Respectful Insolence

Yesterday, I did a post about ethics in human experimentation. The reason I mention that is because in the comments, a commenter named Paul pointed out an editorial of the sort of variety that we frequently see whenever there is a revelation of misdeeds in human research and a response to that article that is far too mild for the level of idiocy in the editorial. The editorial was written by Justin Goodman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Appearing in the Sacramento Bee, Goodman’s article makes a dubious and typical false analogy for an animal rights activist, specifically that Animal tests are today’s Tuskegee experiments.

No, Mr. Goodman, they are not.

Goodman gets off on the wrong foot (so what else is new?) when he begins his editorial with a massive straw man argument, by attributing an argument in favor of animal research by scientists to its being a “fact of science” and then proceeding to tear down said straw man with the characteristic gusto that cranks apply when stimulated by the scent of straw:

Animal experimentation is indeed a “fact” in the sense that it takes place, but its mere existence is not a sound ethical defense, with all its accompanying violence and death. This sort of argument implies that the way we conduct science – and the way we treat animals – is constant, unchangeable and not up for debate. Fortunately, this is not how science (or society) actually works.

Other “facts of science” that history ultimately deemed atrocities include experiments on unconsenting humans – among them, the poor, prisoners, the developmentally disabled, Jews and blacks. J. Marion Sims, the so-called “father of gynecology,” developed life-saving treatments for difficult pregnancies that are still in use today by conducting surgeries on the genitalia of unanesthetized female slaves he “rented” from local owners.

Very impressive, Mr. Goodman! Well done! Not only did you manage to liken animal experimentation to the Holocaust (unethical experimentation on Jews and the disabled) but you managed to bring slavery into it as well! Excellent! Truly, you are as skilled at making dubious and inflammatory analogies as you are at constructing straw men. But Mr. Goodman is only getting started. While the ethics of animal research are fraught with complexities, gray areas are not for Goodman or PETA. Oh, no. PETA is all about histrionics and equating human beings to animals–and not just any animals, either. While justifying research on primates from an ethical standpoint requires a lot of rigor, given how intelligent and closely related to humans they are, PETA makes no distinctions between primates, dogs, cats, rats, or even mice. To PETA, killing a mouse is no different than killing a human being. That’s why, true to form, Goodman makes it explicit:

Those who support animal experimentation – not unlike the people who conducted the unethical experiments mentioned above – are quick to acknowledge the similarities between species in order to justify the use of animals as proxies for humans, but they are even quicker to minimize and disregard the obvious moral implications because it is not in their personal, political or financial interests to do so. Self-reflection and scientific inquiry can lead to conclusions that are uncomfortable and inconvenient, but society will never progress if people choose to assimilate only the ideas that reinforce their personal biases and protect their own interests.

My first reaction to this comment was to respond: Pot. Kettle. Black. PETA is nothing if not the master of assimilating only the ideas that reinforce its ideological biases and protect its own interests! As for scientists acknowledging the similarity of animals to humans in order to justify their use, in actuality, it’s scientists who understand that all animal models have their advantages and disadvantages. Depending upon what disease or process is being modeled, animal models can be very, very good or very, very bad–or anywhere between. However, that is a scientific question, not a moral question.

From PETA’s perspective, the morals are easy. Animals, regardless of what kind, are given equal consideration to human beings. Dario Ringach, who has been targeted by animal rights crazies for his research, nails this point when he calls PETA morally impaired and points out that animal rights and points out that it sees no difference between Michael Vick abusing dogs by fighting them and Albert Sabin producing a vaccine against polio or between kids putting cats in a microwave and scientists working to develop treatments that could save the lives of women with breast cancer. No doubt Goodman would see no difference between my using mice to study treatments for breast cancer and the Tuskegee doctors, or the doctors who ran the Guatemala syphilis clinical trial.

He is also utterly clueless about how animal research is conducted these days:

Yet, the law allows rats, rabbits, cats, dogs, pigs, monkeys and other animals to be burned, shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, paralyzed, cut open and addicted to drugs as well as have their brains damaged. What happens to animals in laboratories would be considered criminal cruelty to animals if it occurred elsewhere. No experiment – no matter how painful or trivial – is prohibited, and painkillers are not required.

Even when viable alternatives to animals are available, the law does not require that these alternatives be used, and very often they aren’t. For example, faculty at the University of Michigan and the Medical University of South Carolina – which oddly gives out an annual award for surgical excellence named after the infamous Dr. Sims mentioned above – continue to cut holes into pigs’ throats and chests in a crude and deadly medical training exercise, even though the schools use sophisticated humanlike simulators to teach the same skills elsewhere on their campuses.

The fact is that the regulations governing animal research have become much more strict than they used to be. If a researcher proposes “burning,” “shocking,” or doing anything that causes an animal more than minimal pain or discomfort, many pages of scientific justification are required. Any painful procedure requires adequate analgesia, and if the researcher needs to perform painful procedures without analgesia, serious scientific justification for why omitting proper analgesia is necessary is mandatory. In reality, few animal experiments occur these days without proper analgesia, because there is very little reason to omit it. Moreover, the “higher” (if you’ll excuse the term) the animal, the harder it is to justify painful procedures or omitting analgesia.

Goodman also has a rather different definition of “necessary” than physicians and scientists do. They also tend to have a different definition of “alternatives.” Ray Greek, for instance, once tried to argue that animal research was worthless for predicting human responses while at the same time proposing alternatives that, by any reasonable measure, are less reliable than any animal model. In that Goodman’s technique is of a piece with common rhetorical gambits used by many animal rights activists. As for the example of using human simulators instead of animals to learn tracheotomies, take it from a surgeon. Human simulators are not the same. They don’t bleed, for one thing. While it’s possible to make a reasonable simulacrum of a human neck, there’s no substitute for getting the feel of actual flesh in learning to do procedures, and the simulation of breathing and getting the balloon inflated properly. On the other hand, I did learn to intubate patients on a plastic dummy. Then I learned how to do it on patients under close supervision in the controlled environment of the operating room. Then, and only then was I able to do it under emergency circumstances–including some pretty hairy situations. Different procedures call for different training, though. Surgical procedures are more difficult to simulate than something like intubation.

Of course, for all their claims that they do not support violence, some animal rights activists belie such claims through the fury of their rhetoric. For example, guess who showed up in the comments of Ringach’s post? Yep, it’s the fellow surgeon who so embarrasses me that every time I see or hear him speak I want to place a paper bag over my head, so much of a vile human being is he. I’m talking Jerry Vlasak, the man who thinks that murdering researchers is morally acceptable. Here he is, once again demonstrating what a despicable man he is. Particularly telling is this remark:

In the not-too-distant future, these sadistic vivisectionists will be looked upon in EXACTLY the same way as we now view those like Sigmund Rascher, a German SS doctor whose deadly experiments on humans were judged inhumane and criminal during the Nuremberg Trials, resulting in his execution April 26, 1945.

First, Vlasak clearly thinks that animal researchers are just like Nazis, and, just like Nazi doctors, that they deserve to be executed. Second, when it comes to World War II history, Vlasak is an utter ignoramus. The Nazis executed Rascher, not the Allies, and the execution was apparently carried out under the direct orders of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The reasons are unclear, and I’ve read different accounts of the reasons, but the most common story I’ve read is that Rascher had publicized that his wife had given birth to three children even well past 40 years of age as a means of demonstrating that birthrates could be increased by expanding women’s fertile years. However, apparently during the fourth “pregnancy,” Mrs. Rascher was caught trying to acquire a fourth baby and an investigation revealed that the other three had either been bought or kidnapped. It’s also been alleged that he faked some of the data in some of his medical experiments. Either way, Himmler apparently felt personally betrayed and ordered his execution, which occurred in the Dachau concentration camp. There were, however, many mysterious executions in Nazi Germany in the last, spasmodic days of World War II; so it’s possible that we might never know why Rascher was executed. The only thing we do know for sure was that he was not executed by the Allies and he was not executed because of Allied findings that his medical experiments were inhumane and criminal, a finding that didn’t occur until 1946.

Hand me the paper bag.

As I’ve said before, the ethics of animal research is not an easy topic. It’s complex; it’s multifaceted; and it is not “one size fits all.” Animal research has benefited human beings in many ways, including the development of surgical procedures, vaccines, medications, and discoveries about biology applicable to humans too numerous to count. Modern animal research ethics include the “three R’s”: Replacing the use of animals wherever possible, reducing the number of animals wherever possible, and refining animal research techniques to alleviate and/or minimize potential pain and prevent suffering. The only way reasoning like that used by Goodman or Vlasak can be considered valid is if you make no moral distinction whatsoever between a human and a mouse. Of course, that’s exactly what radical animal rights activists do. In fact, given their passion and seeming willingness to justify violence against animal researchers, I often think that they value animal life more than they value human life.

