Tag Archives: animal testing

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

Science Shows We Can No Longer Justify Our Poor Treatment of Animals

Do animals suffer? Do animals know who they are? Do animals enjoy a good meal? Do animals think about what they will do next? Intuitively, you would likely answer yes, of course animals feel and think! Spend one day with a dog or watch a mother cow with her young and you would be hard pressed to deny them these basic emotional and cognitive capacities.

But deny them we have. While, on one level, we know that animals can suffer and can enjoy things in life like we do, on another level, we try to dismiss these capacities in order to justify our use of animals in ways that cause them tremendous suffering. Often enough, that justification has come from scientists who have argued that non-human animals lack sentience and/or cognitive sophistication. By suggesting that animals do not have the ability to feel or think, these arguments provided what was needed for many to deny animals any moral relevance.

It is science, ironically, which is now proving this viewpoint to be wrong. There is now an explosion of studies and insights by notable scientists such as Frans de Waal, Michael Tomasello, Marc Bekoff, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Jaak Panksepp examining the mental lives of animals (how they think and feel). These studies reveal that most animals experience a wide range of emotional and cognitive capacities that were previously denied to them.

Read the full article in the Dodo

Why Animal Experimentation Doesn’t Work. Reason 3: Animals Aren’t Little Humans

Your child, my father, and all of our loved ones who may be suffering from illnesses are not rats or dogs or monkeys. So why do animal experimenters keep treating them as though they are?

Suppose you are an experimenter and are determining if methylprednisolone, a steroid, will help humans with spinal cord injury. After crushing the spinal cords of many different animals, you test the drug on them. My colleagues and I looked at the published studies (62 in total) and here are the results broken down by species [1]:

  • In Cats: the drug was mostly effective
  • Dogs: mostly effective
  • Rats: mostly ineffective
  • Mice: always ineffective
  • Monkeys: effective (1 experiment)
  • Sheep: ineffective (1 experiment)
  • Rabbits: results were split down the middle

Based on these results, can you determine if methylprednisolone will help humans with spinal cord injury?

This leads to the third major reason in my series why animal experimentation is unreliable for understanding human health and disease:

Read the full article in the Huffington Post

Why Animal Experimentation Doesn’t Work — Reason 2: Animals Don’t Get Human Diseases

My father suffers from diabetic peripheral neuropathy. His diabetes led to nerve damage that causes him severe, constant pain. I want the best medical treatments possible for him and, as a neurologist, I am always on the lookout for good, new drugs, but none of them have effectively slowed down his diabetes and nerve damage. As long as experimenters continue to try to recreate diabetes in animals, instead of studying human diabetes, I have little hope that my father’s pain will end.

Although numerous drugs are available, diabetes remains among the top killers in the U.S. and worldwide. The newest drugs are generally no more effective than the older drugs or are much more harmful. Just recently, two new diabetic drugs, Onglyza and aleglitazar, failed clinical trials after testing in animals.

At first glance, it might seem that if we can recreate diabetes in dogs or mice, we would better understand diabetes. But here’s the problem: we end up better understanding animal diabetes– in dogs and mice– but not necessarily human diabetes.

In this article in my medical research series, I discuss the second major reason (click here for the first reason) why animal experimentation is unreliable for understanding human health and disease.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post

Why Animal Experimentation Doesn’t Work — Reason 1: Stressed Animals Yield Poor Data

Imagine you are a monkey in a laboratory and a person dressed in a white coat walks into the room with a catching net. How do you think you would react? You would probably not be surprised to learn that monkeys in this situation immediately show significant distress.

What may surprise you, however, is that the distress that animals in laboratories experience is one of the main reasons why animal experimentation doesn’t work.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post