Animals in Research: Mice and Rats and Pigeons...Oh My!

A recent post over at Adventures in Ethics and Science points to a rather fascinating anti-animal research screed by a cancer patient. This individual, after having taken advantage of a gignormous amount of animal research in the course of treatment is now regretful:

I have full-blown leukemia and the chemotherapy I'm taking doesn't seem to be working all that well. And even if it does kick into high gear soon, it's not a cure, only a brief delay of the disease's progression. One way or another, my odds aren't good.
-snip, reorder for clarity-
Throughout the past six years, I have felt terribly guilty about the drugs and procedures I've undergone because I know that so many animals have suffered in their development.
-snip-
Still, I keep popping pills each morning and night, sitting for many hours each week with an IV in my arm, dealing with all the side-effects of treatment, hoping for a miracle. Some people may call me a hypocrite -- to take advantage of the benefits of animal research. Let me explain.

The "explanation" boils down to an argument that because animal research has not as yet provided a good cure for what ails the author, and because many things that may initially appear promising in animal models fail to work under clinical conditions in humans, this is evidence that we should not use animal models at all. The logic and ethical arguments are about equally tortured and there are many other bloggers who do a better job on this sort of nonsense. While we are awaiting some respectful insolence or whatnot [Update: didn't have to wait long; Orac notes that the author was previously Communications director for the PCRM ARA group] , I did have one thing I noticed that requires dissection.
On this one particular issue Janet Stemwedel booted the response* (just a bit) and that motivated this post. The regretful cancer patient stated:

...federal regulations are extremely weak and poorly enforced, and some species -- mice, for example -- are completely excluded from any protection.

This is an utter falsehood.


I had a couple of prior posts which outlined the fact that animal research in the US is indeed an activity that is highly regulated by the US Federal government. In that post I touched on the issue that is at the root of the above mentioned scurrilous distortion (which is very likely to be an outright lie).

I should note that "birds, rats...mice" were excluded from the provisions of the Act in 2002 via the "Helms Amendment". This most certainly does not mean that research on these species is not regulated and in fact the vast majority of the policies and procedures I will be discussing apply to these species as well because of regulation.

The claim that mice are "excluded from any protection" is presumably based on the Helms Amendment. It is indeed true that rats, mice and birds that are bred for research are excluded from the obligatory parts of federal law...but this does not mean that there are not other protections and oversight mechanisms in place that apply to these species. There are in fact many, some of the more important of which are detailed below.

The IACUC

In my initial series, I went on to introduce the local regulatory structure, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and pointed out the independent role of two necessary members of such committees. Admittedly I didn't get into the specifics of it but there is one very important concept for today's new item. Individual PI's have to have local IACUC protocol approval for each and every study they conduct with rats, mice and pigeons. There may be some slight differences in the way IACUC's deal with USDA-covered species and non-covered species but these are not substantive, especially when addressing the claim of "no protections". The essential elements in terms of defending the use of a species, justifying the numbers of animals to be used, the procedures, the refinements to minimize distress, the descriptions of housing/husbandry, etc...all of this has to be dealt with for rats, mice and pigeons.

The NIH Guide

I also described in a prior post that there are several established sets of guidelines for the treatment of laboratory animals that have come to have a power that approaches that of USDA regulation. The NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals is one such set of guidelines, and a highly important one. Many journals with which I am familiar require a statement that the research has been conducted in a manner consistent with the NIH Guide prior to acceptance, for example. The Guide most assuredly covers the Helms Amendment species; in some cases the regulations are tighter in comparison with those for the USDA-covered species. It makes sense. For example, a mouse or rat has less tolerance for food, water, ambient temperature and/or humidity variation than does a larger bodied mammal such as a dog, monkey or even a rabbit.

The NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare

Much of biomedical research which uses mice, rats or even pigeons is funded by the NIH and consequently local institutions must keep themselves on the right side of OLAW, lest they lose or fail to receive NIH grants. All NIH grants. Think about that. The contingencies are enormous, even if keeping in good standing with OLAW is not exactly a federal obligation (since there is no requirement under law to hold NIH funding). As you can tell from reading over the site, they promulgate law, policy, procedure and education on the appropriate use of laboratory animals and have investigatory powers to determine local institutional compliance. On the education and policy side, I'll draw your attention to two sets of research guidelines similar to the NIH Guide but with a more focused application- OLAW has the actual pdf's linked.

You will note that the Helms Amendment species are covered extensively in the activities of the OLAW. Again, it is the case that mice fall under appropriate oversight and protections when used in laboratory research. Suggestions that they do not are made out of willing ignorance, intentional malice or both.

AAALAC

Next we come to the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC).

AAALAC International is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs.
More than 770 companies, universities, hospitals, government agencies and other research institutions in 29 countries have earned AAALAC accreditation, demonstrating their commitment to responsible animal care and use. These institutions volunteer to participate in AAALAC's program, in addition to complying with the local, state and federal laws that regulate animal research.

Although there are institutions which shun paying AAALAC for accreditation, most of the big research universities with which I am familiar do so. I see this on the facilities and/or Vertebrate Animals sections of grants all the time, which provides additional evidence. It has become a widely accepted (and therefore employed) seal of approval. In essence the body ensures that the local institution is using their laboratory animals in a manner consistent with a set of standards, most notably those described in the NIH Guide. They focus on animal care and use policies /responsibilities, the animal environment, housing and management, the veterinary medical care and the physical plant. In this process, the AAALAC deals with facilities for, and treatment of, rats, mice and pigeons just as it does for the USDA species.
The accreditation applies to an entire institution, so a University cannot, say, have accreditation for the USDA-species building and not for the Helms-Amendment-species building. It is a package deal and IME institutions take their accreditation very seriously. Heck, even for-profit contract research organizations (CROs) are starting to apply for, and receive, AAALAC approval because it gives them a competitive advantage. Therefore this process is another way in which the research species excepted by the Helms Amendment receive oversight and regulation for their use in research.
Now it isn't like the AAALAC does anything special on the ground. The standards that they promulgate and require for accreditation are sensible, modern, based on the NIH Guide and any institution can be using such standards regardless of certification. The important thing is that AAALAC is an independent body which has loyalty more to their brand (the accreditation) and to the collective pool of accredited institutions, than they do to any one local institution. Therefore, the certification should be viewed seriously and as an independent testimonial that an entire institution is committed to good laboratory practices.
Wrapping up there are other standards and guidelines that are promulgated for various uses. Standards established by professional societies of laboratory veterinarians are one such category. There may be other books or publications that have come to have the force of semi-official policy. One consistent theme is that the exception for rats, mice and pigeons that is represented by the Helms Amendment is essentially irrelevant when it comes to these other mechanisms for regulating the use of laboratory animals in research. Within these mechanisms, although exact standards vary by species as is appropriate, there is no evidence that particular mammalian species are somehow fair game for any-old, whenever-whatever research as has been suggested by the above linked article from the hypocritical cancer patient. None whatsoever. Assertions to the contrary are scurrilous lies.
__
*This reads to me as a tacit admission that the statement was correct. It is not.

Next, there is the question of whether the federal regulations are too weak. I'm guessing that most of Chaitowitz's readers at HuffPo have never read those regulations (for which you can find links here) and thus have no way to assess their strength or weakness. That mice are not covered species does not, however, mean that they are treated more cruelly in labs than they are in kitchens and basements where they are poisoned, stuck on sticky-traps, or gravely wounded by snap-traps.

82 responses so far

  • You're right -- I blew it. Even though I actually knew that vertebrates are covered, I somehow forgot that I knew it when I wrote my post.
    Thanks for catching my error. I've corrected the post now.

  • You're right -- I blew it.
    What kind of fucking blogger admits she is wrong!? Sack the fuck up and GET MAD!!!1111!!!

  • Nat says:

    Yeah, really. You should be blaming us for not understanding what you. šŸ™‚

  • whimple says:

    Actually, I think the cancer patient is largely correct, and that almost all (but not absolutely all) animal research, particularly for cancer, is unnecessary. If you want to treat and cure people, you just have to experiment on people.

  • An interesting and well composed work, but I wonder if you arn't missing the point. Here are my two pennies:
    1, people who object to animal testing aren't objecting exclusively, nor fundamentally, to the way that testing is done; they are objecting to fact that some 'nonhuman animal' is being deprived of a natural life and the power to express it's 'species self' -that is, the fundamental requirements of a rat or a toad or a bacteria or what have you-. (a la Peter Singer in Animal Liberation and a little Marx too)
    2, just because a presented argument for X is flawed, doesn't mean that there are not strong arguments for said X. This argument, which says we need more regulation on testing, is the same argument all apologists make: that is, "I know it would be great if it worked but it's just too costly." You can fit anything into the framework of too costly -animal testing, war, slavery- (slavery, like war, often becomes too costly in the wake of mass popular protests). The apologists, I think, in this case are wrong: we don't need better people making more complex testing regulations, we need to be able to honestly and openly ask the question "is this fundamental cruelty justifiable?"
    It is obviously justifiable in the case of a bacteria, but in other cases I'm not convinced -I am willing to be but the burden of proof at least should be on the people advocating cruelty (just as it should be on the people advocating violence in terms of war). You might say that "it [animal testing] produces good results! life changing/saving results." But this is the argument that was/is used for slavery and for war: that is, it produces the economic/political effect we desire.
    It seems to me that good social ethics, and people trying to make their way towards them, should not just be scolded when they present a weak argument; nor should cancer patients be called scurrilous liers because they present inaccurate data: truth comes from the free market place of ideas, which you are a well spoke and admirable part of, and not through the shaming of other people. Especially when they are trying to move towards a more ethical life.

