Tag Archives: misinformation

Animal Rights Bingo

Have you ever sat and listened to an animal rights activist speaking – on TV or a live debate – while you desperately grip your chair to stop yourself leaping out of your seat to challenge their every nonsense claim. “NO”, you scream to yourself, “animal research does not cause adverse drug reactions!”

Now we’ve created something to keep you occupied – animal rights bingo. Will your TV activist manage to spout enough pseudoscience and outright nonsense to get a Bingo? Try it out (we are not responsible if you jump up in the middle of a lecture and shout bingo).

Click the image to download a pdf version with clickable links.

Click the image above to download a PDF document. You can then click each myth and be linked to the debunking of each myth above.

I don’t usually like posting PeTA videos – but it’s a fun one to play animal rights bingo with – see how many error you could spot.


Speaking of Research

The #ARnonsense Effect

We are now one month on from the start of the Science Action Network, which aims to enable scientists to respond to misinformation from animal rights groups (AKA #ARnonsense).

So how do we measure the effect of such a campaign? We tried to show some of the success we had in the first 18 days in an earlier post. Since then we have continued to swing polls and garner additional comments on #ARnonsense across the internet. But why do we bother? See Exhibit A.

Prior to use mentioning this thread on twitter via the #ARnonsense hashtag these were the only comments on a post about how animal rights activists were preventing the transport of animals for medical purposes. It gives a pretty grim impression on the public view of animal research.

After we tweeted this out using the #ARnonsense hashtag the comment thread changed direction.

Common sense prevails and those reading can now understand why animals are being transported for research.

#ARnonsense – if you haven’t done your share this week, here’s a couple in need of reply:

A petition against animal testing has a FaceBook enabled comment section at the bottom – it would be nice if we could convince a few people not to sign the petition.

Please tweet the following British MPs: @hammersmithandy, @LindsayHoyle_MP and @LilianGreenwood who have fallen for the misinformation of the animal rights group the BUAV – remind them that the BUAV is not an animal welfare group and would see an end to all lifesaving medical research using animals (including veterinary).

Defending science and countering falsehood at the University of Wisconsin Madison

PeTA celebrated a victory the past week when they obtained photographs of cats that are part of medical research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The work involves a small number of cats in studies that provide better understanding of hearing and that are relevant to improving treatment for human deafness.

An explanation of the purpose of the research, the care of the animals, and the reason that cats make unique contributions to this work are all clearly addressed in a university statement:

The research develops a better understanding of how the brain combines information from the two ears, including sound localization. Cats are used because of their extraordinary talents at localizing sounds. Feral cats likely do most of their hunting at night because that is when their rodent prey is most active. Because vision at night is limited, hearing is the primary sensory cue for the cat to localize its prey. The cat auditory system is very similar to that of humans, making it relevant to clinical studies of humans with bilateral cochlear implants.

An op-ed written by UW-Madison Department of Neuroscience professors Donata Oertel and Peter Lipton on behalf of 65 UW faculty members provides a voice of reason among a sea of emotive, rather than factual, accusations.

Widely recognized and respected in the biomedical research community, this research benefits hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from hearing loss. It is being mischaracterized by animal rights militants for their own purposes.

By spreading misinformation and outright falsehoods, PETA bypasses our system of justice and promotes harassment and attacks on the people and institutions that engage in important biomedical research.

Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison also seem less than impressed by PeTA’s allegations, and were not afraid to say so when interviewed by the Badger Herald and Daily Cardinal during a PeTA protest yesterday. Speaking to the Daily Cardinal about research she is involved in, biochemistry major Kelsey Corrigan rejected PeTA’s claims concerning the treatment of animals:

“We are not vicious toward them or treat them poorly, instead we use them in an effort to gain knowledge about cancer treatments.”

While PeTA used these photographs effectively to attract media and public attention, as is often the case, the images did not tell the whole story about the research.  Nor did PeTA.

