Loving Animals…While Throwing Humans Under the Bus

Recently, the Sunday New York Times ran cover story on efforts to combat the obesity epidemic and the role of animal research in this battle. It’s not surprising that those opposed to animal studies reacted.

What is surprising is what they said. The organization which conducted the studies  – the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center- has received countless emails. Many were automated messages from change.org. However, instead of cutting and pasting the same identical message,some individuals did share their own thoughts via email, Facebook and message boards.

(Too) many contained comments such as these:

“You’re WASTING tax money torturing animals to find a “treatment” for FAT PEOPLE ?!”

“If you want to study the morbidly obese why not walk down to your local fast food place and great a few people. I am sure they won’t run away too fast. You could net 3 or 4 pretty easy. ”

“Don’t they know there is enough fat slobs in the world to do studdies on!”

“Ask the blimps walking around in your downtown.”

“We know the reasons that fat people are fat. Experiment on fat people.”

“This is disgusting. There are enough train wrecks waddling around out there that this experimentation is totally unnecessary.”

“If people choose to continue to be morbidly obese, not contribute to society and sit around killing themselves with food and do not get help through an ENDOCRINOLGIST – and become a constant burden to taxpayers in these trying economic times -let them”.

“This is totally repulsive how Americans can test and kill these poor monkeys just so that the FAT PIG AMERICANS can keep shoveling more and more into their fat heads. Instead of killing the monkeys why don’t you fat pigs just stop eating. Oh ya I forgot you Americans want everything. I hope all you fat people today, after reading this story choke on whatever maybe in your mouth and drop dead.”

“Hey, stupid people, stop cramming crap in your mouth,” get your fat ass off the couch and go walk around the block. You don’t need a pill, you need to stop being lazy, you are fat because of it’s your own damn fault. Look at what your laziness causes, millions wasted on pointless research, your fat ass is killing these monkeys so they can find a pill so your fat ass can stay skinny while your gorge yourself from your trough in front of your thought dictator.”

“A friend of mine told me that what a BUFFET means-Big Ugly Fat Folks Eating Together.” (posted by a person who said they were a scientist)

What’s striking about all these responses is that so many people are quick to state their compassion to animals while at the same time showing no compassion whatsoever to other humans (also animals).

Of course, most Americans realize that obesity is not just a personal choice and the causes of the epidemic and more complex than > food = obesity. Both animal studies and human studies demonstrate that there is a significant genetic component to the disease meaning that while some folks have no problem maintaining a healthy weight, many others become overweight even though they maintain a healthy diet.

We also know that the solutions to obesity are not easy. Ever wonder why so many people go on diets only to gain the weight back? The dieters didn’t fail…your brain actually responds to weight loss and literally fights to put those pounds back on. Studies in animals revealed this amazing discovery. In addition, new research has demonstrated that the current epidemic will likely impact several generations in the future.

Furthermore  – there is an economic component to the obesity epidemic. While many of us have access to healthy foods, the reality is that those with limited funds do not. Lower income families often do not have a car. They shop at the corner market where only processed foods are available. When they eat out, few low-fat, healthy choices are available.

So what can be done?

Studies in both humans and animals must continue to provide us with answers and new solutions to help those who want to lose weight keep it off.

In addition, people need to start realizing that seemingly simple problems are often very complex. Until that time…those who oppose animal studies will continue to have a large audience.

Regards,

Speaking of Research

5 responses to “Loving Animals…While Throwing Humans Under the Bus

  1. Dario Ringach

    C,

    First, of all the science is telling us there is much more going on beyond “lifestyle choices”. In addition to the link provided above, I suggest you take a look at this:

    http://tinyurl.com/676ofwz

    Second, in the US we have a huge problem with childhood obesity that, in part, results from rather poor choices by the parents. There is no doubt strong educational campaigns are needed to solve that, but are you saying we should not care about this children? That their moral status is different than that of another patient? Would we then also ignore the needs of children that may be sick because their parents feed them a poor balanced vegan diet?

    Third, many animal activists argue that food is the sole source of disease and a miracle cure at the same time. No doubt a good balanced diet and exercise are good for you, but let me tell you… A carrot is not going to make a paralyzed kid walk again, or breast cancer disappear, or repair a faulty heart valve. I wish it was that simple.

    • Realistically, even if there are some unknown viral or epigenetic factors contributing to the obesity epidemic, it’s not as if there’s going to change the laws of physics: if these things are somehow reducing people’s metabolisms, then it is still simply the case that less food needs to go in, or more energy needs to be used up (e.g by exercise).

      The fact is, as has been pointed out, obesity is caused primarily by overeating; Americans on average eat about 1000kcal more than they need per day. Yes, scientific research might be able to help, but better results could be gained from using the money that goes into this research and spending it on education for the vast majority whose obesity results from simple overeating.

      • It would be interesting to compare the amount of research funding spent on (non-dietary) obesity research, with the amount spent every year dietary education. I suspect the latter is actually a lot higher than the former, even before you get to all the various diet dooks and courses!

        For my tuppence worth I’d like to see more stress the role of exercise, which has a lot of other health benefits apart from weight loss, but I guess in the media and advertising world exercise just doesn’t bring in the bucks that the latest scam diet can.

        Nobody is denying that most people gain weight because they have more calories going in than going out, what the research being done in this subject (involving both animal and human subjects) is why this mismatch occurs and why it is consequently so hard for many people to maintain a healthy weight. That information should help to develop programs that help people to avoid eating too much of the wrong kinds of food.

    • I’m not denying that obesity goes beyond lifestyle choice, only that lifestyle choice is the cause of, in all likelihood, the majority of the public health problem–just like for lung cancer.

      Your second point doesn’t deserve response, but, yes, when veganism become a public health nightmare that might bankrupt the nation, sure let’s start that education campaign.

      Perhaps “many animal activists” hold that view–they are probably closer to the truth than you are on the issue of obesity.

      Nonetheless to put it more plainly–the OP is 90% twaddle.

  2. Wouldn’t want to engage the more serious formulations of these objections?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/l28monkeys.html

    The arguments are reasonable.

    1) Even on the Utilitarian justification for animal suffering for knowledge, this doesn’t seem to be a good choice.

    2) We know many of the causes of obesity and should start with those before we pursue research that addresses (in all likelihood) a small portion of the problem.

    3) We should not impose suffering on defense-less non-human animals for relatively small benefits when there are alternatives to address the obesity epidemic.

    “To allow monitoring of their food intake, some of the obese monkeys are kept in individual cages for months or years, which also limits their exercise. That is in contrast to most of the monkeys here who live in group indoor/outdoor cages with swings and things to climb on. ” (NYT)

    ““Doing primate studies is about as difficult as doing human studies from an ethical standpoint,” said Dr. Lee M. Kaplan, director of the weight center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who is one of the researchers in the bariatric surgery study here.” (NYT)

    You want to make a sort of ad hominem argument that people who care about animal suffering are hypocritical because they are less sympathetic with human suffering.

    But, let’s even grant that this is more than a rhetorical effect of a passionate response to unnecessary animal suffering. So what? You can try to distract from the issue by attacking the character of some of those who are opposed to causing animal suffering when it is non-necessary, but this sort of research does more to mobilize opposition to the use of animals in research.

    I’m not sure it’s entirely rational, but people are less willing to countenance causing of suffering to animals for the sake of hypothetical medical benefits for people whose illness is a result of lifestyle, especially where there are mechanisms for preventing the illness that are cheaper and less recklessly speculative.