More dishonesty about animal research from the Daily Mirror

Today the British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mirror published a truly execrable piece of animal rights propaganda dressed up as journalism, in an article attacking neuroscience research undertaken using cats at University College London. The article mischaracterized the two research projects, which were published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 2012 and 2013,   from start to finish, and as you can see below included a litany of basic errors (or were they deliberate lies?). This is not the first time that the Mirror has got its story very, very wrong.

It’s interesting to see the source of the images of cats used in the report, as they tell you something about what is going on here.

The first image may seem familiar to some readers, as it is an image that PETA have used in a campaign against hearing research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison It is a campaign marked by a mixture of clever publicity and a willingness to distort and misrepresent the facts, and of course two independent investigations refuted PETA’s allegations.

The second image, also from PETA, shows a connector to a 10×10 silicon micro-electrode array first developed at the University of Utah in the late 1990’s, which later formed a key part of  the Braingate system. In 2012 the Braingate system enabled a woman named Jan Scheuermann, quadraplegic for over a decade due to a spinal  degenerative disease, to feed herself using a brain-machine interface that monitored her motor neuron activity and allowed her to manipulate a robotic arm and hand.

It’s worth noting that valuable to advancing medical science as the implants used in the UW-Madison and University of Utah research are, they were not used in the UCL research  that the Daily Mirror is attacking, but when has the Mirror ever let the facts (or truth) stand in the way of a good image*?

UCL has issued a statement on the use of cats in research, which concludes by saying:

Despite advances in non-animal methods it is still essential to use animals where no viable alternatives exist – for both the clinical science which directly informs medical treatments, as well as the basic science which, by advancing understanding of biological processes, is an important precursor to it. The earlier work carried out on cats provided an excellent understanding of how the visual system works. As a result, it is no longer necessary to use cats as the model for this type of work which is why it has been discontinued.

So here goes, a run through of what is  – hopefully – one of the worst pieces of yellow journalism that you’ll see this year.

cat story mirror

* The Mirror has a long history of distorting research to advance animal rights propaganda. In the late 1980’s they made false allegations against Professor Colin Blakemore of the University of Oxford, and were eventually forced to print a retraction.

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14 thoughts on “More dishonesty about animal research from the Daily Mirror

  1. Dave B., you can judge me because I believe animal experimentation is cruel and unreliable, but do not ever suggest that I don’t want the truth. I, and most, who oppose animal experimentation want the facts, but you and those who kill animals do not want the public to know what you do and how much you get paid to do it (often over and over again with the same results.)

    Also, your suggestion that anyone who disagrees with your heartless experiments should not seek medical treatment is very hollow. That would be similar to me saying that you and your animal torturing friends cannot use any of the progressive advances made without using animals. If you flip a coin enough times, use enough species until your drug ‘works’, try numerous dosages until the animal doesn’t die, etc., you will say it then works. Do you also suggest that you and anyone who supports animal experimentation should continue to use the drugs that didn’t kill your animals but then killed humans? Your argument is asinine!

    Mrs. Grimble, I never suggested anyone lied re. the cats ages, so please don’t infer that I did. I simply wanted to know, because as I’ve stated before in this thread that some of the experiments I’ve read about that were conducted at Northwestern University claims that 4-6 month old kittens were cats…

    There have been a few stories in the news lately about how women with breast cancer who exercise have a greater chance of beating the disease. There was another study that showed that red meat is linked to cancer. These are not groundbreaking studies, but rather common sense. These were done on studies of real people with real disease that likely developed over decades, not artificial disease injected into non-human animals to create the disease in a short amount of time. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many major killers can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and diet. But as we all know, animal experimenters won’t get large grants of money if people start taking care of themselves.

    It’s time we spend money on educating the public on how to prevent disease and focus on advanced methodologies and stop wasting money on unreliable and archaic animal experiments. Enslaving, paralyzing, withholding food and/or water, burning, infecting with artificial disease, addicting animals to drugs/alcohol, breaking bones, brain mapping, stealing newborns away from their mothers, exposing to ear blasting noise, etc. should not be considered science in 2014, especially when the results of such horror may still kill humans when given the green light.

    1. No Jodie, cancer, heart disease and diabetes can’t be “prevented” with a healthy lifestyle. The risk of those disease can be reduced, but we cannot eliminate them. Perhaps you should read about the 29 year old who recently found out he had Motor Neurone Disease and will be dead within 3 years because we cannot find a treatment – how would you “prevent” that with lifestyle (

      Yes, healthy lifestyle is important. Yes, it would save many lives. No, it would not prevent all disease. We also cannot control what everyone does – we can educate them, we can urge them, but we cannot control them. Some people have a genetic susceptibility to certain addictive substances (no doubt including legal ones like sugar). Understanding this may help us take preventative measures.

