Dr. Lawrence Hansen, along with fewer than a dozen other anti-research activists from PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), demonstrated at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago. His opinion piece reveals that they were protesting neuroscience experiments on animals that, they maintain, will never benefit human health.
In stark contrast, nearly 30,000 scientists from all over the world gathered inside the convention center to share their latest findings. Attendees ranged from winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, to patient advocates, to brilliant young graduate students. Clearly, those inside the convention center felt differently about the role of science and animal research in medical advancement.
Our work centers around the basic functions of the brain, how it fails in disease and how we can develop treatments to everything from Alzheimer’s disease, to schizophrenia and drug addiction — horrific conditions that slowly consume human beings in front of their families, day by day, a little bit at a time.
Dr. Hansen and PeTA contend that scientists perpetrate cruel experiments on animals merely because they have financial interests in animal experimentation. They are wrong. Our interests lie in finding out how the brain works and how to treat it in disease. Opponents contend that these questions can be answered using brain scanning methods in human subjects. They are wrong again. While brain imaging is useful for some applications, the real clues to disease are at the molecular and cellular level – processes not observable with magnetic resonance imaging or other non-invasive techniques.
Animal activists seem to forget all these alternative methods have been develop by scientists themselves, including X-rays, tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. These are all the products of basic research performed by scientists. Not by animal activists, not by physicians, but scientists. We would we refuse to use the tools we develop?
Opponents say the use of animals in experiments fails to generate knowledge that benefits human health. This is simply false as refuted by medical history and simple common sense. All living organisms share the same cellular building blocks, and the mechanisms these cells use to communicate with each other are largely shared across species. Simply put, we are made up of the same stuff.
While opponents are entitled to their own ethical position on the use of animals in research they are not entitled to their own set of facts.
The fact is that without animal research, our ability to develop new cures will largely come to a stop. The fact is that there are no current alternatives to the use of animals when studying cellular and molecular events in an intact, living organism. If alternatives were available, we would be using them.
Opponents of research have long been very vocal about their opinions, while scientists have remained largely silent. Not any more.
The full story needs to be presented to the broad public who, we are convinced, will come to the conclusion that responsible research involving animals is crucial for the continued advancement of medicine and the health of both human and non-human animals.