  • yogachick says:

    Whimple: Actually, I think the cancer patient is largely correct, and that almost all (but not absolutely all) animal research, particularly for cancer, is unnecessary.
    Animal research is unnecessary when it is done incorrectly. Xenographs and orthotopics do not accurately reflect the microenvironment of a tumour, therefore it should come as no surprise that these 'animal models' do not enable identification of better cancer treatments. There is a whole new generation of mouse models that rely on tissue/cell specific expression of oncogenes/loss of tumour suppressor genes to drive tumourigenesis. These mice get cancer the way humans do and will therefore be able to better predict response to novel therapeutics. Give it 10 years, better treatments will come.

  • whimple says:

    Give it 10 years, better treatments will come.
    That's what they said 10 years ago... Studying cancer in mice cures cancer... in mice.

  • Dave says:

    Non-human animals are...
    a) nonsentient objects we can do whatever we want with, like a shoe or a rock or a piece of wood.
    b) fellow sentient beings deprived of consent rights and subject to unimaginable cruelty for the benefit of our species.
    c) something in between a and b. In which case I guess animal testing is sort of like being mean to the retarded kid in grade school.

  • bsci says:

    DM,
    If I am reading our post correctly, if a private company does research that isn't indented for publication (i.e. perhaps just for internal research or for FDA approval), isn't getting NIH grants, and doesn't have AAALAC accreditation, they have no regulations for Helms Amendment species? Any idea if there are major biotech companies without AAALAC accreditation?
    That said, there are scientific reasons for animal welfare even without animal regulations. The section beginning, "CAAT's founding was announced on a Friday in September 1981." at http://www.jhu.edu/~jhumag/1106web/caat.html is a good example

  • Paul Browne says:

    A nice post DrugMonkey, summarizes the regulatory system very nicely. I certainly agree that the regulation of animal experiments in the US is a lot stricter than anti-vivisectionist groups would have us believe, and I certainly agree that this is relevant to the debate since most people don't oppose animal research but do want to know that it is properly regulated. I will say that I wonder if the US system of regulation is too diverse and decentralised, with the regulatory system that covers an experiment varying according to the animal used, the IACUC at a particular institution and even who is funding it. Might it not be better to streamline the system and bring it under the control of one department with enhanced powers of inspection and enforcement?
    As to the comments of yogachick and whimple I have to disagree. While by no means perfect mice, including xenograft models, have been very useful for studying cancer and instrumental in developing many of the more recent treatments. The truth is to be found somewhere in between the "this will cure cancer in 2 (or 10) years" and "mouse models are useless" camps, as Orac over at Respectful Insolence has discussed on several occasions
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/02/surgery_and_the_spread_of_cancer_tumor_a.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/01/judah_folkman_a_true_scientific_giant_ha.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/09/cancer_research_playing_it_safe_versus_t.php
    So far as the tumour microenvironment is concerned over the past decade there has been guite a lot of work done on GM mouse models of cancer in which it is easier to study the role of the tumour microenvironment, and these seem likely, along with improved 3D cell-culture models, to reduce the dependence on xenografts (which are best regarded as a halfway house between cell culture and animal models).
    For a good review of recent developments in mouse-based cancer research I'd recommend Norman E. Sharpless and Ronald A. DePinho, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery (2006) doi:10.1038/nrd2110

  • BenZonah says:

    If you actually believe that I, and a large number - and growing - of people swallow your defense of torturing animals is that "it is highly regulated." Now, how is this? "Kind cruelty" ? Clearly, using animals in research is simply, and tragic, LEGALIZED, GOVERNMENT FUNDED AND PROFIT-DRIVEN ANIMAL CRUELTY. Rave on with your defenses and excuses - they are lies.

  • Dave says:

    Everyone against animal cruelty COULD write to his/her congressperson and let them know that tax dollars should not be used to support animal research. I guarantee that this would be more sensible than whining on internet message boards.
    But it still won't do much good, because there are powerful pro-biomedical research forces, and biomedical research really is largely impossible without use of animals. At best, agencies will simply pile on more regulations and reporting requirements, which are already burdensome and often nonsensical. Regulations are not the answer.
    What animal rights people COULD do, however, and which would actually do some good, is sponsor and promote educational programs. Researchers generally try hard to avoid animal suffering. We are not heartless jerks. We love animals. That's why many of us became biologists. Many of us are DVMs. But sometimes researchers are simply not aware of issues that might cause suffering, or up-to-date on better ways to perform certain experiments. Animal rights activists can help. But the help has to be informed and responsible. Paranoid whines and threats are not going to work.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    JJLT@#5:
    per your first point, sure. I am cognizant of the position that we simply should not use animals for our purposes from a philosophical and moral / ethical position. And I understand that it is the true motivating principle of much of Animal Rights activity and positioning. This is a perfectly legitimate debate to have. What is not legitimate is to start invoking lies about the conduct of animal research to attempt to gain ground since the real argument does not sway enough people. It doesn't, of course, because the logically consistent position (or even anything close) has very few adherents. It is far easier to lie about the conduct of animal research so as to bring in those who have no problem with the fundamental idea that we use animals for our ends but don't like the notion of random torture, waste and the like. So ARA types have to promote lies that play on these other feelings.
    2) once again agreed. feel free to advance non-flawed "strong" arguments. I'll suggest that starting from points of informed understanding (i.e., of the actual conduct of research, not the lies propagated by PETALF) and clear definitions (like "obviously justifiable in the case of bacteria"- why? where is the "obviously justifiable" line and how have you arrived at that definition?)
    regarding liars, obviously I cannot know the state of effort and engagement that characterizes each person writing HuffPo opinion pieces. The position however, common to the ARA arguments generally, is a lie and a willing/intentional lie. So whether or not this author is herself knowingly lying or parroting lying memes she's acquired from the ARA nuts...makes little difference. The point of my post wasn't to call her a liar anyway it was to identify this one particular lie.
    Dave @#8: All I can glean from your tortured logic is that you seem to consider the mentally challenged to be something other than "fellow sentient beings". Which says some fairly disturbing things about your mindset. Either that or your example for c is really the same as b.
    bsci@#9: I don't know much about contract research companies and other private companies that use animals in research. They are for sure subject to the AWA provisions and consequent USDA regulation. Among other things this means that they have to have an Attending Veterinarian which, as I described a prior post, is a AWA specified position with an independent role in overseeing all animal welfare.
    I see advertising from many CROs that trumpet their AAALAC accreditation which was the basis of my comment. I conclude from this that they consider this to be a competitive advantage and/or a growing requirement to get customers.
    Yes, you are quite right about the scientific reasons for ensuring good treatment of animal subjects. Those who work with animals know this, particularly those that work with behavioral assays, physiological assays that are affected by stress, etc. It is very difficult to convince nonscientists of this, I find, because you start delving into highly technical discussions having to do with some assay or other and how distressed or sick animals throw off the data. Their eyes glaze over. Or, they are simply too suspicious to believe. Or, they evince some convoluted logic based on their a priori that all animal research is torture, therefore all the data are bogus. Aaaaanyway, this is why I don't tend to argue along these lines on blog. I think it is more productive to lead people to the independently verifiable sources about the regulatory and oversight structures.
    BenZonah@#10: This is a forum for productive discussion. I don't mind a little ranting now and again but let's try to include some discussion points, eh? For example, please explain how you come to the conclusion that animal research is "torture" and "cruelty"? The definitions would be a useful starting point to go on to evaluate the evidence for your claims.

  • Dave says:

    For example, please explain how you come to the conclusion that animal research is "torture" and "cruelty"?

    I am amazed at how animal rights activists and biomedical researchers can sometimes completely talk right past each other. Such is the width of the moral/intellectual canyon separating the two groups.
    I suspect, DM, that Ben did not find it necessary to explain what he probably sees as self-evident. Ask yourself: If the same things were done to humans that are typically allowed on animals, would it be acceptable? Of course not.
    The fact that you also considered my comment #8 a case of 'tortured logic' supports my impression that you fundamentally misunderstand the animal rights position. Granted, my comment was intentionally inflammatory and rhetorical, but it was meant to emphasize a core animal rights presupposition, which is:
    Animals = Humans. Species differences should not justify any legal or ethical distinctions.
    I am not saying I totally agree with this. But I understand it. And perhaps my understanding of this point of view represents the fact that I am a psychopath who thinks humans = animals rather than a loving empath who thinks animals = humans. Whatever. It doesn't matter. What matters is that biomedical researchers first understand this fundamental presupposition and then deal with animal rights activists with that in mind. Because no other amount of explaining about regulations and crap is going to work.
    Get it?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I do not "fundamentally misunderstand" the animal rights positions. Plural. I am quite familiar with them.
    I like to make sure that people advancing them in discussion are very clear about what they are arguing for and the evidence for it. Because it is an intentional tactic to smear all the rationales together so as to convince more people to see it the extremists' way.
    In this case when someone says "torture" and "cruelty" there are at least two concepts/percepts at stake. The philosophical AR person believes that any use at all of animals for our purposes is equivalent to "torture" and "cruelty". This is an extremist position and has very few followers in the general public, even if they are quite loud. So what they do is try to convince those who believe in humane treatment that animals in research are under acute, unnecessary and pointless pain, distress and mistreatment. Here, they have a bigger audience to draw from because hardly anyone (yes, including scientists) is in favor of such things.
    So, when someone wishes to bang on about torture and cruelty I wish them to be clear about which they are referring to. Acute pain/distress? or a sort of definitional use which encompasses any treatment of animals that reflects our, instead of their, "will"?

