Woody.”

    No, madder, what is bullshit is your reading comprehension. I never, not once, said anything about justifying terrorism. In fact, on more than one occassion, I’ve specifically stated my opposition to those tactics. I’m not even talking about my own opinions, for pete’s sake. I’m talking about the ethics and opinion of these animal rights’ activists.

    So either improve your reading skills or piss off.

  48. #48 madder
    February 26, 2010

    Woody at 1:29 pm:

    I’m not defending anyone. I’m giving my opinion.

    Woody at 1:10 pm:

    So you can’t simply dismiss all of their position by pointing out that they are wrong on some facts, when the core fact — the animals are being experimented on — is uncontested, because that fact, alone, is sufficient to support their ethical conclusion.

    Their ethical conclusion, in support of which you have been arguing, is that all animal experimentation justifies terrorism against humans. Most of us find this position to be incoherent at best. Incoherence is anathema to ethics.

  49. #49 Raging Bee
    February 26, 2010

    The hate exists on both sides, because that’s how humans react when there are two conflicting ethical standards, and both sides are convinced that theirs is superior and that of their opponents is evil.

    Once again, Woody, you’re excusing and justifying terrorism against innocent people using blatantly false equivalencies. Scientists are not engaging in violence, threats, or harassment against AR activists, or their families, therefore they cannot validly be compared to their enemies.

    You can’t argue that their opposition is not based on fact when the core ethical objection is based on the uncontested fact that animals are being experimented upon.

    Yes, we can, because — as has already been shown — their pamphlets and speeches are filled with lies.

    Now, you can disagree with their ethical conclusion, but that disagreement does not make the pro-animal research position objectively superior to the anti-animal research position.

    The pro-research position is based on facts and beneficial results for large numbers of humans and animals. The Anti-research position is based on lies, mindless incontinent hate, and, in the cases discussed on this blog recently, disregard for law and the basic rights of others. THAT makes the pro-research position objectively superior.

    So you can’t simply dismiss all of their position by pointing out that they are wrong on some facts, when the core fact — the animals are being experimented on — is uncontested, because that fact, alone, is sufficient to support their ethical conclusion.

    If they’re wrong on the “facts” that support their position (as they’ve been shown to be wrong about the facts of animal testing), then we CAN dismiss all of their position for that reason. “We have a moral position” does not justify or excuse stupidity, dishonesty, or undisciplined bullying, nor does it entitle you to respect if you don’t earn it.

    And I’m not apologizing for anyone; I’m just giving my opinion.

    And we’re pointing out to you that your opinion is based on very few facts and bogus logic; therefore it’s invalid and worthless.

    If you don’t like it so much, then feel free to not read it and move along to the next post.

    You don’t own this blog, you stupid prick, so you don’t get to tell us how to respond to what we see here. If you don’t like the response you get here, YOU’RE the one who should bugger off.

  50. #50 Prometheus
    February 26, 2010

    d2u (#36) makes an interesting point.

    The “animal rights” activists (and terrorists) are in a bind. If they target meat, then the majority of people will turn their backs on them. It’s easy to feel outrage about someone “torturing” a kitten or a chimpanzee (especially if you’ve never worked with chimpanzees), but it’s a lot harder to feel bad about steak, chops and chicken. If the ARA go after meat (as a few of the fringees have), they risk being even more marginalized than before.

    On the other hand, going after leather by picketing a biker bar and throwing red paint on Harleys would reduce the average ARA life span to mere minutes.

    So, they go after fur – which has a nice “class warfare” feel to it – because people who were mink rarely have concealed firearms and almost never drag people behind their motorcycles. Likewise, researchers are part of the “academic elite” (class warfare, again) and are usually doing research that the general public has a hard time linking to their own well-being (and they almost never beat people to death with chains).

    A can’t speak to the entire movement, but the ARA rank and file in my city tend to be from the upper middle class or upper class, socioeconomically, and are looking for “something to believe in”. Many have tried a variety of different social and political “movements” and were just as passionate about “GMO”, anarchy and the environment as they now are about “animal rights” – and have just as little understanding about it. They are disposable pawns that the leadership of the ARA groups use to insulate themselves from the consequences of the violence they advocate.

    The cadre of the ARA – the “hard core” believers – may indeed be fascinated by violence and use real or imagined cruelty to animals as an excuse to act on their violent tendencies. Intimidation, assault and murder by proxy may be enough for these people – it certainly is safer. And working through young idealists who don’t understand the issues – or even the facts – is so much easier than trying to deal with people who might ask difficult questions like:

    “If animal testing is inherently evil and nothing good can come from it, why do people in the leadership group use drugs that were tested on animals?”

    There is some hope that the current recession will help dry up the pool of young people willing to become “extreme activists” as they are forced to actually work for a living and have less time to protest things they don’t understand. This would leave the “hard core” to do their own dirty work.

    Prometheus

  51. #51 JohnV
    February 26, 2010

    “It doesn’t matter what I would call them. They wouldn’t call themselves terrorists, just as scientists don’t call themselves animal torturers. There is a symantic game on both sides of this (and most every argument). That was the point of my post.”

    Well its great that they don’t view themselves terrorists. Its also great that what they do just so happens to pretty much exactly match the dictionary definition of terrorism (and the definition of terrorist is amusingly “one who engages in terrorism”). It would be even better if they wouldn’t engage in terrorism. Maybe now that some of us are pointing out to them that they’re terrorists, they’ll rethink their terroristic ways and act like … non-terrorists.

    Its like frigging bizzaro world here. The people engage in terrorism but its wrong to call them terrorists, even though it is a correctly applied label. Scientists do not perform vivisection but its perfectly acceptable to call them vivisectionists.

  52. #52 Calli Arcale
    February 26, 2010

    Woody Tanaka @ 38:

    You did a fine job, I believe, discussing the role of hatred in all this. I wonder whether you see that that is true on both sides of this equation. They hate the scientists for what scientists do to the animals (and often simply for holding different ethical standards than they do), and react.

    Of course everybody is vulnerable to hating others; it’s human nature. But I do not see the animal rights extremists (i.e. the ones who advocate or even practice terrorism) as equivalent to researchers who point out that it is illegal to terrorize people. Are there distortions on both sides? Of course. But one side is distorting things vastly more than the other, and guilty of far more hatred.

    In general, the researchers would just like to get on with their jobs. I’m sure there is an exception somewhere, but all the animal researchers I’ve encountered have been in favor of animal welfare. Their only interactions with animal rights extremists are initiated by the extremists themselves. I think it is perfectly fair for the researchers to feel intimidated and even go so far as to complain that they are being terrorized, since after all, that is what is happening.

    The scientists hate the activists for the way they react (and often simply for holding different ethical standards than they do), and they react.

    Of course the scientists hate the activists for reacting with violence and terrorism. Who wouldn’t? It takes an amazingly generous soul to respond kindly to someone who advocates murder. (How many New Yorkers like Osama Bin Laden, do you suppose? Yet he is merely guilty of holding a different ethical standard…. Hate blinds us, but I think it is reasonable to dislike a person whose ethical standards permit murder just to make a point.)

    But I have never met a scientist who hates activists merely for holding contrary opinions. I would not be surprised to meet one in the future; scientists are humans, after all. But it is not common, and the very nature of science teaches them to expect to be disagreed with.

    The activists hate the scientists for this reaction, and so on and so on.

    Not entirely relevant here, but I thought you might enjoy this Babylon 5 quote that expresses that idea beautifully:

    “Physics tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. They hate us, we hate them, they hate us back. And so, here we are, victims of mathematics!” — Londo Mollari

    As someone who abhors the tactics of this groups, but has sympathy for both sides of this question, the equivalence is there, and it is not, in my opinion, a false one.

    No, it *is* a false equivalence. If your standard for equivalence is so loose that “KILL THEM ALL!” is comparable to “I wish they’d all just shut up and leave”, then it’s so loose as to be meaningless. It is like considering a Shuttle SRB to be equivalent to a bottle rocket. Yes, they are both solid-prop rockets, and they probably even use the same basic propellant. But the scale is so different it would be ridiculous to consider them comparable.

    The tactics of these groups are extremely relevant. You can’t just say “well, scientists say mean things about activists!” and declare that the two groups are therefore equivalent, because the content of what is being said is not equivalent at all.

  53. #53 Orac
    February 26, 2010

    For all their left-wing posturing, there’s also more than a little bit of fascist tendencies in the AR movement. Consider, for instance, Robert Paxton’s nine mobilizing passions of fascism, with my comment after each one:

    — a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions [Check-AR extremists certainly exhibit this];

    — the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual, and the subordination of the individual to it [OK, not so much in AR extremists, although they certainly do seem to think that everyone has duties to animals that subordinate the individual];

    — the belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group’s enemies, both internal and external [The AR extremists definitely have this in spades, or you might look at it as their viewing animals as being victims to the point that justifies any action and that they are in solidarity with the animals];

    — dread of the group’s decline under the corrosive effect of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences [not so much in AR extremists];

    — the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary [AR extremists certainly want a "purer" community and are willing to use exclusionary violence to achieve it.]

    — the need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny [No. AR doesn't have this];

    — the superiority of the leader’s instincts over abstract and universal reason [Hard to say; certainly "leaders" like Vlasak and Best seem to think their instincts are better than abstract and universal reason];

    — the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success [AR loons definitely appear to exhibit this to some extent];

    — the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group’s prowess in a Darwinian struggle [Nope].

    Although AR extremists are not fascists, they share several traits with fascists–enough to be disturbing.

  54. #54 Sean O'Doherty
    February 26, 2010

    I see Facebook has no problem giving her a place to espouse violence…in violation of their own policy.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=62500995171

  55. #55 another "evil" scientist
    February 26, 2010

    Camille says “Ray referred to his victims as “packages.””

    Does she not de-identify her targets also. Calling them vivisectionsists and animal torturers? These researchers don’t have kids they have offspring.

    Pot calling the kettle black?

    As someone who worked in labs that used animals and that currently helps researchers with their ethics applications I find their claims about what we do amazing. Pure sick fantasy totally unconnected to reality.

  56. #56 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    Todd W: “When we boil it all down to facts, reality supports the nomenclature applied to the ARAs, but the ARAs have no factual support for their descriptions of researchers.”

    I would disagree.

    First, using Merriam-Webster as the guide, I would disagree that the activists are using the second definition of “torture” but, rather, the first:

    “1 a : anguish of body or mind : agony b : something that causes agony or pain”

    In that respect, I’m sure they would say that animal research which causes anguish of body or mind would be “torture” of animals under this definition.

    My objection is, again, that it is clear to me that it is being used as an epithet, which is unhelpful.

    Moreover, the definition of “scum” you cited also indicates its usage as an epithet, which is exactly what I was decrying.

    Next, your definition of “snuff film” clearly indicates the death of humans, so it clearly does not apply here. Further, even as an analogy, despite your protestations, I’d say that the activists are doing this for neither entertainment nor exploitation value, but, rather, consciousness raising involved. They release this material because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that if people saw what was really happening, that they’d by outraged and would take action. Would you call “The Jungle” snuff porn? Probably not. (Obviously, this argument would go for authentic footage. If footage is staged, then the argument, as an analogy, has some merit, albeit very weak merit.)

    Finally, “ersatz religion” would only make sense if what you are talking about is, in fact, a religion, whether real or otherwise. And because we’re talking about the natural world here, without regard to God or the supernatural, then animal rights activism is not, in any sense, a religion. If you are trying to stretch “religion” merely something that someone has a “fervent” belief in, then you have simply redefined “religion” to include everything anyone has strong feelings about (be it cars, animals or the Philadelphia Phillies) but would, perversely, not include the actual religious beliefs of those who have rather wishy-washy religious feelings. That is why I believe this term was particularly inane, because it destroys two perfectly good words to make a weak rhetorical point.

  57. #57 Raging Bee
    February 26, 2010

    So now, having lost the argument and faced with responses he can’t refute, Woody the Prick is now hiding in hairsplitting word-definition arguments, and ignoring the facts and events on which we’ve based our initial choice of words.

    Next, your definition of “snuff film” clearly indicates the death of humans, so it clearly does not apply here.

    Yes, little man, we know the term “snuff film” applies to the filming of humans being tortured and killed on-camera. And what we’re saying here is that the AR asshats are doing something very similar, in a similar violent-porn spirit, with dying animals. Your quibbling over word-usage is a transparent and cowardly attempt to dodge the central points at issue here.

    I’d say that the activists are doing this for neither entertainment nor exploitation value, but, rather, consciousness raising involved. They release this material because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that if people saw what was really happening, that they’d by outraged and would take action.

    In many cases — as the original post pointed out — the videos and photos used were misrepresentations of reality; so you can’t call it “consciousness raising,” especially when they ignore corrective information and make no corrections to misinformation when it is offered.

    Finally, “ersatz religion” would only make sense if what you are talking about is, in fact, a religion…

    Wrong again. It would also make sense if the AR thug-boyz exhibit thought-patterns and rationalizations similar to those found in a religious cult. And that is what peter is contending in #1.

  58. #58 Todd W.
    February 26, 2010

    @Woody

    I beg to differ. Regarding torture, it appears that the ARAs are, in fact, using the term in the sense that researchers inflict pain upon the animals for the purpose of sadistic pleasure.

    On “scum”, do you deny the fact that the ARAs are, in fact, low, vile and despicable due to their actions?

    On snuff film, the ARAs equate non-human animals to human animals. Therefore, the definition of snuff film applies. Further, they do, indeed, appear to use it as exploitation, rather than raising awareness. If they were interested in raising awareness, would they not utilize facts without distortion? You know, like footage of how animals are actually treated in a research lab today, in context? I’ve not read The Jungle, but my understanding is that it was at least somewhat grounded in fact. The ARA’s texts and images are the result of imagination and apparent delusion.

    Finally, on ersatz religion, please look up the meaning of “ersatz” and how it can be used in phrases such as “ersatz religion”. The meaning is that their beliefs do not constitute an actual religion (i.e., worship of the supernatural), but that it is an imitation of/substitution for religion. They act on faith (i.e., belief without, and often in spite of contrary, evidence to support their beliefs).

  59. #59 S.G.
    February 26, 2010

    Raging bee, you’re practically proving Woody’s point about cheap and tiresome rhetoric with your use of “Woody the Prick” and “Little Man”.

  60. #60 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    madder: “Their ethical conclusion, in support of which you have been arguing, is that all animal experimentation justifies terrorism against humans.”

    First, I’ve not been arguing “in support of” their ethical conclusions, I’ve been discussing them. Simply because I don’t default to: “They’re snuff porn purveying SCUM!!!111!1” doesn’t mean that I am defending them. Further, most animal rights activists who believe that there is no ethical right to use animals in experiments, even if pain is minimized and even if there is a benefit to humanity, would not agree that this ethical principle justifies terrorism against humans. Most feel that terrorism is wrong and the experimentation is wrong.

    I apologize for saying “piss off” to you. You did not insult me, but merely got my position wrong, and I reacted inappropriately. I apologize.

    ============

    Raging Bee: “Once again… “

    Piss off.

    ==============

    JohnV: “Its like frigging bizzaro world here. The people engage in terrorism but its wrong to call them terrorists, even though it is a correctly applied label. Scientists do not perform vivisection but its perfectly acceptable to call them vivisectionists.”

    On later reflection, I thought in some circumstances that the “terrorist” label was appropriate, so I would not have a problem with using it when appropriate (which is clearly not the case with most animal rights activists.) But my larger point is that it is not acceptable for them to call scientists vivisectionists (unless the scientist is, in fact, a vivisectionist) anymore than it is acceptable for the scientist to accuse them of being scum that is peddling snuff porn.

    ===============

    Calli Arcale: “Of course everybody is vulnerable to hating others; it’s human nature. But I do not see the animal rights extremists (i.e. the ones who advocate or even practice terrorism) as equivalent to researchers who point out that it is illegal to terrorize people. Are there distortions on both sides? Of course. But one side is distorting things vastly more than the other, and guilty of far more hatred.”

    * * *

    “But I have never met a scientist who hates activists merely for holding contrary opinions. I would not be surprised to meet one in the future; scientists are humans, after all. But it is not common, and the very nature of science teaches them to expect to be disagreed with.”

    I am not talking about the activists espousing violence. As I noted before, I do not hold to that position. However, I’ve seen much hatred expressed by the pro-experiment side, not only for the avocation of violence, but for the expression and action on the opinion that animal experimentation is wrong and should be stopped.

    “The tactics of these groups are extremely relevant. You can’t just say ‘well, scientists say mean things about activists!’ and declare that the two groups are therefore equivalent, because the content of what is being said is not equivalent at all.”

    Actually, my initial point was merely that both sides are guilty of shady rhetorical practices. One side screams “they’re torturing animals” and “they’re vivisectionists” and the other says “they push snuff porn” and “did you notice that animal rights activists, though not fascists, share several traits with fascists?” As someone with sympathies for both positions, I find it tiresome when either side is doing it. I think I would be much more sympathetic to the

  61. #61 Mike
    February 26, 2010

    Let’s call it like it is. These cretins are no different than the ones that brought down the World Trade Center. They should be treated as terrorists and enemy combatants

  62. #62 Raging Bee
    February 26, 2010

    Simply because I don’t default to: “They’re snuff porn purveying SCUM!!!111!1” doesn’t mean that I am defending them.

    The fact that you’re repeatedly using false equivalency arguments DOES mean you are defending them. That is, in fact, one of the standard defenses used by scumbags to defend actions they can’t defend otherwise: “Someone else did something that looks similar if you squint at it right and don’t ask for details, therefore they’re no better than me.”

    Further, most animal rights activists who believe that there is no ethical right to use animals in experiments, even if pain is minimized and even if there is a benefit to humanity, would not agree that this ethical principle justifies terrorism against humans.

    True; but the subject of this particular post is AR activists who do indeed support both lies about animal-experimentation and terrorism against researchers and their kids.

    Actually, my initial point was merely that both sides are guilty of shady rhetorical practices.

    Not to the same degree, or even the same order of magnitude. For example, in Orac’s threads about this subject, supporters of animal experimentation have described such procedures (and the rules governing them) in great factual detail, based on their own education and direct experience; while the AR respondents have offered wild unsupported accusations, name-calling (VIVISECTION!!!ELEVENTY_ONE!!!1111), references that get easily debunked, explicit and shameless threats (“Get used to it!”), and (in your case and others) transparently bogus “equivalency” arguments.

  63. #63 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    ToddW: “I beg to differ. Regarding torture, it appears that the ARAs are, in fact, using the term in the sense that researchers inflict pain upon the animals for the purpose of sadistic pleasure.”

    Some are, sure. But I would guess that most animal rights people would accuse scientist of being amoral or ethically deaf than being actual sadists. I know a few people who are really big into animal rights, but they’re mostly of the opinion that the evil comes not in the scientist being a sadist, but in the scientist just not caring that it is evil (in their opinion) to use animals in experiments.

    “On ‘scum’, do you deny the fact that the ARAs are, in fact, low, vile and despicable due to their actions?”

    Yes, I do deny that. None of the animal rights activists I know (all are non-violent) are low, vile and despicable. They are some of the finest people I know. But even those who advocate terror tactics are human beings, it does nothing but make cheap rhetoric to use epithets. I could accept your position that someone who threatens a scientist with harm because of experiments on animals is a “scum,” and I could accept an activist’s argument that people who experiment on animals are “scum” or I could just simply both to cut out the tired rhetoric.

    “Finally, on ersatz religion, please look up the meaning of ‘ersatz’ and how it can be used in phrases such as ‘ersatz religion’. The meaning is that their beliefs do not constitute an actual religion (i.e., worship of the supernatural), but that it is an imitation of/substitution for religion. They act on faith (i.e., belief without, and often in spite of contrary, evidence to support their beliefs).”

    Oh, I know what the word “ersatz” means. What I’m saying is that “religion” and “strong feelings” are not the same thing. These people are passionate, and even if they are misguided, that does not make their opinions and beliefs a religion, even an ersatz one. It just means that they have strong feelings. Likewise, my passionate belief that evolution has occurred and that creationism is a great, giant, steamy pile of wrong-ness is not, by virtue of that passion, a religion (although I’ve been accused of exactly that on many occasions.) And, again, at its core, the only fact that matters to them – that animals are used in experiments – is an uncontested fact and is not accepted on faith.

  64. #64 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    S.G.: “Raging bee, you’re practically proving Woody’s point about cheap and tiresome rhetoric with your use of ‘Woody the Prick’ and ‘Little Man’.”

    Thanks, S.G.

    Sometimes you just ignore the pests. This is one such case.

  65. Notice that Woody doesn’t dare address Dianne directly? Is it because she’s kicked his arse from here to Charing Cross?

  66. #66 Todd W.
    February 26, 2010

    @Woody

    You seem to be under the impression that we are talking about all animal rights and animal welfare proponents. We are not. We are talking about those like Camille Marino who advocate violence against researchers and their families and who deliberately distort and lie about animal research. Please keep that in mind when reading our statements.

    And, again, at its core, the only fact that matters to them – that animals are used in experiments – is an uncontested fact and is not accepted on faith.

    But that’s not the basis of the extremist position. It is not simply that animals are used in experiments; the basis of their view is that animals used in experiments, regardless of the type of experiment, are being horribly abused to the extent of vivisection, and that their treatment is demonstrably worse than any other possible situation that the animal could be in (e.g., living wild where they are prone to starvation, exposure, poison, trapping, etc.). The basis of their beliefs are contradictory to reality. Their beliefs are not based in fact. It is not simply that they have strong, fervent beliefs, but rather that their strong beliefs are based on their imagined view of reality without any evidence that their beliefs are, in fact, true.

  67. #67 S.G.
    February 26, 2010

    Wait, isn’t “pest” really close to “scum”? I guess it depends on whether you mean troublesome person or a destructive animal. Then again, if we say that animal is close to scum, we’re begging the question and which side is obviously in the right is evident.

  68. #68 Brien
    February 26, 2010

    “Brien: “Woody, the problem with approaching the issue this way is that the nutcase terrorists are completely ignorant of what ‘used in experimental capacities’ means. They have gone completely overboard with bizarre fantasies about mutilation and torture. They are ignorant fools who are inevitably going to hurt somebody. Stop apologizing for them.”

    Bizarre fantasies or not, the animals ARE being used for experimentation and the activists’ basic opposition is based on the belief that such use – even if done without pain or torture – is ethically objectionable. You can’t argue that their opposition is not based on fact when the core ethical objection is based on the uncontested fact that animals are being experimented upon.”

    I’m sorry but this Camille’s site is not operating on this basis — they’re not using this construct at all. She parades bloody, photo-shopped pictures, graphic verbiage, hate and terror incitement all over her blog freely. This is no core ethical disagreement spiced up with a little embellishment. This is hateful, offensive, psychotic stuff.

    She’s not engaging in a debate about the ethics, she’s accusing people of things that they are in no way, shape or form doing and threatening they and their families on that basis. This is delusional, psychotic stuff. Stop playing semantic games and quit apologizing for her.

  69. #69 Raging bee
    February 26, 2010

    …the only fact that matters to them – that animals are used in experiments – is an uncontested fact and is not accepted on faith.

    Bullshit — the specific details of such experimentation and what it entails are indeed “contested:” as has been pointed out here and elsewhere (and you ignore), the AR activists have frequently been caught repeating long-refuted flat-out lies about what, exactly, goes on in animal-research labs. And when people with actual experience in animal-experimentation laboriously point out the facts, their long and careful expositions are ignored by the activists, who keep on screaming “VIVISECTION!!!” and ignore the reality.

  70. #70 JohnV
    February 26, 2010

    @Woody

    Sorry, I should have read the rest of the comments before I brought up the terrorist label again. Had I done so I would have seen your comment about it.

  71. #71 madder
    February 26, 2010

    @Raging Bee #62–

    Well put. When I considered Woody’s exegesis of his position, it almost seemed like an interesting argument: ARAs claiming that scientists just love gettin’ soaked in blood (screams a bonus) vs. people like us engaging in amateur psychoanalysis. Almost.

    “False equivalence” sums it up well. ARAs like Camille base their depictions on fantasy and hyperbole. The scientists here and elsewhere speculating about violence fetishism and so on, though, have the actual words and actions of their targets to discuss. Orac even links to them above. One can easily compare the “fetishism” analysis to the words on which it is based. Closer examination of the ARAs’ portrayals, on the other hand, shows them to be almost universally false.

    And Woody, we’re talking about the unhinged ARAs. Reasonable ones participated in the creation of IACUCs. Researchers like Orac (and me, back in the day) often view the hoops that we have to jump through to be a bit burdensome, but almost none of us would go back to the days before they existed. IACUCs serve a dual function: protecting animal welfare, and providing actual, verifiable evidence to any who care to look that animal research is done in a humane and ethical way.

    But some people prefer not to look, instead lying about us and what we do. We reserve the right to be upset with them.

  72. #72 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    ToodW: “You seem to be under the impression that we are talking about all animal rights and animal welfare proponents. We are not. We are talking about those like Camille Marino who advocate violence against researchers and their families and who deliberately distort and lie about animal research.”

    I understand that. And as I’ve noted on a number of occasions, I do not support that position, so sometimes my discussion of the issue is broader than simply these people, as I’ve tried to make clear.

    “But that’s not the basis of the extremist position.”

    But it is, in my opinion, the ultimate basis of this conflict. That’s the point I was trying to make. This is the core issue to be dealt with.

    =======================

    S.G.: “Wait, isn’t ‘pest’ really close to ‘scum’? I guess it depends on whether you mean troublesome person or a destructive animal. Then again, if we say that animal is close to scum, we’re begging the question and which side is obviously in the right is evident.”

    Ha. Just a snide comment refer to bees as pests.

  73. #73 KevinL
    February 26, 2010

    Woody’s been trying to demonstrate (as I did with my post) how these people think. Those who are attacking the views, step back a sec – those posts aren’t an attempt to support them, but an attempt to explain where they’re coming from. I felt the need to plaster my post with “I do not condone” notes to make it clear that it wasn’t an attempt to excuse them, but (given the content of Orac’s post) an attempt to put the record straight on their motives and try and offer a glimpse into how and why people would act that way.

    At some level, it’s inevitable (and I refer to the response in the comments here, as well as the extremist behaviour) – we are the type of creature that likes to have an “us” and a “them”.

    @Orac, that list can be warped in a bunch of ways, and I’m not sure calling them fascists (or terrorists, for that matter) really helps you understand them. Sure, they feel there’s a bigger issue at stake, they feel they’re not being listened to by the rest of the world, it’s an emergency and that justifies their actions. _That_ goes to the heart of what drives these things. The rest is just posturing to try and call them names, which might be a great group-builder but doesn’t really do you any good (sure, so call them fascists, what does that change about how you deal with them?)

    Working my way down the comments:

    re: Godwin’s law, it’s inevitable when describing this stuff because those comparisons _are_ used when explaining the basis for their beliefs. I could pick other atrocities, but the nazi’s are the easy one everyone recognises.

    re: hell’s angels bars, it’s a lost cause so far – the chances of getting any sort of headway on telling bikers to switch from leather are slim, the chances of getting a research facility shut down are much higher. Bikers are down the list on where change can happen, so they’ll get to them later. You can call it cowardice if you like – I don’t think anyone in the movement really thinks they have a chance of that argument actually working, so they wouldn’t bother. You’ve got to remember, there’s a _huge_ body of change people want to see happen – right the way down to us all becoming vegans, ending all animal suffering, the whole bit. It’s a massive list of things wrong with the world, all you can do is break it down to tiny manageable pieces and chip away at it.

    @Dianne, I understand your arguments – I was putting forward the logic chain that drives the whole thing. Personally, I believe we’re still too cavalier in our use of animals, but there _are_ good reasons to use animals sometimes, for some things. That, incidentally, would put me at odds with even most of the moderate anti-testing people. I’d like to say we all hope the number of animals used continues to go down as we develop good models and other alternatives, but a lot of people either don’t care or worse. I’d love to see the IACUC reports on Wakefield’s monkey study, for instance – and while the oversight is there, it’s not complete (should they be responsible for realising Wakefield’s studies are quack science and disallowing the use of animals? I don’t think so, but then who does stop it?) PETA are, imnsho, the greenpeace of the movement – they exist to get media attention focussed on things, not much else, and they’re pretty damned good at that.

    re: farming, sure – talk to any of the AR people about farming, or whether they’re vegetarian, I think you’ll find they support turning the world veg*. Again, changing everyone to a no-meat diet is ideal, but seen as much more difficult than shutting down some of the animal testing, so it’s always a question of which stuff do you chase first? I’m sure, if I knew your personal beliefs, I could pick out things you believe in that you’re not working on as hard as others and say “but why do you not do that” – it’s not a sign of hypocrisy, it’s a sign of limited mental/emotional/time resources. Also, there are other people chasing those other bits – people get drawn to different parts of the whole in terms of what they find the worst.

    With regard to not using the results of the experimentation, it’s nearly impossible, but some do try – every so often you’ll get people who refuse various treatments in hospital on belief grounds. But, there’s limits you practically have to put on that – our whole civilisation is built on the suffering of others (animals and humans), so you draw lines based usually on immediacy. None of the AR extremists would be wearing animal tested cosmetics, or would use animal-tested or animal-sourced drugs typically, where the information is available. For myself as an example, as a vegan I have nothing from animals in my wardrobe, cupboard, or (currently) medicine cabinet (that I’m aware of). Having said that, I will take drugs that are animal tested (hard not to given we went through an “LD50″ period and many countries still actually require _animal_ testing as part of proving things are safe, even if you can demonstrate on equivalent models that it’s not an issue) and if prescribed, I’ll take animal-sourced drugs – I like my life and health too much not to, that could be seen as hypocrisy but I’m not entirely sure it invalidates the rest of the position.

    Woody’s posts are clear and good in describing the view – this sentence in particular:
    “””
    The animal rights people simply do not believe that the distinction you would draw between the situation where the subject is a human animal and where the subject is a non-human animal is an ethically valid one
    “””

    That’s the heart of the whole thing. You can rail about hypocrisy or fascism or whatever else as much as you like, but if you’re not addressing that point, it’s just noise to them. Incidentally, the idea that people here don’t understand that suffering should be met with force is laughable – most of you understand, at least, the rational behind attacking a country with a murderous dictator to stop them from inflicting suffering on their people. Madder saying it’s incomprehensible that violence against other creatures should be met with more violence is just a demonstration that you haven’t stopped and thought it through. We meet violence with violence every day in the interests of “the greater good”. If the cops shot down someone that had systematically butchered humans (humanely or no), most people would be cheering, or at least think it justified.

    @raging bee, the trouble with the “pro research” position, as you put it, is that it doesn’t exist. Not really. IACUC exists because we already accept that suffering is involved and it needs to be minimised. As rational, caring humans (as others have pointed out scientists are), we would hope that animal suffering is minimised – that’s part of why we research models and alternatives. The AR extremists just don’t believe that scientists are really paying enough attention to that – and with reports like http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jan/23/ben-goldacre-bad-science floating around, you can understand why.

    Again, so people are clear: I _do_ believe the extremists wind themselves up on a bunch of false information – although some of it is true as well, as much as we’d like to believe having organisations like IACUC helps, there’s often a gap between intention and actuality, and bad things _do_ happen. I don’t believe the AR people have the right response here – I don’t think the violence is at all justifiable or even useful to their cause. Throwing around comments about these people being scum, fascists, glorifying violence, etc should be done with care, because it adds fuel to their fire and marginalises those (like me) who sympathise with their views, if not their actions. I’d also argue it’s an emotive, not a rational, response in a lot of cases – it doesn’t actually further the “what do we do about this” discussion, it just lets you all point at “them” and decry their existence.

    At the end of the day, I believe strongly that you can’t just close your eyes on this stuff. Ben Goldacre’s article’s final paragraph is spot on. Just because there’s people ranting at the door about how evil the scientists are, doesn’t mean science gets to pretend it’s all hunky-dory. Wakefield’s study gets laughed at for not having a consistent number of monkeys – 35% of published results make exactly the same mistake. So is over a third of our animal-based research completely invalid? If so, that’s a real cause for concern. While those sorts of glaring issues exist, people like this have fuel. Take those away and you starve them of material – and improve research in the process.

    I still don’t believe – haven’t seen in here any support for – the idea that they’re doing this because they want to glorify the violence – the initial charge made. I truly think it’s an attempt to underscore the seriousness of the charges they’re making, and it reflects what they believe actually happens. There’s very little literature out there that shows the inside of a researcher’s animal care facility, or paints animal research in a positive light wrt what’s actually done to the animals, so the AR people have the only voice on describing the experiments in public. You’ll never convince the extremists, and I wouldn’t bother trying – those arguments are just people shouting at each other, on both sides. It’s the general public that’s more important.

  74. #74 Poogles
    February 26, 2010

    “…so sometimes my discussion of the issue is broader than simply these people, as I’ve tried to make clear.”

    So perhaps you should stay on topic? Just a thought…

  75. #75 Dianne
    February 26, 2010

    I’d love to see the IACUC reports on Wakefield’s monkey study, for instance – and while the oversight is there, it’s not complete (should they be responsible for realising Wakefield’s studies are quack science and disallowing the use of animals? I don’t think so, but then who does stop it?)

    Hey, I think we’ve found common ground! I’d love to see it too. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. Nor can I imagine what the IRB that approved his study on autistic children were thinking. Both incidents definitely argue for oversight committees being imperfect. And I do think that both should have realized that Wakefield’s science was questionable and at least demanded better safeguards than were in place, if not refused to approve the protocols outright. However, I don’t see Wakefield’s studies as reasons to end either human or non-human animal research, just cautions that that research always needs good oversight.

    BTW: My apologies for being rude earlier.

  76. #76 Raging Bee
    February 26, 2010

    Woody’s been trying to demonstrate (as I did with my post) how these people think.

    He’s also been making missatements of fact, either because he’s passing on the misstatements others believe, or because he believes or condones them himself — he really ought to be a little clearer on this question. He explicitly claims to condemn the violent bullying, but not the rank, screaming dishonesty the AR activists use to justify it.

    @raging bee, the trouble with the “pro research” position, as you put it, is that it doesn’t exist. Not really. IACUC exists because we already accept that suffering is involved and it needs to be minimised.

    That’s what I mean when I refer to the “pro-research position:” animal research carried out as necessary by competent researchers according to a plan designed to ensure maximum utility and minimum suffering.

    I still don’t believe – haven’t seen in here any support for – the idea that they’re doing this because they want to glorify the violence – the initial charge made. I truly think it’s an attempt to underscore the seriousness of the charges they’re making, and it reflects what they believe actually happens.

    They believe it, and don’t correct it, because it fits their prejudices. If they’re continuing to believe it and repeat it despite numerous attempts to correct them, then they don’t deserve any respect for “sincerity” or “what they really believe.”