Comments

  1. #1 prn
    March 15, 2011

    burned, shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, paralyzed, cut open and addicted to drugs as well as have their brains damaged.
    We used to allow more use of this list in prisons, but hospitals still have full coverage. So the speciesist argument is specious. :)

  2. #2 russ
    March 15, 2011

    I am interested in this, but not well informed. My (uninformed) opinion lies somewhere in the grey area between you and PETA; I accept the need for animal research, but I believe its use should be minimized (as you stated, more or less)

    “The fact is that the regulations governing animal research have become much more strict than they used to be. If a researcher proposes “burning,” “shocking,” or doing anything that causes an animal more than minimal pain or discomfort, many pages of scientific justification are required.”
    I would like to know how this came about. Was it because of the actions of animal rights activists?

  3. #3 informania
    March 15, 2011

    “I often think that they value animal life more than they value human life.”
    Morality seems quite hypocrite to me if you distinct any animal purely on the grounds of not being like yourself enough.. It’s not that I mind higher animals or want them to die (as long as they share their dope that is, cuz I wan a get higher 2 ya know).
    But still, if the only moral regards you have are seemingly due to fear of your own fate, they’re not worth much to me at all.

  4. #4 informania
    March 15, 2011

    @2 Yes, this was mostly due to activists influence on public opinion

  5. #5 Dangerous Bacon
    March 15, 2011

    Sort of telling that one of the site’s banner ads today proclaims “Turn yourself into a cartoon – for free”.

    PETA did that long ago, and keeps on propagating that cartoon image.

    After all, if one gets attention it must be good, no matter how foolish one looks.

  6. #6 DLC
    March 15, 2011

    yeah, and we feed Meat (gasp) to children, too!

  7. #7 Todd W.
    March 15, 2011

    Don’t forget, also, that there has been animal research intended to advance human medicine that ultimately circled back to benefit veterinary medicine.

  8. #8 Dianne
    March 15, 2011

    My (uninformed) opinion lies somewhere in the grey area between you and PETA; I accept the need for animal research, but I believe its use should be minimized

    I don’t see how that’s different from Orac’s position except that you don’t mention minimizing suffering as well as numbers as he did.

  9. #9 russ
    March 15, 2011

    @3 When country x sends troops to “liberate” country y, and the media of country x plays up the deaths of their 10s or 100s of soldiers as they die in action, but completely ignores the 1000s and 100000s of civilian (non-combatant) “colateral damage” suffered by the people of the country they invaded.. I believe it is a similar mechanism.. we are inclined to care more about those we see as most like us than those least like us… of course not everyone agrees, we aren’t tied to it.

    On a slightly different note,
    Personally I would like to see animal abuse laws (unrelated to this subject) toughened up a great deal in Canada, and I would like to see meat cost consumers what it actually costs to produce, but I do value a whale’s life over that of a cow, and a humans (all things being equal) over a cat’s. Unless, say, it was _my_ cat and said human was trying to kill it. Then all things aren’t equal :/

    One thing I find disingenuous though is that when we’re speaking of evolution, we say humans are animals, we’re great apes, but when speaking of using animals for research, I see animals spoken of as categorically not human. Not so much a moral point but a rhetorical device.

  10. #10 cervantes
    March 15, 2011

    It’s appropriate to point out the guy’s factual and category errors. But, in the end, he simply has adopted a moral position that animals — not sure where he draws the line exactly, but I expect he at least includes all vertebrates — have equal moral status with persons. That may seem bizarre to you, and I certainly don’t agree with it, but it’s not something you can really argue about. If that’s what he believes, end of story. It’s not subject to factual or reasonable objection.

  11. #11 Anglachel the Common Sense Pagan
    March 15, 2011

    I love animals, always have. But PETA goes way to far, and thier way of doing things does more damage to their cause than good. A rat is a rat!! Come on folks!! I do believe that when doing testing, it should be made as painless as possible for the animal. That the animal should be well taken care of, and not abused in any way. But from what little I know of animal testing, this is how those in the labs act with them! They are not cruel, they are not poking the little creatues with a stick while the animal is stuck in a cage! They try to be as humane as possible.

    To equate an animal with a human life is absurd! Yes, our pets become members of the family and are wonderful companions. But scienctists are not testing on our dogs and cats!! Rats, among many other things, are known carriers for disease. Not to mention probably get better treated in the lab then out in nature! Are they going to go hunt down every cat in the world and remove the rodent from the feline’s mouth? If not, why? Is it not cruel for the cat to eat the mouse? *rolls eyes*

    I’m waiting for these people to start raiding the high school biology classes and trying to free the frogs the students are getting ready to disect!

    These animals are not being tortured, and many of them are alot better off in those labs then out in a wild, where survival of the fittest isn’t just a theory, it’s the rule!

    *rant over* :*)

  12. #12 Damien Woody
    March 15, 2011

    Not only scientists experiment with animals, also with people. This is already more than a decade. What happens is that it not come to light. I read an article by Findrxonline which indicate that in the India and Japan, they do tests with people with chronic diseases to assess whether really medicines can cure diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, etc.

  13. #13 Denice Walter
    March 15, 2011

    From my pespective, there is a link here with certain alt med factions: more radical vegans do not solely rely on health claims to support their total rejection of animal products- there is a moral claim that they do not kill to survive, along with the anti-”species-ist” argument, and tales of unspeakable horrors inflicted on factory-raised animals ( not to mention mythological beliefs about meat-eaters “ingesting the animal’s pain and fear”)

    Lately, I have heard the “animal-friendly”-is-”earth-friendly” argument: raising animals, including grazing, wastefully consumes valuable resources, thus it invites ecological disaster through global warming and unnecessary pollution ( any port in a storm). I wonder how many animal rights activists are also vegan.

    Again, animal experimentation is red meat for those who already berate Big Medicine and BigPharma for their immorality, greed, and heartlessness. Plus, it’s another context in which they can yell, ” Cut! burn! poison!”.

  14. #14 Beamup
    March 15, 2011

    At least he doesn’t go as far as one loon of my acquaintance. This person seriously argues that animals have the right to VOTE. Specifically including insects. I’ve never actually asked about bacteria, since I’m so afraid the answer might be “yes!”

  15. #15 Scott Cunningham
    March 15, 2011

    Animal rights activists have done much to ruin science education. I’m taking an animal histology course with no dissections. That’s insane. Animal rights makes us bio students shamefully ignorant. I’ve been moving toward botany for years in part to try to sidestep the glaring holes those nuts have carpet bombed into my education.

    I’ve hear a lot about the virtual models PETA is enamoured with. The first thing you notice when you cut something open is that it doesn’t look like the idealized models. There’s adventitious tissue. There’s developmental aberrations. Swollen livers, tumours, gallstones, maybe even blood on the brain from some stroke your animal specimen had years back. You need to see this because it’s what you’ll see when working. Textbook illustrations and artificial models cen’t hold a flickering busted cigarette lighter to it.

  16. #16 rork
    March 15, 2011

    “To equate an animal with a human life is absurd!”
    Only want to point out that even folks like me who kill and eat animals do not have to agree that humans are worth more than other animals. I don’t have all the philosophical answers, but somehow I do conclude that if the grizzly bear or the human must die in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, it should be the human. The common question is how many humans would I kill or let die to save that grizzly. I might get a different number for some spot in Alaska. There’s some complicated valuation involved is my only point.

  17. #17 prn
    March 15, 2011

    rork@15
    I might get a different number for some spot…
    Probably depends significantly on whether you are sharing the spot…Griz are oh so cute.

    Fuzzy, arbitrary valuation is my point.

  18. #18 Mu
    March 15, 2011

    The real question is, is it open season, and do I have a tag.

  19. #19 WScott
    March 15, 2011

    @ Beamup 13: Not to play “Topper,” but my wife one had a roommate who claimed owning houseplants was slavery. There’s always someone loonier.

  20. #20 Bronze Dog
    March 15, 2011

    Denice Walter:

    Lately, I have heard the “animal-friendly”-is-”earth-friendly” argument: raising animals, including grazing, wastefully consumes valuable resources, thus it invites ecological disaster through global warming and unnecessary pollution ( any port in a storm). I wonder how many animal rights activists are also vegan.

    Funny thing I’m reminded of: I’ve heard some fringe anti-cow sentiments that involved citing methane and carbon from cow farts as a contributor to ozone decay and/or global warming, when it’s just recycling carbon already circulating in the biosphere and/or displacing probably similar output from wildlife.