  • Dave says:

    The philosophical AR person believes that any use at all of animals for our purposes is equivalent to "torture" and "cruelty".

    No, but 'slavery' might still apply.
    The key thing here is to simply substitute 'human' everywhere you write 'animal', and then see if your 'requirements for reasonable discussion' are, in fact, reasonable.
    To animal rights activists, it is absurd that they should have to justify why animals should be treated fairly. YOU are the one who needs to meet them on their ground. The fact that their position is currently unpopular is irrelevant to whether it's right or justifiable. Your apparent belief otherwise is not only historically foolish but a logical fallacy.
    As bsci pointed out already and everyone I think knows in their gut, there actually is a broad common ground between animal rights activists and biomedical researchers. The problem is too much ignorance and terrorism on one hand, and callous egotistical dismissal on the other. This is silly. We simply need to recognize that people weigh 'the good of the many versus the good of the few' differently, and have varying views on where to draw the line with regard to the equality of human and non human animals. And then we need to work together to ensure that everyone's concerns (including, possibly, animals') are recognized and protected appropriately. How hard is that?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I dunno, Dave, once again you come across as having your heart in the right place but being almost unbelievably under informed and naive, leavened with a good dose of ego that you are the only one who has thought about such matters.
    ARA extremists have no common ground. They do not weigh costs/benefits or competing interests.
    The is why exactly the discussions to which you allude (and I favor) never take place with such individuals. You are not operating from the same priors as they are. You cannot convince them of the validity and justification of any animal research. Ever.
    Now with respect to the genuinely reasonable middle ground person, I submit to you that an essential part of any honest discussion is making sure the facts are straight. That, my friend, is the point of this post. Getting the facts about research regulation and oversight a little bit straighter.

  • bsci says:

    Dave. You are conflating my point with your cause. There is broad common ground between biomedical researchers and animal welfare advocates. They agree that animal research can happen, but that we need to use as few animals in as painless ways as possible.
    The animal rights position of "all animals=human" holds all animal research should be avoided is not part of this viewpoint. The issue isn't justifying whether animals should be treated fairly. It's the definition of "fair." If you define "fair" zero consumption of animals for food or research, then it's your right to hold that viewpoint and advocate it to others. Still, few people, including even the Dali Lama, support this point of view. Thus, it's a point of view that tends to be ignored in actual policy discussions. Feel free to keep advocating that point of view, but don't expect to change too many minds or policy.

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    "Animals = humans"
    I think this is a perfect example of how a flawed premise leads to flawed conclusions, no matter how good any logic in between. Obviously you (and some others) take "animals = humans" as a given premise. But that is rather a leap, into an unproven, difficult-to-even-support disputed territory.
    Like it or not, there are demonstrable qualitative differences between humans and animals. Tool use? Sure, some animals use tools; generally "first generation" tools which they modify directly, using attributes of their own body, such as teeth. We have "second generation" tools, tools which we use tools to build, and 3rd generation tools, tools which we use tools to build which were in their origin built by other tools. We have advanced infrastructures which modify the face of the planet, entirely consisting of layers upon layers upon layers of tool-built tools. Whether or not you regard that as giving us any moral superiority over other animals, it sure as heck gives us a wide physical advantage, and it is a difference.
    Ditto language. Other animals use sounds to convey meaning. We haven't yet found any with native advanced grammars which are used to convey abstract moral and cognitive concepts, much less abstract moral and cognitive concepts in the both the general and specific past and the general or specific future.
    Then there is teaching and learning. Many animals learn from each other by watching each other, especially young animals watching adults. Only humans appear to have formal systems of active teaching, however, where an adult will make a formal effort to show the youngster what to do.
    And so on. There are multiple examples of this kind of thing. If you want to argue that animals = humans in some moral sense, as living, feeling beings, go right ahead, but don't expect everyone to agree with you, especially as this raises a lot of awkward questions of why we should not all be paralysed by guilt over swatting mosquitos. Do you draw a line between vertebrates and invertebrates in your moral equivalence? Why? Many invertebrates are still capable of perception and limited cognition, therefore presumably they "feel". ...If you are actually arguing that there is no real difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, expect this to be widely ignored as easily disprovable, cf. above.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Son of a Whore (BenZonah in Hebrew),
    Your approach to the issue of animal use in research is not different from that of creationists toward evolution. Clearly, you are not ready to discuss it in any intelligent way, only to enforce your view and stance on the rest of society.

  • Dave says:

    Ok, fine. I can see that no biomedical scientists here are willing to play my game of 'let's examine this issue from the opposition's point of view', which to me is the real starting point of any useful discussion.
    DM: I agree that keeping reality-based is also critical for useful discussion, and agree that animal rights advocates are often woefully misinformed. However, your dismissal to even consider things from the premise that humans=animals makes all your other 'educational' efforts largely pointless. Start from the premise that humans=animals and then let's see you justify the use of animals in research. You forget that I am a biomedical researcher like you, and that every day I make decisions about whether use of animals is justified. Just like you. Except I accept that I have a moral responsibility to justify it, whereas you give the impression that animal use is some sort of 'right' that researchers have by virtue of education and tradition.
    Luna: How is 'animals = humans' a flawed premise? Animal testing is entirely based on the premise that animals are pretty much the same thing as humans. Your arguments are almost exactly the same as what was once used to justify black slavery (remember that many peoples have been enslaved through history, on many different justifications) and subsequent segregation.
    Sol: Actually, the animal rights premise more completely embraces central ideas of evolution than does intellectual segregation of humans and non-human animals. The idea of human moral and legal superiority is about as entrenched in Judeo-Christian tradition as anything could be.
    It's easy to defend the status quo. But it's not always easy to justify it. Animal rights is a growing trend, and use of animals is something that biomedical scientists should increasingly expect to be able to justify. Practice up. Coincidentally, I was just quoted in a major metropolitan newspaper today justifying my use of animals in research. Which meant someone thought such justification worthy of print.

  • bsci says:

    I can see that no biomedical scientists here are willing to play my game of 'let's examine this issue from the opposition's point of view', which to me is the real starting point of any useful discussion.
    The trouble with this game is that if you start from the point of view of animals=humans, there's not much of a game to play. If that's the case then it is wrong to do any animal experimentation since there's no informed consent. It's wrong to eat or use animals. It's wrong to keep animals as pets. Pest control is wrong. It's wrong to manage wildlife in any way. Game over. As has been made clear, this opinion is the minority of the minority and doesn't really have much relevance in actual policy or behavior discussions.
    If the starting point is that we have a moral obligation to respect the animals we use in research then that's a good point for discussion. We can disagree on where the moral lines lie for various species and what is or is not acceptable.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Except I accept that I have a moral responsibility to justify it, whereas you give the impression that animal use is some sort of 'right' that researchers have by virtue of education and tradition.
    I can't really help with the impression you get. I've never stated any such thing and therefore your impression is as much your assumption as anything I write.
    What I do make clear when I discuss these topics on this blog is that I am uninterested in the fundamental priors debate. That discussion is not, in my view, subject to factual inquiry. If someone thinks that it is morally wrong to use animals for our own ends there is not much to be said, particularly in this venue. While pointing out their flagrant hypocrisies may be entertaining, it doesn't really do much for the overall debate. OTOH, discussing elements of objective reality which the ARA position distorts or denies is highly productive because the moderate middle can be exposed and make up their own minds on the merits.

  • Dave says:

    If that's the case then it is wrong to do any animal experimentation since there's no informed consent. It's wrong to eat or use animals. It's wrong to keep animals as pets. Pest control is wrong. It's wrong to manage wildlife in any way.

    Ah, thank you for playing. You are wrong.
    1) The requirement for voluntary informed human consent is regularly waived in emergencies and incompetence (person unable to give or refuse consent). The latter is most relevant to our discussion, since non human animals obviously cannot give informed consent. It can be argued that an animal's attempt to escape is the equivalent of refusal to consent. Obviously, most animals try to escape. And those that don't can still be argued as not having given informed consent, since they likely would not understand whether a procedure is terminal or maybe even what death is. Ultimately, we are into territory where the choice is removed from the patient and legally granted to another party. But you still can't ask the family of an animal, and animals have no tradition of legal rights equivalent to humans. So we are into discussions about when & how the rights of individuals can be taken away 'for the good of society'. These discussions, with regard to humans, are mostly associated with criminal and military law. There's no theoretical or logical reason animal 'use' can't be discussed in a similar way.
    2) As for eating animals, vegetarianism and/or veganism is practiced by a large chunk of the world's population. There are many reasons people choose to avoid meat. Large chunks of the population do so explicitly because of the human=animal thing (e.g. Hindu). So don't dismiss the idea just because you like meat; it's insulting.
    3) Regarding pest control, go back up to #1 and the 'greater good' arguments. These sorts of arguments, when applied explicitly to humans, are traditionally used to justify capital and corporal punishment, or war. Importantly, there is a longstanding tradition of human rights in these cases. Animal rights advocates are simply asking for the same sort of consideration for non human animals.
    4) If humans = animals, then the criminal justice system is basically a wildlife management system. Clearly not a non-starter, as you would have us believe.
    My point is that you CAN start from the premise that animals=humans, and work forward in a reasonable way. All it takes is a little thought.

