Speaking of Research Year in Review 2021

December 31st 2021

This year has been another difficult year for everyone. Like many of you, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us at Speaking of Research one way or another—including with re-prioritization of time to child, elder and other care, the switch to and challenges of online teaching and major job related delays and decisions. We, like you, have also sadly experienced the death of loved ones.

Despite these challenges Speaking of Research has worked diligently and had an impactful year, with ~500,000 unique site visits and sustained engagement by our 5200+ avid social media followers and readers. As in previous years, we worked closely with media outlets and scientific and other advocacy organizations  to defend public interests in science, support scientists, encourage greater openness, and put pressure on government agencies to better and more actively promote and support animal research. To kick off 2022, we highlight key events and some of the unique work that our members contributed in 2021.

In January, we wrote about the dire consequences of the politicizing of the COVID-19 pandemic on public trust in the scientific enterprise. This impact is still being felt today with over 800,000 Americans and 5.35 million worldwide deaths. 

We also critically evaluated for what purpose does the counting of animals used in research serve.

“In other words, the relevant ethical consideration is not how many mice are in research in the US, but whether the nation has scientific capacity to advance knowledge about disease, to develop effective and safe prevention or treatment, and, when that depends on animal research or testing, how it is balanced with consideration of animal welfare.”

In February we called out the hypocrisy of those opposed to animal research in accepting vaccines for COVID-19 that were Made Possible by Animal Research #MPAR and reminded our readers how animal research is worth the expense.

We also discussed how progress in curing Parkinson’s disease depends on animal research.

“Those opposed to animal research will always do so. For those of us who are considerate of improving the human condition—while weighing the risks and the benefits of doing versus not doing such research—the answer is clearly in favor of animal research for Parkinson’s disease in the hopes of finding a cure for this debilitating disease.”

In March, we discussed how the prioritization of human life during the pandemic was necessary, how those opposed to animal research adopt various models for accepting cures contrary to their purported belief systems (convenient logic) and highlighted that animal research is used to produce safe medicines for other animals—including other primates.

Male rhesus macaque. Source: Kathy West.

In April, as in previous years, we covered #WorldImmunizationWeek (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). One of our most read posts this year comprehensively covered the various COVID-19 vaccines.

Also, given the usual rhetoric from those opposed to animal research, #FactCheckNeeded, we called for more transparent labeling of medications.

“Focusing solely on whether animal products are contained in the final step fails to provide consumers with accurate and full information.”

In May, we made a call for scientific journals to adopt accurate language about the sex of non-human animals.

“Articles about nonhuman animals should specify animals’ species as well as their sex; authors should not refer to nonhuman animals in terms of the human construct gender.”

Committee member, Professor Agnès Lacreuse, discussed why nonhuman primates are essential for addressing Alzheimer’s disease and women’s health issues.

In addition, committee members Chris Magee and Chris Petkov, critically evaluated the UK’s animal sentience bill.

“The new Bill now avoids defining sentience altogether and the definition of ‘animal’ is any nonhuman vertebrate, plus anything the Secretary of State for the Environment thinks should be on the list, so basically quite similar to the existing Animal Welfare Act”

Professors Allyson Bennett and Marcello Rosa discussed the question, “Does animal research produce cures”–the answer is yes ICYWW.

“The next time you hear someone say, ‘Animal research results in no cures,’ ask them this: Where exactly did the cure come from? What had to be known to arrive there? And what if ending animal research ends the possibility of future cures? Answer that while thinking carefully about who will be affected.”

In June, we were heartened to highlight the call for transparent labeling of news and journal articles to include the animal species that were used.

Matthew R. Bailey, Eva Maciejewski, and Leah Jessen of the Foundation for Biomedical Research guest posted on our blog in regards to the prime opportunity to educate the so-called moveable middle with facts about why animal research is necessary for medical advancements.

“We want the public to know what you already know: that thanks to animal research, Americans and their furry family members are living healthier and longer lives than ever.”

June is also Pride Month, and it was thus, timely to discuss the tumultuous legislative period in the U.S with respect to LGBTQIA health.

And on the seventh month, July, the committee members of Speaking of Research, who are professors, scientists, children, mothers, fathers, caretakers (to name a few of the many roles we all play)–rested.

In August, we performed a major animal use statistics update and released individual factual reports for the UK, the EU and Norway, Canada, Germany, the USA, Switzerland, and France.

We also wrote about the alarming consequences of divesting in non-human primate research.

“At Speaking of Research, we support the view that nations who are vying to stay as leaders in biomedical research need to urgently consider the need to invest in facilities that allow the full cycle of development of treatments to be conducted according to the highest standards of animal welfare and ethics, including non-human primates.”

Committee member Dr. Justin Varholick wrote about the extensive history of animal research, beginning in the 1970s which led to the recent COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. This was our most read post this year and worth a read if you have not done so already!

In September, we applauded the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for highlighting the Important Role of Animal Research in mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Development.

We also called out PETA and their latest celebrity mouthpiece, Casey Affleck, for their misogynistic behavior in harassing women.

In October, we commended the Washington Post for highlighting the vital animal research that made Merck’s new COVID-19 therapeutic, molnupiravir, possible.

We also highlighted the #TimeScales that made the pig kidney transplant to a deceased human possible.

In November, we again called out PETA’s hypocrisy, by highlighting how animal research has allowed a woman to see again.

Switzerland and Canada released their 2020 animal use statistics, which we covered in detail.

We also highlighted the vital role of animal research in producing the first vaccine for Valley Fever in dogs. As all of our readers know, animal research saves the lives of humans but also other animals too, including your dog, cat, hamster etc.

We also covered the amazing reporting of Maartje Bakker who brought intimate insights into the development of a COVID-19 vaccine in non-human primates.

Dekker helps to take care of the monkeys in the study, including this one after being sedated for the vaccination. Dekker is nervous about the intentions of the journalist because of regular activist harassment and intimidation, but, like the other staff at BPRC, believes it is important to tell the public about their work with monkeys and how it helps people.

In December, committee member Dr. Renée Hartig and her student Meeraa Ramakrishnan, asked the question in their provocative post

“If research in animals, specifically dogs, could lead to better treatment options and lives for the dogs themselves, would people still disagree with animal research?”.

We also wrote about how an experimental HIV vaccine based on mRNA—the same platform technology used in two highly effective COVID-19 vaccines—showed promise #InMice and #InMonkeys.

We hope that 2022 is less tumultuous than 2021, and we at Speaking of Research will continue to bring you fact-based and contemporary analysis of issues pertaining to animal research. Until then, all of us at Speaking of Research wish you a Happy New Year!

~Speaking of Research