PDX ADL Responds to Oregonian Article, "Why I Do Animal Research"
Posted below is a response to Nancy Haigwood's Oregonian Article, "Human
Health and Animal Rights: Why I Do Animal Research" written by the
Portland Animal Defense League. This article was submitted to the
Oregonian but was rejected today. Nonetheless, our arguments and voice
still deserve to be heard:
Animal Rights and Human Health: Why We Oppose Animal Research
"I was shocked, I was horrified, and I was very, very angry. The fact that today conditions such as those that I saw can still be allowed to continue- that people can go to work every day and allow such barbaric conditions to continue- is a very black mark against humanity."
The above quote is an excerpt from comments by Dr. Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist, regarding the horrendous nature of the primate research ongoing at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Her voice is not alone in its dissent against OHSU and the content of this article will explain why.
In her article, "Human health and animal rights: Why I do animal research," Nancy Haigwood attempted to justify the scientific and medical hegemony that is vivisection. Her article was written in response World Week for Animals in Labs, a national week of action, protest, and education against animal-based research. The following is a response to her. Although she decided to spend the bulk of her writing attacking animal rights activists and the Portland Animal Defense League, this article will not use those types of ad hominen attacks and instead deal with the issues and arguments. To do otherwise would obscure the discourse surrounding animal rights, human health, and animal research.
Nancy offered one simple and emotional defense of animal research, one that every person has an investment in- human health. Human health and medical progress is the favorite defense of the vivisection community because it affects us all both physically and emotionally. Because of that, public judgment is often clouded and no further substantiation is needed in order to justify the use of animals in research. But what if the public begins to question the validity of such claims? What if the public begins to look into the history of scientific advances for themselves instead of absorbing the rhetoric of institutions like OHSU prima facie? What Nancy Haigwood and OHSU do not want the public to realize is that the evidence suggests that human health and medical progress are not reasons to support animal research, but are in fact reasons to oppose it.
When analyzed objectively in our everyday lives, we can begin to see that animal research is not consistent with how we live. For instance, no one takes their children to a veterinarian or their kitten to a pediatrician. Responsible persons do not feed chocolate to their dogs. If they inquire as to why, they will learn that dogs can not metabolize theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate (among other goodies that us humans enjoy), and that it will remain in their system leading to heart attacks, internal bleeding, seizures, and death.
These are not isolated instances that can be viewed as having no other relevance to our lives. Rather they are evidence of an overall truth that science has long been ignoring: different animal species are biologically distinct systems and extrapolating data from one to another is misleading at best and dangerous at worst.
History is riddled with instances:
Thalidomide: This drug was intended to alleviate morning sickness is pregnant women. It was released in 1957 and high incidences of birth defects concurrently became common. Most babies born lacked limbs. Scientists of the time tried desperately to recreate this occurrence in laboratory animals, even though they had ample human data to work from. They could not. Thus usage of thalidomide continued because the supposed standard for predictive modeling did not suggest it would be harmful even though babies were being born without limbs. It took over 10,000 children born with these defects and 5 years until the drug was recalled in 1962.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES): This synthetic estrogen was prescribed to women to prevent miscarriage even though no human clinical trials were done. No clinical trials were done because the drug passed animal testing with flying colors. The results for women were tragic as the drug actually caused spontaneous abortions, premature births, and neonatal death. In addition it was found to increase the risk of vaginal and cervical cancer.
Penicillin: This is often used as an example of the benefits of animal research. In fact the use of animals delayed and nearly derailed this historical and medical breakthrough. Alexander Flemming observed penicillin's antibacterial qualities in vitro in 1929 and decided to try it on rabbits. No dice. Rabbits excrete penicillin in their urine before it can take effect. Based on these results, Flemming put this idea aside until he used penicillin on a sick human patient out of desperation. Sure enough, it worked. If he had tried it on guinea pigs, he surely would have thrown the idea out completely as penicillin kills them. Flemming himself has said: "How fortunate we didn't have these [legally mandated] animal tests in the 1940's, for penicillin would probably never have been granted a license, and possibly the whole field of antibiotics might never have been realized."
Cancer: Animal research has delayed and sidetracked progress in understanding and finding treatments for cancer. In addition, it is responsible for many lives lost.
Asbestos, for example, is a very well-known carcinogen in humans. It is not in other animals. Because it could not be proven to cause cancer in animal models, it took until 1986 for it to be banned by the EPA. The first evidence to suggest the link between cancer and asbestos was discovered in human clinical trials in 1907.
Not so well-known is that a cure for cancer has been found. The only thing is that it was found in mice. In 1997 endostatin and angiostatin, two naturally occurring proteins, were found to shrink tumors in mice. Why is this event not so well-known? Because when medications were tried in humans nothing happened.
Besides the fact that the animal research conducted by Nancy Haigwood and the vivisectors of the ONPRC is scientifically invalid and a fraudulent waste of the public's money, there remains the issue of ruthless animal exploitation. This is one aspect of the ONPRC that Nancy strategically decided not to discuss in her article.
Research institutions often cite the Animal Welfare Act in defense of their practices, stating that it requires "humane" animal care. What is not explained is that it only sets bare-minimum guidelines for care and housing, and does not regulate the experiments themselves.
To further elaborate how experiments can be as cruel as the vivisector wishes one needs only to examine two researchers from the ONPRC. The first is Eliot Spindel and the second is Judy Cameron. Eliot Spindel conducts nicotine research to study its relationship to birth defects, a relationship which is well-understood, sadly, from human populations. As part of his experiment, he electrocutes the genitalia of male primates to force them to ejaculate. He then violates female monkeys to artificially inseminate them. Next he implants nicotine pumps in the backs of the pregnant monkeys to slowly poison them. Soon after he aborts the fetuses at different stages of development and dissects them. Because all of this falls within his experiment itself, none of it is regulated by the Animal Welfare Act. He also wastes hundreds of thousands of tax dollars doing this.