  • Dave says:

    What I do make clear when I discuss these topics on this blog is that I am uninterested in the fundamental priors debate

    But that's the problem, don't you see? You a priori assume humans have inherent rights that animals do not, and so refuse to consider any conclusions that do not follow from that assumption. It is like a blind person arguing that billboards could never be ugly, and therefore dismissing the whole topic.
    I am totally 100% with you on the importance of facts, but the fact is, as I point out above, that humans are, and have been throughout history, often used for other humans' ends. If we can discuss the morality and legal limits of that, then we can discuss the use of animals using similar criteria and logic.

  • You a priori assume humans have inherent rights that animals do not, and so refuse to consider any conclusions that do not follow from that assumption.
    Dude, that's not what he's assuming at all. What he's assuming is that those who do not assume that human beings have some inherent rights that animals lack are not the ones worth addressing in this "debate".

  • bsci says:

    Dave,
    I'm sorry. You've been spending too much time reading Pete Singer. These are arguments for philosophers that have no relation to the actual world. IF all animals are like humans and IF animals doing things we don't want are equivalent to human's breaking the law and IF we can sometimes infer animal choice. IF criminal justice can be applied to all species...
    These are hypotheticals built on top of hypotheticals.
    I think I'm going to take the DM approach here. Just because someone thinks of some weird hypothetical situation and bases their worldview on that situation doesn't mean I need to start a discussion by agreeing to the hypotheticals of that worldview.

  • Dave says:

    Who's Pete Singer?
    I would google him, but I am still trying to figure out what Comrade PhysioProf is saying.
    I get the sense that animal rights is not really an appropriate topic for discussion here (and no, I do not consider uncritical elaborations of agreement 'discussion'). No problem; it's DM's party.
    Maybe instead we should argue about whether cultured cell lines are reasonable subjects of study. How about it? Can we really learn about brain function using neuronal cultures?
    Or maybe we should quit goofing off and go write our challenge grant applications. How many people are going to apply for those 200 challenge grants, do you think? I think we're looking at a funding rate of a fraction of one percent.

  • I'm writing TWO challenge grants!! NEENER! NEENER!!!
    What I'm saying is that DM is not taking any position at all on the philosophical question of whether human beings have rights that animals lack. He is taking the pragmatic position that for those that accept--for whatever reason--that it is not unacceptable per se to perform research on animals, it is not worthwhile to engage in discussion with those who take the philosophical position that human beings do not have rights that animals lack.

  • Luke says:

    I saw the piece you referred to. I thought the exact same thing as you did.
    This cancer patients reasons for taking these drugs did not make any sense.
    If she doesn't want to benefit from animal research than simply don't take the drugs, enough said.
    Obviously if she feels the need to justify it than something is wrong.

  • non-biomed researcher says:

    as a non-biomedical researcher I have never touched an animal in a lab. (I also happen to be an animal welfare and rescue volunteer in my spare time)
    I am curious to know if those here who regularly conduct research on animals, which I presume are mostly mice and rats - would you be OK doing the same research using your own pet dogs or cats that you do on the lab mice? If not, why not? or would you be OK with doing the same research on OTHER dogs and cats, but not your own pets? this is not meant to be inflammatory, I am truly curious to know the what researchers who use animals think about this since I am not a biomedical researcher myself. I am interested to know if there are biomedical researchers on this blog who can reconcile using animals in research as well as keeping animals as part of the family and if so how.
    I have friends who are biomedical researchers who do conduct experiments on mice, rats, and pigs, and who also own pet dogs and cats. They tell me that they see their family pets as "more human" than the laboratory animals (even though pigs actually have the intelligence level of human toddlers) and therefore they have a clean conscience experimenting on the mice/rats/pigs but would not be OK with doing the same on dogs/cats. But if you use dogs and cats in your experiments, do you feel in any way 'weird' when you then come home to your own dog/cat?

  • Anonymous says:

    Dave, I am sorry, but I simply cannot agree with you. Let us say that we leave out the animal research issues for a moment.
    You suggest that all humans should be vegans. I feel that this is a personal decision, not unlike the choice of religion, and should never be forced on anyone. Insisting/requesting/requiring that anyone be a vegan spits in the face of 15 thousand years of human culture. You might as well ask that we give up language, or art.
    Also, why? Humans are not herbivores. We, like the similarly successful mammal, the rat, are omnivores. Our bodies need a wide variety of food-stuffs. Our place in the ecosystem (when we're not totally recreating everything) is to eat a little of everything.
    Are there major problems with most of the current food-systems? Yes. Should we try hard to change them? Yes. But what got us to where we are now is animal protein seared over a fire.
    Why should we be allowed to have pets, farm animals and do research with animals? For the very reason we are having this conversation. Because we have compassion. My cat would have no compassion for any mouse she catches, playing with it, killing it slowly. If I must kill a mouse, I do it with as little pain and stress to the mouse as I can, even at the expense of pain, stress and emotional suffering to me. That we worry over it is reason enough.

  • Dave says:

    If she doesn't want to benefit from animal research than simply don't take the drugs, enough said.

    Hmmmm... Good point. I am stripping off my cotton clothes right now because slavery was wrong and the industrial revolution was exploitive of workers and we should not have stolen this land from the Native Americans. After that I'll look into donating my house to the nearest Native American reservation and moving back to Europe. I have to have somewhere to go, and besides I oppose war and therefore the U.S. revolution and the U.S. in general and everything associated with it. I think I'll have to sail to Europe, though, because I think we need to get off our dependence on oil.
    Fortunately, I am and always have been, a proponent of reductio ad absurdum.
    Anybody got a sailboat and some wool underwear they don't need?

  • Dave says:

    "You suggest that all humans should be vegans."
    No I didn't. I'm not a vegan or vegetarian and never have been. Today, in fact, I ate an entire package of beef steak jerky chunks for lunch. They were really tasty. If necessary, I would have slaughtered the cow myself. All meat eaters should be prepared to do the same, in my opinion.
    All I'm saying is that we need not discount the point of view of animal rights activists as 'absurd' or 'unrealistic' or 'unworkable'. I think their point of view deserves as much respect as a human-centric one, and biomedical researchers should be prepared to defend the use of animals in research with that in mind.

  • Today, in fact, I ate an entire package of beef steak jerky chunks for lunch.
    Dude, you need to talk to your chair about a raise.

  • JustaTech says:

    Sorry, above argument about the food system @32 is me. -JustaTech

  • DrugMonkey says:

    even though pigs actually have the intelligence level of human toddlers
    No, no they don't.
    /sigh

  • Dave says:

    I am curious to know if those here who regularly conduct research on animals, which I presume are mostly mice and rats - would you be OK doing the same research using your own pet dogs or cats that you do on the lab mice?

    No. I would not use my own dog for experiments. But I would use other dogs, and have done so in the past. My answer has nothing to do with 'familiarity', and everything to do with the source of the dogs and way they are treated.
    Every dog I have used in past experiments was taken from a shelter, where it was destined to be killed. Before the experiments, we played with the dogs, then comforted them as they were anesthetized. All experiments took place while the dogs were completely unconscious and completely unresponsive to painful stimuli. At the end of the experiments, their hearts were stopped using the same stuff used for lethal injections during human executions. Basically, we gave the dog a better death than it otherwise would have had, and in the process we gained training in veterinary medicine.
    Would it have been better if those dogs had found homes and lived out their natural lives as much-loved pets? Sure. But that wasn't going to happen. All of the dogs had a chance to be adopted, and weren't. They were going to be killed in the shelter or die starving and diseased as strays. Our using them actually allowed them to live a few weeks longer than they otherwise would have, in much better conditions. I think use of dogs for experiments in these circumstances is reasonable and makes sense for the same reason I want my organs to be harvested as I am dying.
    My pet dog, by the way, was adopted from a shelter. He is also neutered. I also regularly volunteer for human experimentation and think all animal users should be willing to do so.
    To be 100% honest, I have no very good justification for my carnivory, and feel a bit guilty about it. I try to hang an excuse on the fact that meat animals are raised for that purpose and otherwise wouldn't exist. It's not very satisfying, I admit. But at least I'm willing to face up to what I am involved in -- the slaughter and consumption of flesh. I have no respect for squeamish hamburger eaters.
    I think it's important to discuss animal rights, and we often do so in the lab. Approximately 40% of my lab members have been vegetarian. One was active in animal rights. His project did not involve vertebrates, but other peoples' do. We all get along fine, because we respect each others' opinions.

  • bsci says:

    Dave,
    You are pretty much spouting Pete Singer's party line from the 1970's. See:
    http://www.amazon.com/Animal-Liberation-Definitive-Classic-Movement/dp/0061711306/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236390801&sr=8-1
    I think he's still a philosophy professor at Princeton and had all sorts of wonderful stuff about human eugenics being the precise equivalent of eating meat or animal research.
    It's a throughly unrealistic philosophy, but seem people seem to get attached to it.

