Book review: "The Animal Research War"

"Did you know," my friend whispered, "that the Humane Society funds terrorists?"

I was stunned. What? That's crazy! I've adopted pets from there. No way! How could those be the same people??

My friend and I were suffering from "brand confusion." In business, this happens when different companies use similar names for their products in order to confuse the marketplace. In the animal rights movement, brand confusion is used to misdirect the funds that would otherwise help groups who do genuine humanitarian work.

i-f3dfc36bc2c3159fce592df2eb90c4ec-418eP+P3kAL._SL210_.jpgAs I learned in "The Animal Research War" by P. Micheal Conn and James Parker [published by Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN-13:978-0-230-60014-0], there is an animal rights group that goes by the name of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). But this is not the group that runs animal shelters. The HSUS takes the money that well-meaning people think they're giving to shelters and uses it to fund propaganda campaigns. Unlike the other humane societies, this group is aligned with those who find it acceptable to firebomb homes.

Conn and Parker provide an interesting field guide to the various groups involved in the animal rights movement. They present gripping tales of what it's like to be a target for extremists and the price that society pays when scientists are driven away from biomedical work. They describe the philosophies and strategies used by different groups and the results. One of the most poignant parts of the book is where they discuss the casualties - the scientists who gave up their work and the students and doctors who've been scared away from working on human disease.

An important take home lesson from the book is the discussion of the philosophy that guides the use of animals in research and the rules designed to protect those animals. As Conn and Parker describe, there is a law called the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1966 that regulates animal research. Another set of regulations comes from the U.S. Public Health Service Act which requires that all institutions receiving NIH, FDA, or CDC funds must adhere to the Guide for Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research Council 1996). Institutions must have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to oversee all studies that involve animal research. IACUCs are able to stop any study that they think is being carried out improperly and the ensure that studies follow the three R's - that is to replace, reduce, and refine.

1. To replace means to use alternatives wherever possible. These include computer models, cells or organs grown in culture, or non-mammals like insects and fish. No one likes getting bitten by a rat or mouse or developing allergies to their dander. Most of the researchers I know are not heartless fiends, when there are valid alternatives to rats, mice, or other animals, they use them.

2. To reduce: researchers are required to use as few animals as possible.

3. To refine: researchers are required to minimize pain, and use noninvasive techniques wherever possible.

The Animal Welfare Act isn't the only law that regulates the use of animals. Conn and Parker discuss the other groups that regulate animal research, too, and describe what they do and their powers of enforcement. I think this information is important to students to know, especially biotechnology students, since they will be following the regulations.

"The Animal Research War" would be a good book to add to college and high school libraries and to accompany a bioethics course. It's reasonably priced and provides information that would be helpful for students to know. Many biotechnology programs include courses in bioethics, and since many biotechnology graduates are likely to face animal rights extremists sometime during their careers, it would be good for biotech students to be prepared and to know the facts.

Fellow ScienceBlogger, Nick Anthis, has reviewed this as well.


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Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, the types of incidents detailed in the book are the sort of thing we're going to be hearing increasingly about, given that animal rights extremists seem to adopting more brazen tactics in the US. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel, as we've seen in the turning tide against such extremism at Oxford.

Good catch Cleveland, I fixed the date.

Thanks Nick!

I'm not sure which group your friend eluded to, but I can tell you that The Humane Society of the United States is engaged in substantial humanitarian work - rescuing animals during disasters, spaying and neutering pets to prevent unwanted litters, running animal sanctuaries and doing more to help animal shelters than any other organization in the country. We condemn terrorism and work with law enforcement agencies all across the country to root out animal fighting and cruelty. We work with scientists to develop and advance alternatives to animal testing, and invite anyone who wants to learn more to visit us at

Apparently there is a broad brush being used in this issue. For one thing, it is not necessary for an organization that calls itself "humane" to fund animal shelters, although that is a worthy effort. The fact that the HSUS does not do so does not disqualify it as a "humane society." I am not aware of what the HSUS does, nor do I necessarily agree with its goals or methods. It apparently is not a particularly efficient organization in terms of the money spent on programs as a fraction of funds raised. Some of its goals may well be extreme. It may pursue "animal rights" as opposed to "humane treatment of animals." For all I know, it might be involved in the attacks on biological researchers, but, favoring animal rights does not necessarily mean that it is.

