Daily Archives: January 4, 2013

Similarity of Anti-Vaccination and Anti-Animal-Testing Arguments

While reading Edzard Ernst’s fantastic blog I came across a list of “common anti-vaccination tropes” that originated in a 2012 paper by A. Kata.

Ernst anti-vaccination animal testing

What’s interesting is that nearly every argument could be used by an animal rights activist if you simply switch the word “vaccination” to “medicine”. So:

1. I am not anti-medicine, I am pro-safe-medicine.
This is a common attack on animal research, as they claim that they want medicines, but don’t believe animal research helps. This is often conflated with the idea that side effects only exist because  a drug was developed using animal research (as if other chemicals, discovered other ways, would not have side effects). This is silly – all chemicals have side effects, all can be overdosed on, even water.

2. Medicines are toxic
The nuttier end of the animal rights movement sometimes try to reject all animal researched medicines as toxic – since only “natural” or “herbal” remedies will work. I have heard it claimed (multiple times) that homeopathy or herbal remedies can cure cancer or AIDS (see Ernst’s blog). Similar points about adverse drug reactions as mentioned above also apply to this point.

3. Medicines should be 100% safe
Neither animal research, nor human clinical trials can guarantee 100% safety. We all have slight genetic differences. Penicillin may have saved million upon millions of lives, but some people will still have violent, and sometimes fatal, allergic reactions to it. Some people are even allergic to sunlight, you cannot have a 100% safe solution. Sometimes we know how dangerous a treatment is, but we still go ahead with it because it’s better than the alternative (e.g. Chemotherapy to treat cancer).

4. You cannot prove that medicines are safe
Animal research is not designed to say that a drug is safe for mass consumption. It is designed to show that it is safe enough to go to early stage clinical trials in humans. These trials are there to determine if drugs are safe for larger trials.

5. Medicine did not save us
Sadly, no medicines are 100% perfect. Nonetheless saying they don’t always work is far from saying they never work. Certainly homeopathy and other “natural” remedies don’t achieve the success rates of proper medicines.

6 Medicines are not natural.
Firstly, many are (e.g. Aspirin was originally a willow bark extract). Secondly, why does it matter? In the words of Tim Minchin:

“Alternative Medicine”, I continue “Has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work. You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.

7. I am an expert in my own child
The first and only one on the list that can’t cross the anti-vaccination, anti-animal-research bridge.

8. Galileo was persecuted too
Otherwise known as “Just because animal research is supported by most of the scientific community doesn’t mean you’re wrong”. No, it doesn’t – but it’s a pretty big hint.

9. Science has been wrong before
Yup, it’s been right a lot too. Especially on things with lots of evidence – see entire history of modern medicine.

10. So many people simply cannot be wrong
Blow me down, Dr. Greek, Dr. Hansen, Dr. Menache, Dr. Vlasak, couldn’t all be wrong? Surely it must be the 93% of scientists who believe animal research is essential who are wrong!! This ridiculous argument usually joins the great scientific conspiracy against animals.

11. You must be in the pocket of BIG PHARMA
Again the great conspiracy rears its ugly head – read this great post dispelling that idea.

12. I do not believe that the problems after medication occur coincidentally
This would apply to animal research insofar that it is one of the side effect comments dealt with above. For vaccines this takes a specific turn of blaming autism on vaccines – an idea thoroughly discredited.

Ernst also makes the point that those against vaccines tend to be in favour of “alternative medicine”. So we can see the crossover between the anti-proper-medicine, anti-vaccination, and anti-animal-research movements.