  • DAB says:

    I can easily defend doing research using animals and owning pets. Not all animal research is for the benefit of people. Animal research has also led to treatments for heartworm, hyperthyroidism, nutrition, pest control, etc..for pets! When you take your dog to the vet, how do you think the vet learned to diagnose your pet? When he prescribes Fronline to combat fleas and ticks, how do you think they figured out how it works? For humans, how do you think they worked on drugs for Diabetes, pain relivers and other medications? Sure there have been some that didn't pan out, but look at how many have.
    I have no problem with people that are animal rights believers. But you have to be willing to go all the way with your beliefs or else you have no validity. You must refuse any medical treatment, most over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as NyQuil or Tylenol. No wearing helmets while riding a motorcycle. No radiographs, MRI's, articfical sweetners, or any foods with food coloring. If you're willing to give up all that and more, then I'll respect you decision and will gladly let you die if I come upon you at a traffic accident.

  • Dave says:

    DAB: Your first paragraph makes a good point. Your second paragraph does not. See my comment #33.

  • non biomed researcher says:

    DAB: wow what an antagonistic reaction to my query. All I asked was, how do biomed researchers here feel about experimenting on animals versus their own pets. I am not a biomed researcher myself so I have not experienced being in this situation thus I was asking. As I said in my earlier post, I am not intending to be inflammatory, just genuinely interested in such researcher's experiences. I didn't expect to be told that I will be left to die at a traffic accident.

  • John says:

    I have no problem with people that are animal rights believers. But you have to be willing to go all the way with your beliefs or else you have no validity. You must refuse any medical treatment, most over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as NyQuil or Tylenol. No wearing helmets while riding a motorcycle. No radiographs, MRI's, articfical sweetners, or any foods with food coloring. If you're willing to give up all that and more, then I'll respect you decision and will gladly let you die if I come upon you at a traffic accident.
    So by your logic, if you were to feel that exploitation of laborers in third-world countries is in any way negative at all, you therefore should not be using any products that contain even one component made in china or india or other third world country. You should get rid of your cell phone, computer, home appliances, car...not to mention most of your clothes and shoes. hey you have to go all the way with your beliefs or you have no validity. (or else by your logic you have to fully condone the exploitation of workers in poverty-stricken countries in order to own such products)

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Dave,
    Sorry, you are wrong from the first moment you asked your readers to accept as a starting point the equation humans=animals. It is just like starting a discussion with creationists by accepting as a starting point the equation evolution=creation.
    As to your lame claim: "Every dog I have used in past experiments was taken from a shelter, where it was destined to be killed." Wow, if this is your excuse for having a peace of mind when you use a shelter dog for experimentation, then I guess it is OK to use death row prisoners for human exprimentation. Mengele did it during the Holocaust, though his excuse was not that his experiment subject would die anyway, rather he did it because the subjects, according to him and his superiors, were of an inferior species to his own. I do not understand how you can experiment with animals while accepting that humans=animals.

  • In a strange turn of events, I think I'm with Dave here. If I understand him correctly, he's suggesting that we try to keep our minds intellectually limber enough to understand the rationale of some animal rights folks. Unless I really missed something, he has not in fact suggested that animals=humans, he's suggested that some people think this and in order to have any chance of talking with them, we'd better be able to wrap our heads around that idea, agree with it or (obviously) not.
    And I appreciate his point, perhaps made too subtly, that humans are animals, and that that might be a useful starting position from which to understand the AR view that animals deserve what humans deserve. Perhaps I'm just missing something major, but it seems to me that Dave is just advocating using our giant brains to gain a bit of perspective on the other side.
    This is in contrast to DrugMonkey's p.o.v., which I've heard before too, that there's just no point in trying to reason with someone who thinks that animals deserve 100% the same rights as humans, on the grounds that a person who thinks that is beyond the reach of all reason. Fair enough, but I don't think that Dave's efforts to make those people comprehensible to us are stupid; I think the only way you can ever change someone's mind is if you take the time to understand theirs.
    Perhaps I'm unduly influenced by having a raft of vegan friends and relations, but I also think it's reasonable to try to understand the animals=humans viewpoint. Before explaining one's own reasons for disagreeing.

  • Cleveland says:

    DJMH, whatever makes you believe the rational folks don't understand where AR types are coming from? This ain't rocketbrainsurgery, as the kids say. Their beliefs are clear. Problem is, just like with most theologies, extant facts do not support the beliefs and assertions. Internal inconsistencies make them look foolish. So do the do-as-I-say leaders, like this PCRM flack.

  • non-biodmed researcher says:

    There is a difference between animal rights and animal welfare. It seems that a lot of commenters are mixing the two up and treating them as one and the same movement.
    Is Dave the only biomed researcher here who also is a pet owner? (by the way thanks Dave for answering my query with sincerity and not with knee jerk hostility like someone else earlier did!). I'm interested to hear more views from biomed researchers about why they may be OK experimenting on other animals but not their own pets.
    so far my friends who are biomed researchers say that they feel their family pets are "more human" than the lab animals and that is their justification for not being OK including their pets in experimentation. Dave has a very different angle which is that the shelter dogs would have died anyway and possibly in a less humane manner than in the lab. And actually I would like to point out that I've often seen shelter animals being pulled out by a rescue group just minutes before their euthanasia appointment and gone on to find happy homes...obviously this doesn't happen to the majority of animals but it can and does happen to some so therefore who is to say that the shelter dog in your experiment couldn't have been one of them, IF the basis for being OK with experimenting on that shelter dog is ONLY that he would have been put down anyway....I'm not trying to be argumentative or accusatory and I'm not expecting a response or counter-argument, I'm just bringing up other points for consideration. and also pointing out that any view or angle on the subject just cannot be completely solid...which seem obvious but there are people on both sides of the issue who seem to think that only the other side is weak in supporting their views...or at least that is the tone of most of the comments on this thread so far...
    I'm not trying to rile up people or be confrontational, I certainly can't defend everything I do or don't do as an animal welfare volunteer. (for example with limited resources we always have to choose which animals to help and which to not help and that in itself is a source of hypocrisy) And I'm already a hypocrite for having benefited from the products of animal experimentation like the rest of society. I'm just interested to hear more views from biomed researchers on animal experimentation, especially those who also are pet owners, and how you would reconcile being OK experimenting on other animals but not your pets.

  • bsci says:

    non-biomed researcher,
    I do not own pets and my research doesn't involve animals, but I have participated in animal research in the past. I know many pet owning animal researchers and even a bunch of ethical vegetarians who do animal research.
    I think the biggest thing you are skipping here is that the unpleasant aspects of animal research really are unpleasant. Few sane people enjoy doing them. It's not like people go to work and are excited about killing a few mice. They might be excited about the experiment, but the work is what needs to be done to get results. So the disconnect between ones own pet and ones research is not as large as you might think.
    In addition, the goal of research is to get useful scientific results. There are very few scientists whose research could be done on their own pets. For all the talk of dog or cat researchers, there are very few of these compared to other types of animal research and the type of research done on these animals are often done on them for specific reasons. If you use mice for research you're not going to use your pet dog for an scientifically irrelevant data point merely to say that you ethically see no difference.
    I have met a few same species research animal / pet owners and it is hard. A bit of a disconnect is required, but they realize that and understand the difficulty.

  • whimple says:

    Dave: "Every dog I have used in past experiments was taken from a shelter, where it was destined to be killed."
    S. Rivlin: "Wow, if this is your excuse for having a peace of mind when you use a shelter dog for experimentation, then I guess it is OK to use death row prisoners for human experimentation."
    The current view with respect to experimentation on humans is that you can experiment on the dying only if the experiment done has relevance to the pending cause of death. You can shoot up cancer patients with rat poison, if you (and the IRB) reasonably think rat poison may be effective for cancer therapy, but you can't test new chemotherapy drugs in dying trauma patients for example. Applying Dave's animals=humans concept, the justification for his work on healthy dogs is vitiated, unless his research concerns something like dog overpopulation or lack of adoptability or some such.

  • John says:

    Dave wrote:
    "Such is the width of the moral/intellectual canyon separating the two groups."
    Yes, we tell the truth, while you tell lies.
    "I suspect, DM, that Ben did not find it necessary to explain what he probably sees as self-evident. Ask yourself: If the same things were done to humans that are typically allowed on animals, would it be acceptable? Of course not."
    Of course, the same things that are typically allowed and done to animals ARE done to people. Your problem is that you neither know nor care what is typically allowed on animals.
    Your other problem is that you completely ignore the many instances in research, testing, and particularly everyday medical practice in which animals are used as tools. PCRM actively lies to conceal these things. One example would be an HIV antibody test done ON human serum. It involves antibodies made by vivisecting live, innocent animals, which in fact causes far more suffering than the typical experiment done ON animal subjects.
    Do you see how your use of the preposition ON is blinding you to the vast majority of commercial vivisection?
    The AR movement tells even bigger lies about experiments done ON cells, claiming that they are "nonanimal" and "alternative" when in fact they are neither.
    Is there any other movement that is so corrupt that it actively lies to conceal the very practices is allegedly exists to oppose?

