Mike the Mad Biologist

Many of my ScienceBloglings have rightly called out animal rights terrorists who target researchers’ children. They are absolutely right to do so. The one issue I have is that I often read something along the lines of “Terrorism is wrong, regardless of if you’re for or against animal rights…” Actually, I’m not willing to disregard that at all. In the midst of condemning these thugs, we need to remember something very important: the consequences of the ideas that non-violent animal rights advocates hold are still reprehensible. Outsourced to ScienceBlogling Mark (italics mine):

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

Sure, most are non-violent–and mean it–but what they stand for would cause immense suffering and death. That too, is reprehensible.

Comments

  1. #1 addie
    February 27, 2010

    Ah Mike: my husband wouldn’t be alive either without animal research (aortic dissection when he was 28; artificial heart valve; etc).
    But the “terrorists” call out the scientists who might not need to do so many of the things they do–over and over and over and over and over. The “terrorists” push for new ways of thinking and the secrecy of animal experimentation — all invisible so that laypeople don’t really know what they agree to. Targeting children: you’re right. I agree. No way.
    I’m so saddened by this blog entry because it’s so right-wing sounding. The “terrorists” have something to say about the immense suffering of non-human animals that is never heard–and so much of the science performed on them is repetitive and done in the name of socializing students for imperviousness to animal suffering in the name of “science”. The push is for alternatives to primate research. Or, at least, to make it public.

    This entry on terrorism and animals was framed by thoughtlessness. Again: no one should harass children, ever. But, imagine a world where you could not use primates in experiments. You’d have to think hard in order to heal in new ways.

    Signing off the blog now. Now more terrorism from me on it.
    addie

  2. #2 DrugMonkey
    February 27, 2010

    addie,

    you make numerous ill informed assertions that are precisely part of the Overton strategy that Mike is talking about. Animal research is highly regulated and reducing/minimizing both pain and unnecessary duplication are forefront parts of that regulation.

    You want “openness”? Scientist are *delighted* to discuss their science with people. See scienceblogging? The only reason they do not invite people into their labs is because of the ARA crazies, pure and simple. That, and the willing credulity of people like you who are willing to parrot their tropes without the slightest bit of evidence that you are correct.

    Answer this, how are medical advances to be made with some perfect system in which only the animal experiments that you find acceptable (if any) to you are conducted? How tolerant are you for medical treatments that have *huge* numbers of adverse effects because of fewer animal experiments? Which currently unsolved disease or medical condition are you happy to ignore?

    As with the last statement, you are reprehensible if you do not have credible answers.

  3. #3 Douglas Watts
    February 27, 2010

    The record shows that without continued public pressure, the animal research community has proven totally unable and unwilling to police themselves. The general public has always been light years ahead of the scientific community in questioning the type, extent and necessity of subjecting animals to vivisection and other types of fatal research and remains so today. The general public no longer buys the “benefits” argument you rely on, any more than they bought the “benefits” argument of polluted rivers or the “benefits” argument of hunting down the last few whales. The “benefits” argument was tried and failed with the use of animals in product-testing (which as you recall, was to ensure the products were safe for you and your children). It’s archaic and a non-starter. What the public wants is an alternative. Just yelling at people and saying they’re wrong is not a reasoned response to a reasonable request.

  4. #4 addie
    February 27, 2010

    OK: some initial findings. There’s more but I really need to quit letting myself down by reading vitriol against me as some form of recreation.
    (This is from an audit of the NIH and a study of the AW):
    Over 90% of the animals used in experimentation are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the only federal law which over sees animal testing. Rats, mice, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish are expressly eliminated from all safeguards. Species not covered under the AWA do not even have to be reported.[16] In the fiscal year ending in 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported a total of 1,177,566 primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and other species used research. (A 7% increase in one year.) The breakdown by species was: 66,610 dogs, 57,531 primates, 58,598 pigs, 245,786 rabbits, 22,921 cats, 176,988 hamsters, 32,260 sheep, 64,146 other farm animals, 221,286 guinea pigs and 231,440 other animals. However, this total is likely far from accurate since at no time have all U.S. laboratories reported in their total animals. The total of non-reporting facilities has varied from 22 to 128 (out of approximately 1100). This does not include animals who are not covered by the AWA, which are not even counted. So, the total ignores the majority of animals used in research in the U.S., which is well over 20 million. Additionally, these statistics do not cover animals which are being held in laboratories for conditioning or breeding. For example, while the USDA reports over 57,000 primates in labs, the actual total is closer to 120,000. The AWA places no real restrictions on animal testing. Animals are subjected to addictive drugs, electric shock, food & water deprivation, isolation, severe confinement, caustic chemicals, burning, blinding, chemical and biological weapons, radiation, etc.