    Of course, if the argument’s instead based on, say, increased carbon/pollution from transportation or processing, compared to the costs of vegetarian-friendly foods, the previous paragraph is moot. Given that you have to grow a food supply for the livestock and possibly transport it to the livestock, that’d be a much more plausible argument about the meat industry causing more environmental damage.

    Somehow, though, I doubt a PETA-type extremist would use the more sensible of the two arguments.

  21. #21 Anglachel the Common Sense Pagan
    March 15, 2011

    I do agree that in a scenerio where a grizzly bear or the human must die in the Bob Marshal Wilderness, it should be the human. Anyone off their rocker enough to think they can take on Mother Nature in such a scenerio with nothing bad happening to them, well, sorry but you are in the bear’s neighbor hood, and she/he has the right to defend what is his/hers, just like everyone else.

    On the same note, I have heard from more than just a few people that my stepping on a cock roach is the equivilent of if I had shot a human being!! That is just more than a little ridicoulous! My idea of ethical treatment of animals really has to do with moderation. We need quit destroying their homes just so we can put up another shopping mall. Endangered species should be monitered and protected. We should have a healthy respect for other living creatures.

    Enough to treat them humanely, and to not traumatize them for no reason. That being said, when an activist tells me I commit murder by eating cow for dinner, I just have to shake my head! If by eatting meat I am a murderer, then so is every predatory animal on the planet! I want to see one of them go argue with a lion over his meal of caribou! And I would like to know if they think that said lion is a horrible monster, for hunting, stalking, and taking down his prey, as it is in his nature to do!

    Humans are predators! No more or less than the rest of the animal kingdom. Yes, horrible practices have been done in testing on animals, that is fact. But it is not the rule amongst the majority of researchers! And when the PETA ilk get up set, I like to bring up this simple fact. If you were an animal, and you had the choice between staying in a nice lab with various treatments tried out on you once and a while, and taking your chances with Mittens the cat over there, which would you choose? Because me, I would choose the lab!

    *another nonsensical rant over* :P

  22. #22 Ian
    March 15, 2011

    I’m always put at unease any time the ‘just cause’ argument is used.

    Animals aren’t the same as humans!
    Why not?
    ‘Cause they aren’t, obviously!

    I think we should be doing animal testing in those circumstances when it’s the only or best option, but it is not immediately self-evident to me why humans are “better” than rats, except that we’re the ones with the scalpels. I’m glad (and I’m sure y’all are too) that we have the ethical restrictions in place that we do, but it’s not a sufficient argument to say “they’re wrong because they think humans and animals are the same.”

  23. #23 Pieter B
    March 15, 2011

    Most larger companies doing animal research adhere to principles called the 3Rs, which encourage the replacement of animals by other research methods where possible; the reduction in the number of animals needed to achieve valid results; and refinement in experimental methods to eliminate or minimize any pain, discomfort, or distress that animals might experience. Many give annual awards to researchers who make significant gains in this area.

    The 3Rs were first proposed in 1959 by British scientists William Russell and Rex Burch; their contribution to humane treatment of experimental animals is honored by the Humane Society of the US’s Russell and Burch Award.

  24. #24 Denice Walter
    March 15, 2011

    @ Bronze Dog : While the methane-from-cows argument may be total crap, the fervent will occasionally use meaningful, realistic arguments ( e.g. fuel and transporation costs) to justify agendas that may be, shall we say, ultimately whimsy-based.

  25. #25 Poncho
    March 15, 2011

    Human’s life has greater value than an animal, like a rat, that has no ambitions, no realization of self, and with only a basic need to survive. Although there are similarities between humans and animals on a physical level, emotionally and intellectually, there is no real comparison. It would be a crime against humanity to allow untold sick and injured people to suffer, especially when the means to end their suffering are available through animal testing.

  26. #26 Adam_Y
    March 15, 2011

    Funny thing I’m reminded of: I’ve heard some fringe anti-cow sentiments that involved citing methane and carbon from cow farts as a contributor to ozone decay and/or global warming, when it’s just recycling carbon already circulating in the biosphere and/or displacing probably similar output from wildlife.

    Actually, any organic matter will decay into methane whether it be plant or animal.

  27. #27 Todd W.
    March 15, 2011

    @Poncho

    Just to play devil’s advocate, how do you determine ambition and realization of self? Does a newborn infant (as in, hours old) have that? How about a human in a coma? Is there a threshold level of ambition or self-realization? What about other animals that show awareness, etc.?

    Just some questions to consider; the argument you presented is kinda weak and unconvincing.

  28. #28 Adam
    March 15, 2011

    I can think of many ways of improving animal welfare – better transportation, humane & less stressful methods of killing, better veterinary care, prosecutions for abuse & cruelty, legislation against puppy farming, bans against blood sports, protection of natural habitats etc.

    All sensible ways to ensure unnecessary cruelty against animals and their suffering. And there are legitimate welfare organizations who strive to ensure all those things. PETA is not one of those organizations. PETA are unhinged extremists who scream, shout, make lots of provocative noise but accomplish pretty nothing of note whatsover. If I were someone actively engaged in welfare or wished my money to be used for causes I would run a mile from these lunatics.

  29. #29 Poodle Stomper
    March 15, 2011

    I do mouse research and I can definitely attest to the fact that it is NOT an anything-goes environment. You have to abide by strict protocols to avoid causing undue stress or pain to the animals and are required to plan protocols to minimize the number of animals needed. Goodman is an idiot that sorely needs to look into the facts before opening his mouth.

  30. #30 jenbphillips
    March 15, 2011

    Informania @ 4: With a ‘nym like that, surely you have a citation to go along with your claim that changing IACUC policies are “mostly due to activists influence on public opinion”??

  31. #31 Vicki, Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief
    March 15, 2011

    The “just because” argument is equally flawed from either side: a significant amount of the extreme animal rights viewpoint seems to come down to
    “Animals are morally the same as humans.
    “Why?
    “Because they are, obviously.”

    I have a feeling that many of the people who are talking about “animal rights” haven’t thought about where they are actually drawing the line. Cockroach rights? Jellyfish rights? If animals are “morally the same as humans,” am I supposed to try to convince my cat, and other obligate carnivores, to become a vegetarian? Is a spider evil when it spins a web to catch flies?

    For that matter, what is the moral status of the Venus flytrap, in that worldview?

  32. #32 Darlene
    March 15, 2011

    I am uncomfortable with animal research. Yes, I know how many lives it saves, but I also hope for a day when it becomes unnecessary. While everyone is so careful to not physically hurt the animals, we forget that many being used are sentient creatures, mostly social, who are being confined and isolated. They aren’t living in a natural environment, plucked out occasionally to do a test. And they are destroyed afterwards instead of adopted out or placed in a sanctuary paid for by the organization doing the tests. Destroying a life just because it isn’t useful anymore bothers me. Keeping social animals isolated bothers me. We consider that torture if we do it to each other…

    I hope we find a better, more compassionate way. And soon.

  33. #33 Anglachel the Common Sense Pagan
    March 15, 2011

    I would say what makes humans so different from the rest of the animal kingdom is our copacity to do things other species can not. Hold complicated relationships, having and being able to analyze our emotions, our connection to one another. It could be argued that animals have these things to an extent. But not to the same extent as the human race does. Our ability to think critically, to show compassion to one another, to invent, and create brand new things to move the world forward, this is what seperates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    It also gives us the responsibility to for lack of a better term, be good stewerds, and show compassion and respect to our fellow living creatures. But it needs to be within reason!

  34. #34 cleveland
    March 15, 2011

    That may seem bizarre to you, and I certainly don’t agree with it, but it’s not something you can really argue about. If that’s what he believes, end of story. It’s not subject to factual or reasonable objection.

    The trouble is that the AR extremist nutjobs do not simply pose their arguments in moral or ethical terms, subject to all the usual caveats about personal preferences. Instead they try to convince those that do not share their extremist stance to come along with them by “factual and reasonable” objections. To do so, they have to lie. Continually and boldly. Loudly, thanks to their fundraising machines. Lie about the way animal research is actually conducted as well as about the results. Also, as Orac has repeatedly detailed, lie about the prospects for advancing medicine and science without the use of animal models.

    This is why it is worth “arguing” with them. Or, really, worth rebutting them in the public information space. Because they want to lie the public into adopting their own extremist position that a mouse is morally equivalent to a person in any and all ways*.

    *Except for the field mice that are killed in the plowing and harvesting of fields used to grow their preferred foodstuffs, that is.

  35. #35 Poncho
    March 15, 2011

    @Todd W.
    It’s a sliding scale. Normal humans have full rights while limited rights exist currently for marginal humans (coma, mental impairment) and children/babies until they reach the age of majority. The sliding scale extends to animals like chimps and this is reflected in how hard it is to experiment on them. It requires a lot of justification then say experimenting on mice.

