Adrian Morrison's warning that the threat from animal rights groups remains (The Scientist, Aug. 19, 1996, page 11) must be taken seriously.
As a 49-year-old convalescing from prostate cancer surgery and the father of a six-year-old born with an unformed left ventricle, I appreciate the legacy of biomedical research that gave me my son and allowed early detection and removal of the cancer that I may enjoy his growing years. In thanks, I have become a participant, as a member of Americans for Medical Progress, in the debate between research advocates and those who deny all benefits, even to animals, of research involving animals.
That Peter Singer's work is filled with errors is no surprise. Singer, Ingrid Newkirk (Singer's disciple who cofounded People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA), and Neal Barnard of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are on record making fantastic negative claims about the utility of animal testing in cancer and AIDS research and about animal testing on thalidomide-to mention a few that even a passing knowledge of medical history easily refutes as myth.
Their mantra is the pseudo-logical construct that says physiological differences between species means animal research can yield nothing of direct bearing on the human condition.
They concentrate on areas that confuse or frighten the public: scientists who probe the brain and central nervous system. PETA first targeted stroke rehabilitation research conducted by Edward Taub in the early 1980s at the Institute for Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Md. The public is terrified of a life of paralysis or brain damage.
Behavioral research is another favorite target, thanks to our scientific illiteracy. Who among the public understands the relationship of behavior to biological processes? Who among scientists has taken time to explain the advances studies of primates provided? Who in the press or in our schools has been willing to listen?
Today, the animal groups have $200 million annually at their access. They are well networked and plot their strategies with the precision of a Madison Avenue ad campaign. They know human psychology and pay for public-opinion surveys to determine the best means of motivating it in their favor.
Science's quest for knowledge and the truth is the key to science's survival. Let that knowledge and that truth become the fare the public thrives upon. Fed the opposite by animal ideologues, we shall have a morally, ethically, and intellectually malnourished population gathering outside science's doors with torches aglow.
- John Aquilino
- 5721 39th Ave.
- Hyattsville, Md. 20781
- 5721 39th Ave.