  • John says:

    Dave also wrote:
    "All I'm saying is that we need not discount the point of view of animal rights activists as 'absurd' or 'unrealistic' or 'unworkable'."
    But it is! Primarily, we should discount it because they universally LIE about which methods involve animal exploitation and/or suffering and which don't.
    "I think their point of view deserves as much respect as a human-centric one,..."
    Their (your) POV IS a human-centric one. Their lying is easily explained by the hypothesis that they desperately need to feel superior to people who are more productive than they are, and that they are perfectly willing to exploit animal suffering (or lie to hide it) in pursuit of that goal.
    "... and biomedical researchers should be prepared to defend the use of animals in research with that in mind."
    Researchers should concentrate on informing the public as to how animals are vivisected in routine medical practice instead of allowing dishonest people like you to pretend that their exploitation and suffering is limited to research and testing.
    For example, there will never be a single protest at any drugstore for its decision to sell the products of vivisection (i.e., OTC pregnancy tests).

  • Deech56 says:

    RE: bsci | March 6, 2009 9:58 AM: "DM, If I am reading our post correctly, if a private company does research that isn't indented for publication (i.e. perhaps just for internal research or for FDA approval), isn't getting NIH grants, and doesn't have AAALAC accreditation, they have no regulations for Helms Amendment species? Any idea if there are major biotech companies without AAALAC accreditation?"
    As a former IACUC Chair at a biotech company, I just want to address a couple of things. First, even before the Helms Amendment, mice, rats and birds were not covered by the Animal Welfare Act. The reason for the Helms Amendment was to head off the pressure to include these species under the AWA.
    Second, any company that works with animals, even those that are not AAALAC accredited, will want to have an OLAW Assurance for all their animal use, especially if they house species covered by the AWA. The USDA will frown upon any inconsistency in the IACUC review of studies using covered vs. non-covered species. You don't want to raise any red flags with your USDA inspector.
    Third, every company want to publish their results - and a small-enough biotech company will want to have the ability to compete for SBIR funding from the NIH. It is well nigh impossible to separate animal use paid by grants from the rest of the animal use; you would have to have a separate facility and extensive documentation to prove that a strong firewall exists. If one wants to use results in their IND package for the FDA(assuming only efficacy data - safety data are done under GLP; it would be really odd to set up for GLP and not have an Assurance), the FDA will look more favorably on results that have been peer-reviewed.

  • Dear DrugMonkey:
    I'm hesitant to post again because so much back and forth is going on and I'm quite convinced that people are talking past each other. In any case, thank you for your response to me - I want only to answer you question about how I would you draw the line (that is, between bacteria and mice -for example). It seems to me the the appropriate place to draw this line, or at least to start, is at suffering. I don't think that needs any more explication - and it is an experience which can in a serious sense be found to exist or found to not exist in a creature: (that is, does the animal have a complex nervous system which allows for the report pain, anxiety, etc., to its 'mind'/'brain'.)
    As I said before, I mean by this that the burden of proof is upon the people who are pressing for the experimentation. So you are right that people who propose logically or ethically inconsistent arguments stand on weak ground, but the burdened of proof, again, is not on them.
    You sparked quite some debate here - thank you again.
    (to the non-biomed researcher, you should watch a great movie called "the natural history of the chicken.")

  • John says:

    JJ wrote:
    "It seems to me the the appropriate place to draw this line, or at least to start, is at suffering...."
    But the animals exploited for present-tense medical practice suffer as much or more as those exploited for research and testing, yet everyone in the AR movement pretends the former group doesn't even exist. Do you agree?
    "As I said before, I mean by this that the burden of proof is upon the people who are pressing for the experimentation."
    The burden of proof is upon those who implicitly claim a difference between exploiting animals in medical practice vs. in research and testing. The utilitarian case is stronger for the latter group. Why all the lying, particularly about "nonanimal alternatives" that are neither?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Okay, JJ, I'm right there with you. Now, suppose the researchers go ahead and show that on measures X, Y and Z which might be proposed to represent "suffering" (and yes, you do indeed need further explication of what you mean by this). behavioral and physiological measures that are consistent with distress, etc. and suppose they show that for their particular type of research there is no evidence for "suffering"*.
    then would you be okay with it?
    __
    * Guess what?

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Dave, it would also be nice if you could actually discuss what I wrote, and not your reconstruction of what I wrote, given actual, physical evidence. Also, no, animal models are not based on "animals = humans", animal models are based on "humans are animals, and animals are the closest thing we have that aren't human." I note that you completely ignore the question (which I think is an important one) of, if you are going to grant human status to animals, why do we stop short of giving these considerations to mosquitos?
    I think I understand that you are trying to get people to see things from their opponents' point of view, but this only works when you are honest and use honest characterisations. Otherwise all it does is piss people off, and you seem to have done that in spades. Of course, the fact that animal rights groups tend to lie about animal research also pisses people off mightily, so perhaps you have indeed represented the situation accurately.

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Dave said:

    "All I'm saying is that we need not discount the point of view of animal rights activists as 'absurd' or 'unrealistic' or 'unworkable'. I think their point of view deserves as much respect as a human-centric one..."

    Er, why? Isn't that like saying that Christian Scientists eschewing medical technology in favour of prayer deserves just as much respect as a medically oriented viewpoint? That is what led to my grandfather dying horribly, I find it very difficult to respect, personally. What about, creationists deserve just as much respect for their viewpoint as educated scientists? Isn't it all just a matter of "starting point"? ~~Shouldn't the Mercury Moms' viewpoint be given just as much respect as all the people in favour of vaccinations?
    Seriously, at some point one has to make a value judgement about whether or not certain opinions are in line with measurable physical reality. Arguing that animals have such limited cognition and perception that "they don't really suffer", as used to be done in certain circles, is also patently absurd in the face of measurable physical reality, and has quite rightly been discredited. But that doesn't mean it's ok to go past what we can figure out about the real world, in the opposite direction, any more than it is ok to support the view that, hey, vaccines just MIGHT cause autism, even in the face of all the negative evidence. Not all worldviews are equal, when it comes to dealing with the world effectively.

  • Dave says:

    First off, let me thank Doctor J & Mrs H for their accurate assessment in #45. I am not an animal rights advocate. However, I am an advocate of animal rights advocate rights.
    That said, let me respond to Luna anyway. I'd respond to John too but I honestly can't figure out what his point is or whether there's anything he is asking me. Sorry.

    I note that you completely ignore the question (which I think is an important one) of, if you are going to grant human status to animals, why do we stop short of giving these considerations to mosquitos?

    I don't stop at mosquitos. I recognize that animal research is just one example of a very wide continuum of activities that humans regularly indulge in that sacrifice the welfare of other species for the benefit of our own. The whole point of soap and antibiotics, for example, is to kill little itsy bitsy innocent organisms doing their best to eke out survival somewhere. And let's not forget the microscopic horror my immune system is responsible for.
    That's why arguments about where to 'draw the line' are so contentious -- because there is no obvious logical point at which a line can be drawn, except the easy one between homo sapiens and everything else. But we're not about to really draw the line there, because puppies and kittens are too cute and chimps are too 'human'. So we all enter this grey zone. Part of being in the grey zone is that some of us will occupy different positions. Some will think killing animals for food is acceptable. Some will not. Some will think using animals for research & drug testing is acceptable. Some will not. Some will think killing an animal that is attacking a human is acceptable. Some will not. This last example is extreme, of course, but I used it because basically we're talking about sacrificing an animal to save the life of a human. That's how lots of people justify use of animals for biomedical research. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. After all that animal killing the human may just be trying to eat to survive (or maybe the animal is a parasite). Whatever. Round and round it goes. I have no answers with regard to whether humans = animals or not, and don't claim to. That discussion never goes anywhere. All I am saying is that biomedical researchers should recognize that sincere and justifiable differences of opinion exist with regard to animal use, and be prepared to respectfully and compellingly justify the use of animals with those differences in mind.

  • All I am saying is that biomedical researchers should recognize that sincere and justifiable differences of opinion exist with regard to animal use, and be prepared to respectfully and compellingly justify the use of animals with those differences in mind.
    If this is all you are saying, then it is incomprehensible why you seem to have a problem with DrugMonkey's position, at least as I understand it, which is that those who believe that animals have a "right" not to be used by human beings for human purposes are, by definition, not receptive to respectful compelling justification of animal use, and thus are not worth engaging with such justifications.

  • John says:

    Dave wrote:
    "I'd respond to John too but I honestly can't figure out what his point is or whether there's anything he is asking me."
    Since we're being all honest and all, the reason you can't figure out my point is that you're a dim bulb.
    I am asking why only animals that are the subjects of experiments merit your concern, while all the animals vivisected as tools for things like clinical procedures (like bone-marrow transplantation) don't count.
    "I recognize that animal research is just one example of a very wide continuum of activities that humans regularly indulge in that sacrifice the welfare of other species for the benefit of our own."
    But see, you don't recognize that clinical medicine is another example, and you don't recognize the hypocrisy in pretending that animals are only harmed as experimental subjects.
    That's why arguments about where to 'draw the line' are so contentious -- because there is no obvious logical point at which a line can be drawn, except the easy one between homo sapiens and everything else. But we're not about to really draw the line there, because puppies and kittens are too cute and chimps are too 'human'. So we all enter this grey zone. Part of being in the grey zone is that some of us will occupy different positions. Some will think killing animals for food is acceptable. Some will not. Some will think using animals for research & drug testing is acceptable. Some will not."
    But NO ONE, you included, thinks that vivisecting animals to make the pregnancy tests you can buy in the drugstore is not acceptable. Why is that, Dave?
    "Some will think killing an animal that is attacking a human is acceptable. Some will not. This last example is extreme, of course,..."
    That's really dumb, Dave, because examples, by definition, are representative, not extreme.
    "... but I used it because basically we're talking about sacrificing an animal to save the life of a human. That's how lots of people justify use of animals for biomedical research."
    But how do you justify use of animals in medical practice? Why does everyone in the so-called animal rights movement completely ignore it? It's a simple question.
    "...All I am saying is that biomedical researchers should recognize that sincere and justifiable differences of opinion exist with regard to animal use,..."
    But the fact that animals are vivisected in the practice of medicine for diagnostics and other methods is not a matter of opinion. It is a simple matter of fact, yet no one on earth opposes it. How do you justify ignoring it, Dave?
    "... and be prepared to respectfully and compellingly justify the use of animals with those differences in mind."
    Since everyone in the world is just fine with vivisecting animals to make antibodies for a small number of clinical HIV tests, why should any sane, consistent person oppose vivisecting them as experimental subjects in research or testing?