    There’s very little literature out there that shows the inside of a researcher’s animal care facility, or paints animal research in a positive light wrt what’s actually done to the animals, so the AR people have the only voice on describing the experiments in public.

    The loudest voice, yes, but the only one? I’ve read plenty of such literature right here on this blog; and I find it hard to believe this is the only place where unclassified scientific research methods are described in detail.

  77. #77 Ritchie Annand
    February 26, 2010

    None of the animal rights activists I know

    They’re not talking about the animal rights activists you know as “scum”.

    But even those who advocate terror tactics are human beings, it does nothing but make cheap rhetoric to use epithets.

    That is one of the most amazing examples of tone trolling I have seen in a long while. Congratulations.

    To address that substantively, the epithets that are being used by posters here are not “cheap rhetoric”, they are a normal human reaction to mercenary behavior. The explosive intended for Lynn Fairbanks deserves shock and outrage. Threatening researchers’ property, life and children ought to provoke disgust.

    It’s not a rhetorical tactic to use terms of disgust here, and that includes epithets against anyone who would do or encourage anything of the sort, animal rights activist or not.

    If we go on to paint all animal rights activists like that, you have right to complain.

    Do we need to mention again that we’re not talking about the animal rights activists with which you are personally familiar?

    This group that we are talking about engages in rhetoric that is essentially a blood libel on researchers. Whipping people into a frenzy based on lies cannot in any way be equated with people reacting to them based on truth.

    And, again, at its core, the only fact that matters to them – that animals are used in experiments – is an uncontested fact and is not accepted on faith.

    That seems particularly obtuse to be talking about “at its core”. “The only fact that matters to them” is not merely that animals are used in experiments – with which milder-manner folks like your erstwhile animal activist companions may ‘simply’ be concerned – but that, according to this group’s own announcements and materials, they are being sadistically tortured for fun and that every second that the scientists are left to this wanton butchering, animals are yelping and bleeding whilst the blood-spattered sadists in lab coats laugh and laugh. Well, the exact gruesome scenarios detailed vary.

    In a universe in which those sadistic tales were actually true, then the authorities are either collaborating, afraid or ineffectual at shutting down these sadists, justifying these people taking the law into their own hands.

    …but this is THIS universe, and that makes them delusional vigilantes in any objective take on the situation.

    Why ought that justify them getting handled with rhetorical kid gloves?

    Here’s a question for you: are the more gentle animal rights activists you know openly shocked and appalled by these actions of the ALF, or do you know?

  78. #78 Dianne
    February 26, 2010

    The animal rights people simply do not believe that the distinction you would draw between the situation where the subject is a human animal and where the subject is a non-human animal is an ethically valid one

    Why?

    If the cops shot down someone that had systematically butchered humans (humanely or no), most people would be cheering, or at least think it justified.

    Possibly, but would–or at least should–they be cheering when the cops shoot the killer’s children? Because that’s what Orac’s post is about: AR activists threatening the children of researchers. How do you justify that?

  79. #79 Orac
    February 26, 2010

    Throwing around comments about these people being scum, fascists, glorifying violence, etc should be done with care, because it adds fuel to their fire and marginalises those (like me) who sympathise with their views, if not their actions. I’d also argue it’s an emotive, not a rational, response in a lot of cases – it doesn’t actually further the “what do we do about this” discussion, it just lets you all point at “them” and decry their existence.

    Their existence should be decried. They have advocated a violent path with an “ends justify the means” philosophy, if you can call it a philosophy, and it is right to call them out for it. In fact, it’s imperative for the very reason that, if we don’t, the general public might start to wonder if they have a point. Even worse, their bullying tactics will have won.

  80. #80 KevinL
    February 26, 2010

    (trying to make my posts shorter – how do you quote people?)

    @Dianne: Didn’t notice you being rude, tbh. Also agree, Wakefield’s studies aren’t a reason to throw all animal testing out – far from it.

    @RagingBee: Yes, changing what you believe is hard. Yes, pointing out to people that they’re not doing that is important. I don’t think you win that argument (either directly, or in the public arena) by devolving to a slanging match.

    Wrt the literature on this blog, this is still a niche location. AR people have their material out in public, handed out from desks, plastered where-ever they can get visibility for it. There’s a big difference for the general public in what they see. If you go looking – if you have enough curiousity and willingness to research – you can find out a lot more, sure, but most people will see the pictures of the monkey with a framework of metal built into his head (the standard pic we see here in .au) and base their views on animal research on that.

    Having said that, beyond the initial shock most people don’t actually give a shit one way or the other either – so long as any abuses aren’t too in their face, it’s none of their concern. This is why the rhetoric from the AR activists gets louder and shriller – it has to keep puncturing that to try and get the point across.

    Incindentally, as a side note, while the initial article addressed one extreme person, the comments that followed certainly didn’t feel to me as though they were confined to that one case – maybe I’m sensitive on this issue, but it certainly comes across as though the wider viewpoint is being attacked, not just the specific people.

  81. #81 Ritchie Annand
    February 26, 2010

    One thing I find interesting is where PETA and Camille Hankins (of WAR) intersected. The WAR site (war-online.org) has “Justice For Oreo” prominently mentioned on their web page.

    Seeing the Oreo story from PETA’s point of view is interesting. From PETA’s blog:

    The nice-sounding but damaging “no-kill” movement exposes its lunacy by attacking an agency (the ASPCA) that took in an aggressive pit bull named Oreo from extreme abuse, paid to fix her two broken legs, and then, when she turns out to be far too dangerous and unpredictable around people, affords her a peaceful and dignified exit from the world that has miserably failed her (“Oreo is Dead,” Nov. 13).

    Leading the critics is Camille Hankins, the Director of Win Animal Rights, who was convicted of cruelty to animals in 1995 when nearly 100 animals were found stuffed into a tiny, filthy trailer rented by Hankins. Many of the animals found there were dying from contagious illnesses and many were literally scratching themselves to death and had bloody, seeping wounds from severe untreated mange infestations. Two cats removed by police from Hankins during the service of a search and seizure warrant were treated successfully and lived at PETA’s headquarters for more than 10 years (you can read the details of the case here: http://www.pet-abuse.com/cases/4612/NC/US/).

  82. #82 KevinL
    February 26, 2010

    @Dianne: No, you’re right, and again I say – threatening violence on anyone here is the wrong response. I don’t think it’s justified at all.

    Um. You’ve asked why AR people believe that animals and humans share equal footing. I can tell you how I get to that view – basically, it’s because there’s no fundamental difference between us. I look at my pup (currently fast asleep next to me) and I see a fellow creature able to enjoy, joke, feel guilty, suffer, and generally share my life. I have trouble coming up with a reason why he should be a candidate for experimentation and I shouldn’t. It’s a short step from there to extend that to other creatures.

    @Orac: I agree, it’s worth calling them out – essential to do so, in fact. But if you don’t understand the _foundations_ for their beliefs, you risk boosting their cause.

    The terrorist stuff is a good example of that. The “war on terror” has, if anything, created more terrorists. That doesn’t mean you don’t oppose what they do or believe – it means you have to think carefully about _how_ you do it. If you demonise them – call them scum, accuse them of “fetishizing violence” – then the people who have some sympathy with their base views go “is he talking about me then? Am I/my views not welcome here?” and end up in the wrong camp. In my not-so-humble opinion, the right response with these sorts of things is to stick to the facts, leave the emotion to one side, and make sure that you appear more rational, more well-considered, and more correct in the public eye than they do.

    Basically, if you want to undermine them, make it obvious that they’re the raging loonies and you’re being reasonable, not by meeting hyperbole with hyperbole.

    IMNSHO, YMMV.

  83. #83 S.G.
    February 26, 2010

    If the post is supposed to be a means or indicate a mode of dialogue with AR, then it has some problems. If, however, it’s an information piece, it is as usual, well written and interesting.

    I think Woody is taking issue with the post being used in the former sense. I think some people may be missing his point, or they may be taking the post in the latter sense (in which case, people are talking past each other.)

    Here’s my take on the problems with approaching this group of AR by calling them fascists, terrorists, etc: it’s unlikely to change their minds.

    Animals are used in experiments. These animals may suffer or die.

    If you take a consequentialist approach, you need to show that this suffering is justified by the greater good.

    If you take a deontological or moral absolutist view, your interpretation of the suffering is based on the moral value that you ascribe to the suffering of animals.

    I think we can say that the AR group in question is a moral absolutist group that sees no difference between human suffering and animal suffering. Also, they don’t see “the system” as a valid means of bringing about change, so they are willing to act on their moral convictions, even if it means breaking the law.

    The facts in dispute here, the attribution of blood-thirstiness of researchers and the supposed “fetishism”, is obviously something in nede of correcting, but to those AR, it’s likely to be window dressing.

    I’d guess they’d see it to be similar to the guards at the site of some genocide honestly and sincerely saying, “well, we’re doing it for the greater good and we gave them pillows.”

    Unless you tackle their views on the ethical value of an animal life or their views on the practical means of changing things, you’re unlikely to convince them to change tactics by telling them that the scientists are nice guys who treat animals well and that their intimidation tactics are wrong.

    To be clear, I don’t share the views of these ARs and I favour animal experimentation.

  84. #84 KevinL
    February 26, 2010

    Btw, for those arguing that this is all about a particular case, not AR as a whole, just scroll back up to the first post and re-read it. The _very_ _first_ comment on here calls all of AR a closed-minded religion. For anyone who counts themselves an AR supporter, that sets the tone really quickly.

    Animal Rights covers a gamut of people – from the extremist nutters, through to a lot of very rational calm people who happen to hold a different view than you. Starting the discussion from that point is not helpful, and then going back and saying “hang on, I wasn’t talking about them, they’re obviously alright” is a bit disingenuous.

  85. #85 Dianne
    February 26, 2010

    It’s a short step from there to extend that to other creatures.

    Do you swat mosquitos?

  86. #86 jemand
    February 26, 2010

    Lets just say I’m very happy for the IACUC, and I wish there were a similar organization which reduced the pain and suffering of farm animals, or which helped minimize animals used in education to those that are actually going to be… educational, rather than completely dismissed by rowdy kids who rip them up in three seconds, laugh, then complain about their bad grades. There are a lot of harms committed against animals, and lots of animal life used frivolously and thoughtlessly, BUT, the proportion of that happening in research today? Virtually nil. Thanks to modern ethics boards– which didn’t always exist, and which we need to enact in all these other areas as well.

    But the idiots don’t choose to participate in constructive efforts, but just enjoy feeling angry.

  87. #87 Dianne
    February 26, 2010

    I look at my pup (currently fast asleep next to me) and I see a fellow creature able to enjoy, joke, feel guilty, suffer, and generally share my life. I have trouble coming up with a reason why he should be a candidate for experimentation and I shouldn’t.

    To look at it another way, do you see a reason why you should pay income tax and your pup not? Or why you should be required to go to school until a certain age and no other animal should? Should the pup have the right to vote? Do these distinctions between human and non-human animals mean anything to you?

  88. #88 KevinL
    February 26, 2010

    @Dianne – yes, why, do you think that gives me the right to eat human?

    Seriously, because there’s a grey area down there somewhere near the border of sentience, doesn’t change the comparative abilities of me and my dog. Do I have a sliding scale, sure – my gf did a part-phd in a mol-biol lab, she did _lots_ of experiments on drosophila – we have a standing joke that they’re haunting her since then, because the damned things seem to be following her.

    The oversight committees have the same sort of sliding scales – they pay _much_ more attention to monkey experiments than, say, mouse experiments. Where you draw those lines is a matter of personal (and cultural) preference. But the fact that a line is drawn somewhere doesn’t invalidate what I put in my previous post – I can’t honestly say that because I swat mosquitoes, I can justify animals being treated the way we wouldn’t treat humans.

  89. #89 Ritchie Annand
    February 26, 2010

    Btw, for those arguing that this is all about a particular case, not AR as a whole, just scroll back up to the first post and re-read it. The _very_ _first_ comment on here calls all of AR a closed-minded religion. For anyone who counts themselves an AR supporter, that sets the tone really quickly.

    Kevin, there are two threads going on through the comments on this post, one thread referring to ARA as a whole, the other to Camille, the ALF and violence. The latter is what Orac’s posting was about, but ARA in general was covered in the thread starting with peter, countered by mus, and commented on in general by those recounting their experiences with ARA and animal experimentation.

    Woody seems to have trying to smoosh the two threads together haphazardly, to the aggravation of those commenting on Orac’s post (wherein said ARAs are deserved of epithets) and not ARA in general.

    By the way, Orac, my apologies on my last linked post. I got the wrong Camille, Hankins of WAR instead of Marino of NIO.

  90. #90 Dianne
    February 26, 2010

    yes, why, do you think that gives me the right to eat human?

    I thought that was your argument. Earlier in the thread you stated that, “The animal rights people simply do not believe that the distinction you would draw between the situation where the subject is a human animal and where the subject is a non-human animal is an ethically valid one” This statement suggests a belief in the equivalence of all animals, human and non-human, mammal, bird, reptile, insect, etc. If you can see a good reason why you can vote and your dog can’t why not also acknowledge that there might be differences that make dogs better initial experimental subjects than people (most of the time)?

  91. #91 KevinL
    February 26, 2010

    @Dianne – re: my dog being a fully fledged member of society – he doesn’t have the mental capacity to hold down a job or pay his bills on time, so sure, I look after him. But are you arguing that intellectually handicapped people, for instance, would make good test subjects? Better than dogs, perhaps, as they’re more equivalent…

    Sorry, this is devolving into the same merry-go-round that it always does. I attempted to outline why the extremists believe what they believe. The literature on this stuff (and the arguments Dianne and I are about to go into) are all well known and spread around the place. I’m sure we’re all very well practiced in both sides (and if you _really_ want, I’m happy to continue the discussion until you find my achilles heel or we bog down in “does not/does too”). But I didn’t post to try and argue that animal experimentation should or should not happen (I did say I think there should be less of it where possible, but I think that’s a moderate enough view it shouldn’t raise hackles, surely?) – I posted specifically to denounce Orac’s accusations in his original post, which I believed to be an unfair characterisation that was likely to lead to more “us/them” rather than a useful response.

    @Ritchie, my threading must be broken then, ’cause I have trouble picking out the different lines ;) All I’ll say is that, as an AR supporter and rationalist, I find the various science blogs (pharyngula, orac, and others) very hostile. I typically ignore these threads because it’s not worth the aggravation – any attempt to introduce moderation in attacks on AR (whether specific or general) tend to lead to your own views being attacked. While I’m happy to spend some time in the debate, I’ve seen too many of these threads flare up and burn out, and am not keen to go through that myself – people get _very_ emotive around this subject very quickly. I admit to being someone who doesn’t like to argue – doesn’t make for the best activist ;)

  92. #92 Alex
    February 26, 2010

    “At UCLA we take our stand. In the guarded stench of privilege and speciesism on the green hills of this campus, where terrorism and murder have for too long been ignored and tolerated, here is where we draw a line in the sand and reinvigorate the militant direct action tactics that the pundits and pacifists say are outmoded and counter-productive. Here is the Rubicon for us to cross, and once we do, we fight, and we take the fight anywhere and everywhere animals are imprisoned, held captive, tortured, and murdered, as we burn into our hearts the words that species terrorism is never justified under any conditions!”

    How very Karl Marx-esque. Animal rights activists of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. However, I am particularly worried about the reference to the Rubicon. Crossing the Rubicon means passing the point of no return. But, it also meant the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of dictatorship by the bloody Caesars. Considering they refered to “direct militant action tactics”, I believe we should be worried.

  93. #93 Woody Tanaka
    February 26, 2010

    Ritchie Annand: “They’re not talking about the animal rights activists you know as ‘scum’.”

    The sentence I was responding to stated, “On ‘scum’, do you deny the fact that the ARAs are, in fact, low, vile and despicable due to their actions?” No limitation was placed on “the ARAs” so I answered the question put to me. If Todd W. had phrased it differently, I would have answered differently. (Not blaming Todd W. here, just saying.) I’ve already been accused of defending terrorism even after repeatedly decrying those tactics, so I’m not going to assume anyone means anything but what they say.

    “It’s not a rhetorical tactic to use terms of disgust here, and that includes epithets against anyone who would do or encourage anything of the sort, animal rights activist or not.”

    “If we go on to paint all animal rights activists like that, you have right to complain.”

    But here’s exactly where, in my opinion, the rhetoric problem presents itself: when you have to emphasize, “when we say ‘animal rights activists’ and hurl epithets, like ‘scum’ and ‘fascists’ we only have a small subset in mind, so if you are an animal rights activist, and you aren’t the one we’re thinking of, then we don’t mean you,” it makes it difficult for someone like me, who can sympathize with both positions, to understand and appreciate your position.

    “Why ought that justify them getting handled with rhetorical kid gloves?”

    Well, for one reason: because if you are going to try to convince me of the rightness of your position, making me first try to figure out whether you’re calling me a fascist because I would rather people not stick makeup in rabbits’ eyes, is probably not the best approach.

    “Here’s a question for you: are the more gentle animal rights activists you know openly shocked and appalled by these actions of the ALF, or do you know?”

    Most of them are opposed to these groups’ tactics, both on moral grounds and because of the similar rhetorical problem I’m talking about here: It does not make for a receptive audience for your position if the first question they have to ask is “Are you one of those people who tried to bomb that scientist.”

    As I noted before, one of the most striking differences is that most of those I know do not believe that the scientists are sadists, but merely ethically deaf: they do not understand why the scientists do not accept what to them is a self-evident moral principle.

