February 15th 2021
Michele A. Basso, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences,
University of California, Los Angeles
I am stunned.
Cory Mac (full name Cory Mac a’Ghobhainn), the leader of a group called Progress for Science (P4S) either is a hypocrite, or she is ignorant of how science works, in spite of the name of her group.
Cory Mac organizes so-called ‘protests’ in neighborhoods where she believes scientists live. These events are not protests so much as they are attempts at harassment and intimidation. She says the protests are designed to get vivisectionists—the derogatory name anti-animal researchers use to refer to some types of scientists—to reconsider ‘their ways’. The banner of their Facebook page and a recent post (below) accusing me—a scientist at UCLA whose work is geared toward unraveling the brain mechanisms of cognitive impairment in people with Parkinson’s disease—of ‘killing monkeys’.
It’s a good thing neither Cory nor any of her friends or loved ones have Parkinson’s disease because internally consistent logic would require them to refuse medical treatments or interventions that may be developed from the knowledge gained from my work with monkeys. Right?
BUT WAIT…. Here’s a picture Cory posted to her Facebook page showing her receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Does she know that the only reason she is able to get this effective and safe vaccine so quickly is because of decades of fundamental cellular and molecular biological research, much of it conducted in non-human animals, that provided the knowledge and understanding necessary to enable development of this new vaccine? And that once the vaccine that Cory received was developed, it relied on non-human animals, including many monkeys, to evaluate its safety and efficacy? She seems to understand at least part of this from her post, below.
“Our group, which is strongly pro-science as our name implies, is against the use of animals in medical research and testing but as it stands in the US today they are a requirement for the development of any new drug treatment, including for vaccines. While one can opt out of buying beauty and hygiene products which have been tested on animals, going the “cruelty free” route, this is not possible with most modern medications. Boycotts, quixotic endeavors which would essentially require a person to refuse almost everything available in any human or pet hospital and clinic, have little effect on pharmaceuticals other than to deprive the would-be patient of often vital medicine.
That said, as awareness of the high costs of animal research and testing both to animals and the advancement of medical science grows, many new technologies and methods are being developed which will one day help take other earthlings out of the labs altogether.
One sign of this possibility is that with the pandemic-driven urgency of a Covid vaccine, both Pfizer and Moderna were given approval to simultaneously test their vaccines on mice and monkeys while they were conducting Phase 1 trials on humans. Had these tests been absolutely vital the need to do them first would not have been skipped.
The decision to vaccinate or not is an individual choice, one that each of our organizers is saying yes to for our own personal well being and for the well being of our friends, families and comrades – which of course includes all of our wonderful fellow activists attending our events. We hope you all are keeping safe and, for those still able to be out in the streets on behalf of both other animals and humans, are masking up and fighting hard!”
First, we heard such weak excuses before. When Cory and her friends and loved ones’ lives are at risk, their absolutist positions are quickly set aside. Second, she clearly acknowledges the fact that virtually all major medical breakthroughs benefitting her and her loved ones require the use of non-human animals, and she accepts willingly—in fact eagerly—the benefits that arise from medical research using animals, including monkeys. Her friends on Facebook do too. What she fails to understand is that fundamental research with animals—research aimed at bringing new knowledge about how our bodies (and the bodies of non-human animals) work—is the backbone of the development of these new treatments and therapies, years before they are tested for efficacy and safety. Do Cory and her friends think these treatments just come out of thin air?? We all know they require decades of basic science to spur new ideas and findings leading to new treatments and vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is a prime example.
Sadly, Cory and her friends refuse to acknowledge this, so they will continue to benefit from our hard work while she continues to organize campaigns of harassment and intimidation against the people who are working hard every day to provide new knowledge that will lead to exactly the kinds of treatments she so eagerly accepts. And the best part is, she and her friends say how wonderful it was for her to get the vaccine, so she can go out and protest some more! Maybe the real truth is that Cory and her friends believe they are somehow entitled to new treatments and cures developed from animal research, but that others are not.
SR Editorial Note: Dr. Michele A. Basso is an internationally known neuroscientist studying brain circuits involved in Parkinson’s disease and decision making. She is also an advocate for improved standards for animal care, use and welfare, and for greater transparency and outreach to the public on issues related to animal research (learn more about this here).