    How to measure ambition? Humans hope and plan for future goals, very few animals do that at all. We work to move beyond just trying meet biological needs. So…the ability to think beyond immediate biological needs is a huge way to measure this.

    There are ways to measure knowledge of self in other animals, although how that is done I’m not sure. I read some where that rats have a sense of self while mice do not. Again this would be based on a sliding scale. The stronger the realization the higher on the ladder. Something that has at least an ego or super-ego?

    How was it weak and unconvincing? I thought it was decent for a quick blerb on a blog.

  36. #36 jre
    March 15, 2011

    The heightened awareness and sense of responsibility we see today for research subjects’ rights and welfare evolved in much the same ways, and over the same period, for human and animal subjects.

    We have Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to oversee research involving human subjects today because the protective legal framework was built over decades. The capstone documents of that framework are the Helsinki Declaration (1964) and the Belmont Report (1979).

    Protections for research animals were developed over the same period. They were first formally defined by the “Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals” in 1963, and mandated by the Animal Welfare Act in 1966. Today, any animal research protocol must be approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The IACUC is charged with ensuring, among other things, that discomfort, distress, and pain to research animals are minimized.

    It is no accident that IRBs and IACUCs came about at the same time. Both reflect a growing awareness of the researcher’s responsibility to protect the safety, rights and welfare of living subjects. Where PETA goes wrong is not in recognizing the common ethical principles underlying human and animal research, but in failing to note how well those principles are upheld.

  37. #37 Hay man
    March 15, 2011

    @Bronze Dog
    I think your reasoning is flawed. The carbon cycle involving the release of methane is not equivalent to the conventional one. It is ideally carbon neutral, but methane is a more potent green house gas. Replacing CO2 with methane therefore contributes to global warming. The methane is eventually turned into CO2, but energy will still be absorbed in the mean time. Seeing as how methane is tens of times more potent than CO2, this can be quite significant. On a side note, it is in fact cow burps that release most of the methane.

    Your statement that it cows are simply replacing similar processes in wildlife doesn’t seem correct either. Firstly, they’re not really replacing wildlife, they’re replacing other sources of food for people. Getting food from a different type of animal would reduce the environmental impact without even reducing the resources used. This is because ruminants release more potent green house gasses than for instance pigs or chickens. If one were replace them with simply eating plants, one would generally have even less of an environmental impact. You’re then basically removing a very inefficient step in the production of food. Secondly, even if you were replacing wildlife, most of those animals would, again, not be ruminants. Similar reasoning would then apply.

  38. #38 Todd W.
    March 15, 2011

    @Poncho

    True, few non-human animals are known to plan for the future, but some do, such as the western scrub jay.

    The problem with using traits that we deem “human” to establish the level of rights is that there will be times where an animal will, using those definitions, surpass humans. For instance, an hours-old infant, it may be argued, has less self-awareness, etc., than, say, an adult chimp; in that case, would IACUC standards be sufficient for research involving the infant, rather than the human research subject protections at 45 CFR 46?

    I’m not trying to be offensive; I’m just trying to point out possible flaws in your argument. I was focusing mainly on your argument that “Human’s life has greater value than an animal” and using awareness and other such measures to justify that stance. I fully support animal research when it is justified.

  39. #39 Ray Greek
    March 15, 2011

    I have responded to aspects of the above diatribe in detail at
    http://www.afma-curedisease.org/pdf/Orac%20response.pdf
    Further, I have asked Orac to take our differences to the peer-reviewed, indexed scientific literature in the form of a point-counterpoint debate (I was asked to do this by an editor of such a journal) but he has refused. It is easy to make claims on the Internet but much more difficult to get those claims into peer reviewed journals. Internet-based tirades are no substitute for participating in a point for point debate in the literature. My claims can be found in the peer-reviewed literature at http://www.peh-med.com/content/pdf/1747-5341-4-2.pdf
    He also refused to provide references for the following claim on May 10, 2010 that: “After all, one reason we use animals is because, as imperfect as animal carcinogenesis studies are, the correlation between cell culture studies is even more unreliable than that of animal studies.” (See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=5045)
    I suggest that all who read Orac’s essay above think critically about these facts when evaluating Orac’s position. The fact that Orac takes the time to publish the above but refuses to accept an invitation to take this to the literature speaks for itself. I see no possible justification for this refusal.
    For more on my actual position, I suggest our recent book Animal Models in Light of Evolution and my blog at http://www.opposingviews.com/users/dr-ray-greek

  40. #40 Poncho
    March 15, 2011

    @Todd

    Hmmm…well the infant is still human. There is that factor as well. And it will more than likely grow up to be a normal adult human. Even with marginal humans like those in a coma or the mentally impaired…a broken chair is still a chair, it does not become a rock or a pineapple just because it is broken. I would say that “broken” humans are exceptions, not the rule and the state of infants is temporary. I would say part of the reason we don’t think it’s okay to experiment on the vulnerable is out of respect and sympathy…a terrible accident could make anyone drooling idiot very easily and most people would not like to be treated badly if in that position themselves (but hey if you have some kind of living will that allows for pulling the plug…why not one for allowing experimentation…just a random thought). As for the chimp, it will never be on the same level as a normal human unless we elevate it “Planet of the Apes” style. Heck, there are people right now arguing against circumcision based on the opinion that even parents have no right to alter an infant…let alone experiment on it.

    That’s okay, I mean I wasn’t writing a term paper or anything, and morals/ethics kinda deep to explain in a few sentances. I figured if I got questions I’d explain further.

  41. #41 Todd W.
    March 15, 2011

    @Poncho

    So it seems that your argument is really that humans are of greater value solely by virtue of being human, not because of any particular trait that may be shared by other animals, like awareness or planning/ambition. If your argument is that humans are always more important than non-human animals, then entering into justifications based on possible shared traits opens you up to situations where, using your own arguments, non-human animals may be considered more important than humans.

    I agree, it’s a very tough/deep subject. One could simplify things and simply state that, as humans, we strive to protect and promote our own best interests in order to perpetuate the species. It is an evolutionary, if genetically selfish, drive. Just as we use other living things for sustenance (thus promoting our health), we also use them for medical pursuits (again, promoting our own, and occasionally non-human animal, health).

  42. #42 Poncho
    March 15, 2011

    Sure we share some traits with animals; we all evolved on the same planet. Other animals can plan ahead but is it at the same level as a normal human? A house cat and a Lion are both predators but would we treat them the same way?

    Well not just by being human. It involves a combination of sliding scale and being a part of a sapient race, it’s just that right now there is no species on the planet that is equal to us. I’d say a Vulcans would have the exact same rights as us as well as the Animals (capital A) from Wicked (or the apes from “Planet of the Apes”). If a species shares traits with us on the same level as humans then they would qualify as people: as in the ability to enter into a moral contract, reason, plan ahead, sense of self, etc.

    “One could simplify things and simply state that, as humans, we strive to protect and promote our own best interests in order to perpetuate the species. It is an evolutionary, if genetically selfish, drive. Just as we use other living things for sustenance (thus promoting our health), we also use them for medical pursuits (again, promoting our own, and occasionally non-human animal, health).”

    This is true but we are the only species that tries to mitigate our own evolutionary drives. For instance we don’t eat our prey while it’s still alive, we work to save endangered species, and try to experiment on animals with very good reason and as humanely as possible. However, there is a big difference between being “nice” and committing evolutionary suicide.

  43. #43 realinterrobang
    March 15, 2011

    According to PETA, “Animals, regardless of what kind, are given equal consideration to human beings.” Which is true, as long as you define “human being” as including strictly the male of the species. They seem perfectly fine with degrading, objectifying, and exploiting women to further their ideological ends, as you can observe from looking at just about any of their recent campaigns. They’re scum and hypocrites (“we love animals but we think women are meat”) and nobody should take a damn thing they say seriously at all.

    A quick search gives plenty of examples.

  44. #44 Dr Arnold L. Goldman
    March 15, 2011

    The failure to advance human society through medical advancement, would be a simultaneous failure to advance animal “society.” In the one-health paradigm, humans, animals and the environment are considered to be interdependent and biological advances in any, advance all three. Thus, not using our intelligence and all means available to us to learn, is the greatest immorality. We must avoid knowing we could have helped but didn’t.

    Rather than considering animal research subjects as victims, the more appropriate lens is that of hero. Unknown to themselves the mice, rabbits, rats and zebra fish of most basic research are heroes, as their sacrifice helps others. Opponents will argue that free will was not exercised so their heroism was not voluntary. This is true, yet every soldier or sailor who volunteers for military service does not do so expecting to find him or herself in situations where they must expend their lives to save others. That is not truly voluntary either. We make the best of the situations we find ourselves in. Appropriately conducted animal research is a heroic activity for subject and researcher alike.