  94. #94 Jim
    February 27, 2010

    Has George Bush-style tough talk been fully adopted by the scientific community? Find a route, no matter how thin, to the word “terrorist” and then wave it at the mob like it suddenly means much more than it should?

    Look, these people are isolated, dangerous idiots — not terrorists. I do think you guys are creating a sizable straw man. By going after the most insane animal rights nuts, you seem to be excusing yourselves from giving a shit about all the actual horrors against animals that occur every day (such as in factory farming, overpopulation, fur trade, dog fighting, etc).

    I know you folks claim to be “all for” animal welfare, but all I see is you attacking the easiest targets and mocking anyone who shows up here with measured concerns. I doubt many of you will consider changing your daily habits. It’s much harder to delicately weigh ethics than to hurl generalized ridicule.

  95. #95 Uncle Glenny
    February 27, 2010

    I fail to see how using “terrorism” and hence “terrorist” to describe tactics which include destruction of property, intimidation, and implied threats of violence, towards a political goal (and face it, it is political – the elimination of animal experimentation if not more), is inappropriate. While I agree that the term is frequently misapplied to “isolated, dangerous idiots,” being “isolated, dangerous idiots” is hardly grounds for exclusion.

    (Will we have a new “Bush’s Law” by analogy with Godwin?)

  96. #96 A Nonny Moose
    February 27, 2010

    @Jim:

    Caring about Animal Rights is one thing. When Camille Marino states in her post about their newest “Editors of Militant Communications” (yeah, there’s a title that shows a peaceful, measured response) that “In Debbie’s words, “these women understand that sometimes the only thing that will stop a violent abuser is a bullet.””… that crosses the line into flat-out terrorism.

    To imply that we have to ignore such violent talk in order to be seen as supporting animal rights is, quite frankly, some order of magnitude beyond “ridiculous”.

  97. #97 JohnV
    February 27, 2010

    @kevinL

    “I look at my pup (currently fast asleep next to me) and I see a fellow creature able to enjoy, joke, feel guilty, suffer, and generally share my life. I have trouble coming up with a reason why he should be a candidate for experimentation and I shouldn’t.”

    Well, as has been stated many times in various threads on this topic, humans are part of clinical trials for drugs: they are experimented on.

    Also, here are some technical advantages to the use of dogs or other non-human animals (non-primates really): they’re much cheaper than humans to maintain, the gestation period is shorter, as opposed to humans they have offspring in “litters”, their time to adulthood is much shorter (imagine having to keep humans in a cage for 18-20 years before you could use them).

    I understand, of course, you have an emotional attachment to your pet. That’s a pretty valid reason why your pet should not be tested on. Much the same as why your pet shouldn’t be someones dinner, even though dogs are eaten in some places.

    I have an emotional attachment to my fish, they react to my presence in the room, the follow my actions, if I’m at the tank and point to a corner they go to it etc. However, while I wouldn’t want someone to eat them (also their small size makes this an inefficient proposition) I don’t think Long John Silver’s should be firebombed to keep people from eating any fish.

  98. #98 Douglas Watts
    February 27, 2010

    Pretty weak.

    Trying to dismiss the message by attacking the messenger is an admission you have no argument.

    A constructive response would be how the research community intends to phase out and end animal research, since nobody really wants it.

    But that would require thought.

  99. #99 Travis
    February 27, 2010

    Douglas,
    You demonsrate the the reason why it is not worth talking about his issue with some people. You have no interest in talking about anything, you just assume you must be right.

    This was a short post dealing with the aftermath of another post that addressed the issue of violence. One that discussed by animal testings it done, concerns with it etc. Read more of this blog before you post something stupid like that. Then again as they do not conclude that the research community should phase out animal research you will probably not be pleased with them. However, unless you want to sound like a thoughtless asshole you might want to reply addressing the content rather than assuming you must be correct.

  100. #100 JohnV
    February 27, 2010

    “Trying to dismiss the message by attacking the messenger is an admission you have no argument. ”

    That’s pretty rich coming from a crowd whose tactic is to … attack the scientists. And their kids.

  101. #101 KevinL
    February 27, 2010

    (Ignoring the building flames, responding to JohnV’s post)

    John,

    The emotional attachment is not what I was trying to explain. I was trying to point out that for me (and for most of the AR movement) the animals that are being experimented on have similar faculties to us – they’re aware, they suffer, and therefore they’re due a similar level of respect as humans.

    It has nothing to do with emotion. I suggest, if you want to understand that point more, you look to Peter Singer’s books. But the idea that your emotion alters which animals you experiment on is actually fairly obnoxious to many in the AR movement – it’s the “cuddly critters” syndrome, seen most easily in the fact that people will eat pig even though pigs are arguably smarter than dogs, but be horrified at eating dog. There’s no logic applied to the decision.

    I use my pup in the discussion to demonstrate because it’s more obvious to people – there’s a difficulty in getting some of these points across because people are, as Woody so nicely put it, ethically blind. So people find it easier to recognise intelligence and awareness in their pets, than in arbitrary other animal examples (even though there’s no difference between the social creature at your feet and the one in the cage at the lab or the slaughterhouse). Therefore, you point at a pet and say “why are they different to you”. The answer, from a non-emotional point of view, should be that they’re not – or if they are, it’s in shades that don’t affect the underlying point, that they are aware of their own suffering. It gets people examining why they differentiate between humans and lab animals, or between one animal and another.

    As far as experimentation on humans goes, it’s done under vastly different conditions. Basically, we put animals through things we’d be horrified to see our own species put through, and sometimes quite unnecessarily (see, again, the laws in certain countries about animal testing for some products even though the models are fully formed and legitimate) or stupidly (see, again, the study reported by Ben Goldacre in my previous post).

    Don’t treat it as an emotional decision – it’s far from it, it’s quite a rational decision, but based on a different starting point – that we recognise a good measure of our own awareness and intelligence in the creatures around us.

    I think the extremists then _get_ highly emotional about what they see, and that’s where their action comes from. It’s understandable – for them, this is a horrific world where violence is perpetrated daily, and it gets too much. That doesn’t in any way excuse them – we don’t accept vigilanteism in our society, we’ve moved on from “an eye for an eye” type justice. But I think it helps to understand where they’re coming from.

    The arguments that work best are the ones about how much animal testing has reduced recently, and how steps are being made to reduce it further, how much the oversight committees have improved, and how much more importance is placed now on the lives and welfare of the creatures involved. The main one though is that we reduce our dependence on animal test subjects. Continual improvement on that _should_ be a no-brainer if you can recognise the ability of your subjects to suffer, because none of us wants to cause unnecessary suffering to anyone, human or otherwise.

  102. #102 daedalus2u
    February 27, 2010

    KevinL, what do ARA who have cats and dogs feed them? Do you feed your pup a vegan diet?

  103. #103 KevinL
    February 28, 2010

    @daedalus2u, no I don’t – bad vegan, me. Opinions are divided on this one. We have, for reference, one dog and four cats – all rescue cases* of varying types, and yes, they all eat more than their fair share of other animals.

    You can get veg food for both dogs and cats – cats in particular it’s tricky because of the taurine requirement, but I believe even that can be met from non-animal sources. However, we tried our dog on the veg food and he wasn’t impressed – he much preferred the meat, so he’s back on that. Cats were similar (well, the one we had at the time was, and we haven’t gone back and tried the others on that food, partially because I still have a niggling concern about balance for cats).

    I guess the AR views I’ve seen on pets range from “it’s slavery and shouldn’t be allowed” through “just get rid of them all” (for a couple of reasons, either because they consume too much meat or because people shouldn’t be allowed animals due to systemic abuse of animals in society) through to pretty much where we sit – we have rescue cases and would never buy a pet bred for selling, and we feed them meat largely because that’s what they prefer.

    This is one of those places where my beliefs and my actions aren’t entirely in accord. For the greater good, we’d be better off feeding them veg or not having rescued them (and yes, I’ve heard that argument made). Yes, it’s hypocritical, no, I don’t care. I also believe we’re better to have pets in the community than not – it helps people, especially kids, learn about other creatures. I see kids being taught by their parents to fear animals (especially dogs given we have a high muslim population here) and it makes me mad.

    I know AR people who have rescue pets and feed them on veg diets, and seem to do well. So it’s certainly doable. As I say, I’ve met AR people who won’t keep pets either because they see it as demeaning to the animal (I believe our domestic critters have been bred _with_ us for so long now that’s not really a valid argument) or because of the cost in other lives to keep them around if they’re eating meat.

    So there is some difference in AR circles, depending on the person. I think most people I’ve met have rescue cases and feed them a mix of veg and meat depending on the person and the animal.

    (*) Pup was rescued from an ex-friend whose girlfriend left him there after a bad split-up, he was covered in fleas and desperate for company when we found him and stole him; the cats have variously been found in a creek, in a storm drain, under the wheel arch of a neighbour’s car, and at the back of a pub.

  104. #104 daedalus2u
    February 28, 2010

    KevinL, at least you appreciate that your position is one of gross hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy. You feed your pets the flesh of formerly living animals simply because your animals prefer it? Your dog preference for animal flesh is sufficient reason for you to get it for him, but if a human prefers to eat animal flesh they are some sort of monster?

    So in your world view, your animals’ mere preference for formerly living animal flesh is sufficient justification for killing animals for their flesh, but animal experiments for medical research is not? You want to reduce and/or eliminate use of animals in medical research while still feeding the flesh of animals to your pets because of their mere preference not their need?

    And you rationalize the actions of ARAs who firebomb houses and threaten the children of researchers? Hypocrisy of Biblical proportion. Luk 6:42

    “Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”

  105. #105 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    Orac, although I agree with you that the people who did this are criminals and should be punished, I disagree with you on the issue of animal rights. I have seen Respectful Insolence listed on the blogs of Speaking of Research. Here’s from SoR’s page on “AR Beliefs”:

    “Animals (in research or otherwise) are no more innocent than they are guilty. In order to be guilty an entity must have a choice of actions, and, knowing the difference between right and wrong, must choose to act out the immoral (“wrong”) action. Animals do not have the autonomous facilities which would allow them to be morally responsible for their actions. We would not accuse a cat of murder when it kills a mouse, or even when a lion killed another of its own specie. Animals are amoral beings, meaning they stand outside the concept of morality, right and wrong, and thus, rights.”

    Take a one-year old child. He/she cannot be guilty/innocent because he/she does not have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t have rights.

  106. #106 jenbphillips
    February 28, 2010

    Alex, please show us where Orac (or anyone else, for that matter) said that a deciding factor on his position on animal research had anything to do with an animal’s ability to tell right from wrong.

  107. #107 KevinL
    February 28, 2010

    @daedelus2u, I note (as I have elsewhere) that I’m not here to make a case for my views being better than anyone else’s, just to offer an insight to counter the (I believe) false assertion made by Orac at the start. I’ve also _repeatedly_ _clearly_ stated that I don’t condone or support AR extremists’ actions in any way shape or form – but I understand that this topic tends to lead normally sane people to go blind, so your attempt at putting words in my mouth above is not unexpected. If you believe trying to understand people’s motivations is simply “rationalizing” and that’s bad, then you’re probably not interested in much other than having a shouting match anyway.

    Meat eaters throwing around the “how hypocritical are you for letting your pet eat meat” argument are laughable. Really. At the end of the day, yes, I believe if someone chooses to eat meat, I’m not here to override that decision. I believe it’s horrible, but it’s a matter of choice – and this one is a choice he can clearly make (how informed it is is another question, but I’m not convinced most animals wouldn’t do what most humans do – simply go “meh, I don’t care” – so I’m playing the odds, if you look at it like that).

    But, at the end of the day, my hypocrisy in this has nothing to do with understanding the extremists at NIO. You’re simply looking to attack someone that’s trying to help, which is an entirely common reaction around this subject. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t bother trying to respond to that one – particularly given I prefaced by saying my actions here are not logically defensible ;). I think the thread has largely run it’s course, anyway.

  108. #108 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    @jenbphillips: Respectful Insolence is featured as a Science Blog on the blog Speaking of Research, as I wrote before. I doubt that SoR is framing Orac and trying to make it look as if he’s endorsing their views while he’s not. To me this is like a signature. If RI is on their blog, it means Orac agrees with their arguments. Here’s the website of SoR, so you can check for yourself that I’m not making things up:

    http://speakingofresearch.com/

  109. #109 young skeptic
    February 28, 2010

    “If RI is on their blog, it means Orac agrees with their arguments.”

    My reasoning skills aren’t great, it takes me a while to work out the simplest things, but I don’t see how that would follow.

    Take for example regular poster Calli Arcalle (sorry if I got that wrong) From what I gather Orac feels an incredible amount of disdain towards organised religion and holds prayer as a means of providing help in contempt. (Again this is my impression. I am sorry if it does not accurately reflect your beliefs.) Yet this has not stopped Orac from praising poster Calli and defending him/her if the topic strays to close to religion and someone takes offense to Calli’s belief in god. (I think he/she is Lutheran or Methodist.)

    Why would Orac do that if he were the kind of person you described?

  110. #110 daedalus2u
    February 28, 2010

    OK, fair enough, you are not condoning their actions. But neither are you giving us much insight into the foundations of their beliefs by discussing the foundations of yours, or maybe you are.

    It seems you don’t have a moral foundation for your actions. What you have is a fetish about humans not eating meat, not a moral compulsion to not cause the deaths of animals. If your own participation in enabling your animals to eat meat doesn’t cause you any qualms, then why do you say that other humans eating meat is “horrible”? It can’t be about the deaths of the animals being used for food. So what does make humans eating meat “horrible”?

    If a meat eater pointing out your hypocrisy is “laughable”, is a non-meat eater pointing out your hypocrisy somehow less laughable? Whether your actions are hypocritical or not depends on who calls them to your attention? That does make it sound more like a religion, where religious beliefs are generated by the whim of the self-proclaimed religious leaders, and being self-contradictory is not an issue.

    You are probably right, understanding your hypocrisy won’t shed much light on understanding the motivations of the extremists. Those motivations are likely less grounded in morality than are your own.

  111. #111 Jenbphillips
    February 28, 2010

    Alex–
    ok, so instead of challenging Orac on anything he personally has written on animal research (and his verbosity is as legendary in this topic as any other), you challenge him on specific language taken from a third party website that lists RI as one of many pro-test supporting blogs. An odd choice, but whatever.

    At any rate, your view on the matter seems to be that animals should have the same rights as one year old humans–or any human who doesn’t have the cognitive or developmental ability to advocate for their own rights, correct? Very well, then. I present you with the hackneyed burning building conundrum: You’re in a burning building with a crate full of 8 week old puppies at one end and a playpen containing four human infants on the other. There is not time to save both groups of innocents. Which do you choose?

  112. #112 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    @young skeptic: Correct. I should have been more precise. The sentence I wrote does not reflect that Orac supports SoR. But I’m pretty sure Orac’s blog was not mentionned there because he was a dissenter to animal testing. RI was mentionned on SoR next to other blogs who support animal testing. I don’t understand why my extrapolation is controversial. I would also like you to tell me how I “described” Orac exactly. I have reread my comments and I did not make a single insulting remark against Orac. I simply expressed my disagreement with some of his views on this topic.

    @Jenbphillips: The idea was not to challenge him on something from a third-party website. I just came across the website SoR and saw RI listed there as a blog. When I got on SB later, I saw Orac’s post and wrote my comment of agreement about animal rights extremists but disagreement about animal rights. I am sorry if I gave the impression that I have to resort to third-party websites to build an argument. Now, about your question: I choose the puppies. Not because puppies are superior to human babies, but because there’s 8 puppies and 4 babies.

  113. #113 KevinL
    February 28, 2010

    @daedalus2u, if someone has to be 100% perfect in their actions before they can observe injustice, then we’re pretty much doomed.

    Attacking the moderate voices – those trying to shed light on _why_ the nutters get to where they are – is a sure fire way to leave just the loudest, shrillest voices in the discussion. I note, I said right at the top that this is why I don’t get involved in these discussions – the mention of being veg is enough to garner attacks, let alone trying to actually explain _why_. This is, strangely, more true in the rational blogosphere than anywhere else I frequent. Science is very antagonistic towards AR, and most AR moderates have learnt to hold their tongue rather than speak up because of that.

    If you’re convinced that my own failings (of which I am very aware, and certainly not happy – it causes me many qualms, but it is what it is – I try not to rationalise it or make excuses) mean that I have no right to speak up if I see failings elsewhere, then you’re either a better person than I, or very very quiet.

    I _am_ disappointed that you seem to believe that we have no reason to try and reduce suffering in labs – regardless of anything else going on in the world, I would have thought that a worthy goal. I also believe reducing the consumption of meat in the world is a worthy goal, whether I manage to live up to my belief or not (and in most of my life, I do). I also believe in green sustainability goals, but own any number of tech gadgets and continue to buy more despite the impact on the environment. I am human, and fail as much as I succeed.

    On that note, I really will retire from this discussion, and leave you to the tender mercies of others who are more suited to the personal debate.

  114. #114 storkdok
    February 28, 2010

    #6 “If the lovely Camille showed up at your surgery, sick, and really needed you to operate, would you? Just curious.”

    As Orac and Rogue Medic have already stated, in any emergency situation we treat patients regardless of who they are or what they have done or what they believe.

