Friday May 15, 2015
Yesterday I published the lecture (more or less) that I delivered at the EU Parliament regarding the citizens’ initiative to stop vivisection. Around that same time the vested interest groups were weighing in on the initiative.
The Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) published “FRAME response to EU ‘Stop Vivisection’ discussion.”
"The discussion this week of the “Stop Vivisection” initiative has highlighted several extremely important issues. Firstly, the high priority that needs to be given to replacement of animal experiments with scientifically valid alternatives."
Lets stop right there. A vast majority of experiments on animals are for drug development in the form of discovering targets, usually done in academia in so-called basic research, and testing for safety and efficacy of the drug by pharmaceutical companies. Neither of these are viable scientifically because nether does what it pretends to do, namely reveal how humans respond to disease and they will respond to the drug. So society needs to “replace” these uses of animals about as much as it needs to “replace” trephination with a cure for schizophrenia. Yes, we need a cure for schizophrenia but drilling a hole in someone’s skull to release the evil spirits causing schizophrenia is nonsense and waiting to abandon trephination for treating schizophrenia until we find a cure is nonsense on stilts. Hence trephination to release evil spirits and or treat schizophrenia has been abandoned by medical science. Likewise, society needs to abandon animal modeling for disease research and drug development regardless of the other options currently available. This is not complicated science.
Secondly, the limited relevance to human disease processes of many animal studies.
No, animal studies do not have “limited relevance,” they have essentially zero predictive value which means they are useless for ascertaining how humans will respond to a drug or what effects a disease will have on human. Not useless for everything but useless for that! For more on where animals can and cannot be used in science, see (Greek and Shanks 2009, Shanks, Greek, and Greek 2009, Greek and Greek 2010, Greek and Rice 2012).
Basic research historically has meant research with no goal in mind. Therefore no one should claim such research had advancing medicine as its goal. But even if we redefine basic research to mean using animals to learn about human disease, animal modeling in “basic research” is still really bad science because the success rate is even less than the aforementioned more or less zero predictive value. (One paper out of 25,000 led to a new chemical entity (Contopoulos-Ioannidis, Ntzani, and Ioannidis 2003, Crowley 2003).) Learning something useful about human disease from animal modeling is about as productive as what we would expect from random guessing about mechanisms and targets of disease.
Thirdly, the poor understanding across much of society of why animal experiments are undertaken currently and the bad consequences that would ensure were these to be banned in Europe.
That “poor understanding” would be because vivisectors say they are searching for cures in order to get funding, then, when no cures are found, justify their research by claiming it was just basic research and they never really thought it would amount to anything except add knowledge to the universe. The reason society does not understand the bad consequences of abandoning animal modeling for predicting human response to drugs and disease is because there would not be any.
And finally, the chasm of misunderstanding between the scientists who undertake animal experiments and those who believe they are inappropriate and unnecessary.
Niall Shanks and I published two books and several articles and worked together for over a decade. I am a vegan and philosophically an animal rightist. Shanks was an enthusiastic carnivore and thought animal rights to be nonsense. He also had a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science, understood science very well, was active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, lectured across America on science, and wrote extensively on science. If the vested interest groups want to use ad hominem attacks against me, I acknowledge there is a prima facie case to be made that I could be biased. But Shanks? No way! Moreover, one should judge concepts by the evidence for and against regardless of where the concepts come from. Some very evil people have made contributions to science.
Of course the above should come as no surprise considering FRAME also claims the following.
But it is unrealistic to assert that all animal procedures are now unnecessary and that they can be replaced by suitable non-animal methods. In particular, it is widely accepted within the scientific community that non-animal methods are not yet suitable for determining the safety in humans of new candidate pharmaceuticals, prior to their entry into clinical trials.
Nothing is currently suitable for determining safety. Gene profiles will eventually ensure safety for every individual and if more money went to developing them instead of funding animal-based research, society would have personalized medicine much sooner.
New drugs are needed urgently to treat many diseases and this must remain a top priority. Procedures on animals also continue to provide valuable new insights into disease processes in humans and in animals. Let us also not overlook the need to deliver new veterinary medicines (e.g. by providing vaccines for bovine foot and mouth disease) as well as human medicines.
No one is saying that if you want to develop a cure for a disease in cows that studying cows should be off limits. Some do say that cows could be studied the same way humans are now studied but that is an animal rights topic.
