April 21, 2015

"In my junior year, I attended a class in which the professor made a compelling argument for conducting animal research related to punishment."

"He promoted it as having the noble goal of finding ways to minimize the use of punishment in humans while maximizing its effect. When he announced he was looking for a student to work in his lab for class credit, I took the job. First, I had to learn how to shock a pigeon.... As I look back on this nearly 50 years later, I am astonished that the daily grind of depriving, shocking and killing these animals did not move me to leave my job...."

From a NYT op-ed by Paul Gazda — "a visual artist and an advocate for animal rights and pesticide-free environment."

Here's the top-rated comment:
As a neuroscientist with over 25 years experience designing and conducting animal experiments to develop medications for psychiatric and neurological disorders, I have seen these sorts of comments my entire career. They describe all experiments as torture and either say or imply that there is never useful data generated. But they rarely discuss alternatives to animal experimentation. Before you condemn us, please consider these points.

Animal research is very expensive. If a company can use an alternative method, first it is required by regulation. Second, companies do not spend money needlessly. If you don't trust us not to inflict needless pain on animals, at least trust us to be greedy. Also, animals that are stressed or in pain yield worthless results.

Ask yourself, what are the alternatives? A cell culture or computer simulation is not even a simple organism, let alone a mammal. Would you volunteer yourself or a loved one to be the first human to receive a drug or surgical procedure never tested on an animal? When your parent, child, spouse or you are diagnosed with a debilitating and possibly deadly disease, would you prefer that your doctor shrug and say, "we have no treatment for that except these untested drugs" because nearly all modern drugs and procedures have been developed using animal experimentation?

Please beware simplistic, binary arguments for or against animal research. They are difficult choices that we make. One day, we will all need to make them.

39 comments:

David said...

A thoughtful comment is top rated in NYT!

Wonders never cease.

TreeJoe said...

That is quite simply the best NYT comment I've seen.

I'm involved in research - the comment about alternatives is spot on. A corporation would LEAP at the chance to conduct research using computerized simulations; it would be far faster and cheaper.

But from a scientific and regulatory standpoint (and, I would argue, ethical) scientists must start with animals.

lgv said...

The most popular comment eloquently says what I always tell people:

All drugs are animal tested. Which animal should we test them on first, the lab bunny or your child?

All the in vitro testing and computer simulations cannot accurately identify side effects.

People want prescription drugs or medical procedure that are safe, effective, and free from animal testing. Pick two.

I have this discussion often. There are no drugs on the market that haven't been animal tested, nor would you want one. Despite what you might read, there is no adequate substitute.

iowan2 said...

To restate. Animals exist to serve humans. What ever benefit I deem worthy. Vegans can do as they please. Until they attempt to limit what I desire to do.

robother said...

What are the chances that the literally shocking pigeon experiment actually happened? That a freshman student in visual arts would be involved? Why is the professor, the course, the college not named?

Laslo Spatula said...

Does this mean I should be for or against women having sex with donkeys in Tijuana?



I am Laslo.

EDH said...

robother said...
What are the chances that the literally shocking pigeon experiment actually happened? That a freshman student in visual arts would be involved? Why is the professor, the course, the college not named?

Maybe in 50 years time somebody will come forward to the NYT and admit he was part of the gang that raped "Jackie" at UVA.

traditionalguy said...

The very best experiments can be done on camp populations said Josef Mengele, a famous Buenos Aires, Argentina abortionist who had once happily practiced scientific skills at thefamous Government Scientific Experiment facility at Birkeneau, Poland.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Laslo Spatula said...

Does this mean I should be for or against women having sex with donkeys in Tijuana?

You should be against them, Laslo. Right up against them.

Franklin said...

Why is a thoughtful neuroscientist even reading the New York Times?

Virgil Hilts said...

Per Deborah Blum's the Poisoner's Handbook ( a great book!), much of what we were able to learn early on about forensic science came from using stray dogs in NYC. The dogs would be poisoned and then autopsied to see how the poisoning agent could be identified. They used lots of dogs.