    As a medical student, I worked on my pediatric rotation with an orthopedic intern for 2 months. I also worked with his wife in OB. When I was an intern, I was in the ER for 4 trauma patients involved in the same accident. The police told us that 3 were escaped convicts who stole a car and fled, with a huge police chase in the city. We didn’t know who the fourth person was at first, he had been riding a bicycle and was hit by the convicts, and was so badly injured, we couldn’t identify him. When the orthopedic resident was paged for the fractures in the four trauma patients, we heard a beeper going off, coming from the fourth patient. We pulled out a beeper, the number to call was our ER number. The fourth patient was the orthopedic resident, the one I worked with. We were stunned. We still administered the best medical care to the other 3, who had killed our friend and colleague.

  115. #115 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    @storkdok: That’s an outstanding story. I don’t know what your views are on animal testing but for having been able to administer the best medical care to the 3 convicts who killed your friend and colleague, bravo. That took a lot of… well… many different qualities. I do not believe I could have done this, were I in your place.

  116. #116 storkdok
    February 28, 2010

    His name was Mike. He would have been the first person to help the convicts. He was riding to the hospital for rounds that morning. He was a good person and a great physician.

  117. #117 storkdok
    February 28, 2010

    My comment from Orac’s first post about the threats to researcher’s children:

    “Have any of the animal rights extremists/terrorists, or even the non-violent animal rights supporters thought about the fact that animals are treated with modern medicine? All the advances of modern medicine are used for animals, including treatment of diabetes, thyroid conditions, infectious diseases, treatments for all types of cancers, including chemotherapy and radiation, surgery for orthopedic problems, Cesarean sections for obstructed labor, dental procedures, and many other diseases and disorders? Diagnostic procedures are used such as CT scans and MRI’s and Ultrasound.

    The advances made in scientific research benefit not only humans, but all animals as well. I’ve had several dogs treated for various cancers, my dog and cat companions currently for thyroid disorders and diabetes, a couple of dogs had surgery for hip dysplasia, and other disorders.”

    @Alex
    Before medical school, I did research that involved nude mice and treatment of colon cancer with a bifunctional antibody system, for my Master’s thesis. It was part of the early studies that are now used in some cancer detection (specifically for metastasis) and in some treatments involving antibodies. I have no regrets.

  118. #118 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    @storkdok: I’m sorry for your loss. I did not know him but from what you describe, he was just as remarkable as you. Did it happen long ago?

  119. #119 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    @storkdok: Although I sympathize for what happened with Mike, I disagree with your position. I have heard the argument you gave many times. Most recently, I heard it in the form: “Most Nobel Prizes in Medicine were awarded to researchers who used animals for experiments.” This is true and I do not dispute it. But I believe it is hypocrisy to sacrifice some animals with the hope that their deaths will yield some fantastic medical advancement for other animals later on. For me, it is speciesism and I do not approve of it. Let me make my position crystal clear, so that there is no ambiguity about where I stand: Suppose I get a deadly and painful disease and the only treatment existing is one that was discovered by experimentation on animals. I will refuse the treatment.

  120. #120 Kwombles
    February 28, 2010

    @Alex,
    I assume then that you refuse almost all medicine entirely, that you are very particular in the clothing you wear, all the products you buy and that you do not eat any animal products. Otherwise, you’re not following your beliefs to their logical conclusion. Also, you should note that all vegetables undoubtedly involved insect deaths, even if they were grown organically.

    Animal research is a necessary reality; it should be carried out ethically and humanely.

  121. #121 storkdok
    February 28, 2010

    @Alex

    It was 16 years ago.

    As for my other question, I had not seen my question asked or answered by anyone (I only read up on these posts tonight), so I thought I’d ask to see what some people think in regards to medical treatments in humans and in animals.

    So if you developed diabetes, you would not take insulin? If you developed cancer, you would not have chemotherapy? If you wanted to have children and needed a tubal reanastamosis, or if you needed a surgical reattachment of a limb or digit, you would not have one? (because all microscopic surgical techniques are practiced by residents first in animals and were developed in animals)
    I’m assuming you do not take any prescription medication, because the LD50 is tested in animals, and the testing for medication effects and in pregnancy (teratogenicity) is first performed on animals.
    If you needed an organ transplant, you would refuse?
    If you needed a heart valve replacement, you would refuse?
    If you needed a shunt placement, you would refuse?
    If your child was born with a heart defect, you would refuse surgery?
    Basically, surgical techniques and medications have all been first developed and tested in animals.

    If you had an animal companion that needed surgery or medication, would you refuse? (I guess I’m asking if it is intraspecies, is it any different?)

    If there was a therapy or treatment that had been developed (tested and tried) only on humans, would you use it (again, intraspecies)?

    I am very interested in the practical application of your ethical system, this is why I ask.

  122. #122 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    I do not refuse all medicine, but I do ask to know whether animal experiments were performed for a specific medicine if told I should take it and what these experiments were. This does affect my decision of whether or not to take it. I am very concerned about the clothing I wear and I do not buy, for example, fur. I am a vegetarian. About the insects, I don’t want to sound like a hypocryte and have to go back on statements made previously, but I don’t care for them. I care about certain groups of animals, but don’t have a problem with, for example, killing a bug carrying malaria. That said, this was an interesting and funny line:

    “Animal research is a necessary reality; it should be carried out ethically and humanely.”

    It is simply your opinion and that of many others that it is a necessary reality. It is not set in stone that it is a necessary reality. There is no such thing as ethical or humane animal experimentation, in my view. Coercive medical procedures, whether on a human or an animal, for 2 hours or 2 seconds, painfully or less painfully, are inhuamane and inexcusable, in my view.

  123. #123 storkdok
    February 28, 2010

    @Alex

    I forgot to ask if the animal rights is for vertebrates, or does it include invertebrates? I’m not sure how far it might extend, and is there variability amongst the animal rights folks on how far this extends?

    And I forgot to ask if there is variability amongst the animal rights folks in my previous questions as to how far the practical application of animal rights extends?

    And I assure you, I am asking because I genuinely want to know how this ethical system is applied practically in everyday life.

  124. #124 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    @storkdok: I didn’t bother reading the whole list but got the idea. I made clear what I meant by “ethical” previously: if the treatment was reached using coercion on certain animals (again, excluding insects, bacteria and other groups I do not care for), I will refuse the treatment. Whether others accept it or not is their choice. However, if the treatment was developed without coercion to humans or those animal groups that I care about, I would take it. So no to insulin if I get diabeties, not to chemo, etc.

    I already refused medical treatment that I needed because of how the experiments for the treatment were conducted. I will not go into the treatment specifically because it is a private health problem, which I don’t feel comfortable discussing with strangers on the Internet.

    On a side note, others said they wanted to nominate me for the Darwin Awards because of the choices I make. That is fine. It is inevitable that those accepting these treatments will have a longer lifespan than me. However, I still refuse the treatments. To me, these experiments are unethical and inhumane.

  125. #125 Alex
    February 28, 2010

    @storkdok: Different animal rights groups have different ethical systems. I cannot speak for all groups or for all systems. You will need to ask others if you want a better picture. For example, the few terrorists Orac talks about are also animal rights activists. I disagree with their methods, however. It is also important to note that no ethical system is precise like a Swiss watch: neither mine, nor yours, nor Orac’s.

    Personally, “my animal rights”, if I could call them that, do not extend to certain groups such as: insects, bacteria and others. I cannot sketch out precisely which animal makes the cut and which does not but I do have “general” rules.

  126. #126 Tyler DiPietro
    February 28, 2010

    “Take a one-year old child. He/she cannot be guilty/innocent because he/she does not have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t have rights.”

    The one year old child has rights because it exists in a human social context. This isn’t so with other animals.

  127. #127 storkdok
    February 28, 2010

    @Alex

    Thank you for answering my questions.

    Most of modern medicine has had animal testing in some way. For me trying to apply these ethical positions so as to see another perspective, it is so intertwined in modern medicine and the history of medicine that I would have no way of really drawing a line, other than to pretty much say I would have to forgo medications (including antibiotics) and most surgeries, vaccinations (I forgot to ask you about those)…pretty much the majority of medicine.

    I would like to ask one more theoretical question. If you had children, would you also not accept medications, surgery or vaccinations, essentially the same things you refuse?

    I totally understand if something is too personal to discuss, btw. I was asking more theoretically, not about actual personal decisions for health problems you have.

  128. #128 Jenbphillips
    March 1, 2010

    Alex,
    first, I want to thank you sincerely for engaging in this dialogue with us. Thus far all of my encounters with animal rights activists who share some of your views have been fairly confrontational, so it is illuminating to be able to have a civil exchange, and I appreciate your taking the time to help us understand your position in greater detail.

    I choose the puppies. Not because puppies are superior to human babies, but because there’s 8 puppies and 4 babies.

    From the context of your later exchanges with storkdok, I gather that while puppies obviously ‘made the cut’, I could replace these hypothetical victims with some less privileged species–naked mole rats? beetles? parasitic worms?–that would tip the scales in favor of saving the human children. I’m not trying to pin you down on the reasons for this, since you have already stated that it’s difficult to articulate where your ‘line’ is, and why you chose to position it there (i.e. between vertebrates and invertebrates, as opposed to between fish and tetrapods, or between protozoans and metazoans, or whatever).

    I’m also not trying to hold you to a higher standard than anyone else vis a vis your ability to parse your ethical principles. Few are able to provide precise or rational motivations for their ethical positions when pressed. Most just go with what feels right to them. It is, frankly, appalling to me that you would choose puppies over children based solely on the net number of lives saved, but it is a novel perspective for me to contemplate. I fully realize that you must be equally appalled at my willingness to sacrifice vertebrate animals in my efforts to develop treatments for a devastating human disease.

    I do wonder, though, if your answer to the puppy question would be any different if the children in question were your children, and I reiterate storkdok’s question about whether you would withhold medical treatment from your children or other family members based on the role of animal research in its development.

    Thanks again for the civil discourse.

  129. #129 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @Tyler DiPietro: Never have I heard this argument before. Please proceed further and define “human social context”.

    @storkdok: I want to make something clear since you brought it up. I am not inherently opposed to vaccines. I understand that they are a great medical boom (probably the greatest). I understand they saved billions of lives, human and animal. I understand… because I looked at statistics. I understand that anti-vaxxers are a dangerous religious sect which must be stopped. My problem arises on how vaccines are tested. On the question of children, now. I do not plan on having children. This is not because I do not want children but because of other problems we are currently facing, such as overpopulation. There are simply too many of us on this planet and short of employing highly coercive measures, such as China’s One Child Policy, a simpler alternative would be to not have kids or adopt. I could probably write an entire post on my views about having kids but I assure you, I have nothing against those who do have kids.

    @Jenbphillips: No problem. As long as the discourse remains civil I don’t mind explaining my views, to the extent that I can. Now, about the puppies and babies. You set an incredible scenario: the house is burning and I can only save one group regardless of how hard I try. In that very drastic case, I must say that I proceed mathematically. I refuse to apply preferentialism and I will probably do this by reflex and won’t even have the time to think about it. Now for a more realistic scenario: the house is burning but there is no magical restriction preventing me from saving both groups. I then attempt to save both to the best of my ability. I also want to say that my “saving model” is incomplete since I do not consider variables such as how far the kids and puppies are from me (thus increasing or lowering the chance I can save one of the groups). I would not withdraw medical treatment from family members based on personal principles if they want it. My beliefs are my own and I refuse to impose them on others. I would point out my disagreement, if I had one, in a civil manner but would not proceed further. As said above, I do not plan on having children for different reasons, one of them being overpopulation so answering that question is meaningless.

  130. #130 Paul Browne
    March 1, 2010

    Alex “I doubt that SoR is framing Orac and trying to make it look as if he’s endorsing their views while he’s not.”

    Well I think anyone who has read Orac’s past posts on animal research will have a pretty clear impression of what his opinions are. His posts on animal research are one reason why we have added a link to his blog, though not the only one. Orac’s posts on a variety of medical and scientific topics give readers a great insight into how scientific medicine works and how various anti-scientific causes, for example anti-vaccination and alternative medicine, seek to undermine scientific mediccine. Much of what he says about these groups also applies to anti-animal research propaganda. Orac’s a great blogger, I was a fan of RI long before SoR was founded, and I’ll admit that there’s an element of “if you like this you’ll also like” in our decision to link to RI.

    That said we’re not bound to agree with him all the time, we don’t even hold to such party lines within SoR, so if he says something I disagree wit I’ll let him know, and I wouldn’t expect any less from him.

  131. #131 storkdok
    March 1, 2010

    @Alex

    Thank you for answering my questions. I’ve wanted to ask these questions before. I’ve always wondered how the ethical beliefs would be practically expressed.

    Do you remember Baby Fae from 1984? You might be too young to remember, but I assume you might have read about it in the animal rights blogs/information.

  132. #132 Kwombles
    March 1, 2010

    @alex,

    You didn’t answer my questions in entirety: do you make sure that all of the products you buy for your use or your consumption are untainted by animals?

    And I’m afraid you would, if you are logically applying your ethical system, indeed be against vaccination if you had any idea of how they are made.

    I think that, since you did not answer my questions, you do not logically apply your ethical system, especially since you say it does not apply to living things you do not care for.

  133. #133 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @Paul Browne: I did not mean anything wrong about Orac, if that is the way you took it. In comment 106, jenbphillips wrote:

    “Alex, please show us where Orac (or anyone else, for that matter) said that a deciding factor on his position on animal research had anything to do with an animal’s ability to tell right from wrong.”

    I simply pointed out that RI appears on SoR and I doubt Orac would not want to have his site up there if he did not agree with their arguments about animal testing. I then pointed out my disagreement with one of the pro-testing arguments given at SoR in the section “AR Beliefs”. This is all I’ve done. I agree with you and Orac that animal testing was necessary for the development of many cures (most?), which we refer to as: scientific medicine. But if one is to reject many of these cures on moral or philosophical grounds, the argument is pointless.

    @storkdok: I read Orwell’s Animal Farm and Hommage to Catalonia but didn’t have time for 1984 yet, which I hear is his magnum opus. I’ll read it when I can. I’m new to Orac’s blogs and I haven’t read everything he wrote over the years (he writes a lot more than other bloggers!).

    @storkdok: Like I said, it depends on which animals. Do I care whether or not some kind of bacteria was harmed during the process of making my tomatoes? No. Do I care if, say, a mammal was harmed? Yes. Now, the standard you set is unrealistic. There is no way to be sure that somewhere along the production line, some animal I care about was not harmed. But there are ways to greatly minimize chances — for example, not eating meat, an obvious choice. As for vaccination, if memory serves, the vaccine is tested on some humans before being given to the rest of the population. I doubt that they are being coerced into accepting it. I may be wrong. I guess you can be picky with my ethical system and accuse me of hypocrisy for not defending the E. Coli bacteria’s right to vote. However, you simply don’t understand that all animal rights activists care for certain groups of non-humans and not others. And each group or even individuals within a group set the line elsewhere as to what they defend. “Animal rights” is simply easier to write than “Certain animals’ rights, depending on the AR group, their specific beliefs and whether or not they are willing to engage in terrorism.”

  134. #134 daedalus2u
    March 1, 2010

    Reading Alex’s description of how he does his ethical calculations of organisms that he cares about and those he does not reminds me of a term that Stephen Cobert coined, “truthy”.

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

    “Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don’t mean the argument over who came up with the word…”

    “It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It’s certainty. People love the President because he’s certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don’t seem to exist. It’s the fact that he’s certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?…”

    “Truthiness is ‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.”

    The ethical and moral positions that the ARA express have the ring of truthiness to me. There is a selfish quality to it that defies input from anyone else. Orac had another post this morning on the lies about the use of animals in research, for example denying that the development of insulin therapy required animal research. For 60 years the only source of insulin was from animals. But as Stephen Cobert says about truthy; “Facts matter not at all”.

  135. #135 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @daedalus2u: Your entire argument is, in my view, invalid. Never in my comments have I claimed that there is a better way than animal testing to reach spectacular results in modern medicine. I never used the pseudo-science arguments of PETA and others to justify my beliefs. Never have I agreed with the pseudo-science that Orac has debunked in this morning’s post.

    “It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything.”

    Correct in the case of many AR activists who use pseudo-science arguments. However, I never made up my own facts and I never claimed that I know more about biology than the experts, so that argument collapses.

    ““Truthiness is ‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.””

    Again, correct for those who decide to fabricate evidence or support pseudo-science. Again, this is not what I advocated. I simply said that I reject many of these medical advances on moral grounds, as I have done before in the past. Others can accept them or not depending on how they view animal testing.

  136. #136 mikerattlesnake
    March 1, 2010

    It’s incredible to me how much animal rights activists personify animals. If you respect animals so much, why assign them a human cognitive process instead of recognizing that their world view would (most likely) be entirely unfathomable to us? The comparison’s to infants and mentally impaired humans are unfounded because we are still working within the same human framework. With babies, we’re basing their rights on their potential as humans and with the mentally handicap there is still potential for communication and a basis for understanding. Even when there is not, we don’t experiment on them because we are (justifiably, more later) speciesist.

    In college I had an animal behavior professor who did a pretty good job of whipping personification of animals out of me (except with my cats, but that’s just for fun), and it always seems profoundly simplistic (and equally disrespectful to the animals’ individuality) to treat them like little people. I think it’s alright to be a bit speciesist because we just don’t have the capacity not to be. Even by making assumptions about animal experience based on human experience, we are being speciesist. You can pretend to be above it, and it’s easy when given a hypothetical burning building to choose the 8 dogs (the answer still surprised me because the dogs have a lifespan an order of magnitude lower than the human babies making it a little tougher to quantify their comparitive value), but the reality is that we can’t not be speciesist. You can own it, and frame your argument realistically or you can pretend not to be speciesist and set up hard to justify, morally ambiguous “lines” that you won’t cross.