The idea that animals have rights is an ethical position. Another ethical position would be that humans have a right to use animals for the benefit of humans if they so desire. I make no argument here either way, but I do think it behooves biological researchers to at least address that issue, if only for their own benefit in defining exactly what their ethics demand of them.

I think it is the same one....let HSUS speak for itself!
see the interesting article on HSUS here ---

Despite the omnipresent dogs and cats in its fundraising materials, its not an organization that runs spay/neuter programs or takes in stray, neglected, and abused pets. And despite the common image of animal protection agencies as cash-strapped organizations dedicated to animal welfare, HSUS has become the wealthiest animal rights organization on earth.

HSUS is big, rich, and powerful, a humane society in name only. And while most local animal shelters are under-funded and unsung, HSUS has accumulated $113 million in assets and built a recognizable brand by capitalizing on the confusion its very name provokes. This misdirection results in an irony of which most animal lovers are unaware: HSUS raises enough money to finance animal shelters in every single state, with money to spare, yet it doesnt operate a single one anywhere.

Instead, HSUS spends millions on programs that seek to economically cripple meat and dairy producers; eliminate the use of animals in biomedical research labs; phase out pet breeding, zoos, and circus animal acts; and demonize hunters as crazed lunatics. HSUS spends $2 million each year on travel expenses alone, just keeping its multi-national agenda going.

HSUS president Wayne Pacelle described some of his goals in 2004 for The Washington Post: We will see the end of wild animals in circus acts [and were] phasing out animals used in research. Hunting? I think you will see a steady decline in numbers. More recently, in a June 2005 interview, Pacelle told Satya magazine that HSUS is working on a guide to vegetarian eating, to really make the case for it. A strict vegan himself, Pacelle added: Reducing meat consumption can be a tremendous benefit to animals.

Shortly after Pacelle joined HSUS in 1994, he told Animal People (an inside-the-movement watchdog newspaper) that his goal was to build a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement. And now, as the organizations leader, hes in a position to back up his rhetoric with action. In 2005 Pacelle announced the formation of a new Animal Protection Litigation Section within HSUS, dedicated to the process of researching, preparing, and prosecuting animal protection lawsuits in state and federal court.

HSUSs current goals have little to do with animal shelters. The group has taken aim at the traditional morning meal of bacon and eggs with a tasteless Breakfast of Cruelty campaign. Its newspaper op-eds demand that consumers help make this a more humane world [by] reducing our consumption of meat and egg products. Since its inception, HSUS has tried to limit the choices of American consumers, opposing dog breeding, conventional livestock and poultry farming, rodeos, circuses, horse racing, marine aquariums, and fur trapping.

--nuff said

By Jerry Morgan (not verified) on 07 Aug 2008 #permalink

hey, don't blame Rachel, she is just doing her job...Rachel Querry is the senior director of public relations at The Humane Society of the United States.

Yes, I'm glad you pointed that out, David.

To respond to the earlier post, readers should know that Activist Cash is a site produced by a front group representing the tobacco, alcohol and agribusiness industries. Among their targets are Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the CDC.

The HSUS is engaged in campaigns to reform agriculture by ending the abuses of animals on factory farms. Instead of arguing over the issues (it is, after all, difficult to defend treating animals so badly) this group takes old quotes out of context to mislead people. For a more objective look at what The HSUS does, read this recent article in the LA Times:,0,4840426.s…

I found this review interesting because it doesn't seem to get the fact that HSUS and animal groups are the only reason we have regulation of scientific use of animals in the United States. The biomedical research community opposed the bills that became the Animal Welfare Act in 1966, just like it has opposed every revision offered in fourty years.

You can visit the HSUS web site to read its statements of policy and find a condemnation of violence, as well as a clear discussion of what the group works on and stands for. It has always worked for the whole range of animals and this idea that it should be working to help dogs and cats exclusively is historically uninformed. I'm sure that the abusers of animals in various contexts, the factory farmers, the furriers, the rodeo operators, and so on would love to make this argument, but like the earliest SPCAs, HSUS and other groups work on all issues. It's a free country and they've helped to raise the bar on animal welfare in the last two decades.

By Ernest Bell (not verified) on 07 Aug 2008 #permalink

Rachel, you said this:

"We work with scientists to develop and advance alternatives to animal testing."

