Blog Posts

Loving Animals is Good for Us

As a neurologist, I’ve long held that empathy for and connection with animals is an important part of our social development. But can being with animals actually improve our well-being?

In the 1970’s researcher Erika Friedmann and her colleagues made a startling discovery. They followed 92 patients who were discharged from a Coronary Care Unit after having a heart attack or chest pain from heart disease. Their question was how does social support affect the patients’ survival at one year after discharge? The researchers found that while only 72 percent of patients without companion animals were still alive at the end of the year, 94 percent of those with animals survived.

Independent of all other factors that were studied, the presence of companion animals significantly improved survival after a cardiac event. Even social support from humans didn’t have the large effect that animals did. This was a major finding.

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Why does the death of a gorilla hurt us so much?

No matter how slimy, how scaly, how smelly, or even how scary, animals’ lives now matter to us. Why?

Why do we care about other animals? Why do we care about beings whose lives are seemingly so removed from ours? These are questions that I have been trying to answer over the past twenty-five years, ever since I first added my voice to countless others who stood up against cruelty to animals. I added my voice when I was a teenager because I questioned the ethics of how we use animals as tools for experiments and toys for entertainment. But as I grew older, I started to realize that our lives are more intertwined with those of animals than we ever thought possible.

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Why Are We Seeing an Explosion of New Viruses Like Zika?

Zika virus, Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, Nipah virus, Hendra virus, bird flu, swine flu — these viruses have all grabbed international attention in recent years. In the past few decades the world has witnessed an alarming surge in emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). Since 1980, new pathogens have emerged in the human population at a rate of about three each year.

Why Did the WHO Take So Long to Declare Meat Dangerous to Our Health?

When I read the news yesterday that an analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that red and processed meats increase the risk of cancer, my first thought was: The medical community has known this for some time.

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Is Sexism in Science Actually Paternalism?

There’s an infection called Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which is common among young children and is caused by a virus. Lately, there seems to be another illness, Foot-in-mouth disease, that’s been going viral, at least socially. The main difference between these diseases is that the latter seems to affect mostly adults, and more specifically, adult male scientists.

The most recent victim of this Foot-in-mouth disease is Tim Hunt, a 2001 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine, for his comment about women in the lab.

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New Study Finds Alarming Rise in Animals Used in Experiments

I’ve written previously about the fact that because of the lobbying efforts of the animal experimentation industry, at least 95 percent of all animals in U.S. laboratories — mainly mice and rats — are not considered “animals” under federal law. These animals are excluded from the minimal protections of the law, and are not even counted in federal reports. Policymakers, scientists and the public really have no idea how many animals there actually are in laboratories. Thus, discussions about the extent of this massive scientific and ethical problem — and what needs to be done about it — have been limited by this lack of data.

However, an important new study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics fills this void by reporting data on the use of all animals — mice and rats included — at some of the most prestigious facilities in the country. The results are alarming, and have received widespread media coverage, ranging from Buzzfeed to Yahoo Health to NBC News.

Read more here

How Animal Experiments Paved the Way for the CIA’s Torture Program

Fact: The CIA’s torture program was directly inspired by animal experiments.

In the 1960s, dogs were subjected to random electric shocks from which they could not escape. Eventually the dogs gave up trying to avoid the painful shocks, not even escaping when a path to escape was finally presented to them.

From the New York Times:

The dogs wouldn’t jump. All they had to do to avoid electric shocks was leap over a small barrier, but there they sat in boxes in a lab… passive and whining.

As we now know, these “learned helplessness” experiments on dogs and other animals became the foundation for brutal CIA torture techniques, such as waterboarding.

What concerns me most as a medical doctor is the fact that two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, directed these human torture experiments. The psychologists were curious about whether the theories of animal “learned helplessness” might work on humans.

Read more on the Huffington Post

5 Stories of 2014: The Surprising Links Between Human and Animal Protection

Here’s my list of five headline-grabbing stories in 2014 that show just how connected human health and animal protection are:

1. Chris Christie Sells Out Humans and Animals

After reports of his bridge scandal, the New Jersey Governor’s 2016 presidential ambitions took a nosedive. That’s why many see his recent veto of a bill that would have banned gestation crates as an attempt to win back influential voters. Pork industry groups — especially the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council — opposed the bill. Christie’s veto was made as a concession to Iowa’s primary voters. But Christie sold out both animals and humans for campaign favors.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post

In Defense of Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson has made a media splash by refusing to take part in the ice bucket challenge in support of the ALS Association because of its history of funding animal experiments that she describes as being cruel and fruitless.

Her stance has sparked widespread discussion. The question for us to consider is does Ms. Anderson have a point?

Read full article in the Huffington Post

Ebola Has Happened in the U.S. and It Could Happen Again If We Don’t Address the Root Causes

With the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded raging across West Africa and as two Americans who were infected in Liberia have entered the U.S. for treatment, the question has been raised: will Ebola happen in the U.S?

Actually, an Ebola outbreak has happened in the U.S. before — not just once, but at least three times.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post