Animal Rights

The Anti-Science and Anti-Animal Position of the RSPCA and HSUS

| by Dr Ray Greek

Dr Penny Hawkins, Deputy Head of the RSPCA Research Animals Department authored an article titled Reconciling science and animal welfare that appeared on the “Science Omega” website on April 11, 2012. She affirms the dedication of the RSPCA to the Three Rs and states: “As you might expect, we seek to provide a prompting and challenging voice, ensuring that appropriate questions regarding the necessity and justification for animal use are always asked on a case-by-case basis.” The big announcement of the piece is that the UK will now require that suffering be evaluated for animals undergoing experiments. Hawkins: “So how will retrospectively reviewing and reporting suffering benefit animals? Information on which research areas cause most suffering can be used by governmental, scientific and animal welfare organisations to inform and prioritise their initiatives to reduce suffering. We hope it will also provide an incentive and opportunity for scientists to reflect on their activities and focus towards refinement. The RSPCA believes that the review process, if properly implemented, should encourage researchers to be more critical in predicting, recognising and relieving suffering. This will enable suffering to be more effectively pre-empted, alleviated or – ideally – prevented altogether in similar projects in the future.”(Hawkins 2012)

The uninformed in the animal protection movement will no doubt applaud this breakthrough by the RSPCA. (The HSUS has a similar program.) The HSUS and the RSPCA will no doubt see an increase in donations which, based on my experiences with both organizations, is the only real goal they have. As I have stated before, one reason I have contempt for the RSPCA and HSUS is because their scientists are not stupid. No, that is not a typo. Their scientists are not stupid. Only someone profoundly dense would complete a doctorate in science and subsequently fail to realize that animal models simply cannot predict human response to drugs and disease. Andrew Rowan, David Morton, Maggy Jennings, and Penny Hawkins are not obtuse otherwise they would not have earned doctorates in science. And yet, all of the above along with their colleagues maintain that animal use must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Merely adding facts to the world is not the purpose of science. Karl Pearson, founder of statistics, stated in his book The Grammar of Science: “The unity of all science consists alone in its method, not its material.”( 2008) Curd and Cover explain that truth alone is insufficient for an activity to be science: “Scientists are interested…in discovering truths about the world…in the form of general theories and laws with predictive power. These criteria of scientific excellence – generality and predictive power – and many others besides (such as explanatory power and simplicity) are among the cognitive values of science. They are not the same as truth.” (Curd and Cover 1998) According to biologist E. O. Wilson, “Science is the organized, systematic enterprise that gathers knowledge about the world and condenses the knowledge into testable laws and principles.”(Wilson 1998)

Society does not have to thoroughly research and test every application for a perpetual motion machine because the laws of thermodynamics refute such a notion. Society does not need to evaluate every PPM application on “a case-by-case basis.” Nor does society need to evaluate on a case-by-case basis claims of living matter arising spontaneously from nonliving matter as Cell Theory prohibits this. (Origin of life research is a seperate issue from spontaneous generation.) Society does not need to evaluate on a case-by-case basis every claim of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) because SHC violates the law of conservation of mass-energy.

Laws and Theories exist in science, indeed one could say per Wilson, Pearson, and Curd and Cover above that such is the purpose of science. I have said many times that the Theory of Evolution combined with Complexity Theory prohibits animal models from being predictive modalities for human response to drugs and disease. Vivisection activists have conflated this use of the word predict with predictions generated by hypotheses in order to justify the aforementioned failure of animal models. Predictions generated by hypotheses based on animal models do occasionally prove correct just as your horoscope will occasionally correlate with a future event. This does not mean however that horoscopes are predictive modalities nor does the occasional correct hypothesis-based prediction from animal models mean animal models are predictive modalities. 

The predictive ability of animal models can be and has been measured using binary classification and associated formulas. Animal models fail miserably when subjected to this objective scrutiny. Moreover, they fail when evaluated by other means. A success rate of 0.004% does not make a modality predictive.(Crowley 2003) Approximately 100 HIV vaccines have been successful in animal models while none have worked in humans. The number of chemicals that have been shown to be neuroprotectants in animals is probably in the thousands while again, none have been so in humans. Even if an HIV vaccine were discovered tomorrow along with a drug that could be administered to patients suffering an acute stroke, the animal model would still not be a predictive modality. One success does not make a modality predictive. When evaluating past medical science advances this theme repeats. Eventually an animal model reacted to a drug or disease is a fashion similar to some aspect of the human reaction. But there were scores of failures and the scores of failures is why the modality fail to qualify as predictive in the scientific sense of the word. This presents problems for the animal model community as society allows them to use animals based on the myth that animal models are predictive modalities.

A theme in the vivisection activist community is to lump all research and scientific activities that use animals into one group then show where one area has been productive thus “proving” that all areas are effective and productive. This is an example of the fallacy of composition as well as a misinterpretation of what proof or evidence in science means. Conversely, AFMA and I characterize nine areas of animal use in research and science and acknowledge that such use is scientifically productive in seven of the nine areas. Orac wrote in his blog: “Lawyers speak of proof, as in ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Scientists speak of evidence in shades of gray, because most evidence is on a continuum.” Such is also the case for using animals in science. Some uses are very effective while others are simply not.

The vivisection activist community seeks to simplify a complicated topic in order to offer a simple solution that serves to mislead a society not accustomed to thinking critically or scientifically. Without training in science and critical thinking, the fallacy of composition usually goes unchallenged. Misleading society is in the best interest of the vivisection activist community as truth is not on their side. This is why they will not debate this issue in the scientific literature or at universities. This is also why universities do not want the issue debated. They profit from the misconception that animal models predict human response to drugs and disease. (See Animal Research: Money Talks and Money in Animal-Based Research.) Failure to defend your position in the scientific literature or to defend your use of taxpayer money in public is inexcusable.

By pointing out their seeming concern for animal suffering, groups like HSUS and the RSPCA can continue their fundraising efforts capitalizing on the ignorance and gullibility of their donors. In reality, such efforts are anti-science as well as anti-animal.


Crowley, W. F., Jr. 2003. Translation of basic research into useful treatments: how often does it occur? Am J Med 114 (6):503-5.

Curd, Martin, and JA Cover. 1998. Commentary. In Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, edited by M. Curd and J. Cover. New York: Norton. 2012. "Karl Pearson." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography., 2008 2008 [cited April 15 2012]. Available from

Hawkins, Penny. 2012. Reconciling science and animal welfare. Science Omega, April 12 2012 [cited April 15 2012]. Available from

Wilson, Edward O. 1998. Scientists, Scholars, Knaves and Fools. American Scientist 86 (1):6.