  45. #45 Calli Arcale
    March 15, 2011

    I personally think that if we are entirely fair and honest with ourselves, animals have every bit as much right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we do. In a perfect world, we would enshrine that in law.

    I also think that if we’re entirely honest with ourselves, we’ll realize that this is not a perfect world. Resources are limited. By our mere existence, we endanger animals. Even the staunchest raw-food subsistence vegan living in the wilderness has a substantial ecological footprint, and as resources are not infinite, that means less resources for other organisms. Field mice are ground up in harvesters; even organic produce involves the slaughter of pests (just by less “synthetic” means); the maximum allowable insect parts in food is an acknowledgment of the impossibility of keeping them out; even the greenest house will squash something when it’s built; and so on. The actions PETA takes are the pangs of our collective guilty conscience, and like all pangs of a guilty conscience, they are not rational. They are emotional. They do not want to admit that zero impact is as impossible as zero point energy or immortality.

    In a world of limited resources, we do have to pick and choose who gets priority. Abdicating the conscious decision doesn’t solve the problem, since it still gets made de facto. I think it is good and noble to consider the needs and desires of animals — but given the limited resources, we have a responsibility to put our own survival ahead of theirs. Thus, I am willing to eat meat. I will kill pests in my house if I cannot remove them by other means. I have a number of leather goods. I keep pets, including fish, which, one must be honest, have little value apart from the ornamental; they are not, in any sense, companions. And I am in favor of animal research, provided reasonable standards are upheld to reduce the suffering of the test subjects. And for the most part, that is what happens. When it doesn’t, it should be found out and dealt with. If PETA concentrated on that, I would not mind them so much.

    Would many of these tests be inhumane if done to humans? Absolutely. Would I condemn them if done on humans? Again, absolutely. But I recognize the necessity, and so, since they must be done on someone, I am all right with it being done on animals. I do agree with a sliding scale, where chimpanzees are held to a much higher standard than platyhelminthes, but this largely because it is easier to be empathic to an ape than a flatworm, and it is important to keep our empathy alive — if we treat apes badly, it is a step closer to treating humans badly, whereas I suspect cruelty to a flatworm is much less likely to translate to cruelty to humans later on.

  46. #46 MaryP
    March 15, 2011

    Just checked out the PETA web site and they advocate acupuncture for animals. I think I have a problem with their logic and reasoning.

    My friend was convinced by her vet to spend money she could not afford to do acupuncture on her dog. After a couple of sessions the dog would completely tense up and try to avoid being going into the vet’s office. To me this suggested that the dog did not like acupuncture and possibly was feeling pain from it. Not the vet’s explanation though. How does PETA justify this – especially when the reports I have read certain say that acupuncture does not work in humans? Does it only work for animals?

  47. #47 MJ
    March 15, 2011

    PETA should never be taken seriously when it comes to animal rights. There was a court case a while a go where a couple members got charged after a bunch of dead dogs were found in a dumpster that hours before had been given to PETA with the understanding they were going to a new home. They were aquitted of the charges but it was established in court PETA offer to take unwanted pets off people’s hands without bothering to provide a proper shelter or care and witnesses have described seeing them take out the euthenasia kit as soon as they put the animals in the car. As for why, PETA are for the FULL liberation of animals which means pet ownership is slavery, they will not adopt animals in to what they see as slavery and would honestly rather ‘liberate’ them through death. Oh and their VP is a diabetic who needs animal tested insulin to live, she has said her life is too important to stick to her organizations beliefs and refuse the insulin. If there was a cure for AIDS found through animal testing though? Yup, she’d be against it no matter how many lives it’d save.

  48. #48 lilady
    March 15, 2011

    PETA? Aren’t these the same wackos who took President Obama to task for swatting a mosquito? And, questioned the use of pesticides for control of mosquitoes in areas of the world where mosquitoes have caused the death of humans and birds from West Nile Virus, Japanese Encephalitis, Dengue Fever and Malaria? I guess we know what their priorities are when it comes to protecting “higher forms of life” from deadly diseases.

    Outrageous that they compare the Holocaust in Europe to the use of animal models for scientific research.

  49. #49 feralboy12
    March 15, 2011

    The common coot, a duck-like bird, has a nasty habit of producing more young than it can support through infancy. At some point, the parent will start punishing the smallest offspring every time it begs for food. Eventually, it stops asking, and starves. Coots repeat this until 8 or 9 babies are reduced to 2 or 3.
    These little chicks are having their rights violated. And they’re so damned cute.

  50. #50 russ
    March 15, 2011

    I wrote #2: “The fact is that the regulations governing animal research have become much more strict than they used to be. If a researcher proposes “burning,” “shocking,” or doing anything that causes an animal more than minimal pain or discomfort, many pages of scientific justification are required.”
    I would like to know how this came about. Was it because of the actions of animal rights activists?

    #4 replied: @2 Yes, this was mostly due to activists influence on public opinion

    and @23 posted:
    The 3Rs were first proposed in 1959 by British scientists William Russell and Rex Burch; their contribution to humane treatment of experimental animals is honored by the Humane Society of the US’s Russell and Burch Award.

    But @23, what gave animal researchers the _motivation_ to change to new, restrictive guidelines?

    My understanding (from memory) of the meat industry is that it was public reaction to videos taken of the dangerous and grotesque conditions animals were being slaughtered in, in Texas, that led to stricter regulation and safer working conditions for the _human_ workers, who were mainly low paid migrant workers (as well as more humane killing methods)

    So, even if I don’t share all views of those animal rights activists, if this is true, then their activism has led to what I’d consider at least two, industry changing, positive outcomes, including a direct benefit to humans.

  51. #51 russ
    March 15, 2011

    @48 in other words, can one of the best moral defenses of modern animal research (treating animals ethically, the three Rs ) against accusations by animal rights activists be considered a result of success by animal rights activists?

  52. #52 Denice Walter
    March 15, 2011

    OT:( However, is the shameless exploitation of catastrophe in the interests of fear-mongering and self-promotion by natural health entrepreneurs _ever_ *truly* OT @ RI?)

    Today @ NaturalNews ( Mike Adams) : “Iodine protects thyroid and glandular system from radiation: Here’s where to get some”.

    While I realise that Mike is attempting to sell products to the Chinese( see upper left tranlation link on home page), most of his customers are from the US. According to MSNBC today, residents of the West Coast are not in danger from radiation releases in Japan: there is no reason to purchase iodine. Well, no rational reason.

  53. #53 lilady
    March 15, 2011

    Scam artists NEVER let the truth interfere with selling techniques.

    Reminds me of the anthrax spore mailings and the marketing/sale of “anthrax vaccine” and Cipro antibiotics on the internet.

  54. #54 jenbphillips
    March 15, 2011

    Russ @ 48:
    First, “the meat industry” isn’t the topic of this post. Animal testing is. Pretty significant difference, even if your memory of the regulatory policies of the meat industry are spot on.

    As to ‘what gave animal researchers the _motivation_ to change to new restrictive guidelines’, no one has yet to show me, anywhere (and here is where ‘from memory’ doesn’t quite cut it) a source demonstrating that any of these changes can be directly (or even indirectly) attributed to the activities of animal rights groups. Don’t you think it’s worth a thought that perhaps researchers might be capable of policing themselves? Even if you presume (as you seem to) that we researchers have no ethics of our own, it’s unquestionably beneficial to our experiments if the animals are healthy before, during and after the testing period.

    But, if you allow that maybe we do have some tiny vestiges of ethics somewhere inside, you might consider the legions of veterinarians, animal care experts, clinicians and scientists who have worked together over the past decades to craft these policies–you know, before you go handing all the credit to those who oppose animal research for any and all purposes.

    As always, citations to back up your assertions will be welcomed.

  55. #55 larry
    March 15, 2011

    Here is a funny video on animal rights: http://meat.org

  56. #56 adelady
    March 16, 2011

    If any comment is from PETA, I’m afraid it’s worthless. I previously held the view that all social movements need their radicals to give social ‘space’ to the mainstream parts of the movement, and PETA seemed to fulfil that role for AR.

    And I fully understand their dislike of circus animals. When they pronounced the verdict that guide dogs are slavery or some such nonsense, they lost me completely. How can people say they ‘respect’ animals and never seem to have looked closely at one. And if you believe that they are equivalent to humans, the working animal that knows what’s required and does it without being asked is about as close as you’ll ever get to a human sensibility.

    Their crude and unthinking categorisation of all animals in all roles as equivalent (to something mysterious) makes any views they may have on using them in experiments irrelevant.

  57. #57 maydijo
    March 16, 2011

    In my experience most of the die-hard animal rights activists have never actually been around animals, and have this entirely romanticised view of how animals behave. Animals rape each other. They kill each other. There are limited resources; animals have to compete for them; and it really is survival of the fittest.