  137. #137 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @mikerattlesnake: As I said before, I do not support animal rights for all animals. I do not support, for example, E. Coli’s right to vote. Whether we can remain entirely devoid of speciesism or not, I will mention further. I have problems with the following arguments:

    “With babies, we’re basing their rights on their potential as humans and with the mentally handicap there is still potential for communication and a basis for understanding.”
    >> Not necessarily. I doubt seriously that most parents base their baby’s rights on their potential as a human being. Suppose you figure out a way to perfectly predict that your baby will grow up to be the next Hitler. Would most parents give up the baby since the potential to do good is now absent? I hardly doubt this. As for the mentally handicapped, there is not always potential for communication. As Orac has written in another post (I think Autism Woo or something), some people have tried to use pseudo-psychology to communicate with people who were physically paralyzed and failed. Simply because the potential for communication is no longer there does not imply that these people should not have rights.

    “In college I had an animal behavior professor who did a pretty good job of whipping personification of animals out of me (except with my cats, but that’s just for fun), and it always seems profoundly simplistic (and equally disrespectful to the animals’ individuality) to treat them like little people.”
    >> Good for you. Non-humans are not humans and never have I tried to defend the opposite. I do believe that, for example, it is retarded to name your dog/cat with a name of a celebrity. You have contradicted yourself, however. You have a certain belief of what “individuality” , “disrespectful” and “little people” mean based on your own human experiences with other humans. You have attempted to personify animals by attributing to them human notions of human individuality, respect and a certain form of classism (little people).

    “I think it’s alright to be a bit speciesist because we just don’t have the capacity not to be. Even by making assumptions about animal experience based on human experience, we are being speciesist.”
    >> No philosophy is perfect but I do pretend that I am at least much less of a speciesist than the people here.

    “You can pretend to be above it, and it’s easy when given a hypothetical burning building to choose the 8 dogs (the answer still surprised me because the dogs have a lifespan an order of magnitude lower than the human babies making it a little tougher to quantify their comparitive value), but the reality is that we can’t not be speciesist. You can own it, and frame your argument realistically or you can pretend not to be speciesist and set up hard to justify, morally ambiguous “lines” that you won’t cross.”
    >> The same argument can be applied to sexism, racism and other social ills. This does not mean that we should not do everything we possibly can to avoid speciesism. Every system of beliefs, including human rights, is based on notions which are hard to justify and are instead taken as self-evident. Take for example the Constitution of the US: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” About the 8 dogs, I did not base my choice on lifespan. If I had, in a different scenario where I would have had to chose between a human baby and an old man, I should have chosen the baby. I do not believe that it is morally correct to reject the older human based only, in your own words, on “morally ambiguous “lines”” of conduct.

  138. #138 daedalus2u
    March 1, 2010

    Alex, correct me if I got the wrong impression, but your statements seem to indicate that you value organisms according to your personal feelings, and that your personal feelings could lead you to value 8 puppies more than 4 human infants. I appreciate that the example used was artificial and contrived.

    You haven’t said what “facts” lead you to that conclusion. If you did, then we could analyze those facts to see if they are correct, and analyze the chain of logic to see if the logic chain is valid. Since you have not disclosed those facts or chain of logic, we are unable to analyze it.

    One could arrive at that conclusion on the basis of no facts at all, just by feeling that it is correct. That is the essence of what truthy is. Truthy is feeling something is true without regard for facts and logic. Truthy is about process, not about what is felt to be truthy. If you don’t have facts and a train of logic to reach your belief, then the belief is a result of truthy. This is not to be disparaging of all beliefs arrived at that way, but simply to be accurate.

    I think in general, truthy ideas are adopted before facts regarding the idea are known and before any logic is applied to the issue, and then later facts and logic are simply rejected because they are incompatible with the truthy belief. If one is to accept facts and logic when they contradict a truthy belief, then the truthy belief has to be rejected. Individuals who cover their ears so as to not hear inconvenient facts are protecting their truthy beliefs from those facts.

  139. #139 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @daedalus2u: First of all, I would like you to tell me precisely which “facts” I have rejected in order to defend my theory than animal testing is inhumane. Second of all, morality is not science. While in science, we constantly try to break things down and analyze endlessly (I am not saying this in a bad way), in morality certain things are taken for granted. I do not always need to state what “facts” lead to a moral conclusion of mine. I could however make an attempt at this, but it would be far longer than any of the already long comments I have written. Even Orac’s long posts would be short considering how much I would have to write to explain in detail my theory of “animal testing is inhumane” and address possible problems arising from the theory. I would probably have to write an essay of hundreds of pages.

    Now for the puppies, I have already disclosed a certain logic behind chosing them: there are 8 puppies and 4 babies. I can go further and analyze other things such as how close both groups are to me and how easy it would be to save one or the other based on distance. Again, what you’re asking would require a very lengthy essay, with many revisions. I cannot do this in one day.

  140. #140 Cindie
    March 1, 2010

    I’m curious… We are talking about animal experimentation to further science here… shouldn’t the animal activists be more concerned by the inhumane way that animals are being euthanized in shelters, at least if they help science, there death was not in vain, as with the ones that are just dumped on top of one another on gassing day in the shelters…

  141. #141 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    I have seen that many people here are very opinionated about this issue and, as you no doubt have realized, so am I. I’m very interested in pursuing these discussions further if you still want to. I may just be wrong and make a fool out of myself but at least I’ll learn something out of it. That said, I am not very convinced by the arguments I have been given until now. I must, however, due to a busy schedule leave the computer for a while. Until later!

  142. #142 daedalus2u
    March 1, 2010

    Alex, I am not saying that you have rejected any facts. You have not stated what facts (if any) your position relies on. The only things you have mentioned are how you feel about certain organisms. Those that you care about, you will not participate in their coercive exploitation even multi-hand via use of medical treatments developed through use of such organisms. But you allow others to use those medical treatments. Presumably that means you would also allow others to produce those treatments, including the research on animals that was necessary for those treatments to be developed in the first place. Did I get that right?

    Systems of morality are not based on “facts”, they are based on foundation moral principles, which are akin to facts. The ones you are basing your moral calculations on are self-evident to you, but without understanding what they are, and your reasoning, we are unable to evaluate their validity except by carefully probing the output of your morality calculations.

    In the case of the rescue from the fire, you chose the 8 puppies because of how you felt toward 8 puppies as opposed to how you feel toward 4 babies, but you would be non-judgmental toward an individual who made a different choice and would not attempt to impose your beliefs on them or fault them for making a different choice. Did I get that right?

  143. #143 DuWayne
    March 1, 2010

    I would just like to mention, having read the first couple comments, that the comparison to religion is extremely apt. I have spent quite a bit of time exploring the leadership/inspiration of the AR terrorism movement and the postmodern extremism carries all of the trappings of religion, excepting the supernatural elements. I have only written a couple of posts thus far, because I have too much on my plate. However, these posts are pretty informative on that count – and there is also video of Dr. Steve Best that I think really encapsulates the insanity nicely.

  144. #144 Calli Arcale
    March 1, 2010

    Woody Tanaka (sorry for the late reply, but I had company over for the weekend and was not online):

    I am not talking about the activists espousing violence. As I noted before, I do not hold to that position. However, I’ve seen much hatred expressed by the pro-experiment side, not only for the avocation of violence, but for the expression and action on the opinion that animal experimentation is wrong and should be stopped.

    Okay, now I see what the problem is. You are describing all scientists and supporters of animal research as one group, while resisting description of animal activists as one group. Forgiving the hypocrisy of this stance, I would like to point one thing out:

    We’re not talking about animal welfare advocates or the like. We’re talking *specifically* about those who advocate violence. So the fact that you, personally, do not advocate violence does not invalidate the argument that some do and that it is essentially terrorism.

    I hope you understand that, for instance, when I describe Osama Bin Laden as a murderous psychopathic bastard, I do not feel the same way about Muslims in general. Indeed, the vast majority of Muslims are sane, ethical people. It is the extremists that are the problem, not Muslims in general. (Same thing with all terrorist groups, really. IRA, ETA, Tamil Tigers…you name it. Same situation.)

    There’s another problem with the false equivalence — it suggests that there are two sides. And that induces people to choose them. You appear to have done just that, by choosing to defend animal rights extremists. But why does it have to be “us versus them”? Why can’t it be “all of us, striving for a better world”?

    Actually, my initial point was merely that both sides are guilty of shady rhetorical practices.

    This is true, but the way you belabor it suggests that you are minimizing the fact that one side does far more than “shady rhetorical practices”. You have not acknowledged this problem, though I pointed it out in my last point — there is a rather enormous difference of scale. Even if you look just at the words there is an enormous difference of scale; the “pro-test” side (if we must see it as merely two sides) has generally been factual. As I said to you before, I disagree with the “fetishizing violence” imagery. It is not commonplace on this “side” of the debate. However, go to an animal rights website, even one which doesn’t espouse violence, and it is fairly common to see pretty substantial distortions and even outright lies. For instance, the term “vivisector” is pretty old as an insult to lob at animal researchers, and it is applied universally. Doesn’t matter what the researcher actually does, apparently. I think this is significant. I’m surprised you do not.

    You say you have “sympathies” for both sides. Yet you choose only to defend one. Why is that? Perhaps this would be more fruitful if you would discuss what those sympathies are. Then we can find common ground.

  145. #145 mikerattlesnake
    March 1, 2010

    “In college I had an animal behavior professor who did a pretty good job of whipping personification of animals out of me (except with my cats, but that’s just for fun), and it always seems profoundly simplistic (and equally disrespectful to the animals’ individuality) to treat them like little people.”
    >> Good for you. Non-humans are not humans and never have I tried to defend the opposite. I do believe that, for example, it is retarded to name your dog/cat with a name of a celebrity. You have contradicted yourself, however. You have a certain belief of what “individuality” , “disrespectful” and “little people” mean based on your own human experiences with other humans. You have attempted to personify animals by attributing to them human notions of human individuality, respect and a certain form of classism (little people).”

    Yes, but I am an admitted speciesist, you claim not to be (nevermind that I wasn’t actually calling them “little people”, I was attributing that description to the way ARA treat them). I am only pointing out the silliness of claiming to not be speciesist and then framing animal rights in human terms. It’s like saying “I’m not racist, I treat everyone as if they were white” only made more ridiculous by the fact that we’re dealing with organisms with entirely different systems of cognition. Even using the word “suffering” when refering to animals being treated poorly is a tough one because, while pain signals are a simple nervous stimulus, “suffering” implies certain things about translation of pain signals, cognition of time, memory, context, etc. For some animals we know more about this than others, but for most we have less than a clear view about what the world is like for them. Most animal rights activists I’ve met wouldn’t even know what I’m talking about, whereas people in a biology lab would probably know a great deal about the level of cognition in the species they were working with.

    Sorry, but I get peeved when people claim not to be speciesist because usually they haven’t the faintest idea what kind of mental gymnastics that would require.

  146. #146 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @Cindie: You have attempted to divert attention from the main subject which is “Is animal experimentation ethical?” towards another subject, “Should animals be euthanized in shelters?” My comments here reflect my views about the first question. We can discuss the second one separately if you like but you probably understand what my views about it are.

    @daedalus2u: What you do not seem to understand is how values work. Values are not absolute but contingent. They conflict. Life is full of complex situations where one value conflicts with another value. This leads to contradictions and moral systems are full of them. For example, I hold as values both Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association. Did it ever occur to you that this can easily lead to a situation where a group of people associate in order to ban my right to speak freely? You see things as black/white (or maybe binary would be a better metaphor). Of course, by allowing others to do what they want with their own bodies, a value which I hold, I understand that this will inevitably lead to others doing with their bodies things that I disapprove of. I permit others to use these treatments because I believe it is their right to resort to them. This does not mean that I feel comfortable about this or that I would approve of it, if asked. The same works in reverse: although I approve of animal rights groups trying to save animals, I disapprove greatly when they resort to terror tactics. This also applies to the example you gave with someone else making a different choice on who to save in the burning house. Again, if you want a model for “animal rights” precise as a Swiss watch, I cannot produce one — just like you cannot produce one for human rights. I can establish a few general guidelines, which may come into conflict since, again, this is a system of values and will inevitably be interpreted differently by different individuals when values come into conflict. Here’s a start: vertebrates. Now, let me guess. Your following comment will be something like: “But what about the exotic proto-something which survives by sucking the life out of it’s fellow proto-something vertebrates? Do you really think that has any rights? Huh?”

  147. #147 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @mikerattlesnake: If I previously claimed to be entirely un-speciesist, I apologize. I realize very well that this is not possible for numerous reasons — just like being entirely not racist is impossible. It is very clear that you did not read my entire response to your comment however, since I had clearly written this:

    “No philosophy is perfect but I do pretend that I am at least much less of a speciesist than the people here.”

    It’s also very interesting that I have made 4 counter-points to your original comment and yet you only chose to address one of them — ironically, the weakest.

  148. #148 storkdok
    March 1, 2010

    @Alex

    “@storkdok: I read Orwell’s Animal Farm and Hommage to Catalonia but didn’t have time for 1984 yet, which I hear is his magnum opus. I’ll read it when I can. I’m new to Orac’s blogs and I haven’t read everything he wrote over the years (he writes a lot more than other bloggers!).”

    I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear. I meant in the year 1984 when the Baby Fae received a baboon heart transplant. I haven’t read Orwell’s 1984 since college. It was very good, as I recall.

    “@storkdok: Like I said, it depends on which animals. Do I care whether or not some kind of bacteria was harmed during the process of making my tomatoes? No. Do I care if, say, a mammal was harmed? Yes. Now, the standard you set is unrealistic. There is no way to be sure that somewhere along the production line, some animal I care about was not harmed. But there are ways to greatly minimize chances — for example, not eating meat, an obvious choice. As for vaccination, if memory serves, the vaccine is tested on some humans before being given to the rest of the population. I doubt that they are being coerced into accepting it. I may be wrong. I guess you can be picky with my ethical system and accuse me of hypocrisy for not defending the E. Coli bacteria’s right to vote. However, you simply don’t understand that all animal rights activists care for certain groups of non-humans and not others. And each group or even individuals within a group set the line elsewhere as to what they defend. “Animal rights” is simply easier to write than “Certain animals’ rights, depending on the AR group, their specific beliefs and whether or not they are willing to engage in terrorism.”

    I’m not sure how I set a standard. When I referred to the majority of medications and surgical procedures having had animal testing, I was expressing how difficult it would be to accept any modern medicine if anyone had the line drawn with no vertebrates as test subjects, because basically all medications are tested for the lethal dose and teratogenicity in a mammal, even if it is a mouse or rat. And I am having a hard time thinking of any surgery that didn’t have mammal testing or practice first, even if it is a procedure that has been done for over 50 years. That is why I said it would be hard for me to see anyone accepting modern medicine, if you don’t draw the line somewhere else (as in cute fuzzy animals). If you think mice or rats are “acceptable” as test subjects, then it gives you some more leeway to accept medications and surgical procedures.

    Is it easier to not to know about the specifics of each medication or procedure testing history? What you don’t know won’t hurt you, so to speak? I’m not trying to be flippant, I’m trying to understand how one can pick and choose which medications or surgeries are acceptable and what it is based upon.

    I know you can’t speak for others, but do you know of any AR activists who reject modern medicine because of the “uncute” and “unfuzzy” mammal testing?

  149. #149 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @storkdok: I don’t understand. Many medications, such as vaccines are tested on consenting humans. Check the safety report for, say, the H1N1 vaccine. The one we had in Canada says that it was tested on two groups of people in Belgium, if I recall correctly. It is as easy to figure out who or what it was tested on as it is to figure out the working conditions of say, those who made my clothes. Again, I don’t care whether they are cute or fuzzy, I care that they are animals.

  150. #150 Prometheus
    March 1, 2010

    Alex states:

    “I do not refuse all medicine, but I do ask to know whether animal experiments were performed for a specific medicine if told I should take it and what these experiments were. This does affect my decision of whether or not to take it.”

    All medications are tested on animals. At the very least, the first sets of toxicity studies are conducted on animals in order to determine if they are safe enough to proceed to the Phase I (human) tests. For that matter, all drugs are tested on humans, who are also animals.

    The H1N1 (Swine) influenza vaccine was tested on animals before it progressed to testing on humans. While not all changes to the influenza vaccine (i.e. the year-to-year changes necessitated by virus mutation and recombination) require re-testing on animals, the original “base” formulation was tested on animals. Now, they mostly just “plug in” the new virus strains and test on human volunteers.

    If you want to use “medications” that are not tested on animals (apart from humans), I suggest that you limit yourself to homeopathic and naturopathic remedies. While some of them have been tested on animals (most haven’t been tested at all), it is not a marketing requirement.

    Hope that information is helpful for you.

    Prometheus

  151. #151 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @Prometheus: Are you sure about this? I don’t remember seeing anything on the product info sheet for the H1N1 vaccine that said anything about testing on animals. And yes, I understand that we are also animals. I meant non-human animals (not homo sapiens). There’s no point in taking homeopathic meds since they’re not real meds. I suppose I should have pointed this out earlier: if I take a certain medicine I expect it to have an effect other than suggestion. If what you say is correct, I will have to radically change what I have said in the comments above, since this also places me in the “guilty” group but I want to see evidence of this.

  152. #152 daedalus2u
    March 1, 2010

    Another issue with surgery, virtually all surgeons have practiced on animals and certainly have used techniques developed by surgeons who practiced on animals. A specific procedure may have been developed de novo on humans, but the skill that surgeon used likely had the earliest part of their learning curve on animals.

