Opponents of the use of animals in medical research have difficulty reconciling their claim that the scientific work is invalid and fraudulent with the fact that it has wide support among the scientific community and professional organizations.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 93% of scientists favor the use of animals in scientific research. There are more scientists who favor animal research than those that believe in evolution (87%), global warming (84%) or that parents should vaccinate their children (82%).
Major professional organizations, including the American Academy of Neurology, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the Society for Neuroscience, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, and the American Medical Association, have formal statements in support of the research.
Thus, the animal right activist then has to confront a puzzle. If the science is so obviously wrong and fraudulent, as the cranks among them argue, why do all these scientists insist on doing the work?
Their answer is…. conspiracy and greed!
The animal right activist concludes that all all these scientists must be conspiring with the National Institutes of Health, the USDA, pharmaceutical companies, public health officials and, of course, our representatives in Congress to keep up, in their words, “the business of killing animals for money well and alive.”
Animal rights physician Dr. Greek’s writes:
The animal-based research engine is fueled by the same forces of human nature that have harmed people since the dawn of time: ignorance, greed, ego, self-preservation and fear.
It’s common to hear vivisectors in academic settings say that they could make much more money in the private sector. They make this claim to show that they are genuinely altruists and that greed isn’t what motivates them.
Such assertions fall apart when one considers what a career in science truly entails. Going into science is a hard, long and arduous process. Even after paying your way through 4-5 years of college, and spending another 4-6 years of graduate studies on a stipend of about $25,000 a year, you can expect and additional 5-7 years of postdoctoral work where you will be earning an average of $42,000 a year.
As one postdoctoral fellow lamented:
It is incomprehensible that you spend 10 years of your life educating yourself and then you are earning the same amount as a bus driver
Before you are ready to find a job in academia as an assistant professor, you are likely to find yourself married, in your 30s, and perhaps raising a child on an annual income of about $45,000. Finally, after all these years of studying and doing research, and if you are good enough to obtain a job in a major academic institution, you can then expect to earn an average of about $88,000 a year. And when can new assistant professors expect to get their first federal grant from NIH? The average age is about 43 years.
So yes, after a lifetime of commitment to their disciplines a scientist can make a good living. But does the picture above support the notion that these individuals are driven by greed? I do not think so.
Scientists are usually drawn to their fields early in life, as kids curious about nature, eager to learn how things work, and amazed at how science has changed their world compared to the one their parents and grandparents lived in.
Can anyone in their right mind think that a child that goes into the science club or enrolls in biology honors class while thinking “This is great, I am going to get rich doing this stuff!” ‘
Can anyone in their right mind think that a greedy parent, who tries to steer a child to a particular career, will tell their child to go into cell biology instead of becoming an surgeon or going to work in Wall Street?
Can anyone in their right mind think that hundreds of thousand of people are conspiring to keep the secret that animal research is useless but we keep doing it because this is the only thing we know how to do?
No, nobody in their right mind would actually think so. And this conclusion, of course, has an obvious corollary… and it makes for some good laughs too (you must watch this Jon Stewart video).
Animal rights activists are also prone to make quick judgements without knowledge. Rick Bogle, like many of their animal rights associates, is a nice example. He writes:
Another strong piece of evidence that seems to show that vivisectors are driven by greed rather than altruism is the comparison between them and doctors, nurses, and teachers when it comes to volunteerism. […] Doctors, nurses, and teachers are well represented among the ranks of volunteers around the world. Nurses and teachers are common in the Peace Corps. Doctors Without Borders is known around the world for its humanitarian efforts. Not so much with vivisectors.
What is the “strong piece of evidence” he talks about? What should be evident to anyone is that a central part of a university mission is to encourage its members to participate in voluntary community service. At UCLA we run literacy campaigns, book drives, food banks, blood donation events, clean up of parks and beaches, and have numerous outreach programs. We also host volunteer day, and you can easily search and join us in the many ongoing activities we have at the moment. The data show that a whooping 84% of incoming college students perform voluntary work in their first year at our institutions. What about the doctors and nurses that Bogles acknowledges engage in voluntary work? Well — they trained with us. Bogle’s “strong piece of evidence” is nothing but a delusion created to sustain a conviction that scientists must have ulterior motives for doing their work.
While we are on this topic it would be helpful to examine the claim by animal rights activists who argue they care deeply not only for the animals but for humans as well. That argue they support both human and animal rights.
If that were the case one would expect to see as much support for the leading animal rights organizations than for the leading human rights organizations. Instead, what we observe is that PeTA and HSUS have both about 1.5 million “likes” on Facebook while Amnesty International has less than half a million. What we see is that HSUS receives about $150 million in contributions a year, while Amnesty International receives less than $50 million.
These indicators suggest that animal rights activists do not really care for humans as much as they care for animals. They reinforce this notion when they repeatedly insist that those with vested interest in animal research are the scientists, leaving our patients and their families out of consideration.