What if animals could tweet?

Georgianne Nienaber, a political and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, posted an article entitled “What if Lab Animals Could Tweet?”
The  article was prompted by a recent Gallup poll showing an increase disparity in the moral acceptability of “medical testing on animals”.  Younger people, in the 18-34 years bracket, showed a decline of about 19% from 2001 to 2013.  For those 55 and older, support went from 63% to 61%.  A two percent decline that may not be statistically significant.

The data for the younger population should be of some concern to those that support the regulated and responsible use of animals in medical research. A number of animal rights organizations spend enormous effort and time targeting K-12 children and college students with their message.  Perhaps, the Gallup poll reflects the fruits of their work.

It seems evident that as these young adults grow up and confront illnesses they begin to appreciate modern medicine and see the moral dilemma of medical research in a different light.  Otherwise, the data should have shown a parallel decline for all age groups, as seen on the same Gallup poll on the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations.   This is not what the data show in the case of animal research.

Nevertheless, scientists and the medical research leadership should take note of these trends and realize that we all need to spend more time counteracting the message of animal rights groups directed at K-12 and college level students.

What is truly irritating about this article is that a legitimate journalist appears to engage in  the same kind of misinformation campaign as animal rights organizations.

She writes:

Non-human primates are about to venture into the realm inhabited by philosophers, and SAEN’s presser made me queasy just thinking about animals’ abilities to literally read minds when they are housed in deplorable conditions in the nation’s laboratories.

This sentence is immediately followed by the image below, attributed to Michael Budkie of SAEN.


In the context in which it appears, Ms. Nienaber implies in her article that such deplorable conditions are the ones to be found in US Labs today.  This is most curious, as it takes only a few minutes to find out that the image does not belong to SAEN nor was it taken in a laboratory in the U.S.  Instead, it seems the image first appeared in a DailyMail article back in 2006 describing experiments in Zhongshan University, China. The original article does not stipulate when the image was taken.

When challenged in the comments section of her article regarding the origin of the image Ms. Nienaber deflects the conversation and points instead to a similar study carried out in the US.  The study, however,  offers in its Fig 1 the image of a juvenile monkey wearing goggles — one is relaxed and playing with a toy.  Obviously, not good enough for the purpose of her article.

Ms Nienaber goes on to write:

I am hoping trolls in favor of scientific research do not jump on this post as an opportunity to vent their positions on animal research. Instead, let’s engage in some critical thinking.

Really?  So much for an invitation to public debate from a critical thinker and investigative journalist!

Perhaps Ms Nienaber could exercise her critical thinking by finding out where the medicines in her cabinet came from.  Perhaps, she should ask her pediatrician how the vaccines she gives her children were developed. Perhaps she could have taken the time to understand what the studies of amblyopia are trying to find out (Hint: here)?  Or perhaps she could have taken some time to find out how Mr. Budkie operates and check more carefully the sources of the materials she receives from animal rights organizations.

Sadly, Ms Nienaber critical thinking took her instead to ponder on a different question.

What if Lab animals could tweet?  — she asks.

Yes, what if?

If they could reason as and talk humans, if they could follow our moral principles, perhaps, as in Kafka’s “A report for an Academy,” they would no longer consider themselves non-human animals…  they would be part of the human community and tweet: “Ms. Nienaber — please, next time do your research.”

3 thoughts on “What if animals could tweet?

  1. Excellent comments and points by Dr Ringbach. We will continue to educate those who have an open mind – unfortunately the author of the original article does not seem to have one.


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