      What you call arcane animal experiments are changing lives. To take three posts from the last few months:

  2. I think trying to convince Jodie is a exercise in futility. She’s not listening. It’s clear she has no idea what goes on in a research lab beyond her own opinions and the stories she hears from other like minded individuals. Those of us who work in the industry know she’s clueless but you’d have as much luck trying to pound in a nail using Jello as getting her to see the facts. She’s just not interested in reality and facts, just her own opinion. So save yourself some stress and focus on reaching out to those willing to listen and those who are able to look at facts and judge for themselves. Clearly this excludes Jodie.

  3. Jodie, the links to the experiments’ abstracts are in the article – to save you the trouble of rereading it, here they are:
    They give details of the anaesthetics that were administered to the cats; the 2013 paper also details how the cats were monitored during the experiment, to determine that they stayed completely anaesthetised.
    The abstracts call them cats; according to Wikipedia, a ‘kitten’ is under twelve months old. Scientists like to be precise with their descriptions, especially in scientific papers, so we can probably accept that the cats really were adults.
    I don’t know why you’re so insistent on knowing how old the cats were; I can only think you were trying to prove that somebody lied over something (“You said they were adult cats when they were really kittens!”).

  4. Some of these arguments are just comical!

    NJ Cat Lover, I’m guessing you are an animal experimenter and you picked that user name so we all would think that even those who say they care about animals approve of horrific experiments that end in killing the animals. You say they “graduate” and get adopted. No, not here. They are killed.

    Because these cats were born and raised specifically for experimentation does not mean they will be comfortable/happy in a laboratory. If anything, they probably get less handling (which is how cats are socialized) because they are considered tools, not feeling beings. If they are habituated to the sights, sounds and smells of the research, as you claim, then they know the smell and sight of death and cries from other animals in pain, so yeah they’re scared! And again, we are not ever given access to sit in on these experiments, watch a video of these experiments, tour the labs, see the protocol of the experiment, etc., so I may not have all the details, but again, the animals are being killed.

    Doug, really? You’re comparing sick and unnecessary experiments with nature? Cats hunt by nature. Humans do not breed cats, imprison cats, cut open cats skulls, implant electrodes in cats brains and then kill cats by nature. And many responsible guardians don’t allow their cats outside to hunt and kill wildlife.

    Gabriel, you seriously think that these cats (and most lab animals) who were born to be killed have it better than humans? Do you honestly believe these cats enjoy living in cold, steel cages? No animal wants to be, let alone live, in a cage. And, obviously, no animal wants to be experimented upon and then killed. Last I checked, I’ve never seen a human living in a cage, being experimented upon and then killed.

    And sacrificing some cats for the benefits of others is illogical and immoral. These experimenters clearly don’t follow, “First do no harm.”

    Keep bringing up your lame excuses of why you want to continually torture and kill animals, but what it all comes down to is science has advanced. It’s 2014 and we should no longer being harming and killing animals for human health (which is unreliable – btw, different species react differently to chemicals, drugs, procedures, etc. – we’ve been shown this over and over again) or sacrificing some animals for others.

    And we know how to combat most diseases with diet, exercise and lifestyle. It’s just that most humans don’t want to change their diet, exercise or lifestyle, so animals pay the price and experimenters keep getting their huge paychecks from tax dollars.

    I ask again. Tom, how old were these cats and can you or someone provide me a copy of the protocol of this specific experiment? What were the goals/purpose? What, if anything, was learned? I’d really love to know!

    1. It’s true we don’t allow activists into the research facilities because they aren’t interested in the truth. They’re only interested in advancing their own agenda. It wouldn’t matter what we showed them, they’d find a way to twist it to fit their agenda. I give tours on a regular basis to those interested in really knowing what goes on. I also participate in programs at local schools where we show them the types of housing used for rodents, the types of environmental enrichment we provide them, and talk about the experiments that are done and what they have achieved.

