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Letters.

Animal Instincts

"Science and Self-Doubt," by Frederick K. Goodwin and Adrian R. Morrison (October), presents only one side of a multidimensional issue. Goodwin and Morrison refer to some "successes" in biomedical research that have stemmed from the use of animals, but they neglect the numerous failures. One only has to skim through C. Ray Greek and Jean Swingle Greek's recent book, Sacred Cows and Golden Geese: The Human Cost of Experiments on Animals (Continuum, 2000), to see some of these data.

The use of animal models often creates false hopes for humans in need. It's estimated that only 1 percent to 3.5 percent of the decline in the rate of human mortality since 1900 has stemmed from animal research. Early animal models of polio actually impeded progress on finding a vaccine. A major medical journal has called the war on cancer based on animal research a qualified failure. And over 100,000 people die annually from side effects of animal-tested drugs. It is also important to note that there are many people who believe that animals have rights but who do not condone violence.

As a biology professor, I believe that students do indeed "understand what the scientific method is really all about," but that they deeply believe that science can do a better job and that the numerous nonanimal alternatives that are available are a very promising option. Many are simply unhappy with the blatant abuse of animals in the name of science. Scientists should indeed be reflecting on their practices, and their self-doubt is understandable given the millions of animals used in research. Whether or not one believes that animals have rights, this is a deplorable state of affairs.

Marc Bekoff

Department of Biology

University of Colorado at Boulder

Boulder, CO

Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society

Frederick K. Goodwin and Adrian R. Morrison devote much of their article to discussing too-often overlooked data on the importance of animal research to human well-being. Yet since similar gains in knowledge could be had from involuntary experiments on human beings, arguments regarding the medical benefits of animal research are presumably moot if the moral arguments of the animal rights movement are correct.

It is thus disappointing that the most important element of Drs. Goodwin and Morrison's argument is also the most illfounded. The authors claim that "rights stem from the uniquely human capacity to choose values and principles, then act on choices and judgment." Since, as they note, even the most intelligent animals lack this capacity, the concept of rights just doesn't apply.

Let us assume this account, undefended though it is, is the correct account of rights. Even if it succeeds in justifying animal research, it fails in a broader sense, for it justifies involuntary research not only on animals, but on human beings as well. If the reason animals lack rights is that they are incapable of "comprehending, respecting, or acting" upon rights, then infants, the retarded, and the comatose (to name but a few) lack rights as well.

I believe there is a moral justification for certain sorts of animal research. But the idea that this justification can be made on the grounds that all human beings have certain rights which all nonhuman animals lack remains as undefended today as it was when philosopher Peter Singer criticized it over 20 years ago.

Matt Zwolinski

Department of Philosophy

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

In the spirit of REASON's commitment to clear thinking, the fallacies, non-sequiturs, and blind fundamentalism that pervade "Science and Self-Doubt" should be candidly identified.

Not only do these alleged supporters of science fail miserably to provide any balance in their assessment, but they repeatedly caricature their opposition, creating straw figures which purport to be adequate descriptions of complex and nuanced positions. What they affirm in concept--that we should think clearly--they deny in performance. In fact, their argument suggests they are confident that your readers are ignorant of issues and cannot think for themselves in a mature way.

Take their reference to "a campaign in New Zealand to give the great apes constitutional rights [by] the Great Ape Project, which seeks to award apes the same rights as those possessed by humans." Because The Great Ape Project seeks only certain fundamental protections--life, liberty, and freedom from torture--for gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos, and not the right to vote, the right to travel internationally, etc., the authors' statement here is uninformed.

Further, the authors' fundamentalism, and indeed their superficial commitment to the humility implicit in scientific method, is betrayed by their abject failure to use scientific terminology. Humans are, scientifically speaking, great apes. The view that humans are not great apes and are separate from the animal kingdom had its origin in prescientific and religious thinking.

The authors owe this magazine's readership an apology.

Paul Waldau, D. Phil, J.D.

Executive Director

The Great Ape Project-International

Upton, MA

Those unfamiliar with animal rights ethics and with animal experimentation practice may find Frederick K. Goodwin and Adrian R. Morrison's article compelling. In contrast to their caricature, nearly all animal advocates oppose violence and they do not equate all humans and nonhumans. But they assert that, when it comes to pain and suffering, humans and animals should be considered equally. If infants, human mental defectives, and other vulnerable humans deserve protection from abuse, then nonhuman animals similarly deserve protection. In fact, many creatures, including members of many primate species, dogs, and elephants, display more intelligence than some humans and far greater compassion `nd altruism than most humans.

Animal experimentation does not even pass the "ends justify the means" test. As Dr. Neal Barnard and I argued in the February 1997 issue of Scientific American, the practice tends to be wasteful and frequently misleads investigators. Animal studies can neither prove nor disprove any theory about humans. At best, they can suggest theories about human conditions, but human clinical investigation has been and will remain a much more fruitful means of deriving theories relevant to human medicine.