That is not surprising. The point of PeTA’s three year quest to obtain these photographs—or really, any photographs at all that might be novel and useful in their campaigns—is absolutely straightforward.  Their goal is to provide the public with a negative view of animal research. The more sensational the photographs, the better they are; better for attracting media coverage, better for persuading others that laboratory animal research is inhumane without actually providing the facts, context, and accurate information.

What is surprising is the relative ease with which this tactic continues to work for groups like PeTA. Part of the reason that it works is that activist groups know they are unlikely to be countered immediately by effective presentation of the facts and explanation that the public or media would need to put the photographs into appropriate context. We have written previously about exactly this type of campaign and the continuing need for a much more public, immediate, and specific response that can provide reasonable people with answers to the questions that are raised by photographs provided without any context at all.

We were glad to see that the University of Wisconsin did in fact address each of PeTA’s claims with specific information in a point-by-point response that shows just how far PeTA went to misrepresent the facts about research at the University.  We hope that those who are interested in knowing more about the cats and the research will go beyond the PeTA pictures and give thoughtful consideration to the university’s detailed explanation of what those pictures show and why the research is performed.

The research community can do little to change the minds of those committed to ending animal research and that is not the goal of providing a public response to misrepresentation.  What the research community and their institutions can do, however, is to acknowledge the importance of contributing the factual information that is so urgently needed for the informed dialogue that a serious topic deserves.

It is an unfortunate reality that groups like PeTA will use sensational tactics and stunts as part of their agenda. In a time of continuing increases in transparency of animal research in the U.S., along with rapidly evolving communication tools, it is also an unfortunate reality that the old-school approach of institutions offering no comment, or offering blanket statements in response to public and media queries, will simply not work.  We need responses– like those of the UW-Madison faculty, administrators, and students– that support the science, address misrepresentation, provide facts, and promote civil dialogue.

Allyson J. Bennett

Addendum October 11, 2012 : The USDA inspection report has now been published and confirms that no non-compliant items were identified during the focused inspection at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in late September and early October.  In his story “Feds Clear UW of Wrongdoing Following PeTA Complaint”, Capital Times reporter Todd Finkelmeyer posts the USDA inspection report  and this summary:  “’This officially closes this matter for us,’ USDA spokesman David Sacks said in an email to the Cap Times. Sacks added that this was a ‘focused inspection — not a full facility inspection,’ and was designed to look specifically at the allegations leveled by PETA.”

Gish Gallop

Gish Gallop is a technique, named after the creationist Duane Gish who employed it, whereby someone argues a cause by hurling as many different half-truths and no-truths into a very short space of time so that their opponent cannot hope to combat each point in real time. This leaves some points unanswered and allows the original speaker to try and claim his opponent lacks the counter-arguments.

While this term was originally coined by Eugenie Scott to describe the arguing techniques of creationists, much the same tactics are employed by opponents of animal research. Not convinced that a few well developed lines of thought were suitable, many animal rights activists prefer to take a machine gun approach, hoping that some stray bullet will be the one necessary to convince their opposition.

After our recent annoucnement about the Science Action Network, an animal rights activist called “Northern animalrights” decided to come to our Facebook page to lay down the “facts” about animal research.

Click to Enlarge this example of Gish Gallop from the Facebook User “Nothern Animalrights”

The Rational Wiki have a page dedicated to explaining Gish Gallop. I wanted to see how well that described to the diatribe above.

Bullet-point Lists
In written form, a Gish Gallop is most commonly observed as a long list of supposed facts or reasons, … The individual points must also be fairly terse; often to the point where, individually, each point is easy to refute because it simply proves nothing.

Not once, but twice our confused activist posts a list of 24 factually incoherent soundbites. Most of which are already debunked on the ‘Bad Science’ section of our website.

Spurious arguments from authority
The gallop is often used as an indirect argument from authority, as it appears to paint the “galloper” as an expert in a broad range of subjects […]
It is often successfully combined with the “point refuted a thousand times” (PRATT). The gallop must consist of as many points as possible, and even old and worn out arguments are useful in overwhelming the respondent and bamboozling the audience. The technique also takes advantage of the one single proof fallacy, since if a respondent only manages to refute 99 out of 100 points there is still one point that proves the galloper correct.