  • becca says:

    "Actually, I think the cancer patient is largely correct, and that almost all (but not absolutely all) animal research, particularly for cancer, is unnecessary. If you want to treat and cure people, you just have to experiment on people."
    "Great news! If you are a mouse, and you have cancer, we can cure you!" (- some famous cancer researcher whose name escapes me)
    "These mice get cancer the way humans do and will therefore be able to better predict response to novel therapeutics." Including the comparably high epithelial: low lymphoma rates seen in humans?
    What are these models of which you speak (I haven't looked into it in the past couple of years, are there some new ones out)?
    "I am curious to know if those here who regularly conduct research on animals, which I presume are mostly mice and rats - would you be OK doing the same research using your own pet dogs or cats that you do on the lab mice? If not, why not? or would you be OK with doing the same research on OTHER dogs and cats, but not your own pets?"
    I don't currently own pets, but I would not do the exact same protocol I do on mousies on cats or dogs. It wouldn't be necessary (it is possible to get bone marrow out of large animals without killing them in a way it is not possible for mice). This is why I think we need transgenic large animals, but they tend not to breed fast enough to make it easy, and of course there is the $ issue.
    That said, there are some terminal procedures that I believe can be justified for cats and dogs, that I would probably not perform on my pets (if I had them). I also believe that there may be some circumstances in which killing humans is justified, but would never kill my family. The impulse to "protect one's own" is probably too evolutionarily handy to throw out simply because it tends to introduce inconsistencies into moral codes.
    "Anybody got a sailboat and some wool underwear they don't need?"
    Hardcore vegans don't wear wool, DUH. And don't try synthetic- use of petrochemicals = raping our earth.
    No Dave, I'm afraid the only moral solution is nudity. And, for the sake of the children, in your case, I fear that means you must be a hermit as well.
    "But you have to be willing to go all the way with your beliefs or else you have no validity."
    False. Made a difference to that starfish.

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    10 free biogeek points to becca if she knows where the "made a difference to that starfish" story actually originally came from.

  • Dave says:

    10 free biogeek points to becca if she knows where the "made a difference to that starfish" story actually originally came from.

    Pearl farmers chopping up starfish to save their oyster fields? Heh heh. I love that one.
    And, uh, John: Commercial antibodies are almost entirely monoclonals produced from cultured cells (and the cells aren't even generally harmed in the harvesting of the antibodies!) So stop harping on about the preganancy tests already. Those forms of biotech are actually a WIN for animal rights activists.

  • Dear DM:
    Yes, I would go along with it. So take for example this piece of folk wisdom, the truth of which I am totally uncertain: Fish do not feel pain (or so I've been told by someone one time.) Well, if it can be shown that x, y, and z in the biological system of fishes, some or several in verity, actually do not experience pain, distress, etc., then I think, from the point of a humanistic ethic, eating them or doing tests on them is tenable: (at least with respect to them, though possibly eating fish is untenable because of impacts on the foodweb and ecology.)
    Again, I'm almost sure that this isn't true and that fish do feel pain, but it is an example. And am quite well aware of the theoretical problems intrinsic to this point: that is, how, without first doing invasive tests upon fish, would one be able to say that a fish cannot suffer; two, "cannot suffer" must indeed be quantifiable by some objective standard, which may or may not be difficult to define -depending on the science-. (And this doesn't mean if you give a dude on the street enough morphine you can have your way with him: this is a categorical imperative.)
    Any other objections I, or anyone else, may have to the taking of life are metaphysical and since the getting of any kind of consensus in that respect is a practically impossible, we -people- must move towards a rational-secular ethic. And I do mean rational - Yuk responses only take you so far, and sometimes they take you too far in the wrong direction.
    (John Wrote "there is no obvious logical point at which a line can be drawn, except the easy one between homo sapiens and everything else." John, I think logic is misused in this sentence. There is indeed any number of rational points at which to draw the line: "person-hood", suffering, consciousness, life, etc. If it is difficult to draw the line that only means that you -I don't mean you specifically- are unsure as to why testing (etc.) is objectionable. So, why is it objectionable? Because some things are cute and some not? Because some things are smart and some not? That cannot be the reason because there are some stupid ugly people and we wont eat them. (I also think that these are untenable categories because they are both aesthetic and so supremely relative.) Oh, and perhaps I alone in the world object to animal vivisection - talk about hyperbole of example.)

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Dave -- bzzt. Thanks for playing, but no; the origin of the story predates the misguided efforts against the crown-of-thorns starfish. I suppose it does make a difference how many naturalists you are familiar with.

  • Dave says:

    Uh, Luna. I was joking.
    But, amazingly, it sounds like you and I are actually talking about the same thing -- chopping up starfish, which regenerate, in an effort to control their population.

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Dave: Ok, I now quite honestly have no idea what you think the point of my question to becca was.
    Of course I'm familiar with the story of fishermen tearing up crown-of-thorns starfish, not realising that this meant the regeneration of multiple starfish from the starting point of each one. Is there anyone who isn't? I thought that was a reasonably well-known thing, honestly.
    But when I asked becca if she knew the origin of the "makes a difference to that starfish" story, it had nothing at all to do with that. Honestly. It was just, this is a thing which has found its way into wider culture, but do you know the point of origin, the story and the person that it comes from? Completely OT, I admit. (Also, not quite sure how your reply was a joke? Ok, you didn't mean it as a serious attempt at answer, but, um, is it funny in anything other than a kind of sad, smack-yourself-in-the-forehead way?)
    Rather more on-topic, I would like to point out that OF COURSE there are "sincere" differences of opinion over the use of animals in research; whether or not some of those opinions - especially the ones based on the kind of premise like "animals = humans" - are "justifiable" is an entirely different kettle of fish. At the heart of the conflict is the fact of how people evaluate the world; my husband and I actually personally know an "animal rights activist" who was jailed here in the UK a number of years ago for poisoning Mars bars, trying to kill people who supported animal research. This was, in his view, a perfectly justifiable act as he was trying to remove "mass murderers." On the other side of things, we have people who don't see animals as having either a moral OR physical equivalence to human lives, and absolutely no rationale for asserting that there is. There is quite fundamentally no respect to be had from one side towards the other. You can't manufacture respect out of such profound and sinceere lack of respect. And ultimately, I don't even know why there should be.
    For the more moderate middle, there can be discussion about suffering and justifications for causing it -- but you don't get to that by starting with "consider animals = humans".

  • whimple says:

    Of course I'm familiar with the story of fishermen tearing up crown-of-thorns starfish, not realising that this meant the regeneration of multiple starfish from the starting point of each one. Is there anyone who isn't? I thought that was a reasonably well-known thing, honestly.
    The story turns out to be apocryphal. Chopping up crown-of-thorns starfish kills them just fine, but isn't cost effective.
    see http://www.reef.crc.org.au/publications/explore/feat45.html
    Chopping up sponges wouldn't work though. šŸ™‚

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Well, now, that's interesting. Thanks, whimple! I stand corrected.

  • John says:

    Dave wrote:
    "And, uh, John: Commercial antibodies are almost entirely monoclonals produced from cultured cells (and the cells aren't even generally harmed in the harvesting of the antibodies!)."
    Dave, you're still playing this completely hypocritical dishonest game. Even if you were right (and you aren't), growing cells uses animals. Exsanguination by cardiac puncture without anesthesia is harmful.
    Now, as to whether commercial antibodies are almost entirely monoclonals, please explain to me why, in the IF experiment that I am doing today with entirely commercial antibodies, only one of the eight I'm using is a monoclonal.
    Then tell me about secondary antibodies and how they are monoclonals.
    Then tell me how, when you're going to sort the cells from the donor for Simon's stem cell therapy, you are going to label multiple cell-surface antigens with different fluorophores if the antibodies you are using are "almost entirely monoclonals."
    "So stop harping on about the preganancy tests already."
    Why should I?
    "Those forms of biotech are actually a WIN for animal rights activists."
    Precisely how is my buying the products of cardiac puncture without anesthesia to do cell culture a WIN for AR activists, unless their goal is really to exploit animal suffering to demonize other people who contribute far more to society than they do?