      I get that you’re against animal research and that’s fine. Lots of people are. All I ask is that you, therefore, renounce any and all treatments or medications or advances obtained through the research that used animals. It’s a simple enough request and surely if you’re as against animal research as you say this should be a sacrifice you’re willing to make. It means no over-the-counter medications, no immunizations for you, your children or your pets, no MRI’s or other imaging should a doctor think you need it to diagnose anything. Of course it won’t matter if he diagnoses you with anything since you won’t be taking any of the medications or treatments he can offer. It would mean no treatments or research for things like Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome, Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Tay-Sachs, ALS, or Type 1 diabetes. And this is just an EXTREMELY short list of things that would go untreated. Now I’m not willing to let anyone in my family suffer from these things if I can help it nor do I want anyone else anywhere to have to do it. But that’s just me. Let me know how rejecting all these things works out for you or people you may know.

  5. My name is peter Hinchliffe and I fully support the use of animals in research to combat diseases in humans where no alternative is available.
    We need to start standing up for those people who are involved in this research, its not good enough to reap the benefits but not take a share in the responsibility, whilst researchers face harsher and more extreme opposition.

  6. While animal activism has helped improve quality of life for test animals, it’s sad when the system gets abused. Laboratory animals these days get treated with more respect than some people, I wish people would use their efforts for something better. How are we supposed to advance medicine for animals without tests? Veterinary care has substantially improved over the years as evidence by things like “pet insurance”, where do people think these advancements are coming from? Not to mention all the advancements that have come for people from animal testing.

  7. I wonder if the rats and birds that cats kill have ever felt a “hand of compassion” before they were ripped apart alive for the amusement of the cat who frequently leaves its killed prey behind to rot.
    Meanwhile I support cat ownership. I also support animal research to help not only humans but cats themselves. The people above fail to realize that when cures are found for humans they are also found for their pets as well. Imagine if we had no veterinary treatments for cats owned by the animal rights zealots and their cats died an agonizing death from diseases that we now count as curable. Dogs as well..
    Keep up the good work for humans and for pets. and other animals

  8. How old were they?

    Passing away and killing are two very different things. Please be clear and don’t make it sound like these animals simply passed away like elderly people might do. Experimenters are ending these cats lives.

    Most cats are very scared when they must go to the vet’s office, even when they are comforted by their guardian. In a lab, they don’t have guardians who are reassuring them that they will be okay, because they are not going to be okay. They are having their skulls cut open, electrodes implanted into their brains and then they are killed. They were born to be experimented upon and killed – that definitely involves much suffering!

    These unlucky cats, and many more like them, probably never felt a hand of compassion, as they are used as tools and not living, feeling beings.

    1. Being killed and suffering are definitely not the same thing. You need to be alive and able to feel pain or misery in order to suffer. Heavy anaesthetic is enough to put a creature through literally anything (which is kinda how surgery on humans works) without them being conscious of what’s going on. I don’t promote experiments on animals, but if you’re going to report it you need to be honest about what’s actually happening. People don’t like being lied to.

    2. “most cats are very scared when they must go to the vwet’s office…” The cats used in this, and most other research, are from the facilitiy’s own cat colony, or from a facility specifically for raising research animals. They are habituated to the sights, sounds and smells of the research lab and are NOT scared of their handlers, including the surgeons who carefully perform procedures under appropriate anesthetic.

      Depending on the type of study, many of them “graduate” from the facility and find adoptive homes either with people from the institution or from the surrounding community.

      You really don’t know what the (bleep) you are talking about!

  9. SOR states that these were adult cats, not kittens. In experiments conducted at Northwestern University, they also say ‘Adult female cats aged 4–6 months’. 4-6 months old is not an adult cat – that is still a kitten. So, how old were these cats? It doesn’t really matter since they’re losing their lives anyway.

    Also, SOR emphatically claims these cats did not suffer. Really? You don’t think that being killed constitutes suffering?

    SOR also constantly reminds us that the pictures were not from the specific procedure and location they are referring to or that the photos are old. Well, you know damn well how difficult it is to acquire photos of current experiments nor are we allowed in the labs to see your gruesome experiments, so we use what we have. A photo of electrodes in the brain of a cat probably looks pretty similar to another photo of electrodes in the brain of a cat.

    It does not take a ‘scientist’ to know that these kittens/cats were terrified before and during this procedure which, by the way, is a form of suffering. Then their lives were cut short. I wouldn’t call any of that ‘protections’.

    1. I think one year is the usual cut off age for kittens – the animals are UCL were cats not kittens. It matters in terms of getting the facts right.

      No, being killed does not constitute suffering. If you pass away while under anaesthetic, you do not suffer from it.

      Well for a start the pictures show a conscious cat with electrodes in its head. In the research at UCL none of the cats were conscious at any point during the procedure or after it. They also can’t be terrified if they are asleep!

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