Bloggers fighting back against AR misinformation

It’s not ordinarily that I report on the actions of bloggers but it was so refreshing to see their immediate responses to a newspaper article by Simon Chaitowitz. Simon Chaitowitz is the former communications director of PCRM – a psuedo-science organisation whose former spokesman was none other than Jerry violence-against-researchers-is-justified Vlasak. Chaitowitz, who is sadly suffering from cancer, appears to infer that her deteriorating health is due to animal researched medications and not from the unfortunate fact that she developed breast cancer. Chemotherapy has some nasty side effects, including a small risk (0.3 – 0.7%) of Myelodisplastic Syndrome, however statistically her chances of overall improved health were much better with chemotherapy than without it. Anyone who has been through surgery will know there is a small chance that you might not wake up again, but the risks are generally worth it.

Her news posting goes on to claim much typical AR misinformation, such as the 90% of drugs fail statistic and claiming that there are no regulations involved for much research. However several bloggers were on hand to dismantle her argument piece by piece. “DrugMonkey“, a biomedical research scientist and blogger, meticulously explains the animal research regulation process, including all the oversight mechanisms he has to obide by while he carries out his research.

The claim that mice are “excluded from any protection” is presumably based on the Helms Amendment. It is indeed true that rats, mice and birds that are bred for research are excluded from the obligatory parts of federal law…but this does not mean that there are not other protections and oversight mechanisms in place that apply to these species. There are in fact many, some of the more important of which are detailed below [see link for what’s “below”]

“Orac” of the widely read Respectful Insolence blog also criticizes Chaitowitz’s claims, furthering some of DrugMonkey’s points, and goes further into looking at the predictive role of animals in research as well as the false claims that we can (apparently) replace such methods with non-animal ones.

If animal models don’t do as well as we would like, the alternatives that they propose either do much worse or are completely unvalidated. For example, cell culture models are in general even less predictive of drug activity than animal models … As for computer models, someday they may indeed decrease the need to use animal models, which, contrary to the animal rights portrayal of scientists as close-minded and cruel animal torturers, virtually all scientists would love to move away from. After all, most of us don’t like doing things that may hurt animals, even mice, and using animals is very expensive and onerous from a regulatory standpoint. Here’s the problem. Computer models are only as good as the assumptions underlying their algorithms and the data used to construct them, and we simply do not understand human physiology at a detailed enough level to obviate the use of animal models. [read the rest here]

You can read more about the animal model, animal welfare in research, and the advantages and disadvantages of current “alternative” methods on this website.

Cheers

Tom

Addenum

The Adventures in Ethics and Science blog written by Prof. Janet Stemwedel also covered the hypocrisy of Chaitowitz. Some good points regarding the choices that Chaitowitz pursued by Janet.

She needs to accept her share of responsibility for the outcomes. Our healthcare system did not hold her down and force her to accept chemo or a stem cell transplant. They were offered and she accepted them. Not only did she have the option not to pursue these treatments, she also had the option to forego medical care altogether.

4 responses to “Bloggers fighting back against AR misinformation

  1. There was another good rebuttal over at Adventures in Ethics and Science: http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/2009/03/animal_rights_activist_takes_d.php

  2. Thanks to you and Orac for your measured and informed responses. I wanted to respond but didn’t want to kick Chaitowitz while she’s down. I felt her column said more about the power of the human denial mechanism than it did about animal research.

  3. Interestingly Orac has posted another couple of pieces on his blog lately about the attempts of a Senator Tom Harkin to undermine evidence-based medicine through political interference in the work done by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (part of the NIH).

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/03/senator_tom_harkin.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/03/dr_dean_ornish_turn_away_from_the_dark_s.php

    It turns out that two of the woo-meisters that Sen. Harkin recently invited to speak to the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Andrew Weil and Dean Ornish, are members of the advisory board of PCRM, as is the now notorious Dr Henry Heimlich, who has over the wears attempted to popularize the anti-choking manouver he made famous for a variety of conditions for which it is entirely inappropriate, and more recently has been conducting thoroughly unethical trials of scientifically dubious malaria therapy for a range of diseases indluding HIV/AIDS

    http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/06/dr_heimlichs_ne.html
    http://www.circare.org/malariotherapy.htm
    http://www.bioethicswatch.org/foia/malhiv.htm
    http://thebellwetherdaily.blogspot.com/2008/02/oh-02-dem-vic-wulsin-malariatherapy.html

    Just remember, when people refer to “scientific anti-vivisection” this is what they are referring to.