Thursday October 9, 2014
Pascaline Clerc, PhD is a former vivisector and current senior director of Animal Research Issues at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Clerc published an essay on LiveScience.com on Sep. 19, 2014. Her first sentence states:
IBM's latest development of a "brain-like" computer chip will allow scientists to better understand the human brain, and from the perspective of the humane treatment of animals, is likely to decrease reliance on animal studies related to brain research.
I find her premises, as well as her comments, interesting. What reliance on animal studies? The vested interest groups rely on animal studies to get paid but who else relies on animal studies? Certainly not patients with diseases of the brain. Clerc continues, describing a new human brain chip called True North and then states:
As scientists are developing such integrated, pathway-based approaches, they are already starting to replace the use of animals in fields such as toxicology — such technologies will allow scientists to compile information in one place and better predict outcomes.
Why are they replacing animals? Are animal models predictive of human response or not? If they are being used to predict human response, and the models she describes are, and if they are failing, and they are, then why are we waiting for a chip to be developed before abandoning the animal models? Note that Clerc does not address these issues.
To her credit she does state:
The nation should be investing taxpayer money in new technologies that can more quickly lead to actual human therapies, even therapies tailored to individual patients. The high ethical and economical costs, and lack of apparent benefit, should be reason enough for certain animal experiments to immediately come to an end, and prohibited altogether.
But on what scientific basis does she claim that only certain ones should immediately end? And which ones specifically? What theory in science allows for animal models to predict human outcomes at higher levels of organization for condition X but not condition Y? Why does Clerc hedge on this? Clerc then describes the UW maternal deprivation studies that I referred to in my last blog regarding Wayne Pacelle. Granted, these experiments push the heinous button even for people that do not normally speak out on vivisection, but why are these experiments any more or less scientifically useful than studies that use genetically modified rodents?
I do understand that jumping on a bandwagon is easier, less likely to offend people, and more likely to raise money for HSUS than demonstrating leadership on difficult subjects such as explaining the science behind why animal models have failed in the past, currently fail, and will continue to fail. I doubt the scientific community that supports HSUS can even explain what Trans-Species Modeling Theory (and here) means much less why it is important. But I have never doubted that HSUS is very good at fundraising.