  5. #5 pinus
    February 27, 2010

    NIH funded scientists are required to follow many rules and regulations about animal usage. Just because the USDA doesn’t cover them, doesn’t mean that it is a free for all. Every institution has a committee who reviews protocols. To say that there is no ‘self-policing’ by scientists is hogwash.

    Here is a link that outlines some of the regulations the NIH requires researchers using animals to follow.

    http://oacu.od.nih.gov/regs/index.htm

  6. #6 Troublesome Frog
    February 27, 2010

    addie

    I’m so saddened by this blog entry because it’s so right-wing sounding.

    I agree. The word “terrorist” is overused. I propose that we only use it to describe people who use violence and intimidation to achieve political ends. Oh, wait…

  7. #7 addie
    February 27, 2010

    Here’s another source with a website. Last one; I’m done. Just wanted to back up points, the asking for which I respect (just not the part about me being reprehensible). Millions of animals are used a year in hundreds of countries. Why duplicate all the research? Why not have millions go on in one country and disseminate the knowledge? Terrorists, just maybe, emerge in response to violence and intimidation –the kind that is legal and funded and excessive. Not that it’s right; just that it might be understandable. The Medical Research Modernization Committee (MRMC) is a non-profit health advocacy organization composed of medical professionals and scientists who identify and promote efficient, reliable and cost-effective research methods. The MRMC focuses exclusively on the scientific merits of different research approaches, even though some undoubtedly raise serious and important ethical concerns. MRMC-sponsored activities include research, publishing and student education.

    To order additional copies of this booklet free of charge, for regular Email reports and/or for more information about animal experiments, contact:

    · In the United States: Medical Research Modernization Committee, P.O. Box 201791, Cleveland, Ohio 44120, U.S.A., Tel./Fax 216-283-6702, Email: stkaufman@mindspring.com, http://www.mrmcmed.org

  8. #8 Alex Besogonov
    February 27, 2010

    “Why duplicate all the research? Why not have millions go on in one country and disseminate the knowledge?”

    1) Because research must be duplicated to check that it’s correct. You have no idea how many papers are retracted because results couldn’t be reproduced.

    2) Because it’s _research_. Sometimes we need to do the same experiment under slightly different conditions.

    3) Duplication is not as severe as you think. Nobody really likes to re-do for no gain.

    And knowledge is readily disseminated. Indeed, academic environment is described as “publish-or-perish”.

  9. #9 Troublesome Frog
    February 27, 2010

    Why duplicate all the research?

    Why are you assuming that the research is unnecessarily duplicated? It doesn’t necessarily follow from “millions of animals in hundreds of countries” that any of the research is duplicated, much less unnecessarily large portions of it. The statistics that you’re quoting are largely devoid of context and meaning.

    If I say, “We spend $6B per year on snozdoodles” in order to convince you of some policy position, I have to provide at least some notion of what snozdoodles should cost and how many of them we should be buying. The number alone is meaningless.

    Terrorists, just maybe, emerge in response to violence and intimidation –the kind that is legal and funded and excessive.

    What are some examples of legal (and excessive) violence and intimidation that has been used against animal rights terrorists? I’d be very interested in hearing about that.

  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    February 27, 2010

    “The general public no longer buys the “benefits” argument you rely on, any more than they bought the “benefits” argument of polluted rivers or the “benefits” argument of hunting down the last few whales.”