Spurious claims that morphine has the opposite effect on cats have been debunked countless times by scientists, as have most of the other points. However, lacking the time to provide answer for each one of his points in turn I am open for the “one single proof fallacy”.

So we see that this argument from Northern animalrights is definitely an example of Gish Gallop.  Sadly, so is much of the rest of the arguments that can be found on the internet (particularly our Facebook group).

Not that Gish Gallop is not the only problem with his arguing style. Northern animalrights regularly calls upon questionable scientists arguing against research, suggesting they are in better authority than the rest of the scientific community. He also has a lackadaisical attitude to the word “proof” suggesting both that his Gish Gallop constitutes proof, and that he had even managed to “prove beyond any doubt” that animal research doesn’t work (thankfully I see a lot of doubters out there).

Sadly, even if we are unimpressed his arguments, it will often serve to reinforce the belief of both the speaker, and those who follow his beliefs.

A Gish Gallop tries to create the illusion of authority and an incredible weight of evidence by sheer quantity alone, without any quality to back it up. To supporters, the illusion works, but those who disagree with the Galloper’s points often find the amount of repetitive assertions and non-explanations offered tedious to deal with.



Introducing the Science Action Network

Speaking of Research and Understanding Animal Research (UAR) are proud to announce a new joint initiative – the Science Action Network. We aim to enable scientists to network together to provide both authority and public weight on discussions surrounding animal research.

The Science Action Network

Brushing your teeth – 25 minutes per week.
Queuing – 75 minutes per week.
Blinking – 5 hours per week.
Time taken to play your part in defending biomedical research – just 5 minutes every week, less time than it takes to refuel your car

Understanding Animal Research is setting up a new Science Action Network to encourage you to respond to misinformation about animal research.

Animal research remains a hot topic, with many spurious and misinformed claims made by animal rights groups and frequent mistakes made by journalists- such as claiming that animal testing could currently be replaced by alternative methods.

We need your help to provide accurate information about animal research – commenting on news articles, emailing misinformed editors and voting on polls – we want to make sure that those speaking for research are those who understand the research.

So we are asking you for just 5 minutes of your time each week to respond to claims made by animal rights groups. By following us on Twitter (@animalevidence) and Facebook (Understanding Animal Research) you can be updated on the latest misinformation alerts, as well as submitting your own by using the #ARnonsense (Animal Rights nonsense) hashtag on Twitter.

We look forward to working together with you in this campaign.

It is particularly important that you share this campaign with as many people as you can. Keep checking the #ARnonsense hashtag regularly (If you copy the link it will work for people who aren’t signed up to Twitter – alternatively use http://tinyurl.com/ARnonsense) and remember to use the hashtag yourself to alert the community to the misrepresentation of animal research.

Together we can start to push back the tide of animal rights nonsense. We fully recommend people using the information on both the SR and UAR websites in their efforts to debunk spurious animal rights claims and remember to use the “bad science” section of our website.

Speaking of Research &
Understanding Animal Research

So what ARE conditions in labs like?

There is much misinformation about what conditions are like in modern research laboratories. Animal rights activists spread pictures and videos (often decades old) showing some of the few labs which have failed in their duty of care to their animals. However, such footage is the exception not the rule – so here we provide some footage provided by the UK non-profit Understanding Animal Research, from inside labs.

Download (Right click and select “Save target/link as”)

UAR also have a fantastic YouTube channel – animalevidence – which provides viewers with a look at the welfare considerations put in laboratories across the country. Here is an example:

This video shows the standard caging used for mice in animal houses. It is important to note that mice are much smaller than the other mammals used in research, so although their cages appear small, there is plenty of room for their needs. They are social animals, benefiting from being housed together in small groups and their natural behaviour involves grouping together in small spaces. Other natural behaviours including nesting and tunneling, and is why they are provided with fairly deep bedding. Mice and other small rodents also like to hide inside dark spaces, which is the reason for the plastic casing in the cages. It is termed the red mouse house and is beneficial as the mouse cannot see out of the box and so feels secure, but the researcher can see in. This video has no sound.

