Liz Hodge, the Director of Media & Marketing Communications for the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), has written an article titled The Benefits of Animal Research. In it, she recycles the usual nonsense I have addressed many times. This is not surprising as she works for the vivisection advocacy organization, the Foundation for Biomedical Research. Below, I address some her points.
Nearly every medical breakthrough involves animal research. From antibiotics to blood transfusions, dialysis to organ transplantation, vaccinations to chemotherapy, bypass surgery and joint replacement, practically every drug, treatment, medical device, diagnostic tool or cure we have today was developed with the help of laboratory animals.
I addressed some of the above in my blog Argument from Authority. Part II. First, making claims is easy, proving those claims is an entirely different matter. Anyone can claim to have invented a perpetual motion machine or attribute past breakthroughs to certain medical research practices. Such is nothing but rhetoric and should not be given any weight when deciding an issue. Especially when the rhetoric comes from a vested interest group.
Second, note that Hodge stated “with the help of laboratory animals.” These are slippery words. If by help she means lab animals were around during that time, she will get no argument from me. But if she means, and I assume she does, that the discoveries and breakthroughs were dependent upon using animals then she needs to provide proof and said proof has, historically, not been forthcoming from vivisection activists. I have addressed the dependent argument in previous books (see FAQs About the Use of Animals in Science: A handbook for the scientifically perplexed), essays (discovery and development of penicillin), and blogs (see Claims Versus Proof and Specific claims about basic research, and American Physiological Society).
Scientists cannot simply plug a formula for cancer into a computer and test drugs’ effectiveness with computer modeling.
That is true! Hodge continues:
Instead, the only way scientists can work toward real treatments is to examine how each genetically unique cancer behaves in a living animal system.
That is false. Hodge continues:
This enables them to see which cancer treatments will work best for both people and animals, the latter of which get many of the same types of cancer as people.
Also false. I have analyzed the intact systems argument many times (see Men, Women, and Animals and Complexity and Animal Models, we also address it in both books: Animal Models in Light of Evolution and FAQs About the Use of Animals in Science: A handbook for the scientifically perplexed). Briefly, both theory and empirical evidence disprove her position that animal models can predict human response to drugs and disease. Moreover, individuals, be they humans or dogs or mice respond differently to drugs and disease.
Hodge then goes on to promise future cures if only society continues to pay the people who pay her salary. Again, this is standard fare. The history of vivisection activism is one of constant promises that, when broken, are replaced by more promises and so on and so on.
Hodge finishes with more examples of where she claims animal models were necessary. She continues to use a shotgun approach, making numerous claims thus making it impossible to address each one individually. This is the way non-science propaganda is written. Science writing is precise and clear and enables the respondent to address the points without writing a book. Some of her claims are:
The polio vaccine was developed following research with mice and monkeys.
I addressed this in Bioethicist David Morton on Primate Vivisection.
Clams and rats helped researchers illuminate the power of the MRI.
I briefly addressed this in Specific claims about basic research. Anytime you see someone advocating for the position that the MRI was dependent upon animal models, read no further, it is a puff piece.
In the final analysis there is really nothing new in the article and most of the material has been refuted many times. The fact that the vested interest groups continue to ignore the facts and advocate for the money tells us all we need to know about whose side they are really on.
Clearly, not the side of patients.