  • becca says:

    My first animal research was on planarians. I could never decide if cutting them up was morally on par with maiming or with breeding.
    Luna_the_cat- the starfish thrower is now ordered from my university library (can biogeek points be awarded retrospectively?)
    John- two reasons: 1) cost (monoclonals run more expensive) 2) for IF, you are recognizing protein in native form. When you make a monoclonal using a peptide, there is always a chance it simply won't recognize the folded protein. But I'm sure you knew that.
    Note also that "commercial" to a researcher means "I can buy it in a catalog". "Commercial" to some people means "has wide applications and will make a profit in industry". In industry, the higher standards for repeat-performance, predictable shelf-life, and other manner of practical variables make monoclonals more desirable. Economy-of-scale also makes them cheaper (although I dare say that if you had to repeat the cycle of injection-bleed-injection-bleed-injection-harvest for every batch of monoclonal, that would probably not be the case- being able to pop hybridoma cells out of the freezer is very advantageous that way).
    Actually- since splenectomies are performed on humans all the time, why should monoclonal antibody production be a terminal procedure? I mean being stuck and immunologically-stimulated and bled repeatedly might easily be considered cruel in itself, but... well, if I were the mouse I'd rather live without my spleen in a bubble with the immunological model mice at the end of it all.

  • John says:

    becca wrote:
    "John- two reasons: 1) cost (monoclonals run more expensive)"
    Wrong.
    "2) for IF, you are recognizing protein in native form."
    Wrong again. In fact, I am recognizing fixed proteins that have been denatured ("recovered") by heating to 95 degrees.
    The reason that only one is a monoclonal is that I need multiple colors, just like the people who do stem cell therapy need for cell sorting. We both use (incredibly expensive) fluorophore-conjugated polyclonal secondaries from multiple species, which limits us to a single monoclonal.
    "When you make a monoclonal using a peptide, there is always a chance it simply won't recognize the folded protein. But I'm sure you knew that. "
    I know that, but I also know that that has nothing to do with my point for multiple reasons.
    "Note also that "commercial" to a researcher means "I can buy it in a catalog". "Commercial" to some people means "has wide applications and will make a profit in industry"."
    The requirements are the same for both.
    "In industry, the higher standards for repeat-performance, predictable shelf-life, and other manner of practical variables make monoclonals more desirable."
    But not for labeling multiple antigens in a single sample. Then we need primary antibodies from multiple species and species-specific secondaries. Polyclonals provide amplification, a point that you cleverly ignored.
    "Economy-of-scale also makes them cheaper (although I dare say that if you had to repeat the cycle of injection-bleed-injection-bleed-injection-harvest for every batch of monoclonal, that would probably not be the case- being able to pop hybridoma cells out of the freezer is very advantageous that way)."
    Go back and read the first line you wrote:
    "...cost (monoclonals run more expensive)"
    "Actually- since splenectomies are performed on humans all the time, why should monoclonal antibody production be a terminal procedure?"
    I was referring to the bovine serum used, the gathering of which is terminal for the bovines that somehow cease to be animals when the AR movement desires to present the public with false dichotomies.
    Now, why don't you look up a protocol for therapeutic stem-cell purification?

  • whimple says:

    Who gives a flying crap about animal rights? You should come over here and work in our cancer center for a while to give you some real perspective on excruciating pain and untimely demise. Bite me.

  • becca says:

    John- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economies_of_scale
    For many individual researcher applications (e.g. WBs in an academic lab) it IS cheaper to get a polyclonal.
    On the other hand if you are going to be making a whole mess of an antibody and you need optimum reproducibility, perhaps it begins to makes sense to go monoclonal.
    I realize this is shocking for someone with access to FACS machines and a passel of very expensive antibodies, but important science is routinely done cheaply. Wonder how far a public health grant would get if it relied on diagnosing malaria with FACS (even pretty multicolored FACS!) when an ELISA is available?
    As far as bovine serum- it can be omitted from much cell culture with new synthetics, and most AR (even AW) folks I know would advocate doing so.
    (were it not for cost factors/habit/and the fact that synthetics do not always support growth as well as bovine serum, I think most scientists would prefer the synthetics if they are [as advertised] more consistent lot-to-lot)
    In any case, I suspect bovine serum is only commercially viable at current prices because we are regularly killing bovines for food production. It seems to me that any sensible AR person ought to be targeting gustatory hedonism rather than medical research.
    Cell culture isn't perfect, but I don't think it's absurd to say it's a partial victory for animal welfare. You yourself point out (#43) that assuming a partial victory is completely worthless is unjustified.

  • John from post#43 says:

    Becca- I am the John from post#43. But I'm not the John who has written since then and who you are addressing now (that's a different person). this is the downside to having a very common name and no imagination for making up a blog username... I've since been observing this blog with amusement but not contributed more. this is my second post. If I do post again I'll use another name to avoid confusion.

  • becca says:

    John from post #43- I was wondering how you had gone from so reasonable to so whackaballoon

  • John from post#43 says:

    Becca - earlier when I was reading some of the other comments that were addressed to "John" at first I also thought they talking to me and concerning my post and I was wondering what the heck... Then I quickly saw that there was someone else posting under the same name. OK, so I had said I would come up with a different name to use to avoid confusion but being really unimaginative right now I'll just stick with this...

  • Dave, always willing to take the discussion to a new low says:

    John, John, the antibody man:
    What the heck does any of your blathering have to do with pregnancy tests, which you repeatedly referred to as 'products of vivisection', and which were the original subject of this antibody discussion?
    Pregnancy tests do not use antibodies drained from any living animal. [Did you get this from a PETA pamphlet or something? I remember reading a PETA pamphlet talking about some lobster 'liberated' from a restaurant tank somewhere, that was 21 inches long. The PETA pamphlet claimed that lobsters grow 1 inch every five years or something like that, so therefore the lobster was 576 years old! Not only did they have whacky ideas about lobster growth rates, but couldn't even do remedial multiplication!]
    As I've said multiple times above, I am totally understanding when it comes to animal rights. But I am firmly with DM when he says that these discussions have to be rooted in reality.
    And, you know, as long as we're on pregnancy tests and animal rights and all, maybe we could discuss abortion? Or whether aborted babies should be fed to pets.

  • becca says:

    "Or whether aborted babies should be fed to pets."
    Or us.
    Sounds like it's time to "Eat a queer dead fetus for Jesus!"

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Is that anything like "nuke a gay baby whale for jesus"?
    ...becca, I hope you enjoy Eiseley. I credit him with getting me interested in biology, after a horrendous high school class had left me totally cold to it.

  • John says:

    Dave asked:
    "What the heck does any of your blathering have to do with pregnancy tests, which you repeatedly referred to as 'products of vivisection', and which were the original subject of this antibody discussion? Pregnancy tests do not use antibodies drained from any living animal."
    Sure they do, Dave, as do HIV tests, even when the subject of the test is a human. The antibodies used for Simon Chaitowiz's stem-cell therapy came from animals, too, but she lacks the integrity to admiti it.
    You're still desperately trying to move the goalposts too. It wouldn't matter if the antibodies were drained from any living animal if they were from hybridomas cultured in medium containing serum from a living animal anyway.
    "Did you get this from a PETA pamphlet or something?"
    No, Dave--PeTA lies to conceal the vast majority of animal exploitation in research, testing, and clinical practice. Read that again and think about it.
    "But I am firmly with DM when he says that these discussions have to be rooted in reality."
    So how do pregnancy and HIV tests work in your world, Dave?
    ------------
    becca wrote:
    "For many individual researcher applications (e.g. WBs in an academic lab) it IS cheaper to get a polyclonal."
    becca, make up your mind. You contradicted yourself. Besides, cost isn't the issue--labeling multiple antigens is. The solution, whether I'm looking at research samples or whether Chaitowitz is having her cells sorted for therapy, is multiple antibodies from multiple species.
    "On the other hand if you are going to be making a whole mess of an antibody and you need optimum reproducibility, perhaps it begins to makes sense to go monoclonal."
    Irrelevant for labeling multiple antigens with different fluorophores.
    "I realize this is shocking for someone with access to FACS machines and a passel of very expensive antibodies, but important science is routinely done cheaply."
    Expense isn't the issue. Labeling multiple antigens with different fluorophores is.
    "Wonder how far a public health grant would get if it relied on diagnosing malaria with FACS (even pretty multicolored FACS!) when an ELISA is available?"
    ELISAs use secondary antibodies too. But I'm talking about the essay that the post was about, in which Chaitowitz conveniently forgot to mention the cell sorting.
    "As far as bovine serum- it can be omitted from much cell culture with new synthetics,..."
    "Much" won't cut it. How about if you point me to, say, 10 papers from the primary literature that used vegan cell culture?
    Do you realize that many of the supplements for "serum free" cell culture are purified from serum?
    "... and most AR (even AW) folks I know would advocate doing so."
    Then you won't have any trouble citing 10 entirely vegan cell culture papers.
    "In any case, I suspect bovine serum is only commercially viable at current prices because we are regularly killing bovines for food production. It seems to me that any sensible AR person ought to be targeting gustatory hedonism rather than medical research.
    Cell culture isn't perfect, but I don't think it's absurd to say it's a partial victory for animal welfare."
    The typical experiment ON animals involves no pain or discomfort.
    The typical cell culture experiment involves serum, and therefore involves pain and discomfort.
    Besides, if anyone was so sure, why all the lying from the AR movement about it being a "nonanimal alternative" when it is neither?

  • sarthak mishra says:

    THOOSE who have said animal killing for medical is justified,then they should think what they themself feel when thier relatives suffer

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