This is the last essay in a five part series examining the position that experiments on animals are necessary for life-saving breakthroughs; that without vivisection humans would die.
In essay number #1 of this series, I quoted Dr Dario Ringach comparing animal-based research to a house burning down and society being in the position of choosing between saving a mouse and a human. The claim that it is “us or them” has been illustrated and refuted numerous times throughout this five-part series. In the end, we find that the whole example is built on the false dichotomy fallacy. The reality-based illustration of the principle of using animals to predict human response to drugs and disease would be more like the following. You are driving in a neighborhood and see a house burning down. You see a human trapped inside and you jump out of your car to rush inside in an attempt to save the person. As you run to the house, a vivisector pushes you aside in order to run to the house next door where he rushes in and kills the dog. The vivisector then comes outside and announces that he has tried with all his heart and soul to save the occupant of the burning house but alas, this time he failed. But take heart, because his technique has been successful on many occasions and he expects it to be successful again. And, oh by the way, he will be needing some money.
Killing the next-door-neighbors dog has never saved the person inside the burning house. This is the reality of the false dichotomy of the burning house analogy. But animal modelers and their representatives must use this fallacy. Support for the use of animals in research is waning. From ABC News:
Waning public support for animal research prompted the Foundation for Biomedical Research in 2009 to establish ResearchSaves, designed to tell Americans that animal research led to the development of antibiotics, vaccines, surgery and diagnostic tools, said spokeswoman Liz Hodge. With only about "five seconds to capture people's attention," the new billboards encourage people "to think, even for a minute, about why animal research is necessary."
(See my essay The discovery and development of penicillin for the role animal played in the discovery and development of penicillin. Suffice it to say, upon closer examination the role animal models played in all of the above-referenced breakthroughs will be found to be similar to their role in penicillin.)
Making claims that are not true have consequences and when taxpayer money is involved the claims may be fraudulent. I refer the reader to the Science-Based Medicine article, Is “CAM” Fraud?, by attorney Jann Bellamy where she and the people who commented on the essay make the case that complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) is, in fact, fraud. There are similarities between CAM and using animals to predict human response to drugs and disease and I encourage the reader to read Bellamy’s essay with that in mind.
Allow me to end this series by saying once again that animals can be used for many purposes in science. I repeat this often because the vested interest groups continue to commit the straw man fallacy by accusing me of saying that animal models have never contributed anything to society. They must do this because they cannot refute my actual position; that animal models cannot predict human response to drugs and disease. Society believes that animal models can predict human response and this is why most of animal experimentation continues. If society ever understands exactly how animals are used in research and how unproductive the practice actually is, a vast majority of animal experimentation will end. (See What is needed in order to end vivisection? and How animal protection groups are delaying the end of vivisection.) Hence the vested interest groups’ ad campaigns and fallacies.
I invite you to study the subject further and come to your own conclusions. See our book for people with a science background Animal Models in Light of Evolutionand our two articles Are animal models predictive for humans? and Is the use of sentient animals in basic research justifiable? Also see my other blogs on Opposing Views. If all this science talk is a little too much for you but you are nonetheless interested in the subject, please try reading FAQs About the Use of Animals in Science: A handbook for the scientifically perplexed. The science that undergirds our position is broad-based, at times deep, rather complicated (like most science), and nuanced hence cannot be explained in sound bites or in a blog (even a five-part series). If you want to fully understand this, you must read books. I also encourage you to read the material from the vested interest groups: National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) and its not-for-profit division, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), RDS, Americans for Medical Progress, The American Physiological Society and the blogs by Dr Dario Ringach. If you really want to give this issue a fair hearing you need to be familiar, with both sides.