Instead, we believe that a more logical focus of attention is on ensuring that new non-animal methods are produced that can progressively eliminate the need for animal procedures. This will require further research, which in turn will require funding from governmental and non-governmental sources. Pressure needs to be exerted to ensure that the necessary funding is provided and the necessary new approaches are developed and utilised in a timely manner.
Which basically means that it will be a long time before you can stop donating money to FRAME. So keep those cards and letters coming (along with the checks)
We also need to start a much more constructive dialogue between scientists and non-scientists, which enable everyone to share a common understanding of the challenges we face and the best ways to meet them.
FRAME needs more of your money so they can spread their propaganda to more of society who will then give them even more money.
In my opinion the very worst of the worst people are those who claim to be compassionate and ask for money based on the pretense of compassion and concern while all the while siding with the oppressors. I hope that when the value of vivisection is finally exposed, the people in FRAME will be held as accountable as the other vivisection activists and the vivisectors themselves.
The second comments come from an article in Euro Scientist, which is the publication division of EuroScience which “represents European scientists in all areas of knowledge . . .” Anthiny King writes in an article titled The Logic Behind The Stop Vivisection Campaign:
A “stop vivisection” initiative is petitioning the European Union to stop all animal experiments in research. The European Citizen’s Initiative stacked up over one million signatures and was submitted to the European Parliament in early March 2015. It is highly implausible that it will succeed.
This is true. The initiative will probably start a new and hopefully different discussion about vivisection but the EU is unlikely to vote in favor of the initiative. King continues:
Vivisection detractors say that the petition is an initial skirmish that may mark a long running campaign to revise this existing legislation, which is due for renewal in 2017. The League of European Research Universities (LERU) has come out strongly against the petition, arguing that animal research remains fundamental to understanding and treating human disease. They also say that it would effectively push scientific talent out of Europe.
This is the usual canard about ending vivisection: 1) All the smart people will leave and 2) all the money will leave. Both are false. Number 1 is false because, unlike the case for abandoning vivisection on ethical grounds, if a government understand the scientific arguments and abandons vivisection because it is not scientifically viable in terms of learning about human disease and drug response, then other counties will likewise abandon it. No country is currently funding research for a perpetual motion machine.
Number 2 is false for 2 reasons. First, most of the money that goes into vivisection comes from the taxpayers and charity-givers. That money will not go out of the country. Rather it will be redirected in country to better research methods. Second, the enterprises that profit from vivisection and are funded by nongovernment money will be forced to close but the funding will go to new companies that will use better methods and thus new jobs will be created. The net effect will probably be neutral or favor more jobs in the new sectors. Regardless, if vivisection is not scientifically viable it should be abandoned. Our free enterprise system will take care of the jobs issue just as it did when the automobile replaced the horseless carriage. Blacksmithing was no longer a growth industry but thousands of new jobs were created for every old one that was lost.
King continues by quoting Kirk Leech, executive director at the European Animal Research Association: “You cannot give a computer a cough and cells do not sneeze. Science has not developed a credible alternative to replace the use of animals in research.” Again, animal models have no predictive value for human response to drugs and disease hence they should be abandoned.
It would appear that the vested interest groups have little interest in facts that threaten the status quo.
Contopoulos-Ioannidis, D. G., E. Ntzani, and J. P. Ioannidis. 2003. "Translation of highly promising basic science research into clinical applications." Am J Med 114 (6):477-84. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=12731504
Crowley, W. F., Jr. 2003. "Translation of basic research into useful treatments: how often does it occur?" Am J Med 114 (6):503-5. doi: S0002934303001190 [pii]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=12727585
Greek, R., and J. Greek. 2010. "Is the use of sentient animals in basic research justifiable?" Philos Ethics Humanit Med 5:14. doi: 1747-5341-5-14 [pii] 10.1186/1747-5341-5-14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=20825676
Greek, Ray, and Mark J Rice. 2012. "Animal models and conserved processes." Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 9 (40). doi: 10.1186/1742-4682-9-40. http://www.tbiomed.com/content/9/1/40/abstract
Greek, Ray, and Niall Shanks. 2009. FAQs About the Use of Animals in Science: A handbook for the scientifically perplexed. Lanham: University Press of America.
Shanks, N., R. Greek, and J. Greek. 2009. "Are animal models predictive for humans?" Philos Ethics Humanit Med 4 (1):2. doi: 1747-5341-4-2 [pii] 10.1186/1747-5341-4-2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=19146696