Virgil Hilts said...

Good article about the history of using dogs in medical experiments. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/pepper/2009/06/brown_dogs_and_red_herrings.html

Laslo Spatula said...

When they make technological advancements on two-headed twelve-inch veined black bulging dildos I really hope they don't test them on little bunny rabbits first. That would just be sick.


I am Laslo.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The word around Madison is that the Professor has been testing blog posts on dogs. That whole Puparazzo thing is just a front.

Laslo Spatula said...

"When they make technological advancements on two-headed twelve-inch veined black bulging dildos I really hope they don't test them on little bunny rabbits first. That would just be sick."

Maybe, for the bunny rabbits, they can use a scaled down version. Size isn't everything. Unless the bunny rabbits say it is.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

The studies might show that the bunny rabbits prefer the carrot-flavored two-headed twelve-inch veined black bulging dildos. Does this prove that lesbians prefer carrot-flavoring, too?

I think you can see what I am getting at.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

What if the test was done on squirrels? And the squirrels preferred the two-headed twelve-inch veined black bulging dildos that tasted like nuts?

Does that mean that lesbians like the taste of nuts, too?

I meant to do that.

I am Laslo.

jr565 said...

For all the people opposed to animal testing, don't use a drug for a disease for your loved one, derived from animal testing.

jr565 said...

The libs have the same visceral reaction to hunting as they do animal testing. Ricky Gervais went after a trophy hunter who posed with the giraffe she killed and mocked her as evil.
For trophy hunting though lets state up front that its legal. giraffes are not edangered there. And more importantly, poor people benefit from the hunts. And it actually leads to conservation of both lands (which are the animals natural habitat) and the even preservation of animals.
But all people see is the cute animal killed. If you've used medicine you've benefited from animal testing, if you eat meat you benefit from animal slaughter.

Chris N said...

Maybe the animal rights activist/visual artist extraordinaire can make some extra dough by volunteering for drug trials.

Krumhorn said...

Props to Lazlo. I laughed loudly and long. A great way to start the day!

- Krumhorn

lgv said...

jr565 said...
For all the people opposed to animal testing, don't use a drug for a disease for your loved one, derived from animal testing.


Animal testing is required for FDA before a drug is allowed on the market. There are no non-animal tested drugs. PETA/Vegan people need to stick to holistic herbal medicine out of principle.

Sigivald said...

Does this mean I should be for or against women having sex with donkeys in Tijuana?

No, Laslo.

It does not meant you should be for or against that.

n.n said...

So that's what the "green" movement is doing with the proliferation of windmill gauntlets and solar ovens, and other environmental disruptions from recovery to reclamation. They are punishing humans, animals, and vegetables who deny their business and ideological practices.

Ann Althouse said...

"The libs have the same visceral reaction to hunting as they do animal testing. Ricky Gervais went after a trophy hunter who posed with the giraffe she killed and mocked her as evil."

To be fair, the woman laid down next to the newly dead beast, stretched out alongside the reticulated neck, and smiled broadly. Then she sent out the photograph, seeking admiration. Since she sought admiration, she invited the opposite as well. It's a marketplace of ideas.

And I don't think Ricky's point was that giraffes are "cute." I think he has a way harder edge that that. I think he attacks human vanity and stupidity. Whether he hit this one straight or not is a question, but Ricky is not in thrall to cuteness or sentimentalism. He doesn't deserve that.

Skeptical Voter said...

Well shucks Ms. Althouse if human vanity and stupidity are appropriate targets for mockery and internet shaming, there's a flock of critters hard by the shores of the Potomac that have a surfeit of vanity and stupidity.

A fellow who resides in the Oval Office comes to immediate mind.

Michael said...

