For Life on Earth – The Birth of Another Pseudoscience Organisation

Who are FLOE?

There is a new British animal rights group on the scene called “For Life on Earth” or FLOE for short. Founded by Louise Owen, who has worked with both Medical Research Modernisation Committee and Seriously Ill Against Vivisection (both now defunct), the website seems almost an advertising tool for the various writings of Ray Greek and Niall Shanks (There are no shortage of Amazon links on the site and recommendations that you “buy it now”), with typical pseudoscience about how animal research is no longer necessary.

A professionally finished video on the front page (above) informs us that since we don’t take ourselves down the vet, or our pets to a hospital, that “common sense” would suggest research cannot cross species lines. It is worth noting that veterinarians deal with a variety of different species (so much for not crossing species lines), furthermore, the One Health Initiative DOES aim to get greater collaboration between veterinary and human medicine due to their overwhelming similarity. The Zoobiquity website discusses many aspects of the similarity between human and animal treatments.

The video goes on to suggest that personalised medicine offers opportunities for “treatments [that] are tailor made for you and you alone, for your unique genetic makeup”. Again, they negate to note the huge influence  and growing role of animals in personalized medicine (such as the creation of mouse avatars which are injected with a person’s tumour cells so as to find the specific treatments that will work for that person). I also recommend reading our earlier post “When Personalised Medicine and Animal Research Meet”.

The video finishes with the curious phrase:

“We at For Life on Earth present science illustrated by “Animal models in light of evolution””

This makes me wonder if the whole website is not simply a straight marketing tool by Greek and Shanks’ publishers.

Much of the website revolves around Ray Greek’s regular writings (often on “Opposing Views”) that assert that animal models are not predictive. In reply, you should read a great post by Dario Ringach, an excerpt of which can be found below:

Researchers create models of disease in animals by trying to replicate what they believe are the essential components at play. These animal models can then be used to generate predictions for therapeutic interventions, which can then be tested in human clinical trials. If a prediction is falsified, so is that specific animal model of the disease.

When this happens, scientists seek to understand how the data depart from the prediction, what factors were ignored that might play a role, and use prior knowledge and intuition to develop a better, improved model. In the course of developing and refining such a model, scientists will go through many such cycles. A model is expected to be valid if and only if it captures all the key ingredients of the human condition.

The fact that one can postulate inaccurate animal models of human disease does not invalidate the whole methodology of animal research, it merely shows the work is difficult. But animal models can in fact be successful.

So what are the aims of FLOE?

For Life on Earth (FLOE) - Animal Research Science

“For Life on Earth is committed to making this level of science debate happen. Our objective is to ensure that such debates are broadcast live on television, via a platform such as BBC’s Newsnight or Question Time, both being suitable for the seriousness of such an important topic, and able to incorporate audience participation.“

It is a common claim among animal rights groups that there is no debate. In Britain, over the last 11 years, there have been four independent enquiries about animal research: House of Lords Select Committee (2002), Animal Procedures Committee (2003), Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2005) and the Weatherall Report (2006). On television there has been one Newsnight debate (below) on the scientific merits of animal research between Michelle Thew (BUAV) and Professor Tipu Aziz. Perhaps Ray Greek is simply frustrated that his fellow anti-viv organisation chose not to put up a scientist, but rather their own CEO. Question Time would not fit For Life on Earth’s vision of a scientific debate; as it is a current issues discussion programme dominated by the 3 partisan political panellists (of 5 total) that rarely discusses scientific issues. An animal research debate would be held in short sound bites, with political panellists trying to get the biggest applause. In terms of other opportunities for debate, Dr Greek himself has debated against scientists like Dr Michael Conn on CNN (contrary to the website’s assertion that such debates have never happened).

“For Life on Earth will focus on the most efficient routes by which to advertise the fact that veterinary principles must not be applied to ill, or critically ill humans. An effective pressure campaign, coordinated with the help of the international community, can then help to ensure that legislative decisions made by governments implement current scientific knowledge.”

This straw man argument suggests that current biomedical methods are based on veterinary principles. While there are some similarities between veterinary and clinical medicine (they both try to make ‘animals’ better), there are also clear differences. Given the overwhelming majority of scientists are in support of animal-based research, perhaps FLOE should not be so confident about explaining what “current scientific knowledge” entails. Modern animal research remains at the cutting edge of scientific discovery.

Wait, who are For Life on Earth again?

Well this is where things get interesting. FLOE is registered to a virtual London address through the company British Monomarks. This is not remarkable in itself, until you discover the host of other animal rights organisations that also use this same company for a virtual mailing address.

WC1N 3XX FLOEFLOE are in the company of the Animal Liberation Front Press Office and Supporters Group (offering support to jailed animal rights extremists). They also share their address with the Gateway to Hell campaigns and SHAC – who have a long history of animal rights extremists in their ranks. One wonders what individual connections draw these same organisations to use the same virtual address company.

Overall, For Life on Earth shows all the signs of being another antivivisection, pseudoscientific organisation. I guess it’s another excuse to get out the Animal Rights Bingo.

Speaking of Research

Addenum 13th May 2013

FLOE have removed the address from their website since this article was posted. Click the image below to see a cached version of the website for evidence.

For Life on Earth Address

6 thoughts on “For Life on Earth – The Birth of Another Pseudoscience Organisation

  1. so then is it ok to use animals in research for “like kind” ok to use dogs to cure dog diseases.. mice for mice diseases? and so on.. ridiculous notion on a website that tries hard to look ‘scientific

  2. FLOE claim that “…the fact that veterinary principles must not be applied to ill, or critically ill humans”

    What does that phrase even mean?

    There are some differences between the ethical principles governing veterinary practice and those governing human clinical medicine, but the biological principles of veterinary and clinical medicine are the same.

    The term “meaningless guff” springs to mind.

  3. The notion that FLOE are putting forward that personalised medicine makes animal research redundant is clearly nonsense to anyone who actually knows anything about the field, but it’s also worth noting that one of the newer areas of interest in personalised medicine is the emerging field of epigenetics. Needless to say research in animals – and indeed other model organisms – is playing a crucial role in advancing knowledge about the role of epigenetics in health and disease, and how this knowledge can be translated into new preventative measures and therapies

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