Tag Archives: poll

A Proposal for the Labeling of Medicines

In a recent poll conducted by Zogby, 2,100 adults in the U.S. were asked the following question.

Do you agree or disagree with medical and scientific research that requires lab animals?

The results showed  a similar outcome to that of other recent polls.

About 52% of the population approve of animal research in various degrees, about 27% disapprove in various degrees, 15% are neutral and 6% are unsure about their position.

Despite the many polls done on the subject it remains unclear on what grounds do some people object to the use of animals in science.

Is it perhaps that they find the work morally wrong?  Is it that they believe all living beings have the basic rights to liberty and freedom?

Some insight into these questions can be gained by asking the same group of people what would the do in the following scenario.

Suppose you suffer from a leaky heart valve, and that doctors say you have two years left.   You could have a valve replacement surgery that might save your life.  But, in order to obtain the replacement tissue necessary for a surgery, a pig must be killed.

Which of the following statements best reflects what you would do if faces with a similar situation?

Statement A: I would have the surgery.  I think it is ethical.
Statement B: I would have the surgery, but I think it is unethical.
Statement C: I would not have the surgery, but I think it is ethical.
Statement D: I would not have the surgery because I think it is unethical.

Here are the results from the same poll:

Now, if one believes animals have rights they surely ought to be respected.  If you believe a pig has the same basic rights to life and freedom as your neighbor, then you ought to refuse the surgery for the same reason that you would not kill your neighbor to save your own life.

However, only a mere 3% of those asked appear ready to act in a way consistent with such a position.  It is interesting to note that also about 3% of the US population are vegetarian, although most of them do it for health reasons and not ethical objections to the use of animals as food.

Thus, those that oppose research do not appear to do so because of belief that all living beings have the same basic rights to life as that of fellow humans.

Another small minority, 2%, would not have the surgery despite the fact they think such surgical intervention is ethical.  It would appear this group simply is uncomfortable with the notion that pig tissue would be implanted in their human hearts.

About 12% of the group would opt to save their lives despite having ethical objections.  It appears this group feels there is something inherently wrong in killing an animal to allow them to survive and yet, if faced with the situation they would nonetheless go ahead with the surgery.  Arguably, this group realizes that the pig is a living being that we owe moral concern, but that when human and animal lives are at stake, opting to save the human is morally permissible.  Alternatively, they may genuinely opt for behaving in an immoral fashion when it comes to saving their own lives.

Finally, the vast majority, 73% of them, will opt for the surgery without having any moral concerns whatsoever.   None at all.   That is roughly 3 out of 4 people in the US population.

A natural question is then why wouldn’t the same group, at the very least, be in favor of animal research that advances medical knowledge and human health?

One likely possibility is that they fail to see the direct link between research and the therapies and medicines that it produces.  They fail to see that the medicine that will save their lives next time they visit the emergency room will be, in all likelihood, the result of animal research.  They may wrongly perceive basic and translational research as two being completely different things.  The contribution of basic knowledge to human health may be lost in translation.

So, what can be done?

Aside from scientists and physicians reaching out to educate the public on this matters, we could begin by labeling each and every single medication that resulted from basic research in animals with such basic information.  Note that I am not talking about safety testing in animals — which is required by the law.  Instead, I am referring to medicines developed through the identification of molecular targets or the discovery of specific mechanisms with the use of animals in basic research.  In other words, I propose to label medicine as derived from animal research if it actually produced the knowledge that actually allowed scientists to understand how a particular therapy could be developed.

Shouldn’t the public be entitled to know where their medicines come from? Shouldn’t the public be entitled to understand the range of benefits produced by their tax dollars?

What do you think?

Animal Testing Poll – Let Your Voice Be Heard

The British broadsheet newspaper, The Guardian, has a poll on its website about views on animal testing – please go and show your approval for this important tool in the development of modern medicine:


No need to sign up to vote, however you will need to if you intend to leave a comment as well (the more pro-voices heard, the better).

This poll comes on the back of a report which says animal testing in the UK rose by 1% in 2010 – reflecting an increase in previous funding in medical development (in many areas, some of which has been used for research on animals). There were some interesting comments left as well:

yes….and I say this as a vegan

I was completely opposed to animal testing until I visited one of thee facilities and actually dabbled in it myself. The benefits to mankind are massive and without it many drugs and treatments could never have been developed – if we want to advance medical science it is, for now, a necessary evil.


Animal testing is absolutely crucial for drug discovery – every drug on the market today has been tested on animals – it’s both crucial and a legal requirement. Animal testing saves human lives.