In the US, Americans for Medical Progress also have a YouTube channel providing views with a look at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center research labs:

These videos provide excellent tools for spreading a realistic vision of what goes on inside laboratories – we encourage other research labs to provide footage and prevent AR groups spreading misinformation about the conditions in these labs.


Tom Holder

The Animal Rights Network Grows

A network of animal rights blogs has revealed its latest creation. The Negotiation is Over blog, the Thomas Paine’s Corner blog, Stephen Best and the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, have come together and

…formed the Alliance for Progressive Science (APS) to attack Pro-Torture on both scientific and ethical grounds.
Negotiation is Over blog (Warning: AR Extremist Website)

Just to clear up who “Pro-Torture” refers to:

The transatlantic Pro-Test – more accurately characterized as Pro-Torture — network seeks to generate mainstream support for vivisection

The Alliance for Progressive Science exists purely to attack Speaking of Research and Pro-Test for Science. How progressive!

This alliance exists to perpetuate the same misinformation about animal research that the AR community has been spreading for years (among other “facts” the article mentions the previously debunked myth that 9/10 drugs that pass animal trials fail in humans). Their introduction is littered with references to Speaking of Research and its founder – clearly our growing movement is causing them some concern:

We need to unite our community to address the imminent threat that the new vivisection activists present.
While Pro-Torture forces are small, weak, and amateurish, they must not be underestimated.

The movement also intersperses its more violent agenda – casually referring to the concentrated harassment of researchers as a normal tactic of the moment.:

Animal rights activists now have an obligation to acknowledge and counter the new breed of vivisection champions. Their reaction to our alliance indicates that relentless exposure, interspersed with targeted aggressive campaigns against individuals, has put them in a defensive, reactionary mode and exposed their weaknesses.

So let us look at this network of animal rights groups (and cosignatories of the Alliance of Progressive Science):

  • Camille Marino – a rising star of the animal rights networks, with her alarmingly named “Negotiation is Over” blog. She seems desperate to become the next ALF (Animal Liberation Front) Press Officer.

Emotion & passion drive action; not sterile debate. Attitudes change when people engage and feel. BE DISRUPTIVE. UNRAVEL COMPLACENCY. IT’S OUR JOB. We need to obliterate the status quo — not tolerate it; not become a part of it. Be loud! Be unafraid! Be Militant! [link]

  • Jerry Vlasak – An AR Extremist and press officer of the ALF who openly advocates the murder of researchers

If vivisectors were routinely being killed, I think it would give other vivisectors pause in what they were doing in their work […] And I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many vivisectors before you would see a marked decrease in the amount of vivisection going on. [link]

  • Stephen Best – An animal rights philosopher and senior editor of the militant animal rights blog, The Thomas Paine’s Corner, who would – according to his lectures – save a dog before a human. Not that we should be surprised – misanthropy reigns supreme when your fellow compatriots think the murder of researchers something to consider.

What Dr. Best is saying is that the personal pleasure his dog brings him trumps the value of your mother, your child, your spouse, your sibling, and he’d rather see any one of them burned to a crisp than lose his dog. Assuming, of course, that they haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Best and impressing on him that they are every bit as worthy as is his dog.
Animal Crackers Blog

However Best’s extremist views are more clear from his essay where he endorses

…a form of abolition that (1) defends the use of high-pressure direct action tactics, along with illegal raids, rescues, and sabotage attacks; [LinkWarning AR Extremist Blog]

  • Jason Miller – The Anti-Capitalist-Anarcho-Vegan, founder of the Thomas Paine’s Corner Blog and newest Press Officer of NAALPO (sorry Camille, seems Jason beat you to it). He was one of the first activists to rant about the formation of Speaking of Research.

Quite a collection of characters – we urge you to do your own research about them.

Nonetheless this new group simply shows us the size of the task ahead – to explain to the public the vital role of animals in medical research at a time when animal right groups are purposely promoting disinformation in the public domain. We hope everyone gets involved with Speaking of Research to counter this pseudoscience.


Speaking of Research