    All intravenous fluids were developed with the use of animals. All injectable drugs (not just vaccines) are tested for pyrogens using animal testing.

  153. #153 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @daedalus2u: Then I hope I’ll never need surgery.

  154. #154 daedalus2u
    March 1, 2010

    Alex, the H1N1 vaccine (and all flu vaccines) are grown on fertile chicken eggs. That is on living chicken embryos. That is even before any testing.

  155. #155 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @daedalus2u: Then no more of that either.

  156. #156 storkdok
    March 1, 2010

    @Alex

    Prometheus said it better than I, that is what I was trying to tell you, that all medications have been tested in mammals other than humans, before being tested in humans. To get the LD50, the lethal dose that kills 50% of the test subjects, and the testing for teratogenicity, the effects of medications upon a fetus, are done in non-human mammalians. I can’t think of any medication that doesn’t have testing in non-human mammalians.

    As for surgeries, they all were first tested in animal models, and all surgeons I know have done some surgeries for their training in non-human mammalians. In my training, we learned our microscopic techniques by practicing on rats. We also learned various laparoscopic techniques by operating on pigs.

    For a good understanding of how animal models are used for developing surgical techniques, I suggest viewing the movie “Something the Lord Made”.

    That’s why I asked if it would be better to not know, because all medications and surgeries, if restricted because of vertebrate testing, would not be able to be used with this ethical system, practically speaking.

  157. #157 jenbphillips
    March 1, 2010

    Hi Alex,
    thanks for sticking with us. I’ll jump back into the discussion by reiterating storkdok and Prometheus in that if you truly want to avoid all animal-tested medicine it will be impossible for you to use the ‘cafeteria’ approach you have outlined for us. If one degree of separation (i.e animal testing was used for development but is no longer used in current applications) is sufficient for you, as is the case with most ‘cruelty free’ cosmetic products as well as the aforementioned influenza vaccines, insulin, etc., then you do have a few more options. However I believe you rejected insulin as an acceptable treatment upthread, so I’m not sure what your criteria are.

    In trying to establish some guidelines for your animal rights advocacy, you say:

    Here’s a start: vertebrates. Now, let me guess. Your following comment will be something like: “But what about the exotic proto-something which survives by sucking the life out of it’s fellow proto-something vertebrates? Do you really think that has any rights? Huh?”

    First, the argument from “this creature is ugly/mean/icky–kill it!” is asinine. I’m certain you haven’t heard that from any of the pro-test scientists you’ve been engaging with here. I would, however, ask why you have excluded the cephalopod from your ‘worth saving’ list. I’m guessing that you wouldn’t, in which case you will have to reconceive the position of your ‘line’.

  158. #158 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @storkdok: I understand. But I can still turn down these medications if someone offers them to me. My ethical system didn’t really change. It’s simply that I now know the medications I used to take are in fact immoral, in my view. It’s like realizing that the money the cashier just gave you was stolen from someone else. I’m not taking it. Thanks for the information.

  159. #159 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @jenbphillips: I admit I did not hear that here but it seems like a common pro-animal testing argument. Google pro-animal testing or something similar and you will find blogs were people who uphold animal rights are derided with this kind of argument. It’s easy to pick some rare animal no one outside the domain ever heard of or rarely heard of and use it as counter-example. You have done something similar, however. I said “Here’s a start: vertebrates.” And you’re asking me why I excluded the cephalopod. Now that we think about it, why did I exclude the jellyfish? Obviously, it’s one of the animals which comes to mind first. Again, I cannot give a precise outline of what my ethical system is but I do believe that vertebrates are a logical place to start. From then, it becomes debatable what gets or does not get added and why. Again, other ARA will have different systems of ethics. I now know from other comments here that I cannot use the “cafeteria approach”, as you call it.

  160. #160 Tyler DiPietro
    March 1, 2010

    Never have I heard this argument before. Please proceed further and define “human social context”.

    A more precise definition would be “set of circumstances under which a social contract holds”. Humans inherently possess cognitive mechanisms for interaction among themselves that don’t hold with other animals, and children possess these as well, even though they are no fully developed. Thus they are capable of reciprocal altruism and abstractly reasoning about their conduct in a way that other animals aren’t.

    A more concise statement to the same effect is this: a social contract, in which rights are predicated, makes no sense when applied to non-humans.

  161. #161 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @Tyler DiPietro: As is well known, many primates close to the human being, such as bonobos have the emotional capacities of a 4-years old and understand social contracts very well. Please go check EMJ’s recent post about bonobos where he discusses his research on it. This is just another case of the old, arrogant human exceptionalism.

  162. #162 storkdok
    March 1, 2010

    @Alex

    Again, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s not that I want to “win” or “berate” someone, I am trying to understand how these ethics are practiced in real life. I guess I didn’t understand that you, and probably a lot of people, didn’t know the way medications and surgical techniques/advances are tested and developed, and animal testing is used for all of them at some point, before testing in humans.

    And the reason I asked about Baby Fae was that that was my first introduction to Animal Rights Activists. I know, grew up with, all the major players in that situation, and the immunologist involved happened to be our immunologist for our in vitro lab later when I was in training. My family was effected, as I have/had close and direct ties to the OB/GYN dept. there where Fae’s mother received her OB care, and I worked in the dept. on school breaks and in summer. The demonstrations were not all peaceful. They were huge, and extremely intimidating. There is no way I could have asked questions and had a civilized debate with anyone there. I have had these questions for many years now, and I thank you for taking the time to answer them in a civil manner.

  163. #163 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @storkdok: No problem. I appreciated the discussion. And if I may shed further light on why ARA are many times so extreme in their actions. Consider this: most ARA see other animals as entirely equal to human beings. When they hear that an animal is killed for scientific purposes, they are as outraged as you would be if you heard that say, one of your family members was killed for those reasons. Imagine what you would do in this kind of situation. Now look at those extreme ARA again. See someone you know?

  164. #164 Tyler DiPietro
    March 1, 2010

    “As is well known, many primates close to the human being, such as bonobos have the emotional capacities of a 4-years old and understand social contracts very well.”

    Yes, but possessing emotions alone is at best premoral. They don’t have the ability to abstractly reason about their conduct. Neither do four year olds, but they will develop it over time. I will concede that children are a gray area, as is recognized by our law (they can’t be prosecuted for crimes). However, the fact of their communion and natural kinship with other humans makes them a different consideration than non-human animals.

  165. #165 storkdok
    March 1, 2010

    @Alex

    No, I don’t. There is no comparison of family members to an animal that they don’t even know who is “killed”.

  166. #166 Alex
    March 1, 2010

    @Tyler DiPietro:
    “Neither do four year olds, but they will develop it over time.”
    >> Not necessarily. There are many children who are born handicapped or develop a mental handicap later in life. There are also many adults who become mentally handicapped later in life. I doubt that you would apply the standards you apply to animals to them as well.

    “However, the fact of their communion and natural kinship with other humans makes them a different consideration than non-human animals.”
    >> It makes them a different consideration for you. For me, it does not.

  167. #167 Alex
    March 2, 2010

    @storkdok: You would be surprised by what many ARA believe, but I digress. Thanks for the discussion.

  168. #168 jenbphillips
    March 2, 2010

    Alex @ 159:

    Google pro-animal testing or something similar and you will find blogs were people who uphold animal rights are derided with this kind of argument. It’s easy to pick some rare animal no one outside the domain ever heard of or rarely heard of and use it as counter-example.

    I did Google it. The first hit from ‘pro-animal testing’ was the Pro-Test Oxford group, of which I am a supporter. When I modified my search to ‘pro-animal testing discussions’, I the top blog hit was a site called ‘Dispatches from Ring City’ featuring a strongly anti-test post ostensibly debunking the justifications for animal research. The majority of the comments on this post were from animal rights supporters who were, nevertheless, making an exception for animals in medical research.

    I mentioned the octopus not as some obscure ‘gotcha’–In fact I specifically chose that example as the coconut-toting octopi story was widely carried by the mainstream media a few months ago–but to try to give weight to my assessment that the ‘cafeteria approach’ you have recently abandoned vis a vis your medical treatment options doesn’t seem to be serving you any better in selecting which animals you include in your kinship realm. You may not know what your criteria are for including any animals on this list, but our conversation has illuminated a lot about what you don’t consider. It can’t be based on degrees of common ancestry, otherwise you would exclude the cephalopods, which are no more closely related to us than arthropods, aka the insects who don’t make the cut. It can’t be based on intelligence or altruism, otherwise you would have no legitimate basis for excluding social insects, who exhibit extremely complex familial behavior. It seems, at the end, to be based on your personal preferences of animals you ‘care about’–or not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but if that is indeed the case, I’m not sure it’s the best idea to erect the “But what about the exotic proto-something which survives by sucking the life out of it’s fellow proto-something vertebrates? Do you really think that has any rights? Huh?” straw man.

    As with the medical treatment conundrum, reliable scientific information is your ally here. Perhaps you don’t care to be introspective about why you draw the line where you draw it–your beliefs are your own and I’m not suggesting you try to change them. You seem like someone who has the ability to modify his position based on new information, though, so it might be worthwhile to explore this further, if only to clarify and strengthen your position. This conversation has certainly given me the opportunity to reflect on the foundations for my belief that animal research is a worthwhile endeavor, and I thank you again for your participation and your candor.

  169. #169 Tyler DiPietro
    March 2, 2010

    “Not necessarily. There are many children who are born handicapped or develop a mental handicap later in life. There are also many adults who become mentally handicapped later in life. I doubt that you would apply the standards you apply to animals to them as well.”

    No, I wouldn’t. And it’s for the same reason as I wouldn’t apply them to four year olds. There are substantial differences that make the consideration different.

    “It makes them a different consideration for you. For me, it does not.”

    And why not?

    Consider an analogous situation: we have an obligation as a society to care for our mentally handicapped and our young. Do we have that same obligation for all non-human animals? From what I see, even the most hardcore ARA would find it absurd to argue such a thing. This example illustrates that the considerations are substantially different.

  170. #170 Alex
    March 2, 2010

    @Tyler DiPietro:

    If those substantial differences are resumed to arguments about “natural kinship” or “communion”, I disregard them. Until now the only things you have done are these:

    1) You started at a position attempting to oppose animal rights because animals cannot meet “social contracts”. I disproved this with the bobonos.

    2) You changed your position (implicitly) to one where the new discriminant is the ability “to abstractly reason about their conduct”. I pointed out that many humans are in a situation where they cannot do this either, yet you do not consider them animals.

    3) You attempt to justify your answer at 2) by saying that it’s the same reason you “wouldn’t apply them to 4 years olds”. Which reason? Social contracts or ability for abstraction? I have answered to both already.

    Now for this:

    “Consider an analogous situation: we have an obligation as a society to care for our mentally handicapped and our young.”
    >> Incorrect. There are many societies, such as Nazi Germany, which did not care for their mentally handicapped or young. Let me be clear: I do not advocate living in such a society. However, this proves that we do not have “obligations” as a society, but instead we make “choices” as a society. The difference is phenomenal.

    @jenbphillips: Your last comment was probably your best (at least in my view). Your deconstruction of my system of ethics is truly illuminating. I now realize that it is very possible that I am holding the same form of preferentialism towards certain animals that I accuse my opponents of holding. I will think about this more seriously. About the Google thing. I did that a few months ago and fell on two blogs where the argument I previously stated was used. I understand it’s probably not a widely used argument then.

    Now, about this:

    “As with the medical treatment conundrum, reliable scientific information is your ally here.”

    In what way? I am not attempting to make an argument based on science or pseudo-science but one based on morality.

  171. #171 Tyler DiPietro
    March 2, 2010

    “If those substantial differences are resumed to arguments about “natural kinship” or “communion”, I disregard them.”

    That would probably be because you have no defense against them, these things obviously exist and obviously influence our moral decisions about them in the real world.

    “Until now the only things you have done are these”

    So instead of countering my arguments you decide to make a number of misleading statements about the debate as it’s proceeded. I have little patience for liars, but I will cordially refute your misrepresentations one by one:

    “You started at a position attempting to oppose animal rights because animals cannot meet “social contracts”. I disproved this with the bobonos.”

    No you didn’t, you claimed that they had the emotional capacity of four year olds and that this implied the ability to create social contracts. I said that what you were pointing to were premoral sentiments, not social contracts. (Hint: social contracts are laws).

    “You changed your position (implicitly) to one where the new discriminant is the ability “to abstractly reason about their conduct”. I pointed out that many humans are in a situation where they cannot do this either, yet you do not consider them animals.”

    I pointed out this criterion in my first post and simply reiterated it in subsequent posts. My position did not “change”. Your “refutation” was simply to reiterate your argument that children cannot reason abstractly about their conduct, even though I had already pointed out why the considerations are different for them.

    “3) You attempt to justify your answer at 2) by saying that it’s the same reason you “wouldn’t apply them to 4 years olds”. Which reason? Social contracts or ability for abstraction? I have answered to both already.”

    And here you’re obviously deliberately misrepresenting my argument. I argued that the human social context was predicated on certain cognitive capabilities that non-human animals lack, and that even if some humans lack these things, they still exist in that social context. Non-human animals don’t.

    “Incorrect. There are many societies, such as Nazi Germany, which did not care for their mentally handicapped or young. Let me be clear: I do not advocate living in such a society. However, this proves that we do not have “obligations” as a society, but instead we make “choices” as a society. The difference is phenomenal.”

    I see. The crucial difference that my post illuminated should be disregarded because Hitler. You’re desperation is becoming palpable.

    So we instead make “choices” as a society. Do you advocate making the “choice” I outlined (but you failed to quote)? If not, what motivates you to distinguish between human children and mentally handicapped humans and non-human animals?

    Furthermore, you’re trying to muddy the waters by taking this from a discussion of ethics to a discussion of meta-ethics. It may surprise you that, meta-ethically, I also have anti-realist tendencies, but that has little relevance to the discussion at hand. If you wanna go there, however…

  172. #172 Alex
    March 2, 2010

    @Tyler DiPietro:
    “That would probably be because you have no defense against them, these things obviously exist and obviously influence our moral decisions about them in the real world.”
    >> You’ve invented two concepts which you did not even clearly define. I have no defense against that?

    “So instead of countering my arguments you decide to make a number of misleading statements about the debate as it’s proceeded. I have little patience for liars, but I will cordially refute your misrepresentations one by one:”
    >> Funny. I was thinking exactly the same thing when I wrote my previous comment.

    “No you didn’t, you claimed that they had the emotional capacity of four year olds and that this implied the ability to create social contracts. I said that what you were pointing to were premoral sentiments, not social contracts. (Hint: social contracts are laws).”
    >> First of all, this is not my claim. Again, I encourage you to go check EMJ’s studies. Second of all, I have here a paper that shows that animal rights can be included into social contract theory: http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/3/7/8/1/pages237818/p237818-1.php

    “I pointed out this criterion in my first post and simply reiterated it in subsequent posts. My position did not “change”. Your “refutation” was simply to reiterate your argument that children cannot reason abstractly about their conduct, even though I had already pointed out why the considerations are different for them.”
    >> No you did not. To quote from your first post, “The one year old child has rights because it exists in a human social context.” I want you to tell me specifically where in this sentence do you see the argument “to abstractly reason about their conduct”. You pointed out that the considerations were different for them based on the idea that they will later develop certain abilities that they did not have at the time. I countered this by saying that since some are mentally handicapped, they will not be able to develop these abilities. I do not see a problem in my counter-point. And you can say whatever you want, but to go from “human social context” to “abstractly reason about their conduct” does show a change of position.

    “And here you’re obviously deliberately misrepresenting my argument. I argued that the human social context was predicated on certain cognitive capabilities that non-human animals lack, and that even if some humans lack these things, they still exist in that social context. Non-human animals don’t.”
    >> If I was interested in misrepresentation of arguments I would go on a naturopathy blog. Again, considering the paper I referenced above, I want you to explain your certainty about why “Non-human animals don’t”.

    “I see. The crucial difference that my post illuminated should be disregarded because Hitler. You’re desperation is becoming palpable.”
    >> Clearly, you did not understand. I picked the Nazis because they are the most obvious counter-example to the idea of “social obligations”. I believe this to be a strong counter-example. If you have problems with using Nazis as a counter-example, I can use the Habsburgs instead. I still don’t understand what “crucial difference” you believe to have made. And I’m still here writing this, so please cut the desperation BS. Yes, I very obviously believe we should make the choice of caring for the mentally handicapped and the young. I wanted to point out that this is a choice, however, and that we can also choose, as a society, to extend the same treatment to animals. There is no “social obligation” acting as a barrier for animal rights. Ethics is a set of philosophies trying to answer questions related to morality. Meta-ethics is a subset of Ethics trying to answer questions relating to morality such as: “What is right?” Can you be more precise in what you’re accusing me of relating to ethics and meta-ethics?

  173. #173 Tyler DiPietro
    March 2, 2010

    “You’ve invented two concepts which you did not even clearly define. I have no defense against that?”

    So I invented the concepts of communion and kinship? Perhaps you should make recourse to a dictionary.

    “Second of all, I have here a paper that shows that animal rights can be included into social contract theory”

    So please summarize how animals can observe the laws and conditions of the social contract.

    “And you can say whatever you want, but to go from “human social context” to “abstractly reason about their conduct” does show a change of position.”

    I already explained why this was a misrepresentation, but like the lying piece of shit you’ve demonstrated yourself to be, you continue to misrepresent it. Although I will concede one error, it wasn’t in my first post that I explained what I meant by “human social context.” I did that after you asked me to.