All potential new drugs are thoroughly tested on enzymes and cells before they go into an animal, so only compounds which seriously look like they could become a drug go into an animal. Unfortunately, even with all of our present-day knowledge, in vitro testing, and computer simulation, there is still no way of knowing how a drug will behave in a human, so animal models are the best we have, by a long way.

Animal testing in the UK is highly regulated and has some of the highest standards in the World. A home office licence is required for all proceedures.

People who say no to animal testing know nothing about the drug discovery process. Millions of humans lives have been saved as a direct result of animal testing. Anyone who has ever benefited from taking a drug or pharmaceutical product in this country has benefited from animal testing, so is a hypocrite if they object to animal testing.

So show your support, and include your vote.


Putting Public Polls in Perspective

Research!America, a not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance, has been polling the public on their views on animal research for the last decade. In 2011, when asking whether people “believe the use of animals in medical research is necessary for progress in human health”, found:

At first, these results may seem positive – twice as many people believe that animal research is necessary as do not. It should be  noted that the question asks for a belief about the efficacy of animal research rather than a moral position on it, but it is likely that the results would be close either way. Nonetheless, these seemingly positive results hide a downward trend over the past decade.

The first point of interest is that in 2008, when Research!America stopped providing a “don’t know” option, those who would otherwise claim ignorance have sided against animal research. However, even with the “don’t knows” added to the “no” vote, there has still been a definite rise in those who do not believe that animals are necessary to medical research. With support now dipping below 70% it would seem that it is now more important than ever to ensure that the public is aware about the links between animal research and the medical benefits that they help to develop It is up to scientists, universities and other research institutions to ensure that the media is provided with the information to allow them to include animal research in their stories.


Tom Holder

Highlights from Nature’s Q&A

Today (about 5 minutes ago), Nature ran an online Q&A session on the subject of animal research to fit in with its latest special editorial on the topic.

There was a lot of interesting background to the Q&A session in the latest issue including a the results of a poll of around 1,000 scientists. Over 90% of the scientists (70% of whom conduct research) believed that animal research was crucial to the advancement of biomedical science (2.7% disagree, 0.7% strongly disagree):

Nature Poll of 1,000 ResearchersA more interesting result came from the question that asked:

Nature Poll of 1,000 ResearchersIt was interesting to see that the UK, where animal rights activism is at an all-time low, considers it a bigger threat than the US. Perhaps this is because the UK has seen the damage that animal rights activism can do to biomedical research. Also of note was that almost no one in the rest of Europe disagreed with the premise, perhaps reflecting the generally high levels of extremism which have occurred across the continent.

Another background article was Tipu Aziz and John Stein’s (of Pro-Test) piece on the importance of speaking out (we approve!) Their article was next to Ranga Yogeshwar who suggested those conducting animal research should “[s]tay as far away from the camera as possible” (we don’t approve!!) Tipu and John made a clear and forceful argument, and their conclusion is one of the most clear and succinct pieces of reasoning for advocacy:

In this electronic age, remaining silent is not an option for scientists engaged in animal research; anyone can use Google to look up what a researcher does. The sensible thing is to be proactive and prepared to defend our work. The public needs to hear all sides of the story.

Anyhow, on to the Q&A:

The discussion began with questions over the impact of animal rights activism and extremism on the scientists and their research. This was later beautifully summed up by the Nature news writer and discussion moderator, Daniel Cressey:

What we were trying to bring out in the feature is that the fringes are currently defining the debate for a huge proportion of policy makers and scientists. I’d love to get to the point where the minority who are extremists don’t have this power over the debate.

His fellow news writer and discussion moderator, Brendan Maher, commented:

[...] that violent elements are few and far between. But they do so much to derail any fruitful conversation, they must be countered strongly. As soon as you introduce fear or intimidation into the debate, there’s no more room for intelligent conversation.

There were some comments on the impact of Pro-Test in the UK, as well as the benefits of added legal restraints and sanctions to activist actions. In reply to concerns from one scientist about speaking up, Daniel Cressey replied:

I think that the Pro-Test group has shown how support of animal research can be done, and done well and safely. The real danger – to my mind – is keeping silent on this. Scientists should be proud of the work they do, whether or not that involves animals.

In the UK there is the perception that tougher laws have helped. One of our features from this week looks at one activist who fell foul of them (http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110223/full/470454a.html). In the US they have had some teething problems, but they do show that attacks on animal researchers will not be tolerated.

Discussion quickly moved onto the 3Rs, and whether enough was being done to ensure they were being put in place. ToniS said:

We asked our researchers if there were blockers to doing more for the 3Rs. They all said “time.” They are under so many pressures to focus on commercialization. How do we MAKE the time internally or do we “outsource” through academia, consortia, or scholarships?