    In a way groups like PETA are actually quite condescending. We’re playing by the same rules – survival of the fittest – but we’ve evolved to the point where our definition of ‘fittest’ involves exploiting other animals. And this benefits animals, too – those animals that are needed for human purposes will never have to worry about extinction.

  58. #58 russ
    March 16, 2011

    @53 “As always, citations to back up your assertions will be welcomed.”
    Yes, citations would be welcome to back up assertions, but I did not assert anything. I was asking for information, preferably with a citation.

    Also I definitely do not believe researchers, or anyone here, lack ethics, I just don’t assume that everyone has the _same_ set of ethics, and even if you are strongly ethical, that doesn’t mean you want to be regulated.

    So I am still not a lot wiser about the history of how animal research actually came to be regulated, or why.

    PS I don’t sympathize with PETA, and I’ve met enough animal rights activists that I disliked immediately; many of them I’m sure love animals mainly because animals can’t tell them that they suck at life… but I don’t dismiss ideas because of the worst examples of people who hold them, or because those people hold other ideas that I find ridiculous.
    Ok, that’s not true, sometimes I do do that.

  59. #59 Rambleale
    March 16, 2011

    Russ, The peroid in question is one of increasing ethical consideretion in medicine and society.
    People have in general become more aware of these issues, has this lead to increase in animal rights activism?
    Or has an increase an increase in animal rights activism lead to an increase in general awareness of ethics?
    Or is it a bit of both?
    I would also point out that much of the change has been internally generated by researchers.

  60. #60 Anglachel the Common Sense Pagana
    March 16, 2011

    People like PETA refuse to realize a simple fact, nature is cruel! It is not this safe, perfectly harmless, all natural paradise they have built up in their minds! Predetars stalk and eat their prey, animals when challenged attack, it’s simply the way it is! To sit there, in some clean office, with no concept of what it is like to be in the wild, and pontificate on whether or not it is cruel for people to keep pets, for people to eat other animals, or to conduct animal testing, well, it just burns of stupid!

    Watch National Geographic! Then come back and tell me whether or not it is cruel to keep Fido in a nice, protected home with daily food and water provided as opposed to sending him out into the wild! Then come back and tell me how it is so much better for that poor rat to be in the jaws of a randam feline than in a controled enviorment were he is treated as humanely as possible!

    They need to get over their idealized vision of what Nature really is, and start dealing with reality, like the rest of us! Animal Rights are important, I am the first to say it! I would never say it is alright to hurt or torment an animal! But equating them with human beings, and these labs to the horrible death camps of Nazi Germany is ridicoulous, and I am wondering whether this organization has had it’s own run in with the Hitler Zombie!

  61. #61 jenbphillips
    March 16, 2011

    Russ@ 58. By asking the questions in the way that you have asked them and invoking the meat industry, you have suggested that activists, not the researchers themselves, are driving the policy stringency in animal experimentation. Even if you are ‘just asking questions’ you are asking them in a way that seems to favor the conclusion that, indeed, activism has raised awareness of the need for these changes. It is very difficult to retrospectively show what part everyone played in this, but a quick review of IACUC policies, e.g. or a look at any PubMed citation that describes animal use approval, etc, should give you a sense of how carefully this is crafted and adhered to. PETA and similar groups do not influence this–they want the experimentation to stop altogether, not to be conducted more humanely. In fact, it seems to me that it’s better for their cause if we conduct experiments as inhumanely as possible, as it gives them more ammunition to use in the argument to shut us down completely.

    As to the statement that ‘not everyone has the same ethics’, of course this is true to an extent. But at most institutions, unethical animal use or failure to follow guidelines will result in swift and severe consequences–policed and administrated by the fellow researchers, again, and not by animal rights groups.

    Also, as it turns out, we can be good with out gods. :)

  62. #62 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    March 16, 2011

    Hi–

    Just back from my recent vacation in Qatar (and Turkey, of course) and wanted to weigh in very, very briefly.

    Anglachel: “People like PETA refuse to realize a simple fact, nature is cruel!”

    Nature may be “cruel” but we humans need not be cruel to animals. Even most vegetarians occasionally wear leather shoes or belts and might not special order cloth seats for our cars’ upholstery, but the way factory farm animals and research animals are treated is just plain objectively and scientifically wrong.

    Jay

  63. #63 Jerry Vlasak, MD
    March 16, 2011

    See you at ACS this year, David?

  64. #64 lilady
    March 16, 2011

    Dr. Gordon was your “recent vacation in Qatar (and Turkey, of course)” a “working vacation” also? Have you identified the Amish Somali residents in Qatar and Turkey with a higher incidence of autism?

  65. #65 Orac
    March 16, 2011

    See you at ACS this year, David?

    Depends on whether I have something to present. On the other hand, the meeting is in San Francisco this year. I love SF and haven’t been there in nine years or so. But my plans for October are still very much up in the air. Because of that, in case I don’t make it this year, check out these blasts from the past in which you were mentioned:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/09/animal_rights_terrorism_1.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/11/animal_rights_terrorism_revisited.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/04/animal_rights_terrorist_dr_jerry_vlasak.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/08/animal_rights_terrorists_firebomb_a_rese.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/04/striking_back_against_animal_rights_terr.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/03/answering_scientific_arguments_of_an.php

    Enjoy! :-)

  66. #66 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    March 16, 2011

    Lilady, I swear if we met in person we might actually share a half bottle of wine and laugh a little.

    I will not comment on nor link to recent vaccine fatalities in Asia because they are aberrations and detract from the real discussion of the real issues.

    I was in Qatar trying to track down the DDoS hooligans preventing me from posting my relatively worthless anecdotal evidence on RI and SBM!

    Jay

  67. #67 lilady
    March 16, 2011

    Dr. Gordon, I don’t think we could congenially share a half bottle of wine and laugh a little….unless you update your website about Prevnar which “is too new for me to recommend” and other anecdotal recommendations about childhood vaccines.

  68. #68 jenbphillips
    March 16, 2011

    @ Dr Jay: what is it about the way research animals are treated (remember, this discussion is NOT about the meat industry, as much as some people seem to want to conflate that issue with animal research) that is “just plain objectively and scientifically wrong.”? As part of your answer, it would be helpful to know when the last time was that you actually a) conducted scientific research on a model organism or b) toured a facility in which such research occurs.
    thanks in advance!

  69. #69 lilady
    March 17, 2011

    @jenbphillips: What an interesting site you provided. It’s nice to know that there is an association that provides this information and credentials laboratories that use animals for research.

    Dr. Gordon doesn’t have to conduct scientific research or tour a facility that does research using animal models; he doesn’t even have to read the scientific research because he relies on mommy anecdotal information and intuition.

  70. #70 jenbphillips
    March 17, 2011

    You’re probably right lilady, but I am curious to see if and how he will respond.
    Glad you found the link useful. The staff of my institute’s IACUC is top-notch, and I have a lot of respect for how hard they work, so it’s quite vexing to read some of the opinions here that suggest it’s all down to ALF et al to keep us honest.

  71. #71 Kelly Gage (also MD)
    March 17, 2011

    To respond to some the objections posted…
    -Nature is cruel, Animals rape each other. They kill each other.
    Animal rights activists are only trying to change the way people treat other animals. No one is out to stop lions from eating gazelles.
    People are cruel, people rape each other and kill each other. That doesn’t make it OK for you to do it.

    -If you were an animal, and you had the choice between staying in a nice lab with various treatments tried out on you once and a while, and taking your chances with Mittens the cat over there, which would you choose?
    SeriouslY? Freedom with all the risks that it entails versus a lifetime in a cage? Everyone, including virtually every animal in a cage, would choose the freedom. That’s why they have to keep them in the cages.

    -PETA are unhinged extremists who scream, shout, make lots of provocative noise but accomplish pretty nothing of note whatsover.
    They get lots accomplished. Just browse the website for a few minutes. It’s full of accomplishments.

    -I have a feeling that many of the people who are talking about “animal rights” haven’t thought about where they are actually drawing the line.
    Lots of us have. I have a feeling many of the people arguing against animal rights haven’t thought about why ALL humans are on one side of the line, and ALL animals on the other.

    -According to PETA, “Animals, regardless of what kind, are given equal consideration to human beings.” Which is true, as long as you define “human being” as including strictly the male of the species. They seem perfectly fine with degrading, objectifying, and exploiting women to further their ideological ends
    I agree that PETA often uses sexist stunts to draw attention to themselves, however, I doubt that the president of PETA, Ingrid E. Newkirk, would exclude herself from the definition of “human being”

    -Rather than considering animal research subjects as victims, the more appropriate lens is that of hero.
    How on earth can you define something as herioc when there is no choice involved. Surely the victims of the Tuskeegee expirements shouldn’t have felt like heros.