    “Again, considering the paper I referenced above, I want you to explain your certainty about why “Non-human animals don’t”.”

    Show me the animal society that has developed a social contract. The paper you cited does not do this, it rather argues that non-human animals can be accommodated into existing social contracts created by humans. I think the argument is absurd, but I’m not gonna refute a whole paper that was just dropped into my lap in a comment thread.

    “Clearly, you did not understand. I picked the Nazis because they are the most obvious counter-example to the idea of “social obligations”.

    This is a hilarious non-sequitor, but unfortunately I’ll have to defer ridiculing it since I don’t want to let you muddy the waters further.

    “I still don’t understand what “crucial difference” you believe to have made.”

    I asked you a question point blank, and you have thus far refused to answer it. Do you think that we, as a society, should care for all non-human animals in the same manner as we care for the mentally handicapped and children? If not, then you are de facto making a distinction in the ethical status of human children/the mentally disabled and non-human animals.

    “There is no “social obligation” acting as a barrier for animal rights.”

    I didn’t even make the case that it was necessarily a barrier, and ARA could just as easily argue that we a “social obligation” to non-human animals that equals that of humans. But that’s irrelevant: whatever notional entities your ethical theory is predicated on, there are obvious distinctions that are made when we consider mentally handicapped humans/human children and non-human animals. You’ve yet to answer for that.

    “Ethics is a set of philosophies trying to answer questions related to morality. Meta-ethics is a subset of Ethics trying to answer questions relating to morality such as: “What is right?” Can you be more precise in what you’re accusing me of relating to ethics and meta-ethics?”

    Going off on the “social obligation” tangent is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a meta-ethical theory that has no relevance when we’re talking about a specific ethic.

  174. #174 Jenbphillips
    March 2, 2010

    Alex @ 170:

    Now, about this:

    “As with the medical treatment conundrum, reliable scientific information is your ally here.”

    In what way? I am not attempting to make an argument based on science or pseudo-science but one based on morality.

    1. Morality is an evolved trait, and therefore subject to scientific evaluation
    2. Learning about the connectivity of all living organisms seems, to me, to be a profound basis for formulating personal ethical guidelines on relating and assigning value to the non-human species inhabiting this planet. The phylogeny I linked to in my last post covers just the animal kingdom. A broader tree will show common ancestry for every living thing (past and present) on Earth, and perhaps provide you with further food for thought about your self-described ‘preferentialism’.

    Based on what you have shared here, I think it would be exceedingly challenging for you to apply this ‘first, do no harm’ tenet to life in the modern world. Even if you are a vegetarian, unless you exclusively obtain sustenance from a pre-agricultural ‘gatherer’ system, you can’t escape complicity in the harming of other animals–not just insects but rodents, birds, reptiles, annelids, molluscs–that is unavoidable in agriculture. Similarly, even if you don’t wear leather or fur, etc, you’ll run into the same problem with agriculturally produced textiles & dyes. Further, any manmade products in your home (e.g. the computer through which you are engaged in this conversation) will have been manufactured using industrial chemicals. Toxicity testing for many of these agents has been performed on animals, and moreover, the chemicals, or the byproducts thereof, are affecting the environment, which impacts all species. Do you live in a man-made house? Use modern plumbing or transportation infrastructures? Paper products? There is no end to this list.

    There are varying degrees of separation between the human consumer and the adversely impacted species, but there is a clear connectivity. If you take your philosophy to the extreme, there is simply no avoiding the fact that your very existence is adversely impacting other species. If you are as committed to these principles as you seem to be, efforts toward scrutinizing the basis of your ethics would be time well spent, IMO. Not with the goal of changing your position, but of understanding it better.

  175. #175 Calli Arcale
    March 2, 2010

    Alex @ 146:

    I can establish a few general guidelines, which may come into conflict since, again, this is a system of values and will inevitably be interpreted differently by different individuals when values come into conflict. Here’s a start: vertebrates. Now, let me guess. Your following comment will be something like: “But what about the exotic proto-something which survives by sucking the life out of it’s fellow proto-something vertebrates? Do you really think that has any rights? Huh?”

    Just because I like weird stuff, I’ll offer some random factoids about our beloved animal kingdom:

    * Several vertebrates parasitize others. Famous examples include the hagfish and the lamprey, which are rather repulsive looking but quite important fish. Less-well-known is the male anglerfish, which displays the most extreme sexual dimorphism of any known vertebrate. While the female is a fairly large (and ugly) ambush predator, the male is a tiny wriggling thing whose sole purpose in life is to find a female. Once he finds one, he bites into her flesh. Over time, his body grows into hers and establishes a blood supply. His internal organs wither away, leaving only his gonads — his sole function is the production of sperm. This was a recent discovery; for a long time, scientists believed free-floating male anglerfish to be a different species, and mistook the attached males for peculiar tumors.

    * One vertebrate will surprise most people, because it doesn’t look like a vertebrate. Sea squirts have no central nervous system. But in fact, they are members of Chordata. After a free-swimming larval stage, they attach themselves to the sea floor at a suitable location. Then they essentially eat their central nervous system, as it no longer has a purpose. They spend the rest of their lives as stationary filter feeders.

    * Medical researchers have a hard time studying nerves, largely because they’re so darn small. Luckily, there is an invertebrate which can help out: the squid. This intelligent and social cephalopod group includes some very large species, some of which are easily caught by fishermen. They possess the largest nerve cells of any animal, and are thus invaluable for studying nerves. Their large eyes are surprisingly similar to vertebrate eyes, and are also very useful for study.

    * Squid are not the only invertebrate used as an analog for medical research. The lowly nematode is used for study of embryonic development. This is because some very tiny species are transparent (making it easy to examine them while still living) and possess a very small number of cells, making it easier to track where the descendants of their embryonic stem cells wind up.

  176. #176 Jenbphillips
    March 2, 2010

    One vertebrate will surprise most people, because it doesn’t look like a vertebrate. Sea squirts…

    oops, Chordate ≠ Vertebrate. Chordata is the phylum, vertebrata is the subphylum, so thinks like sea squirts (and sea urchins, etc.) are some of our closest non-vertebrate relatives.

    Other than that, I totally enjoyed your geek-out, Calli. I studied cell division in C. elegans for my Ph.D work :)

    If I may add another beautiful/weird example on the invertebrate side, I was recently enchanted by this study of the ‘maternal effect’ phenomenon, whereby mother crickets can (chemically? hormonally?) impart a warning about nearby predators into their developing eggs! Wow!

  177. #177 SisterMaryLoquacious
    March 20, 2010

    in this series of threads, i was a bit put off at first by what i perceived as anti-ARA (not anti-violence or anti-intimidation, with which i would fundamentally agree) sentiments. and i’m not remotely interested in or impressed with any argument which tries to semantically categorize “animal rights” versus “animal welfare,” without the knowledge, concurrence, or understanding of the participants involved. many people (i included) would consider themselves “animal rights activists” without believing that terrorism, violence, or intimidation is an acceptable means of facilitating change. therefore, the consistent use (and defense of) the term ARA to describe individuals who promote the use of those tactics is inaccurate, imprecise, and, quite frankly, insulting.

    @Callie #144, to clarify (i am not trying to provoke an argument with you here, but merely trying to help you and others understand why the tension was there in the first place), you said, “I hope you understand that, for instance, when I describe Osama Bin Laden as a murderous psychopathic bastard, I do not feel the same way about Muslims in general.”

    that would be a very valid point, if many of the posters here had made it clear that their condemnation was of individuals or their actions. however, the vast majority of the posters here have been rather vague in their application of the term “ARA,” and have used the term liberally and without a clear definition or understanding of the range of opinions inherent in the numerous ARA movements. that would seem very similar to saying, “muslims are murderous psychopathic bastards” and then backpeddaling and saying, “well, i really meant osama bin laden, not all muslims.” again, i don’t really want to get into an argument over this and have nothing but respect for you. i only want to explain why some of the misunderstandings arose.

    there seems to be alot of expectation here by several of the “pro-testing” posters that those involved in the ARA movement must be able to apply their ethical and moral values with perfection, lest they fall victim to some semblance of hypocrisy. to that i would say, none of us are perfect, and none of us are without some semblance of hypocrisy. but that does not mean we should not strive for a meaningful application of our beliefs to the best of our ability. it is a step in the right direction; we do what we can as imperfect beings in an imperfect world. lack of perfection and inability to control everything in our environment is not an excuse for ethical laziness. we do what we can.

    to those of you who have contributed to a meaningful and civilized discussion here, thank you so much! some of the posters, on both sides of the argument, have been an inspiration! that said, some of you are argumentative, raging assholes who clearly have no desire whatsoever to facilitate dialogue.

    thanks again to those of you who persevered through the nonsense and bullshit and ad hominem attacks to get to real discussion. i found it infinitely refreshing.

  178. #178 SisterMaryLoquacious
    March 20, 2010

    PS sorry, calli, for spelling your name wrong.

    and thank you, jenb, for a fascinating link!

  179. #179 Calli Arcale
    March 20, 2010

    Hey, no need to apologize; I’ll answer to anything approximating my userid with no offense taken. ;-)

    Yes, I do understand where the tension comes from. It’s a bit like the abortion debate, in that the labels can force people into an “us versus them” mentality. One starts to think that there are only two sides, when in fact there are many positions along the spectrum of opinion. It’s not an easy problem to avoid, though, as human language is limited.

  180. #180 jenbphillips
    March 20, 2010

    Hey Sister Mary,
    was it the cricket link you were digging? Cool. I guess I’m not sure whether you have categorized me as a contributor to meaningful discussion or a raging asshole, but I’ll press on anyway:

    Re: the ARA assignment, just to clarify: is your position that, while you agree all animal use in research and, I assume, the food industry, to cease, you strive to win support for your views through education and peaceful demonstration? I acknowledge that such groups exist. I suppose, like many religious moderates, animal rights activists who support peaceful demonstration and condemn terrorism have their work cut out for them in attempting to reclaim the ARA handle from the extremists whose actions currently define it on a cultural level.

    You said , re: the consistent application of your principles on animal rights:

    none of us are perfect, and none of us are without some semblance of hypocrisy. but that does not mean we should not strive for a meaningful application of our beliefs to the best of our ability.

    Well put–the key word to me being ‘meaningful’. If I were to make that statement, my use of ‘meaningful’ would connote things like ‘rational’ and ‘logically supportable’ in addition to ‘personally impacting’. This gets to the issue that I and others have been attempting to address on this thread. In my experience (here and elsewhere), animal rights activists feel very strongly about their positions. They are passionate and heartfelt in the way they communicate their beliefs, but when pressed, are rarely able to give a consistent rationale for why they feel the way they feel. This may seem like a ‘gotcha’ game to you, as it apparently did to the other commenter I engaged upthread, but in my opinion these are necessary questions to address if the nonviolent animal rights activists are going to have a coherent and persuasive position to present to the rest of the world. This position must be comprised of more than a vaguely (however heartfelt) defined sense of right or wrong or fairness, it must be grounded in reality; and it must address the scientific issues accurately and adequately. This last is of course more critical than ever if the people promoting these views engage in a discussion on a science blog. In the example of Alex, above, it was he who appeared to be imposing a the goal of perfect consistency upon himself, whereby he reconsidered his assignment of worthy and unworthy animals as well as his continued use of products and treatments connected to animal research as the discussion evolved. I and others followed up by pointing out that he would be hard pressed to follow this application without exception, particularly if he couldn’t adequately define his criteria. I don’t expect anyone to be, de facto, hypocrisy-free, but I do think it fair game to analyze hypocrisy wherever it’s discovered.

  181. #181 SisterMaryLoquacious
    March 20, 2010

    thanks for the responses, calli and jenb.

    @calli: i think you indeed make a very good point about the limitations of language.

    at risk of exposing my own hypocrisy (because, i, myself, have far too often been imprecise in my passionate application of words, and sometimes even just do it for fun for the effect that it gets or the point that it makes) i would just hope to remind everyone that in any communication, especially one which is emotional (such as one’s moral values), any application of “loaded” terms should be very carefully considered for their contribution to the subject matter and fundamental understanding. it would probably save us all alot of frustration if we could just say what we really mean! that’s so hard when we’re passionately trying to defend what we think is “right,” but it’s a worthwhile goal.

    of course, some people, as i mentioned, aren’t trying to “understand” or to find a solution, they’re trying to “win.” and that kind of attitude (e.g., certain ARA using false propaganda and intimidation to further their position) is what got this blog written in the first place. in my opinion, it’s not helpful when either “side” does it. that doesn’t mean that one “side” isn’t more culpable than the other, only that two wrongs don’t make a right.

    @jenb
    please don’t worry about whether i’ve categorized you in the “raging asshole” comment. often i say such things in a purposefully-ambiguous way simply because i don’t think it would be effective to make the conversation about a single person’s behavior or beliefs. and in this case, because i read through many of the animal rights threads over a single day (while i was up and around doing other things) by now i couldn’t tell you which people i meant anyhow! so i guess i would say, if the shoe fits, prance around in it, darlin’, and if it doesn’t, then just assume i wasn’t talking about you!

    jenb, you said,”This position must be comprised of more than a vaguely (however heartfelt) defined sense of right or wrong or fairness…”

    i agree that everyone of all stripes should should examine their belief systems and strive to hold values which are rational and logically tenable. and that we should all make an effort to minimize hypocrisy and conflicting moral values wherever possible. there’s nothin’ worse than a bunch of crazies adhering to positions which simply aren’t grounded in reality or logic!!! but i would also venture to say that neither “side” of the anti-testing/pro-testing debate is fully able to defend or integrate their views without some measure of selective hypocrisy. those of us who think about it, consider it, weigh the pros and cons of either conclusion, we still have to decide where to draw the line, what is more important to us, what has to be sacrificed. such is life. if one side could simply say, “x implies y. y implies z. x, therefore z. q.e.d” all of us thinking logical rational individuals could just say “ooooh, okay! and move along with our lives in agreement. but it’s not that simple. moral values are tricky. they’re complex, and ugly! we get bogged down in them. academic philosophers spend their entire lives arguing about these things (kantian versus utilitarian, for example), and still can’t agree! and for most rational, thinking people, values develop and change, are fine-tuned, over an entire lifetime of experience. we simply don’t have the time or ability to be fundamentally hypocrisy-free creatures, so we make incremental steps towards resolving our cognitive dissonance when the opportunity arises. that is why these types of discussions can be so very helpful for the open minded. but it’s hard to be open minded when someone only wants to “win” at your expense rather than engage in meaningful discussion or debate.

    i think back to studying aristotelian philosophy, and being asked to write papers rendering aristotle (the father of modern logic!) consistent over the course of an entire lifetime of writings, and wanting to simply write, “maybe he was just pissed off or drunk that day!” we aren’t always consistent. we aren’t always rational. we do the best we can. we change. we grow. we (hopefully) become better able to defend our views. i would venture to argue that we wouldn’t want to be only-rational even if we could (do you rationally fall in love?). we do what we can.

    i don’t want to get into my personal beliefs in this debate. i applaud those above, such as woody and kevinL, who were willing to sit in the hot seat in an effort to further understanding, though. i think they said alot of things that help clarify some of the issues, but i also think that anyone who truly wanted to consider both sides of the argument could have done so without relying on them.

    please keep in mind that none of us are the elected mouthpieces for an entire movement. the “movement” is fragmented, the beliefs are varied, and even among the ARA’s who believe in intimidation and violence there is alot of disagreement as to where the line is, for instance, is property destruction acceptable? or threatening children? god, i have been involved in political activism most of my life (not with anti-testing but with other issues) and there is so much fucking bickering over this or that tactic, belief, statement, etc., that it makes me wanna claw my own fucking eyes out! even in the pro-test camp, you will find some who say, “yes, rodents, no, primates.” or “yes, drosophila melanogaster, no mammals.” or, to make the point more salient, “yes non-human animals, no, humans.” and that is why i’ve tried to put “sides” in quotation marks. i think, for the most part, rationally thinking people on both “sides” have the same goal (to minimize, and, if possible, eliminate the need for the use of animal testing). we just disagree on the methods and urgency of getting there.

    thank you so much for engaging with me. i know i didn’t do much to further either “side” of the argument. believe me, if i thought i had all the answers, i would just pol-pot it up and get my dictator on!

  182. #182 SisterMaryLoquacious
    March 20, 2010

    ps

    @jenb yes, it was the cricket link.

    :)

  183. #183 Ender
    March 3, 2011

    Wow. Well as a staunch supporter of animal testing who opposes ARA extremism in every context and has no relation to SML above, I can certainly say who the Raging Assholes were in this thread. Raging Bee and Tyler DiPietro comported themselves in a shameful manner with insults and invective where none were needed and just got in the way of having a reasonable discussion.

  184. #184 tyrannogenius
    March 4, 2011

    Extremism is creepy in and of itself, but how about the basic AR argument? The issue of animal rights is complex and debatable (or so I suppose), yet if scientific folks imply that humans deserve special paramount rights and other animals don’t, that sets up a rather grating irony and grounds for charges of hypocrisy. After all, to go to all this trouble to critique religions’ special treatment of humans, to say we developed from other species in a gradual process with no obvious demarcation – then to just play along with human privileged status in lip service and practice isn’t very consistent. No I don’t mean, the rights of animals are equivalent to what we deem for humans, but a jarring discontinuity just isn’t reasonable. As some suggest, we can at least consider cruelty to these “lower beings” to be wrong, even if we can kill them (because of their apparent lack of thoughtful purpose, intelligent communication, plans etc.) But maybe we shouldn’t allow even that to be done to other primates, cetaceans, etc.

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