In an article titled “The Vivisector’s Tale” that appeared in the July, 2010, issue of Los Angeles magazine, Dr David Jentsch is quoted as saying:
“They’re 20 guys like Dr Ray Greek,” Jentsch says, “who stand in opposition to the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Neurology. A [Pew Research] poll last year showed that nine out of ten scientists believe in the value of research using animals and endorse it.” (Bracketed words in the original.) (1)
I am quoted in the article (accurately) as saying that animal models cannot predict human response to drugs and disease. I thank the author and editors who checked my quotes with me several times before publishing them. Other magazines and newspapers have not been so diligent and conscientious.
I recently addressed the argument from authority hence was pleasantly surprised to see that I had already analyzed the basis for Jentsch’s quote. I refer the reader to my three-part blog addressing the argument from authority including the Pew poll.
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Jentsch also states in the article, and elsewhere, that the research establishment has the duty to explain their research to society so society can understand and appreciate what animal-based researchers are doing. The reason I mention this is that in this article, which granted Jentsch did not write, there is not a shred of the aforementioned explanation. This must be contrasted with the fact that Jentsch and Ringach agreed to debate this issue at UCLA but backed-out after they got their panel discussion. What Jentsch really means when he says researchers need to communicate with society is that researchers need to use every opportunity to spread propaganda.
This attitude is manifest more openly by Julia Schulhof and Emily Poe, editors of Lab Animal when they wrote about the importance of “marketing”, “spin control” and “selling” animal experimentation to the taxpayer (2). And by Jayne Mackta of the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research: “Central to every story…must be a positive yet simple statement celebrating the role of animals in the process…Let’s use every opportunity to score points with the public” (3).
There is a difference between allowing society to hear the issue and judge for themselves and appearing in public only when the venue is biased in favor of the status quo. Panel discussions do not by their very nature allow participants to challenge each other and get to the bottom of the disagreement. That is why I refused to participate in the UCLA panel discussion unless a later debate was guaranteed. If researchers like Drs Ringach, Jentsch, or Gorski really wanted society to have the information they need to understand the science of animal-based research, they would have agreed (and kept their promise) to participate in a debate or a point counterpoint series of articles in a refereed peer-reviewed science journal.
I have condemned, and again condemn here, the violence perpetrated against Dr Jentsch and others (which is, in large part, what the Los Angeles magazine article was about). But the acts against them do not justify their unwillingness to defend their research to society.
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1. S. Mikulan, Los Angeles magazine, 99 (2010).
2. J. Schulhof, E. Poe, Lab Animal 29, 9 (2000).
3. J. Mackta, Lab Animal 29, 38 (2000).