Do you also recognize that in some areas there are no alternatives to animal testing? Do you understand that the only way to know what a novel pathogen will do is to inject it into its host?

Rachael: I don't agree with much about your posting, but I do concur that you're suffering from some kind of confusion. Apparently, you believe that any organization that funds "propaganda campaigns"--i.e., public outreach efforts that you disagree with--can fairly be described as funding terrorism. Astonishingly sloppy thinking for a scientist--and the kind of thing that can get you sued for libel.

Have enough courage of your convictions and intellectual integrity to be as fair to your opponents as you are to your own side. Without honest dialogue, we're not going to make much progress on this or any other issue.


SANDRA: I don't agree with much about your posting, but I do concur that you're suffering from some kind of confusion. Apparently, you believe that any organization that funds "propaganda campaigns"--i.e., public outreach efforts that you disagree with--can fairly be described as funding terrorism. Astonishingly sloppy thinking for a scientist--and the kind of thing that can get you sued for libel.

Have enough courage of your convictions and intellectual integrity to be as fair to your opponents as you are to your own side. Without honest dialogue, we're not going to make much progress on this or any other issue.

Also, Sandra, here's a little light reading that will explain the anti-science, anti-consumer tactics practiced by your buddies at the "Center for Consumer Freedom," which operates that activistcash site you like so well. It's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle that details the group's deceptive tactics:…

oh riiiiighht. the only thing damning on the activist cash report is "outdated quotes". Sure. Care to respond to the substance? The fact that HSUS got taken over by the activists after the passage of the original AWA invalidating claims that anything like the current policy and regime resulted in that legislation? The misleading fund raising on the reputation of actual human society local shelters? The financial shenanigans? (Where's that money going if not to illegal enterprises?) The hiring of admitted ALFies?

you can put as many disclaimers as you want on a website but what matters is walking the walk. When all these HSUS/ALFie/PETA mouthpieces get in front of what they think are a homie audience, the truth emerges and they spout violence encouraging rhetoric. Vlasic does it in public, a couple others have actually been prosecuted for inciting violance like those ELF arsonists in socal.

so forgive us if we don't take you at your word but rather at your suspiciously two faced behavior. what would be convincing is some house cleaning. excoriating, shunning and assisting with prosecution of anyone who seems the slightest bit terroristic or engaging in flagrantly illegal behavior. you know, instead of wink-wink about how you certainly understand the motivations...

oh, and let's have some cites for which "animal groups" were instrumental in getting the AWA passed and some evidence that all scientists opposed the Act. Actually opposed, as differentiated from keeping the most wackaloon elements out of it- which is a different matter entirely.

By Cleveland (not verified) on 07 Aug 2008 #permalink

If you read the book (which, sadly, true believers in "animal liberation" as unlikely to do as Creationists are to read evolution textbooks), you'll see that the authors have pretty clearly established the fact that the so-called "Humane Society of the United States" exists to feed money to extremist groups, including the terrorist ALF. It's not about harmless propaganda. Sure, it may do a a bit of legitimate charity as well, but that's pretty superfluous given that there's a real legitimate organization for that -- the American Humane Society. It's not hard to see that just like the sellers of knockoff "Praydo" handbags at fleamarkets, the business model of the HSUS is simply to take money from people confused about the name.

One of the shills here talked about suing. It's the HSUS that ought to be sued for diluting the brand of the American Humane Society. As a scientist and supporter of the real Humane Society, I'd be proud to contribute to an effort to drive this HSUS scam out of business (or at least get them to change their name).

@RachelPerry, the HSUS rescued 32 animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and is under indictment by the AG of the state of LA. To paraphrase its CEO, they run no shelters nor do they rescue animals. It is antithetical to their philosophy to have pets.
You are confusing them with your locale human society. That's the ichor of the blogpost.

hey Mike. In light of the Society's interest in stopping terrorism, how mcuh $$ did they spend to OPPOSE the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act? Kinda contradictory, if you ask me!

By Tim Burger (not verified) on 08 Aug 2008 #permalink

When Rachael, the public relations spokesperson for the HSUS in her first line speaks of "eluded" to - is that a freudian slip? Can I assume that Rachael is "elusional" and therefore unable to grasp reality - or merely, like all the animal rights people, making a conscious decision to elude reality?