Sitting with the number eight platter at the restaurant
Four twenty nine for almost anything I want
Add it up, it's cheaper than the stuff I make myself
I get by, I never needed anybody's help

And I tore out an ad and they told me that I
Would press the buzzer, would press the buzzer
At the graduate lab, they were doing some tests
I pressed the buzzer, pressed the buzzer

Ride the circle off of the highway, spiral into the driveway
In the maze of old prefabs, they'll be waiting at the lab

I don't know how everybody makes it through the daily drill
Paint the nails, walk a dog, pay every bill
I'm feeling sorry for this guy that I press to shock
He gets the answers wrong, I have to up the watts

And he begged me to stop, but they told me to go
I press the buzzer, I press the buzzer
So get out of my head, just give me my line
I press the buzzer, I press the buzzer

Ride the circle off of the highway, spiral into the driveway
In the maze of old prefabs, they'll be waiting at the lab

They called me back to the lab to discuss the test
I put my earrings on, found my heels, wore a dress
Right away I knew, it was like I'd failed a quiz
The man said, do you know what a fascist is?

I said, yeah, it's when you do things you're not proud of
But you're scraping by, taking orders from above
I get it now, I'm the face, I'm the cause of war
We don't have to blame white coated men anymore

When I knew it was wrong, I played it just like a game
I pressed the buzzer, I pressed the buzzer
Here's your seventy bucks, now everything's changed
I press the buzzer, I press the buzzer

But tell me where are your stocks, would you do this again?
I press the buzzer
And tell me who made your clothes, was it children or men?
I press the buzzer

Ride the circle off of the highway, spiral into the driveway
In the maze of old prefabs, they'll be waiting at the lab

Songwriters
DAR WILLIAMS



Read more: Dar Williams - Buzzer Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Bill Peschel said...

Ann, to be fair, the giraffe did attack first. I'm sure it's on the video.

Seriously, why hunt giraffe? Where's the challenge to that? You might as well hunt a billboard.

virgil xenophon said...

What about humans? About 20-30 yrs back there was a big contretemps over whether (then) recently discovered WW II NAZI data from arctic cold wx exposure experiments done on live prisoners should be used to design clothing and medical techniques to save present-day humans because of the ethical/moral dilemmas involved. Utilitarian practically won out..

jr565 said...

Althouse wrote:
To be fair, the woman laid down next to the newly dead beast, stretched out alongside the reticulated neck, and smiled broadly. Then she sent out the photograph, seeking admiration. Since she sought admiration, she invited the opposite as well. It's a marketplace of ideas.

And I don't think Ricky's point was that giraffes are "cute." I think he has a way harder edge that that. I think he attacks human vanity and stupidity. Whether he hit this one straight or not is a question, but Ricky is not in thrall to cuteness or sentimentalism. He doesn't deserve that.

Ricky looks solely on the fact that giraffe's are beautiful creatures to dictate his outrage.
Not the fact that her hunt produced immeasurable good for people living in that region, and that hunting actually increases conservation of habitats for animals like giraffes.
Ricky also is a hypocrite. He used to have a show called An Idiot Abroad where he and Stephen Merchant would send their friend to foreign places to do absurd things.
One place they sent him was China. Where they wanted him to eat something exotic. He specifically said don't make him eat anything gross or weird.
Anyway, they send him to a farm where the people are going to serve him bull frog. To kill the bull frog the woman put them in a plastic bag and then bashed it against rocks till the frogs were all dead.
So, Ricky is ok with animal cruelty if in furtherance of a stupid TV show who's sole intent is to put the star of show in awkward situations.
Yet he has a problem with a hunter posing after killing an animal.

Carl Pham said...

And I don't think Ricky's point was that giraffes are "cute." I think he has a way harder edge that that. I think he attacks human vanity and stupidity. Whether he hit this one straight or not is a question, but Ricky is not in thrall to cuteness or sentimentalism. He doesn't deserve that.

Sure he does. He sent out the remark, seeking admiration. Since he sought admiration, he invited the opposite as well. It's a marketplace of ideas.

But...but...this doesn't take into account his nature (which you describe), his previous behaviour, what it all says about the larger context of his response!

What do you -- or Gervais -- know (or ask) about the giraffe-killer, aside from her giraffe killing?