    -As for why, PETA are for the FULL liberation of animals which means pet ownership is slavery.
    Again, if you browse their website for a few minutes, you will see LOTS of advice on taking better care of animal. I don’t see anything where they want to eliminate pet ownership (“companion animals”)

  72. #72 lilady
    March 17, 2011

    Just because we comment about the value and humane treatment of animals used in scientific research, doesn’t automatically translate to enslavement of out pets. Nor does it mean that the more outrageous statements by the PETA group will not go answered (See my post at # 48 above).

    I’d rather donate to local shelters that have active adoption programs and that provide free or low cost spaying and neutering. I also happen to believe that furs look much better on the source animals.

    Mosquitoes and flies that carry disease I do swat and try to keep my home free of crawling or flying vermin.

    Outrageous and disgraceful that the folks at PETA label the use of animals in laboratories as a holocaust.

  73. #73 russ
    March 17, 2011

    @ jenbphillips 61 “By asking the questions in the way that you have asked them… asking them in a way that seems to favor the conclusion that, indeed, activism has raised awareness…” Yes, I did, I do admit I did that in hopes of drawing a response to my question, because when I posted it in a more neutral tone (#2 post) it went unanswered (with apologies to @4 – no references – and to #23, who gave a reference but I did not find the info I was looking for). There may not be a quick answer, and I guess that’s okay.

    “Also, as it turns out, we can be good with out gods. :)”
    Ramen :)

    PS I appreciated @21′s example in the first paragraph, “Bob Marshal wilderness” for putting that idea in a way I wouldn’t have thought to.

    and @59 Rambleale for another perspective, than you :)

    Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever looked into the ethics of animal research before mainly because it brings two of my biggest interests – science (as a lay-person) and animals – into conflict so I’ve avoided looking at it.

    but.. ethics: Gandhi had them,

    so did Genghis Kahn.
    http://asianhistory.about.com/od/profilesofasianleaders/p/GenghisKhanProf.htm (see Legacy in Law and Rules of War)

    oooh, this is interesting :) => http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0120-hance_mongols.html

    [apologies in advance if this is a double post, seems to be a glitch so am reposting]

  74. #74 russ
    March 17, 2011

    @72″than you” should read “thank you”

  75. #75 Vicki
    March 17, 2011

    Russ:

    There is a name for saying things you don’t believe in order to provoke a response online.

    You have only a mild case of trolling, here. It’s not too late to stop. But don’t expect to be taken seriously on any forum that you have admitted trolling.

  76. #76 rus
    March 17, 2011

    @74 That wasn’t my intention. I was hoping for a response (“yes because ___” or “no, that’s incorrect because ___ “, not a reaction (*swat* *splat*)

  77. #77 maydijo
    March 17, 2011

    @70 – Humans ARE animals. And like every other animal, we exploit our resources to the best of our ability. PETA’s whole philosophy seems to be based on this idea that we are somehow above the natural world. We are not.

  78. #78 Kelly Gage
    March 17, 2011

    @70
    -Just because we comment about the value and humane treatment of animals used in scientific research, doesn’t automatically translate to enslavement of out pets.
    Agian, I don’t think PETA actually says this. Their liturate and web site are full of information on how to better take care of your pets, not of recommendations to set them out on the streets.

    -Nor does it mean that the more outrageous statements by the PETA group will not go answered (See my post at # 48 above).
    I don’t exactly understand this statement, but going back to #48 if you mean the thing about the president and the fly, I agree. That was silly. If you’re talking about the holocaust, see below..

    -I’d rather donate to local shelters that have active adoption programs and that provide free or low cost spaying and neutering. I also happen to believe that furs look much better on the source animals.
    These are two of PETA’s big campaigns.

    -Mosquitoes and flies that carry disease I do swat and try to keep my home free of crawling or flying vermin.
    PETA spends very little effort defending insects.

    -Outrageous and disgraceful that the folks at PETA label the use of animals in laboratories as a holocaust.
    I beleive that the word holocaust should only be used to describe The Holocaust. A little googling on the topic turned up a 2003 PETA campaign (about eating meat, not animal testing), for which PETA was rightly called out, and that the president of PETA later appologized for. You and I agree that animal testing/research should not be compared to The Holocaust. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there is a lot of suffering invovled in experimentation. We can argure whether the animal suffering is justifiable, but the animals do suffer.

  79. #79 Kelly Gage
    March 17, 2011

    @76
    - Humans ARE animals.
    I am totally clear on that. That’s why my initial statement said “…the way people treat OTHER animals…” (caps added)

    -And like every other animal, we exploit our resources to the best of our ability.
    This is the naturalisitc fallacy

    -PETA’s whole philosophy seems to be based on this idea that we are somehow above the natural world. We are not.
    In my mind, the best single sentence description the philosophy of animal rights supporters is this, “Supporters of animal rights believe that animals have an inherent worth—a value completely separate from their usefulness to humans.” That’s from PETA’s webiste. Their fundamental philosophy is distilled down to 4 paragraphs here…
    http://www.peta.org/about/why-peta/why-animal-rights.aspx

  80. #80 Dario Ringach
    March 17, 2011

    @Kelly Gage #76,

    PeTA’s philosophy seems to be based on the cover of Singer’s “Animal Liberation”, and presumably they forgot to read the rest of the book. Singer is a utilitarian and, equal consideration of interests aside, he would approve (and has approved) animal experimentation if it helps save many human lives. He will only ask you consider the use of mentally disabled humans as well.

    PeTA’s philosophy is more closely aligned with the rights theories of Tom Regan and Gary Francione. But it is doubtful that anyone in PeTA’s headquarters has read any of their works either.

    PeTA’s philosophy boils down to a slogan “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” which would not even get an “F” in a moral philosophy class.

  81. #81 Kelly Gage
    March 18, 2011

    @79
    Your last line made me smile… Someone arguing against PeTA, who actually has some understanding of them. (Even correcting my spelling!) Your quote leaves out the beginning of the sentence and the follow on…
    “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife”
    But a partial quote from PeTA is better than many of the charicatures of PeTA that I was trying to correct.
    Personally I agree w/ Singer in Animal Liberation, and as you said, he doesn’t oppose all animal experimentation (nor do I), he spends a lot of time pointing out the huge amount of experimentation that he feels is unjustifiable.
    Many of the examples he give are so aweful that most people would probably agree. On the otherhand there are other experiments that few people would be against. The question is where on the spectrum do most experiments/testing fall.
    Also for what it’s worth… From Peter Singer’s website:
    “Other organizations that work for causes I support. (Inclusion below does not indicate that I support every aspect of the organization’s activities.)” This list includes PeTA.

  82. #82 Laura
    March 19, 2011

    This blog post has been the occasion for a lot of vegan-bashing.
    Vegan or quasi-vegan diet is actually very important to prevent global warming, since animal food involves a lot more greenhouse gas emissions. If you can’t deal with being vegan, concentrating on chicken rather than dairy or beef will also help a lot, because raising chickens is relatively efficient.
    As well as preventing the enormous animal suffering caused in factory farms. Pigs are actually very smart, smarter than dogs; and doing this to them for a ham sandwich is horrible.
    I admire PETA in some ways. They have a lot of amusing chutzpah. I love the PETA style of Thanksgiving. Rather than eating turkey, you feed a turkey!
    But I also think the animal rights activists are being arrogant to try to tell medical researchers how to do their research.
    Probably the animal rights activists do good by partially succeeding, forcing more attention to animal welfare in medical research. The argument that researchers would have done this all by themselves basically causes a cynical sort of snarf, snarf in my mind. Yeah, right.

  83. #83 Laura
    March 19, 2011

    PS A vegan diet can be very healthy. Jack Norris RD’s website http://veganhealth.org is excellent and science-based. It does require taking a few supplements.

  84. #84 sorry
    March 19, 2011

    “PeTA’s philosophy boils down to a slogan “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” which would not even get an “F” in a moral philosophy class.”

    Maybe you should go back to your day-job–I don’t think you have the chops to be grading undergraduate moral philosophy tutorial essays. And, we generally don’t grade slogans in philosophy courses.

  85. #85 Luna_the_cat
    March 19, 2011

    @Kelly Gage –

    PETA have an abysmal record when it comes to dealing with animals in shelters. They oppose no-kill shelters on the basis that they think it is cruel to keep animals in cages too long, but rather than working with no-kills to improve conditions, they just advocate killing the animals; this is borne out in their own records. See http://www.petakillsanimals.com/downloads/PetaKillsAnimals.pdf — records from three years in Virginia available there indicate that they have a kill rate in PETA shelters of between 90-95%. That’s worse than just about any other shelter org in the US.