By Downeygodd (not verified) on 08 Aug 2008 #permalink

Check your sources, people. Anyone getting their information about HSUS from activistcash should recognize that this organization is dedicated to polluting the debate over a lot of issues. Its parent organization was originally founded with tobacco company money, and it currently propagandizes against various public health initiatives.

The fact that an organization like HSUS opposes something you do or like or think is important doesn't mean that they are evil, or even wrong. It just means that you and they disagree. Knee-jerk reactions don't help decide much of anything, at least not in any rational way.

I do not get my information from activistcash. I do my own research. I see what the HSUS does on a daily bases. Claiming to raise money to "help the Vick dogs" the HSUS had no hand in helping those dogs what so ever. They took that money under false pretenses, and never gave a cent to the care of those dogs.
The way they work is that they go in take the dogs and then they require an outrageous fee for the care of the dogs or they will be killed BEFORE the case even goes to court.
How about all the dogs that were KILLED by HSUS during Katrina? If you don't think so then ask them why they covered up how much euthasol they used. Oh and by the way Rachael, what happened to the 765 American Pit Bull
Terriers that were at Lamar/Dixon? I know they were not sent out to rescues, I know HSUS used a lot of "black body bags" during the night. Would you care to explain those away with one of your fairy tales too?
If HSUS does not advocate terroristic activities why did (I beleive it was Coronado) he have a check from an employee of the HSUS on his person when he was arrested for arson? Why did the HSUS hire a known criminal to head its "dog fighting division?"(that would be J.P. Goodwin aka John Paul Goodwin aka John Goodwin from the Memphis TN area where he has a long arrest record) Why is it that so many of the cases that the HSUS is involved in investigating for dogfighting (in the neighborhood of 80% to 90%) are not convictions? And those that are were plea bargins and not trial convictions? Could it be that the "dog fighting" myth is not so prevelant as the HSUS is trying to make it appear? How many times have I looked at pictures of those dogs and seen no scars no marks...
What I find frightening is all the new laws they are coming up with. Like the forfeiture laws that say they can take your house and property BEFORE you are convicted of the crime. I am watching this unfold in AZ right now. The HSUS has filed the forfeiture paperwork in the courts to take possession of the houses and lands of those that were ACCUSED (not tried or convicted mind you) of dog fighting.
Dog fighting is wrong and should not be allowed. BUT it is not as wide spread as the HSUS wants you to think and not only that they are not targeting those fighting they are targeting those who are accepted in the APBT world for raising great show and family dogs. Yes and "breeding fighting dogs" I have heard that being a charge, since when is it illegal to breed dogs? Or wait a minute, how about "transporting dogs across state lines" Hmmmm ever been to a dog show? I know folks who were doing nothing more than dropping off puppies and adults to folks, that were arrested under this law.
The main point I am trying to make is that be it APBTs or some other breed of dogs, or farm animals, or exotic animals they are trying to end our use and "exploitation" of all animals. To quote the head of HSUS "One generation and out". That came from their own website.

By Sandi Coy RN (not verified) on 08 Aug 2008 #permalink

The source Sandra is referring to is the well-researched book "The Animal Research War". "activistcash" is a red herring of no real relevance to the discussion. Besides, attacking a group based on its origin rather than its current status is what is known in logic as a "genetic fallacy".

Jonathan B., you are laying a red herring yourself. The main criticism of activistcash is that they currently (as in right now, today) propagandize against various public health issues. They are not a reliable source of information about anything, and that has nothing to do with their original founding by a tobacco company shill.

To clarify this, I got my information from the book, "The Animal Research Wars." As I wrote in my review, I think this is a great reference and that this information is important for any student who plans to work in a life science field. Even researchers who work on plants or bacteria often have to use animals in their work, it's best not to be naive or uninformed about the extremist groups and their tactics.

I'm closing the comment thread since the commenters on both sides of the issue have made my point much better than I ever could.

They've also made me realize that all undergraduate and graduate programs in life sciences, should include a discussion of animal welfare somewhere in the curriculum, not just biotechnology programs. Students should know that there are regulations to protect animals and what those regulations are. Students should also learn that regulations can always improved and ultimately, the best thing is to find scientifically valid alternatives.

The bioethics courses are probably the best place for those kinds of discussions.