It always impresses me how blind to their own unintentional irony an intellectual can be.

jr565 said...

RIcky Gervais is as much of an animal extremist as Morrissey (Meat Is Murder. No,no,no it's murder!). The only difference is he also eats meat. And lets frogs get their brains dashed against rocks for entertainment.

WHen a lion was killed by a hunter he tweeted:
"Animals are not here for us to do as we please with. We are not their superiors, we are their equals. We are their family. Be kind to them."
except for the meat that Gervais eats of course. that' there to fill his fat corpulent belly while he laughs like a hyena.

jr565 said...

He also tweeted:
I can’t describe the total thrill of never murdering a beautiful wild animal & mounting its head on a wall. It’s exhilarating and so natural — Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) November 18, 2013


But he can describe the taste of cow flesh since he probably fills his stomach with it 8 times a day. Now, the butcher may not have mounted the cows head on a wall, but he did kill the cow so that Ricky can get morbidly obese on animal flesh.
and get all arrogant with his virtuosity. He doesnt' have to hunt because he has butchers do his killing for him.

jr565 said...

Ricky also had this to say:
"I’m fat because I eat too much and I’d rather not give up food,” he told the Guardian. “It’s not glandular, it’s greed. If I didn’t work out I’d still eat as much but instead of being probably 20 pounds overweight, I would be 40 pounds overweight and growing. I don’t think a comedian should be worried about their weight.”

He says he doesn’t cook, though he can work the toaster and the microwave, and though he loves the Christmas roast and cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon, he’s lately been wrestling with the morality of eating meat. He says he’s “nearly vegetarian” and doesn’t want to see any meat that looks like it used to be an animal.

That's exactly Ricky's problem. He doesn't want to see any meat that looks like it used to be an animal. If you can hide that from Ricky, then its all good. Only problem all meat used to be an animal.
Hunters do not hide their head up their ass about where food comes from unlike fat, fat Ricky who only became vegetarianish when he was close to 50.

Freeman Hunt said...

Seriously, why hunt giraffe? Where's the challenge to that?

Maybe this one was ferocious and foaming at the mouth. Maybe boxing people with its hooves too.

jr565 said...

"
Seriously, why hunt giraffe? Where's the challenge to that? You might as well hunt a billboard."
Giraffes are exotic animals. And she probably never hunted one before. Why choose a giraffe over a lion? Why choose a lion over a giraffe?

wildswan said...

Speaking of shocking pigeons fifty years ago reminds me of this story which happened three years ago.

In a Wisconsin high school the AP history teacher designed his own curriculum to involve students in torture. He gave them a written description of a political situation - one group oppressing another and asked them what the oppressed should do. The students made proposals. Then the teacher rolled dice for which of several possible scenarios would "happen" as a result of a student's proposal. If the student's proposal (and the dice roll) resulted in anyone being "killed" in the resulting scenario then a volunteer student at a pain lab on the West Coast got a shock. Or so the teacher told them. He showed them a website for the "pain laboratory."

Yes, these high school students were encouraged to give people painful shocks. And they all went along with it as a legitimate AP history lesson - though apparently that was because they were afraid to get a low mark in AP history because low marks would impact college admissions.

I am not a robot but I thought these students were being taught to be less than human.

Alex said...

Carl... ask yourself why you staunchly defend the giraffe murderer.

SJ said...

@BillPeschel
Seriously, why hunt giraffe? Where's the challenge to that? You might as well hunt a billboard.

I've seen giraffes in the wild.

Not hunted, but seen.

Hunting giraffes would be a challenge. They are very good at spotting predators/hunters from a distance.

And they can move rapidly. (With surprising grace, I might add.)

Hunting is a challenge.

Some hunt for meat, some hunt for the challenge. And some hunt for bragging rights.

(In Africa, I'm told that bragging rights are for those who hunt the "Big 5". Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Cape Buffalo, and the Rhinoceros. Giraffe are not among the Big 5, even though they are a challenge to hunt.)