    There is also evidence that they stage animal cruelty for the purposes of anti-animal cruelty propaganda, such as was alleged in the Silver Springs monkey case, among others. While there has seldom been nearly enough evidence against the PETA members to convict them of animal cruelty themselves, I know that for many of the things they portray, what they portray is NOT (and is in fact very far from) normal practice.

  86. #86 sadmar
    March 19, 2011

    People, maybe including russ himself, seem to have missed the point of his post #58. The problem in the thread is the conflation of ‘animal rights activists’ and PETA (or at least PETA’s current stance; I have no idea whether they have always been as extreme as they are now).
    Scientific and medical research do not occur in a vacuum, and there is no question that social pressure from a variety of quarters has been instrumental in the policy changes in both human and animal research.
    jenbphillips asked:

    Don’t you think it’s worth a thought that perhaps researchers might be capable of policing themselves?

    OK, I gave it a thought and I dismissed it immediately. First, there are many posts here that display a questionable position regarding animal research. Second, the history of ethical lapses in research is way too long and deep to imagine that researchers somehow came to new positions all on their own. Orac didn’t even get into the ‘social sciences’ with Stanley Milgram et al.
    But this has nothing to do with PETA, whom russ seems perfectly willing to grant are wackaloons. It seems to me he’s observing that any social movement has its extremists, and cautioning against throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
    Believe me, I could rant against PETA all day. If all animal life is equal, then there’s a hell of a lot of beetles we have to protect, given that there are more species of insects than there are individual human beings.
    At the same time, when I read that William Frist captured and killed feral cats to do his medical research, I just want someone to kill the mofo (more than I did before…).
    I have a question about what Scott wrote in post #15

    Animal rights activists have done much to ruin science education. I’m taking an animal histology course with no dissections. That’s insane.

    Why are there no dissections? That would involve dead animals rather than any potentially cruel experimentation on live creatures, right? Don’t enough animals expire of natural causes that we should not need to slaughter animals to provide corpses for dissection? I suppose there would be trouble if the shelters that euthanized surplus pets donated the carcasses to research, but perhaps if all economic motive was removed and proper regulation put in place that could be done.

    I have lost a number of pets at the vets over the years, and never heard the subject of medical research come up. Of course, the time for that would not be when people are grieving the loss of a companion. But if you asked me NOW, “when your cat passes away, would you prefer to have her cremated or donate her remains to medical research,” I would opt for the latter, since her ashes aren’t going to do anybody or any thing any good. Of course, I would need to be confidant that no one is going to be able to check her ‘donor card’ and short her treatment as a result — although I trust my vet way more than I trust the local hospital for homo sapiens on things like that.
    In the ‘some people go to far’ category, I could gripe not only about PETA, but also over-reaching university IRBs who think they ought to be able to censor the arts if ‘human subjects’ are involved. But that’s WAY off topic…

  87. #87 sadmar
    March 20, 2011

    Addendum to comment 86 immediately above:

    russ framed the question as the social influence of ‘animal rights activists.’ I observed above that this is a broader category not necessarily typified by PETA’s extremes. On further thought, I think the term ‘rights’ is too limiting to describe the social forces that have influenced research practices using animals. People can oppose the way animals have been treated without subscribing to even a species-limited Singer-ish notion that animals have ‘rights.’ Thus perhaps we ought to speak of ‘animal welfare activists’ within which ‘animal rights activists’ are a subgroup, and within which PETA is a subgroup, noting that specific characteristics of any subgroup cannot be assumed to be present in any of the larger domains.

  88. #88 Calli Arcale
    March 21, 2011

    Sadmar — yes, there are definitely legitimate efforts to improve the lot of animals, quite apart from what PETA does, and Orac has in past discussed the distinction between “animal rights” and “animal welfare”. I like the terms; it’s a useful way of distinguishing the two. There is overlap between them, of course, but I don’t think we can call animal rights a subset of animal welfare. Instead, I consider them overlapping domains. The reason I think that is that I’ve seen people who are very keen on animal rights but do pretty much nothing for animal welfare, and in fact can be downright counterproductive on that regard. This isn’t necessarily hypocrisy; a group may genuinely feel that it is better for an animal to be free than alive — for instance, the ALF activists who released lab mice from the University of Minnesota a while back pretty much guaranteed horrible deaths for the mice, which had no idea how to survive in the wild. They were concerned for the mice’s rights, but not the mice’s welfare. They put making a statement ahead of the actual animals’ welfare.

  89. #89 Chris
    June 19, 2011

    Dear writer, i feel that you fall into the same trap you try to overcome. You talk about moral differences and justifications but you do not discuss by which principles or criteria you distinguish animals from humans regarding reserach activities and experiments. You fail to provide a solid moral argumentation and you only project your opinion: the 3 R’s. OK but why is this correct? Where do you draw the line? What makes experiments wrong for humans and acceptable for animals? Is it intelligence? Is it the ability to experience pain? Which is your criterion? I’m afraid that you don’t expand your argument on purpose because you know that you will end in a dead end for you. So, you can just mention the prefference that suits your purposes but please don’t try to argue on a moral basis with an incomplete argumentation because you end up loosing your logical coherence and credibility.

  90. #90 Chris
    June 19, 2011

    Dear Necromancer Chris, here are some basic rules before commenting on a blog or forum:

    1) If you find an article through Google, before commenting go to the first page and see what is under discussion.

    2) Get to know the place, lurk for a while. Become familiar with the writing style, especially in how issues are discussed. Anecdotes are not considered data.

    3) Please use the name of the person you are addressing in the comment. Is Orac the “writer”, or one of the many commenters.

    4) Actually read the article and comments before commenting.

    5) The blue text are links, it helps to click on those.

    6) If you think you want to bring a subject up to the participants’ attention, please use the search box on the upper left side of this page to see if it has been discussed before.

  91. #91 antonia
    October 28, 2011

    The only reason you can say that is that you clearly think of animals and mindless emotionless beings, that are totally different from people. People ARE animals, and they share EMOTIONS and certain amounts of REASON that different animals have to differing degrees. I have read all sorts of sick experiments they performed on animals in the name of “science” that in my opinion are very like the holocaust. Try this one for example: They put a monkey in cage next to another monkey – the one monkey could press a button to receive food but if it did so its neighbour would receive an intense electrical shock. The idea was to test if the length of time it waited to press the button would differ if it was a monkey they knew personally, a monkey of the same species they didnt know, or a monkey of a different species. One monkey starved itself for several weeks so it wouldn’t harm its friend – are you telling me that this is necessary science?? this is torture – and actually just as sick as what people do to each other in times of war. And says a lot more about people than it does about animals. Talking about animals as though they feel less than people do, justifies a certain kind of treatment of them and that is why they are discussed this way. The way you and “science” discuss animals is not science – its social bias, and wishful thinking. Science ignores evidence of intelligence in animals when it sees it – did you know that chimpanzee’s have a far better memory than people? They do better than humans on average in tests. Perhaps if you were a little more informed, and a little less self satisfied you might not have such selfish opinions.

  92. #92 Chris
    October 28, 2011

    antonia, please read the comment before yours. Especially Point #3. And another bit of advice: wall of text is hard to read, think about using paragraphs.

  93. #93 Narad
    October 28, 2011

    Try this one for example

    I take it this is a reference to Masserman et al. (Am. J. Psychiatry 121:584 [1964]). Which is to say, nearly half a century ago. Don’t take it as dismissal, but now is not then, and to pretend otherwise is dishonest.

  94. #94 Orac
    October 28, 2011

    Indeed. If antonia knew the regulatory hoops I have to jump through just to use mice in my research, she would realize that the regulations protecting the welfare of experimental animals have become much more stringent over the last 50 years.

  95. #95 Mrs. Woo
    October 28, 2011

    Antonia, I’m curious which study this was and when it was performed. Do you have dates? I would be upset to find out that an animal was starved for weeks – a hungry monkey going a day without food would certainly be enough to demonstrate that it was aware that it eating caused its friend pain.

    As far as animal testing when necessary – I have no choice but to accept it. An irony in my life more recently: the one chicken that refused to integrate with the flock (we can’t figure out if she thinks she is a person or a dog) LOVES cheeseburgers. I keep meaning to send that to Chik-fil-A.

  96. #96 Mrs. Woo
    October 28, 2011

    Thank you Narad. I was suspecting it was a psychological experiment (due to structure) and from quite a while back. I can’t picture any researcher getting away with starving an animal to death to make a point in research these days.

    Orac are there ever any “always approved” occasions where you say, “We are doing _____” and further information is not required, or are ALL experiments and research evaluated on an individual basis now?

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