Getcher Web Training on ARA Lies Right Here

Aug 26 2009 Published by under Animals in Research

I often debate with myself whether displaying and discussing the antics of what are often the tiny minority* lunatic fringe of the discussion over the use of animals in research is a help or a hindrance. I am not going to suggest that I have any good answers but I have been helped in my thinking by a comment from Dr. Free-Ride about being unaware of the ARA antics and the subsequent impact on researchers until informed by the latter about their experiences. So for now, I have my meter slid a little bit over to the side of shining light on what the ARA wackaloons are up to.


The Americans for Medical Progress group alerted me to the following slideshow which is apparently designed to assist ARA types target their message at teen girls. Note the multiple cautions on how to properly spin their message- unvarnished truth is apparently optional. I present this to my scientist readers as yet more education on what is being done on the ARA side to present their distortions and lies to a young audience.

Animal Testing Breaks Hearts

View more presentations from laralou.

Now with respect to this particular ARA distortion / lie campaign, I think that a discussion of this notion by a chemist and ethicist-of-science is in order.
How to read the "cruelty free" label.

A label on your shampoo or handsoap that says "no animal testing" does not mean that the substances in the bottle were not tested on animals. They were. They were required by law to be so tested. What the label indicates is that someone else did the testing.
While the company selling the product didn't test the substances on animals in their own facilities, there's a good chance that they paid another company to do the animal testing. The other possibility is that the substances were tested on animals long ago, by another company.

Exactly. Now, I have to admit that I am quite happy with the array of soaps and shampoos and whatnot that have been available for at least 20 or 30 years (essentially unchanged in efficacy as far as I can tell). I am consequently quite sympathetic to the notion that we can put a stop to all additional generation of me-too product in this category. And therefore, happily, we could potentially cease animal toxicity testing for such products. Nevertheless I am quite happy that such products were once evaluated for toxicity in animal models. I am happy to enjoy the protections from dangerous consumer products that are afforded by official regulatory agencies as are most people.
I see no reason to try to cover up this reality by pretending that just because we come up with slightly-differently-perfumed shampoos which use all the same active ingredients this means they were produced and developed without animals. That would be a total lie.
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*really. One-guy-with-a-website is a not uncommon scenario which has hugely disproportional PR impact.

9 responses so far

  • Scicurious says:

    Glad you're doing this. I came across a scientist (who works with animals) the other day who had an HSUS debit card, and didn't even seem to realize what the HSUS actually DOES. If scientists themselves are this unaware, what about the general public?

  • Rasheed says:

    I'm a little confused Scicurious... I just read the Humane Society's policy on animals in research (URL below). They say they want to use legitimate means to promote the 3 Rs and try to phase out primates as soon as we can. This all sounds pretty reasonable to me. Am I missing something?
    http://www.hsus.org/about_us/statements/statement_on_animals_in_research.html

  • Allyson says:

    Thanks for this post and making the point about how deliberately misleading PETA's campaigns are, as well as the truth behind those so-called "cruelty-free" labels. For those with kids or science outreach programs, this is a great example that can form the basis of discussion of animal research and how ARA groups are using misrepresentation to shift the conversation away from essential medical progress. It is not particularly difficult to see through.

  • David says:

    Rasheed... the problem with the Humane Society mission is that their estimation of the rate at which animal use (and primate use, in particular) can be phased out is deeply flawed and harmful. Indeed, I think it's a fair assessment that they think it can be "phased out" today, when in fact, all reasonable evidence controverts that. No one disagrees with the notion that animal models should be replaced with hypothetical alternatives when those are available. We mostly disagree about where we stand today.
    To the larger issue, the thing that is important about this campaign is that it is well crafted and hard to counter-act. In reality, what we really need is a message that makes young people see the value in science and - hopefully - want to become scientists themselves! In part, I think the appeal of this campaign is the "us v. them" aspect of it that plays of the alienation that a lot of young people against education and science.
    My experience at teaching in a large University is that the alienation disappears and kids want to pursue science first when they encounter someone that they can relate to who is him or herself a scientist - especially if that person does not have the characteristics of a "traditional" scientist. I strongly believe that we have no better tools in our armaments than the many compelling human faces of scientists around the country. We just need a more coherent strategy to get that message out there!

  • Allyson says:

    This is absolutely true as well. There are many fantastic outreach and education programs and initiatives across the country.
    Scientists and students not already involved in these intiatives might want to check at their institution or with their professional societies to learn more about opportunities for involvement. Brain Awareness Week is one in which many neuroscientists participate. Many of the primate centers also have programs. And many scientists have long-standing internship and summer programs.
    All of these are terrific opportunities to share enthusiasm for science and engage with kids in conversations about research.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Rasheed, I would suggest you do a little googling on HSUS. They have a history of 1) animal *rights* policy agendas, 2) association with admitted or indicted terrorists, 3) a potential money trail of support to such terrorists 4) disingenuous money raising practices, devoting donations that people think are supporting their local animal shelters to animal rights policy lobbying, 5) Katrina animal rescue FAIL.... All of which stands in a bit of a contrast to what they pretend is their agenda at present.
    The reason I say you should google it is that there are undeniably people with a bone to pick with HSUS and ARA in general that support the criticisms of HSUS including, GASP, BigMoneyedInterests! (BigPharma and BigAgriculture). The other main critics include dog lovers and scientists.
    So you are going to have to read the accusations, see where they are seemingly document based and rebuttable accusations that are/are not rebutted by HSUS flackery, see where HSUS evades instead of answering the charges, take the motivations of the accusers into account and see if you believe what this lobbying organization has to say about its own agenda...
    The question is simple. Have they changed their essential philosophy or have they simply decided to clean up their act, dissociate themselves from the violent and extremist fringes and become the most mainstream face?

  • Paul Browne says:

    Good point David.
    I'd add that good examples of outreach are Speaking of Research http://speakingofresearch.com/ and the related Pro-Test@UCLA http://www.pro-test-for-science.org/ campaigns.
    It's important for the future of medical research that the reaction to ARA lies and threats is not to ignore it, keep your head down and hope it goes away (sadly it won't), but rather to speak to the public and explain what scientists are doing, why it's important and where animal research fits in.

  • Hillary says:

    The HSUS has a longstanding statement of policy against violence and illegal tactics. Violence toward people undermines the core ethic we espouse. Since The HSUS was founded in 1954, we have never engaged in or supported any form of violence done in the name of protecting animals.
    What we do promote, as Rasheed rightly noted, is the replacement, reduction, and refinement of animals used in research. We share much common ground with scientists including a concern over experiments that cause severe and unalleviated pain and distress in animals. Surely there is much we can work on together, even if we sometimes agree to disagree.

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