The Animal Research War.
Conn and James V. Parker. 2008. Palmgrave
Macmillan. (ISBN 0-230-60014-X). 199 pp.
In a nutshell, Conn, a research scientist, and Parker, former Public Information Officer with the Oregon National Primate Research Center, documented the last 20 years of assaults by animal rights groups on biomedical research in The Animal Research War. These assaults, as described by the authors, progress from mild intimidations and harassments to e-mail and regular mail threats (the latter sometimes including razor blades so placed as to injure the person opening the mail and directed to not only the researchers but their families as well) to outright acts of terrorism--dynamite bombings of vehicles, red paint splashed on homes, destruction of laboratories including their years of research data. Not covered, given the timeline for their publication, have been recent actions against UCLA researchers including flooding one researcher's home causing an estimated $20,000 in damage.
The reader will get a dramatic insight into the minds of these extremists. The animal rights' position is, as the authors point out, beset with misinformation, misconstrued information, and absolutely erroneous information about the treatment of animals in biomedical research. Truth be known, animal research is conducted under extremely rigorous rules and regulations from the U.S. Public Health Service Act's requirement that scientists receiving research funds from federal agencies adhere to standards set out in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and to the oversight of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) "to ensure that research animals are treated responsibly and humanely."
Further, animal rights people, including philosopher Peter Singer who views animals having the same rights as humans, have grave misconceptions about the degree to which non-human primates are used in biomedical research. In fact, "... about 95 percent of research animals are rodents--that is, if you don't count fruit flies or zebra fish. Dogs and cats comprise less than one percent, and primates less than one-half of one percent."
Animal rights groups have also set aside the major strides in human--and animal--welfare which biomedical research has achieved. The authors perform an excellent summary of the role of biomedical research's dependence on animals in the development of penicillin in the treatment of infectious diseases, the polio vaccines, development of AIDS treatments, and treatment of diabetes. All of these stories make for excellent and responsible teaching. Also extremely valuable as a teaching resource is Appendix A, which consists of 20 frequently asked questions about the need for animal research and the concise answers to those questions. For example, the first question is: "Why don't scientists use the alternatives to animal research-- computer models, cell cultures, and epidemiological studies?" The answer, in brief summary, is that all of these approaches, as well as brain-imaging technologies, have indeed been employed and "... have reduced the number of animals used in research" but all have limitations and only "... when scientists demonstrate to their IACUCs that they have exhausted the potential of these methods are they allowed to continue their investigations with animal models."
In defense of the use of animals in biomedical research, the compelling argument is that, "The proof is in the pudding: virtually every major medical advance of the last century is due in part, to research with animals." That lesson needs to be underscored in the classroom because the insidious activities of the animal rights groups are now targeting children with faked pictures of abused laboratory animals, amongst other propaganda. Biology teachers have a mighty sword to use to cut down such falsehoods--the TRUTH.
Edward J. Kormondy
Chancellor Emeritus-University of
Los Angeles, CA