What do you know? PeTA is at it again.
This time their rage is directed at “RoboRoach” — a science project aimed at introducing students to sensory neurophysiology and brain-machine interfaces.
Backyard Brains is selling an experiment for educational purposes that illustrates one of the fundamental scientific tools that allow us to restore function in patients by means of electrical stimulation of sensory organs and central nervous structures. Interfacing with neural structures has tremendous potential for therapeutic applications.
Such principles are the ones underlying deep brain stimulation used to help Parkinson’s patients:
The students that Backyard Brains will be reaching out are likely to be the next generation of neurobiologists, biomedical engineers and neurosurgeons. They will be the future scientists that will innovate and generate medical advances and devices that will offer new treatments and cures to your children and mine. The good people at Backyard Brains have already addressed in detail ethical concerns about the project in a thoughtful manner.
Nevertheless, PeTA calls it “bully starting kit.” The organization filed a complaint with Michigan’s attorney general and state regulators charging that Backyard Brains is practicing veterinary medicine without a license.
From the patients point of view and their families, however, the true bullies are the ones who attempt to interfere with the development of new therapies. The true ruffians are the ones trying to rob patients of their hopes of a better future. The certified zealots are the ones who create video games designed to intimidate scientists out of their work.
PeTA’s interference with science education, research and training has just one simple goal — to prevent the use of animals in science and medicine. That’s why they put so much effort in directing their message at K-12 children. They are a tiny minority trying hard to dictate the direction of medical research and education using tactics that are below any deplorable threshold (see here, here, here, here, here… and here … just to mention a few.)
Others have declared the project “a serious potential upgrade for those kids that love to burn ants with a magnifying glass in summer — and an ethics-free lesson in mind control for the pursuit of entertainment.”
Flat wrong. Science education is not “mere entertainment”. Do you want to see an example of the use of cockroaches in entertainment? Here is one:
Ask yourself — where was PeTA to direct their anger at the Discovery Channel for this episode of MythBusters?
Ask yourself — why are the thousands of cockroaches that will probably be used in this educational project attracting more false outrage that the much larger number of insects that are eaten around the world every single day? Tons of insects are eaten daily. These include beetles, crickets, grasshoppers and so on. In fact, there is growing interest from environmentalists that insects represent an very good alternative source of protein instead of meat:
A recent report the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concluded that:
Recent developments in research and development show edible insects to be a promising alternative for the conventional production of meat, either for direct human consumption or for indirect use as feedstock. […] Insects can contribute to food security and be a part of the solution to protein shortages, given their high nutritional value, low emissions of GHGs, low requirements for land and the high efficiency at which they can convert feed into food.
One may think that PeTA would be pleased at the prospect of replacing meat with insects. This is doubtful… As turns out, animal rights is not truly compatible with environmental ethics. A cockroach, PeTA would argue, has the same basic right to life and freedom as you and me.
Enough is enough.
It is time for scientists, professional organizations and patient groups to get their act together and prevent the bullies at PeTA from directing the future of medical research and education in the US and abroad.