A reader provides a pointer to an Op Ed in the Daily Iowan by a disgruntled and frustrated Animal Rights activist, one Leana Stormont. It's worth reading closely, and I shall:
Following the break-in at Spence Laboratories, many championed open dialogue as an appropriate mechanism for discussing the broad ethical and scientific implications of using nonhuman animals in biomedical research. Despite repeated invitations, more than 20 UI researchers and seven representatives from pro-animal research organizations declined to participate in a debate regarding the scientific merits of animal-modeled research with Dr. Ray Greek, the president of Americans For Medical Advancement. Greek agreed to debate any person at any time, yet not a single animal-research proponent was willing to participate.
Those of us who understand how typical it is for AR activists — especially people favored by PeTA — to play fast and loose with facts can appreciate why nobody would be willing to debate Dr. Greek: "open dialog" is fine as long as your opponent can be trusted to deal in good faith. But Dr. Greek is (or was . . .) a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group closely tied to PeTA and a group that once claimed Dr. Jerry Vlasak as one of their own. Dr. Vlasak, of course, is famous not only for having justified the ethics of assassinating scientists, but also for advocating the act of assassination itself.
Now, in a written exchange of views, there is time for the reader to verify or falsify claims, examine the adequacy of logic, and fully appreciate context.
But in an oral debate, especially one involving a PCRM/PeTA person, things are different: one cannot assume honesty or good faith.
I suspect that Dr. Greek's moral compass might not require him to condemn the blatantly illegal acts of a break-in, theft and vandalism, and the terror tactics of posting demonizing characterizations of University employees together with their home addresses, telephone numbers and other personal information intended to remind them how vulnerable they are.
And if Dr. Greek should prove unable to condemn the ALF acts outright, would his moral compass point him towards complete honesty? (Note to reader: "I do not condone ALF's acts" is much different than "I condemn ALF's acts".)
My point is that AR people, especially those with known ties to the PCRM/PeTA stew, with their terrorist ties (link, link) cannot be trusted not to ambush an opponent with made-up facts or misleading partial truths in the course of a debate for the purpose of scoring points for the cause. After all, if you're willing to contribute money to the terrorist Earth Liberation Front, what's a little lie here and there?
So — unless you're well prepared for this kind of tactic, you're well advised not to debate these people, and kudos to the UI people for not showering the AR crowd with the publicity that is their oxygen.
The one-sidedness of the "dialogue" offered thus far by the UI regarding animal research should trouble anyone interested in a truly substantive analysis of the scientific merits of animal experimentation. If the vested interests have nothing to hide, they should have no trouble substantiating their claims in an open debate. Many within the university community have openly supported animal research, citing supposed contributions to medical progress. When it comes to substantiating those assertions in a public forum, perhaps the collective silence of animal researchers speaks for itself.
I suspect that ALF spokesman Dr. Steven Best's injudicious remarks, on the UI campus in defense of ALF's "direct action" in its immediate aftermath might have taken the issue of animal use in research to the far-back reaches of the Hawkeye mind, at least for the time being. I suspect the Hawkeyes are still trying to regain their sense of reality after Dr. Best spoke.
Let's revisit . . .
According to the Daily Iowan, Dr. Best indicated that if he had to make a choice between rescuing his dog and a person unknown to him from a burning house, he'd rescue his dog.
Let's linger on that for a moment . . . What Dr. Best is saying is that the personal pleasure his dog brings him trumps the value of your mother, your child, your spouse, your sibling, and he'd rather see any one of them burned to a crisp than lose his dog. Assuming, of course, that they haven't had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Best and impressing on him that they are every bit as worthy as is his dog.
Dr. Best is due great credit for his honesty, though I don't think he gained many sympathizers for his cause.
When you add together the ALF terrorist tactics and Dr. Best's breathtaking revelation, there are issues that are more deserving of discussion than the use of animals in research. In short, Ms. Stormont, events have passed you by. Or so I suspect.
A great deal of scholarly research shows animal research is misleading, yields information of limited extrapolative benefit to humans, and actually hinders medical progress by diverting economic and intellectual resources away from methodologies better suited to curing human disease. Vivisectors court the general public's deference, leading people to believe they are intellectually unqualified to question animal research. Researchers have erected ivory towers out of technical jargon and double-speak, and the public has largely concluded that these complex issues are beyond its comprehension. I am not a scientist, but I don't need a Ph.D. to know that we don't have to kill dogs to test dental cement.
Well! A great deal of scholarly research shows that there are a great many similarities between animals and humans, and these make extrapolation from animals to humans possible. This is not to say that animals and humans are identical: they are not. But they are similar enough in certain respects that scientists can use them as models.
To deny this is to deny evolution itself.
Just put on your thinking cap, Ms. Stormont and think: you are denying the meaning of common ancestry. You are denying the entire system of zoological classification, which groups species of animals together by similarity. By denying similarity, you are suggesting that each species of animals was created de novo.
The facts do not support your belief, Ms. Stormont, and I strongly urge you to glance at a textbook of zoology or biology. Or, look up the word "taxonomy".
When a national watchdog group announced its official investigation into the treatment of research animals on this campus, UI President David Skorton was quoted as saying, "I welcome the investigation. I believe there is a very important place for animal and human research, and I am proud of the way the UI has organized animal research." If this university truly welcomes investigation and is proud of its animal research, perhaps it won't mind allowing the public to see exactly what is happening to the thousands of animals who are suffering and dying behind its locked laboratory doors.
Fascinating . . . the public hasn't had the opportunity to see what's happening to "the thousands of animals" but Ms. Stormont is sure they are suffering . . . but then, AR folks have a more expansive definition of the word "suffering" than does the general public. Which gets me back to the issue of the not-happening debate: when AR people redefine loaded words to further their agenda, can anyone be surprised that the UI people aren't all that keen on debating them?
And yes — animals are killed in the name of research. But they are killed as quickly and humanely as possible, and the protections afforded to research animals are far greater than those afforded to the field animals that are maimed and massacred by farm machinery to grow and harvest the vegetables you eat with no thought for the animals who died. And what, may I ask, does it tell us that you, Ms Stormont, can indulge your delusion of moral purity on the suffering of those animals?
And no — though researchers attempt to live by the "3 Rs" of research (reduced numbers, refined techniques, and replacement by alternatives) there are some some categories of research that demand the use of animals (link, link).
In recent months, several people have contacted me anonymously with concerns about unethical conduct toward animals in UI labs. These people are reluctant to come forward because they have seen the UI's response to criticism, which has been both peremptory and categorically dismissive. These people are not opponents of animal research or animal-rights activists, but they are, nevertheless, troubled by the treatment of animals in labs. It is tragic that the UI's defensive posturing has created a political climate where the only people who have knowledge about the mistreatment of animals in labs are afraid to come forward.
Ah yes . . . the anonymous sources who are concerned, and who "have knowlege about the mistreatment of animals in labs (who) are afraid to come forward."
Well. I guess we're being asked to take Ms Stormont's word for these elements of her assertion: i) that she was approached by concerned people; ii) that these people were in a position to know that mistreatment happened/is happening; iii) that their definition of mistreatment coincides with a mainstream definition, not a much-expanded AR definition; iv) that they are afraid to come forward.
There are literally thousands of animals - including birds, mice, rats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, and primates - whose lives will be lost this year at the UI. These animals experience the world behind the bars of their cages where they suffer from horrendous confinement and unrelenting deprivation. This is a world that they did not create and that they do not understand.
Ms Stormont is projecting . . . she has imagined herself in the UI cages and has projected what she thinks she would feel into the minds of the rats and mice. These are animals who are so different from people that we can't extrapolate garden variety physiological processes from them to humans, but we can extrapolate the psychological state of a human to them.
Ms Stormont — get a grip.
And before you damn scientists for the noble motives and efforts of eradicating human and non-human disease (yes, animals frequently benefit from advances in human medicine . . .), try damning Animal Rights activists for their ignoble willful blindness to the fate of the rats that infest the tenements of our great cities. These are creatures who are being exterminated for no noble reason at all. They are being killed merely so human beings can live free from fear of their bites and the disease they can carry.
It is easy to claim animal research is just the price we pay for medical progress, but we do not actually pay that price, and we are never permitted to see the unconsenting animals who do. Until we look into the eyes of animals whose brains are outfitted with electrodes, until we see them huddled in their cages, dying alone in the last stages of some hideous cancer with which they have been intentionally inflicted, until we actually look at the price they pay with their suffering, and their misery, and ultimately with their lives, we cannot even begin to rationally decide whether or not we think it is worth the price they pay.
Now I ask you — where would an Animal Rights OpEd piece be without a finale in which there is a shameless appeal to emotion?
Perhaps Ms Stormont would care to put her money where her mouth is . . .
If she is so against the use of animals in research, let her do what neither Josh Harper nor Janet Tomlinson, AR luminaries both, had the juice to do: reject medical treatment for their own health woes. (For Janet Tomlinson's case, see this and this, and for Josh Harper's, see this and this).
So Ms Stormont, I call upon you to consider that any time you accept medical treatment, a portion of what is paid for your surgery, medicine, hospital time, etc., whether by you, your university, your insurance company or the state, will be profit for some arm of the hated biomedical research industry, and some of that profit will be funneled into some area of animal research.
So — as a matter of principle, are you willing to refuse any such treatment for yourself?
And as a measure of the strength of your convictions, are you prepared to deny medical care to those you love the most? I hope you are not . . .
Finally, for those of us on the Planet Earth, the FBI has provided a sketch of a person wanted in connection with ALF's University of Iowa "direct action." You can find it here.
Many thanks to Eric A. for bringing Ms Stormont's OpEd to my attention.