Daily Archives: October 10, 2013

PeTA: When everything else fails, bring out a celebrity

Opponents of the use of animals in medical research have failed to make a compelling scientific and moral argument against the work. Having repeated the same arguments for more than a century, and recognizing they are unlikely to succeed in the future, their strategies have shifted towards the simple goal of interfering and obstructing animal research in any way possible.

A common tactic is to bring serious allegations against a scientist and University to the agencies responsible for regulating and monitoring the work, such as USDA and NIH. In this line of work, PeTA has been campaigning intensively against the use of cats in experiments aimed at developing the next generation of cochlear implants at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Cochlear implant

Studies on cats have been crucial to the development of the next generation of cochlear implants

The organization filed multiple complaints against the university claiming that the work had violated the animal welfare act.  Three different federal inspections were launched by the NIH, USDA and OLAW at great expense to the taxpayers and to the University.

The bottom line: PeTA’s allegations were baseless.

So what can you expect PeTA to do?

First, they will deny the outcome of the investigators. Indeed, PeTA’s Justin Goodman, their “director of laboratory investigations”, said in an interview he disagreed with the report’s conclusions, and added “we’re disappointed that the NIH downplayed major animal welfare violations.”

Mr. Goodman should read the report once again — there were no major animal welfare violations found. Period. He is simply disappointed to have been proven wrong. Of course, PeTA probably knew this to be the case even before submitting the complaints. The goal was simply to harass the scientists, interrupt the work and get some free press coverage.

Second, and before anyone can take notice, PeTA will try to distract any media coverage away from the factual findings of the investigations by concocting a celebrity stunt. In this case, it was the turn of comedian Bill Maher, who recorded a voice message against the research which was delivered by robocall to every phone with an  area code surrounding the University.

“It strikes me that it’s not the cats who need their heads examined, because being mean to animals isn’t just stupid—it’s wrong, especially when there are better options that are actually relevant to humans, as there are in this case,” he says in the message.

If there are noninvasive methods that would allow scientists to measure and understand how sounds from the two hears are combined by the brain at timescales of microseconds to estimate their direction of arrival we are ready to be enlightened. The most likely scenario, unfortunately, is that he just does not know what he is talking about.  What is truly mean and stupid is to scientists are using animals when other options are available.

I know, my opinions are hardly news.  The case for Bill Maher’s ignorance on scientific topics ranging from germ theory to vaccinations has been made multiple times and there is no need to repeat them here.  (You are welcome to read here, here, here, here, here, here, …. well, I hope you get the idea.)

It strikes me that if there is anyone who needs his head examined is the one who denies scientific facts, such as the protection offered by vaccines and medications, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

It strikes me as stupid that any reasonable member of the public would listen to the opinion of a comedian on important health issues, rather than listening to their physicians, the Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control, or the medical leadership of our country.

It strikes me as dangerous and irresponsible for a joker to offer public health advice against vaccinations when we know exactly what would happen if we followed his recommendations. It is difficult to say but, I would venture to guess that Maher’s advice to his followers may have already killed more humans than the number of cats used in the experiments he opposes.

It strikes me as hypocritical that Bill Maher objects so vociferously to the use of a dozen cats in a multi-year research program to advance medical devices in important hearing research that complies with existing laws and regulations, when PeTA euthanizes thousands of pets in any one year. Do you want to take a closer look? Here are some pictures allegedly of PeTA’s operations.

Finally, It strikes me as nothing short of obscene that any public figure would support an organization like PeTA that encourages its followers to fantasize about the possibility of physically harming scientists and anyone else who do not agree with their philosophy.

It strikes me as if Bill Maher is nothing more than a really bad joke.

And so is PeTA.