    The fact that they use the results of the research to enhance their lives on a daily basis would seem to suggest otherwise, but by all means continue living in your fantasy land.

  11. #11 Sam C
    February 27, 2010

    Ugh, this post leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. It’s got a huge stench of “I’m a scientist, how dare you have opinions that differ from mine, you moron?” about it.

    Decades ago, there was a huge amount of hideous and disgusting animal experimentation in commercial and non-commercial laboratories, much of which was without any real point. It was pressure from animal welfare groups that led to tightening of rules and introductions of codes of practice. It was not pressure from within the scientific community.

    That pressure is what has led to scientists being better behaved now, not an inherent goodness in science. And the underlying arrogance of this posting, with it’s “I’m a scientist I say this experiment is essential, now shut up and get out of my way” demonstrates which science MUST be exposed to its host society and that society’s norms. If the research is important, then the researcher should be able to justify it.

    As for the list of good things that come from animal experiments, why is it that anecdotes are not data, except when they’re anecdotes that support the writer’s case?

    Pressure from peaceful animal welfare/rights groups has led to better laboratory procedures and better research. If their views are extreme, well, they have been useful. And they also have been useful in counter-balancing the opposite extreme views of those researchers who (in the past) felt it was OK for them to do anything at all they wanted with animals.

    Somewhere between “nothing is allowed” and “anything goes” our society is finding its more-or-less happy medium. Peaceful pressure from both sides keeps that balance. I’m moderately happy with the status quo, and I think it’s good if animal researchers are always required to justify their use of any animals.

  12. #12 Tyler DiPietro
    February 27, 2010

    “As for the list of good things that come from animal experiments, why is it that anecdotes are not data, except when they’re anecdotes that support the writer’s case?”

    An anecdote is a small, often biographical observation like “my grandma smoked all her life and never got lung cancer”. A statement like “this medical advance was attained through the use of animal research” is a brute and relevant fact.

    “Somewhere between “nothing is allowed” and “anything goes” our society is finding its more-or-less happy medium.”

    The point is that violent extremists are of the opinion that nothing is allowed and are willing to act it.

  13. #13 dave
    February 28, 2010

    Who is the “violent extremist terrorist” from the primate’s point of view?
    Nobody said to get rid of all animal testing, just to raise questions about using primates. You’d think educated people would listen and respond thoughtfully instead of using sarcastic remarks about terrorism.
    The condescending, conservative stuff here is unbelievable. It’s actually frightening.

  14. #14 Troublesome Frog
    February 28, 2010

    Nobody said to get rid of all animal testing, just to raise questions about using primates.

    Nobody? Really? You haven’t read the other threads on this, have you?

    And convincing people that you are a physical threat to their children is not “raising questions.” It’s terrorism, plain and simple. The fact that the lunatic who does it is a suburban white kid who ran for the local cross country team doesn’t change that.

    You’d think educated people would listen and respond thoughtfully instead of using sarcastic remarks about terrorism.

    Point blank question: Do you believe that using violence to intimidate people to change policy is not terrorism? Take a step back from the policy questions and have the courage to look at the behavior.

    Fresh Air had an interview with Bill Ayers that I found fascinating. From what I had heard about him, I figured that he was the typical former radical turned normal old man who had probably gained some perspective and become a wise contributor to society. But even after all these years, he couldn’t bring himself to admit that planting bombs in DoD buildings was a bad thing and he shouldn’t have been involved in it. Every time Terry Gross would give him the opportunity to reflect on his actions, he’d turn it around and make it about other people’s crimes in Vietnam. It was pathetic.

    The fact that otherwise rational people can’t bring themselves to take a stand on this sort of thing when it happens to agree with their sensibilities is what’s really frightening. Questions like “who is the real terrorist?” aren’t deep or philosophical. They’re stupid. The people who are committing acts of violence against nonviolent civilians are the real terrorists.

  15. #15 dave
    February 28, 2010

    The people who are committing acts of violence against (other) primates are the real terrorists.