Animal experimentation is inherently abusive, usually involving pain and suffering, always involving deprivation and death. Fortunately, in science, there are always many ways to address a given question. Dr. Barnard and I concluded that animal experimentation is a choice, and not a very wise or ethical one. If animals matter, we should choose other means of medical research.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Co-Chair

Medical Research Modernization Committee

Cleveland, OH

"Science and Self-Doubt" accurately describes the tactics of the animal rights movement and its effect on medical research. The modern animal rights movement is an artifact of the war against Western values of freedom and progress whose foot soldiers have most recently been seen on the streets of Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Prague. The problem is not that animal rights extremists don't understand the processes of science or the benefits derived from medical research. It is that these coercive utopians are determined to force a change in the moral and legal relationship of humans and animals by any means necessary.

Men like Goodwin and Morrison are to be applauded for their efforts to explain the moral basis for and practical necessity of using animals in medical research. But they, and we, must realize that animal rights extremists will not be moved by-and aren't interested in--dialogues of reason, as evidenced by the obscene attempt by PETA's Ingrid Newkirk to manufacture a moral equivalence between Hitler's concentration camps and chicken slaughterhouses.

In fact, as Drs. Goodwin and Morrison point out, the animal rights movement isn't much interested in the welfare of animals. National fundraising and publicity machines such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States have a miserable record of support for local humane societies. Last year, PETA spent weeks "infiltrating" an under-funded local humane society in Portsmouth, Virginia, amassing "evidence of cruelty to animals," and pursuing a prosecution of the society's overworked and underpaid staff, forcing the shelter to spend about $12,000 of its annual $162,000 budget on legal fees to defend two employees who were eventually acquitted of all charges.

The animal rights movement is an exceedingly well-funded international movement with a comprehensive strategy which includes achieving political power. The Political Animal Lobby made the first-ever [pound]1 million contribution to the Labor Party's successful 1996 campaign in Great Britain. Nor is the movement unsophisticated in the uses of power. The less flamboyant but equally determined Humane Society of the United States funds a national, multiyear campaign called "First Strike!" that pays researchers to "find" a link between animal cruelty, juvenile delinquency, domestic abuse, and other violent crime, with plans to have animal welfare officers, teachers, social workers, and law enforcement officials "share information" on juveniles who abuse animals in order to establish a "tracking system" to identify likely perpetrators of other violent offenses.

We may grant supporters of the animal rights movement the right to believe anything they wish about the proper relationship between humans and animals. What we cannot permit is their too frequent resort to misrepresentation, violence, and coercion. It makes no difference whether we lose our freedoms to an overreaching state or these ideological enemies of the future; the effect will be the same. Drs. Goodwin and Morrison need to keep fighting, and the rest of us need to start helping them.

David N. Narr Virginia Beach, VA

Adrian R. Morrison and Frederick K. Goodwin reply: David Narr presents additional evidence of the dangers posed by the animal rights movement to our civilized society. He does not exaggerate and he rightly warns us that "we cannot permit their too frequent resort to misrepresentation, violence, and coercion." Some of the other writers, apologists for the animal rights movement, provide glaring examples of the first of these activities along with evidence of confused thinking.

In reference to Paul Waldau's letter, we said nothing about the phylogenetic placement of humans and great apes. Rather, we argued that as humans we are members of a moral community that can know right from wrong. We have special duties toward our fellow man and must consider the welfare of all animals very seriously as well. We are the only beings that can do the latter. The Great Ape Project does seek constitutional rights. Great apes cannot, of course, vote, because they cannot act responsibly; they do not know right from wrong. We have strong obligations or duties toward them when they are under our control, but that does not mean they have constitutional rights. As for apologies, those who engage in "misrepresentations, violence, and coercion" in order to impede life--saving medical research--and their defenders- owe a collective apology to all of humanity.

Stephen Kaufman predictably cites an article he and Neal Barnard wrote for Scientific American. He does not mention that one of us (Morrison) wrote a countering article in the same issue and then a rebuttal to the arguments presented by Drs. Barnard and Kaufman in the Web magazine HMS Beagle (biomednet.com/hmsbeagle /1998/25/people/op_ed.htm). We might also note that Dr. Kaufman was publicly chastised by none other than Albert Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine, for misrepresenting medical history, and Dr. Barnard was rebuked by the 1990 House of Delegates of the American Medical Association for the same reason.

Marc Bekoff offers us some illogic when he argues that "100,000 people die annually from side effects of animal-tested drugs." Actually, a company must test twice as many animals as humans on a particular drug before it is released for wider use. That unexpected side effects might appear after millions of doses of a drug have been taken by people following tests on animals and then human volunteers can hardly be blamed on the initial animal tests. Would he have us test millions of animals and humans first-and be willing to pay for the vastly more expensive drug? Would he be willing to stand in line before the first mouse, rat, or monkey when a new drug is tested? (The book by the Greeks to which Professor Bekoff refers offers more of the same.)

If Matt Zwolinski cannot reason that a human infant is worthy of more pr6tection than a rat or a monkey, we cannot answer him.
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Date:Jan 1, 2001
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