Science Blogger Harlequinclrty took the time to comment on some of the replies (in 140 characters or less):

And @tomholder nails it: “It is not a case of 3Rs research or normal research—the 3Rs are just principles of good science” #animalresearch

And @tomholder continues to nail it: “just because they are not called the 3Rs does not mean people don’t use them” #animalresearch

At the accusation that the 3Rs was not understood by all scientists, Barbara Davies of Understanding Animal Research said:

Let’s face it, the three Rs are jargon. If we talk about the principles underlying the jargon, most scientists will recognise them.

There were many more insightful comments from the variety of people who contributed, and you can read it all on Nature’s website.


Tom Holder


Gallup Poll Puts Majority Behind Animal Research

Mixed news last week with the results of the latest Gallup Poll on the moral acceptability of medical testing. 2% more Americans believe that animal research is morally acceptable than in 2009 (with 2% fewer believing it is morally wrong). This is the second consecutive annual rise in support for this lifesaving medical technique.

However when we graph these numbers we can see that, although relatively stable over time, there has been a slight dip in support over the past decade. However, we must bear in mind that throughout this those who believe it is morally acceptable have held a 25% point lead. Overall these results should indicate that we still have much work to do to ensure that the public remains behind medical research.

The final fact is that although 69% of men find animal research morally acceptable, only 49% of women do (although due to “no opinion/depends” this is still more than those women who believe it is unacceptable). To remedy this, proponents of research should make sure to mention the importance of animals in the development of the recent Breast Cancer drugs (Herceptin and Tamoxifen) and Cervical Cancer Vaccine (HPV Vaccine).

I also do wonder if the numbers would differ if the more accurate term “medical research” was used?



UCLA Pro-Test – Post-rally Blog Coverage


Well we’ve covered video coverage and print coverage of the Pro-Test rally, now onto the blogs.

Before we get too deep into the UCLA Pro-Test coverage, many of the blogs, including the highly-read Pharyngula blog, have talked about the poll attached to the LA Times article. The poll has (somewhat suspiciously for both sides) attracted over 150,000 votes, with the Pro-Testers currently leading this simplistic dichotomy (see Adventure in Ethics and Science blog on this) by around 60%.  So in the words of PZ Myers “please, go forth and destroy this pointless metric”.

Respectful Insolence wrote a piece reviewing the various media coverage as well as offering his own thoughts:

For too long, animal rights extremists have had the public relations stage virtually to themselves, and this Pro-Test Rally was an excellent demonstration of what scientists can do when they refuse to be cowed. Remember, this is about animal welfare, but not animal rights. Animal welfare. Scientists are very much concerned with animal welfare, and animal research is a highly regulated endeavor.

The Pro-Test March

Nick Anthis’s Scientific Activist blog also wrote a fantastic and comprehensive report of the rally coverage.

By all accounts, yesterday’s UCLA Pro-Test rally in support of animal research was a great success. Up to 800 people showed up for the Pro-Test rally, but only 30-40 people showed up for a concurrent anti-research rally.

Science Journal’s blog (which we mentioned before but was so good I’m mentioning it again) gave some of the best coverage of the issue:

The organizers of today’s Pro-Test rally at the University of California, Los Angeles, say it succeeded beyond their hopes. Hundreds of people—many of them students and postdocs—came out to show their support for biomedical research.

The Pharyngula blog announced “I am Pro-Test”. Drug Monkey mentioned some video coverage among his two posts on the issue, and Neurotopia v. 2.0 showed their excitment about the rally.

So that’s the coverage all wrapped up, if you know of any more leave a comment.



Animal Research – Your Voices Heard!

I was recently contacted by a PhD student who was studying at the University of British Columbia (Canada). She is running a survey on people’s views and reactions to animal research. So help a poor student out and show where out views on animal research are!

Dear Reader

Our group at UBC has created an online, interactive survey to better understand attitudes towards the use of animals in research. We would like to include the perspectives of Speaking of Research readers because they represent important perspectives on the use of animals in research.

The survey consists of 2-5 questions and will take approximately 5-10 minutes of your time.

In order to take the survey you will need to register. This requires entering your email address. Please don’t be put off, this is simply so that we can make the survey safe from spammers and hackers. We will not be able to link your e-mail address with your answers, and we will not give your details to any third party.

If you have any questions about the research, please feel free to e mail me at
eormandy [at] interchange.ubc.ca

You can access the ‘Animals in Research: Responsible Conduct’ survey via this link:

Our homepage also has links to other really interesting surveys regarding ethical issues so once you’ve completed our survey, feel free to take others!

Thank you. We value your input.