    And, yes, nobody really. Go and read the thread too.

  16. #16 Tyler DiPietro
    February 28, 2010

    “The people who are committing acts of violence against (other) primates are the real terrorists.”

    No, terrorism is specifically the use of violence and intimidation to achieve political ends. Sorry, but you can’t simply redefine words to suit your particular ends at the moment.

    “And, yes, nobody really. Go and read the thread too.”

    Go read NIO, go read Douglas Watts’ blog above. These people want to get rid of animal testing in toto, so you’re either ignorant or lying.

  17. #17 Troublesome Frog
    February 28, 2010

    You really can’t bring yourself to say it, can you? It’s just like watching an Islamic extremist who wants to be portrayed as “moderate” community leader squirm and change the subject to the crimes of Israel and the US when he’s asked whether killing thousands on 9/11 was a bad thing. Or the tap dancing a radical anti-abortion activist will do to avoid condemning the murder of doctors.

    Most of the people on your side of the debate are willing to say things like, “It’s not OK to threaten children with violence. That being said, here is my position on the topic…” You may find the tone of a post condemning these thugs frightening, but what I find truly frightening is the fact that you don’t seem capable of going that far. You’re probably an otherwise normal person who stays out of trouble, pays taxes, and goes to work. The fact that on this one issue, you can’t even unambiguously disown terrorism is a chilling reminder of what people are capable rationalizing.

  18. #18 tgf
    February 28, 2010

    “The fact that on this one issue, you can’t even unambiguously disown terrorism is a chilling reminder of what people are capable rationalizing.”

    The same goes for you who refuse to see alternatives beyond primate research. Chilling rationalization of violence.

    Scary blog and readers.

  19. #19 Tyler DiPietro
    February 28, 2010

    “The same goes for you who refuse to see alternatives beyond primate research.”

    ONLY PRIMATES??? SPECIESIST!

    “Scary blog and readers.”

    Please an hero ASAP.

  20. #20 Paul Browne
    March 1, 2010

    Addie “The Medical Research Modernization Committee (MRMC) is a non-profit health advocacy organization composed of medical professionals and scientists who identify and promote efficient, reliable and cost-effective research methods.”

    Just taken a look at the MRMC website and it’s pretty clear that it is an anti-vivisection front rather that a real scientific organization, and the essays there are full of the usual half-truths and misrepresentations that we’re all used to by now. It seems to be associated with the PeTA linked group PRCM. I find it amusing that in an obvious effort to pretent that it’s not all about animal research they have added a piece comparing the relative merits of Avastin and Lucentis wet form of age related macular degeneration

    http://www.mrmcmed.org/AvastinversusLucentis.pdf

    Actually I tend to agree with most of the points made in that particular essay, though I find it amusing that they seem to have forgotten that animals played a crucial role played in much of the basic and translational research that led to the development of these two very useful drugs.

    http://www.pro-test.org.uk/b2evo/index.php?s=Lucentis&sentence=AND&submit=Search

    I will agree with Addie on one thing though, it would be great if statistics were available for the total number of mammals used in biomedical research, including those not covered directly by the AWA (but are covered by IACUCs, AAALAC etc).

  21. #21 Troublesome Frog
    March 1, 2010

    The same goes for you who refuse to see alternatives beyond primate research. Chilling rationalization of violence.

    Jump in there. I see all sorts of calls to use vague “alternatives” but no serious protocol proposals from people who actually seem to know what they’re talking about. As somebody who did some time in one of the world’s biggest computer simulation programs, when I hear things like, “Computer simulations can replace animal research,” it’s all I can do not to spit coffee all over my keyboard. And these people think they should be part of the actual scientific dialogue?

  22. #22 len
    March 2, 2010

    Johns Hopkins is interested in alternatives:

    http://altweb.jhsph.edu/

  23. #23 diş beyazlatıcı
    February 3, 2011

    As somebody who did some time in one of the world’s biggest computer simulation programs, when I hear things like, “Computer simulations can replace animal research,” it’s all I can do not to spit coffee all over my keyboard. And these people think they should be

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