Judy L. Cameron enjoys examining the often mysterious relationship between stress and health (sarcasm implied). In one study, she sews heart monitors into the backs of young monkeys and flies remote-controlled glider planes over their heads in order to cause anxiety and fear. That should be emphasized again, psychologically tormenting the monkeys is necessarily part of her experiment and therefore not regulated by the AWA. She does this so we can better understand children with stress and anxiety disorders. This experiment has been mocked by Good Morning America as part of the series "You Paid For It!" about the waste of tax dollars on ridiculous research.
It should also be noted that the AWA does not protect rats, mice, or birds which account for about 95% of all animals used in research.
Even with the extremely weak standards of the Animal Welfare Act, OHSU has been caught several times conducting and ignoring animal cruelty at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Dr. Isis Johnson-Brown, a former USDA inspector, cited the ONPRC for numerous violations but received sanctions from her superiors at the USDA for filling too many complaints. After dealing with harassment from both OHSU and the USDA she became a whistle blower against both:
"The USDA has little motivation to enforce the already weak laws of the Animal Welfare Act. I was unable to do my job and eventually, out of frustration, I had to quit. I recognize the system is not set up to protect the animals but instead the financial interests of the research labs."
As recent as November 2009 OHSU has violated animal welfare standards. A USDA inspection noted 7 violations of the Animal Welfare Act including unqualified personnel, inadequate veterinary care, and improper housing. Several primates died as a result of OHSU's negligence and malice. In 2009 an unapproved drug was administered to two rhesus macaque monkeys, leaving them dead. Noted in an earlier inspection, a female primate died of a severe infection after a fetal death went unnoticed and another primate suffered from serious health issues due to a botched surgery which left a surgical sponge inside the abdomen.
What should be made clear is that animal research always involves cruel treatment and exploitation, and the studies being done at the Oregon National Primate Research Center are no exception.
Given the obvious scientific and medical drawbacks to the continued use of animals in research and the mass-scale animal torture occurring in laboratories across the world, why does it persist? What drives animal researchers like Nancy Haigwood?
First of all, research is a very competitive industry. The image of the altruistic scientists in pursuit of knowledge and cures is in reality very tarnished with greed and egoism. Less than 15% of all medical grant applications are funded so competition begins to play a role in the grant writing process. The applicants that get funding are the one's that will be able to publish. The papers that get published are the ones that produce results. The experiments that produce results are the ones that are easy to control and that are fast. Animal experiments fit this category perfectly. On the other hand, clinical research takes time and is demanding as the experimenter has no control of the patients and their lives.
Not only does publishing more papers mean more grant funding, it also means promotion or tenure at Universities. Publishing papers also means keeping the 100,000 or so scientific journals in print, so the publishers themselves have incentive to publish animal research.
The most commonly applied for grant is the R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health. This grant does not fund directly the researcher who applied for it, but the institution that the researcher is employed by. Around 50% of the grant money goes to fund overhead costs of the institution. Thus the conflict of interests impedes the ability of the institution to frown upon unethical or ineffective research. By far the largest percentage of these NIH grants are rewarded to animal research because it produces results, however inapplicable they are to humans. Additionally, all grants appear before review boards. These supposedly unbiased boards are made up of researchers from universities, pharmaceutical company, and other private institutions.
Again, this conflict of interest not only clouds the judgment of the NIH but interferes with medical progress in general.
In addition to funding universities and researchers, vivisection is a profitable endeavor in the private sector. There are endless private entities which can find ways to make money off of the animal research industry- from cage manufacturers, chemical companies, lab equipment (force-feeding pumps, restraining jackets and machines, watering equipment, bedding) manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and laboratory animal breeders (with such patents as "high cholesterol" rabbits). There are so many in fact that they have an industry front group that serves the propaganda machine for the animal research industry- the National Association of Biomedical Research. NABR has made such outlandish claims like increased life span is the direct result of animal experiments when in fact it is the result of things as basic as sanitation, clean water, and decreased poverty.
The financially driven momentum of animal testing has cemented itself in to law. In 1938 congress passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and in 1961 the Kefauver-Harris Act which mandated the use of animals in drug development and safety testing. So yes animal research was involved in the development of drugs on the market, but only because law requires it, not because it is at all useful. In fact, there is less than a 50% chance that a chemical compound tested on lab animals will provide the same results in humans. That means research would be more accurate if the researcher simply flipped a coin. But that wouldn't produce the dollars and prestige that animal research does.
These previously explained facts and circumstances contribute to the single greatest reason that animal research is still ongoing. Vivisection has become a leviathan of public and private financial interest, federal law, and cultural hegemony. As a result, the public is ignorant of the facts and trusting of the power structure that perpetuates this fraudulent endeavor. Public complacency is by far the greatest reason that animal research existed in the past and still exists today. As long as people continue to not educate themselves and sit idly by as their money is wasted funding research that harms both animals and humans, the machine will keep growing. This is precisely why the Portland Animal Defense League organized World Week for Animals in Labs.
Animal research is an industry of exploitation, torture, and subjugation. It deprives sentient beings of their entitlement to freedom and disrespects their intrinsic value as living entities with their own interests and will. Vivisection maintains itself with vested interests ranging from the Universities to breeders to cage manufacturers. As long as OHSU and other institutions continue to disguise ruthless animal exploitation in the veil of human progress there will be intense opposition.
The Portland Animal Defense League (PDX-ADL) is a strictly grassroots organization. We are dedicated to exposing and abolishing animal exploitation in all of its forms, specifically as it manifests in our community
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion