Here's a nifty example of PeTA condemning animal experimentation even when it leads to a life-saving medical breakthroughs:
A significant development in treating breast cancer is being hailed by experts as "stunning" and "very exciting," but one group is downplaying the breakthrough because animals were used in the testing process.
Studies in the Oct. 20, 2005, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that Herceptin, a drug already shown to prolong survival in patients with advanced breast cancer, can also cut in half the recurrence of a common form of early breast cancer.
In the studies, Herceptin was used with other chemotherapy after cancer surgery for women with breast cancer linked to a growth factor called HER2, which accounts for about 25 percent of breast cancer cases in the United States.
"The results are simply stunning,'' Gabriel Hortobagyi, a breast cancer specialist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, said in an editorial in the Journal. The tests "show highly significant reductions in the risk of recurrence, of a magnitude seldom observed.
"The strength of the evidence is so overwhelming at this point that it would be almost impossible to withhold this drug from the appropriate group of patients," Hortobagyi added.
Cheryl Perkins, senior clinical advisor for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, called the news "very exciting. It has the potential to change the way doctors treat women with breast cancer who are HER2-positive."
Perkins expressed caution about the long-term effects of the drug, which have yet to be catalogued, and Herceptin's side-effects, which include a slight chance of congestive heart failure.
To understand why side effects can't be predicted, you might want to read my post Reply to Peter Tatchell's: "Why Animal Research is Bad Science".
Still, Perkins remained optimistic about the development. "Does using Herceptin amount to a cure for breast cancer?" she asked. "We hope so."
About 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in this country, and 40,000 die, according to the American Cancer Society. About 30,000 American women probably will be taking Herceptin for breast cancer in the near future, curing perhaps 7,000 who would otherwise relapse, some doctors predicted.
Genentech, the company that manufactures the drug, intends to apply to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand Herceptin's use to early-stage cancer treatment, spokeswoman Colleen Wilson said in a press release. But doctors are already free to prescribe the drug for early breast cancer on their own authority, she said.
This really seems to be a huge medical advance. Let's hope it lives up to its promise.
However, one group not enthusiastic about the news is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), because Genentech uses animals in its drug testing, a requirement for FDA approval.
On its "caring consumer" website, PETA says: "October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and breast cancer advocacy groups will be stepping up their efforts to gain supporters.
"Caring people wouldn't think of offering up their beloved companion animals for hideous experiments," the site says, recommending that people make donations to organizations that "support cutting-edge non-animal studies" and not those "which fall back on cruel, archaic and unreliable animal tests."
PeTA's position isn't at all confusing if you understand their premise: to PeTA — indeed to anyone committed to Animal Rights/Animal Liberation — the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value, and to treat an animal in a way you wouldn't treat a human is to engage in the moral crime of "speciesism," which is as reprehensible a sin as racism, ageism and sexism.
If you begin with this premise, it follows that keeping animals in cages and subjecting them to experiments is no less immoral or unethical than it would be to do the same to human beings.
One can reject the premise, but understand the logic of the position.
But if we follow PeTA's anti-speciesist logic, we get into a very disturbing ideological swamp: though they have the resources to operate a "no-kill" shelter, it has been PeTA's policy to kill animals in great numbers.
Moreover, PeTA strongly advocates that dogs and cats be spayed and neutered.
There is no way to reconcile PeTA's anti-speciest ideology with their own policy of killing animals and their advocacy of spaying and neutering — unless they are willing to kill and sterilize humans for the same reasons they do animals.
And how chilling is that?
One of the organizations PETA discourages people from donating to is the Komen Foundation, which has also received criticism because some of its chapters provide grants to local affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortions.
Rebecca Gibson, a spokesperson for Komen, declined to comment on the appropriateness of animal testing.
"The U.S. drug testing system is antiquated," PETA Media Liaison Jen McClure told Cybercast News Service "The FDA statistics on drug approval in this country tell the story. Of all drugs tested safe and effective on animals, 92 percent fail in human trials.
As proof of her claim, McClure pointed to the arthritis drug Vioxx, which was taken off store shelves by its manufacturer when it was shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients.
"All the rabbits, dogs and primates killed for testing Vioxx did not predict the devastating effect of the drug on humans," she added. "The next Vioxx is right around the bend."
About Vioxx (or any drug) having adverse side effects — once again, I refer the reader to my reply to Peter Tatchell (op cit) to understand why it is not possible to predict side effects (hint: it's a numbers game).
But the figures aside, consider the logic of PeTA's position: if animals are so different from humans that the results of animal tests can't be trusted to apply to humans, then we should revisit every drug that failed animal tests because they proved toxic, and try them out on humans in clinical trials!
Any takers amongst Animal Rights activists? That's what I thought . . .
David Martosko, director of research at the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom, replied: "Human life is more precious than animal life. PETA needs to get a grip.
Mr. Martosko, of course, is a speciesist . . . oh wait! So am I!
"PETA's leaders won't come right out and say it, but they care more about lab rats than sick people," Martosko told Cybercast News Service. "If PETA activists are really convinced of their position, the next one who falls gravely ill should decline life-saving treatments that were tested on animals. But that's not going to happen.
I suggest that the real test isn't whether or not they'd accept treatment for their own health, but whether or not they'd reject it for the loved one each most cares about — a "significant other," a parent, sib or child.
That's the real measure of commitment.
Having said that, it's worth noting that when push comes to shove, AR luminaries are all too eager to accept treatments for themselves.
So we have Josh Harper and Janet Tomlinson both accepting life over martyrdom, even though it meant patronizing the same pharmaceutical industry it is their raison d'être to bring down. By accepting treatments, both Mr. Harper and Ms Tomlinson contributed to big pharma profits, and some of those profits will be used for . . . you guessed it . . . animal based research!
"Without animal testing, we wouldn't have AIDS therapies, antibiotics, organ transplants, cancer drugs, flu vaccines, X-rays or hundreds of other medical advances that we all take for granted," he said.
In passing, PeTA and other AR groups prey on people not understanding the nature of research and how pharmaceuticals are brought to market, which I touched on in my reply to Peter Tatchell (op cit).
UPDATE: 4:30 PM PDT. Smart and knowledgeable reader Jon C. writes as follows:
on PETA's objections to animal tests to develop Herceptin : even if PETA's claims about the unreliability of animal testing had any merit - and they don't - what they obviously fail to understand is that Herceptin is an antibody not a standard small molecule drug. Moreover, Herceptin is a humanised murine antibody - i.e. it is the direct product of a mouse's immune system.
Even if no animal tests were used to prove the efficacy of Herceptin or to investigate its safety profile, it could not have been produced in the first place without the inoculation of a human protein into a mouse and the later harvesting of the mouse's immune cells.
Maybe someone should ask PETA how to produce antibodies without animal tests?
Ouch! Thank you, Jon.