Category Archives: Animal experiments

Cruel, unnecessary, shameful

Jane Goodall and friend

The words in the title were used by Dr Jane Goodall, the distinguished primatologist and animal welfare campaigner, in a letter to the FDA Commissioner, Dr Scott Gottlieb, protesting about nicotine addiction experiments on monkeys.

This is an extract:

I was disturbed–and quite honestly shocked– to learn that in 2017 the U.S. FDA is still, in 2017, performing cruel and unnecessary nicotine addiction experiments on monkeys…

I have been told that FDA researchers implant squirrel monkeys as young as one-year-old with devices to deliver nicotine directly into their bloodstreams. The young primates are then placed in restraint devices and trained to press levers to receive doses of nicotine. This apparently enables them to determine at what point they become addicted…

To continue performing nicotine experiments on monkeys when the results of smoking are well-known in humans—whose smoking habits can still be studied directly—is shameful.

As a result of Jane Goodall’s letter the research has been suspended.

However, ‘scientists and leaders in the addiction community’ responded to the suspension with an open letter in which they attempted to justify animal experiments in addiction research. Among other claims, they say we need answers to the following questions that only animals testing can provide:

Why are some individuals vulnerable to addiction and others not?

Why does relapse after any kind of treatment occur at such phenomenally high rates?

Why do drug abusers persist in seeking and taking substances that so clearly will lead to incarceration, poverty, even death?

Let us suppose that we had a complete answer to all these questions; that we knew everything that could possibly be known about the underlying behavioural, physiological, neurochemical and molecular changes, etc., that occur in addiction – what then? What would, or could, the scientists and leaders in the addiction research community do with this knowledge?

These questions are of purely academic interest; they are not of the slightest use in a practical sense for helping people with substance addictions.

The scientists and leaders go on:

With more than 440,000 people in the United States dying from tobacco use each year, clearly nicotine addiction remains a significant public health problem and it is quite evident that we do not understand this disorder well enough to eradicate it.

Really? What more understanding are they seeking that could possibly help them to eradicate the shocking death toll from tobacco use?

I trust these ivory tower dwellers, in the same way that I suggested to Dr Gottlieb in a previous post (http://nicotinemonkey.com/?p=1708), will allow me to lead them back down to earth.

There exists a mountain of research on smoking and addiction. Those who call for yet more research do not appear to understand that we have already an overabundance of information to take the one necessary step that would virtually eradicate the death toll from tobacco use: abolish tobacco.

Further, the scientists and leaders cannot resist making ad hominem attacks on Dr Goodall, referring to her pejoratively as a ‘celebrity’ and even questioning her scientific credentials when she points out the self-evident truth that it is ‘extremely cruel to restrain the monkeys’.

In reply to this charge they say:

Despite her scientific background—which should result in knowing that evidence and citations matter—Goodall cites no evidence for her claim that restraint is ‘extremely cruel’…In reality, empirical evidence—that is data – show that restraint devices used in such studies do not cause severe stress to the animals, because they are slowly trained to be familiar with and calmly enter and remain in the restraint devices.

So that’s all right then.

Restraint devices don’t cause severe distress, they say, but this is an admission that they do cause distress. Monkeys, being intelligent animals, no doubt realise that resistance is futile and they have no choice but to submit to their cruel fate.

There is another word one could add to Jane Goodall’s apt description of these experiments as cruel, unnecessary and shameful.

That word is: repulsive.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Yummier Than Fruit

There is no doubt that e-cigarettes are big business.

The flyer I received recently about the forthcoming Vapexpo conference in Paris lists around two hundred brands of e-cigarette liquid from sixteen countries.

Promoted on the misleading meme that e-cigarettes help smokers quit, if anyone has any doubts that vaping is drug addiction by other means, they only need to look at the two-minute promotional video for a variety of e-cigarette liquid, produced in Malaysia, with the apt name of  Nasty Juice.

It opens with disconcertingly close-up and slow-motion views of a young man biting into an apple, a strawberry and a mango, in that order, while his eyes roll back in ecstasy. Then the tempo changes as he appears to be in some distress with his hands on his head and the voice-over asks, ‘What if, what if we can make it yummier?’ The answer seems to descend from heaven as, with a look of bliss on his face, he reaches up to grasp – a can of Nasty Juice! This, the voice-over intones, has ‘more flavour, more sweetness and more juiciness, just for you’. And finally the punch-line: ‘Quitting smoking cigarettes is possible than ever (sic)’.

If you wish to enjoy eating apples, strawberries or mangos, you merely need to visit your local fruit shop and buy them, provided they are in season. I often do this myself. But you would have to be out of your mind to buy synthetic chemical essences of these flavours and inhale them into your lungs. Yet this is what e-cigarette users do, and not just occasionally, which would be bad enough, but many times every day for years on end. Nasty juice indeed.

Is vaping safe? The obvious answer is ‘No’. The function of our lungs is to absorb oxygen and to exhale carbon dioxide produced by the body’s metabolism. Therefore, normally only clean air should be inhaled. E-cigarette vapour typically contains nicotine, water, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavourings and traces of heavy metals and other nasty chemicals.

How can one prove that vaping is, or is not, safe? You can’t. There is no reliable way of speeding up the process of long-term exposure to e-cigarette vapour to produce in a few weeks or months what the effects of daily vaping would be in humans after, say, twenty years. This doesn’t prevent scientists from trying, though.

There was a report in the doughty Mail Online (12 September 2017) of a study carried out by intrepid researcher Dr Pawan Sharma from the University of Technology, Sydney. The headline breathlessly informed us: ‘Vaping in pregnancy increases a child’s risk of asthma even if the e-cigarettes are nicotine free.’ In mice, that is.

Isn’t it enough on common sense grounds that vaping is likely to be bad for your health and even more so for pregnant women and their babies? But suppose Dr Sharma’s study had found no harmful effects of vaping in mice, would that mean it’s safe for pregnant women to vape away as much as they like? Obviously not – mice are not the same as humans and it’s an absurd and groundless assumption to regard animals as valid ‘models’ for human illnesses.

Dr Sharma admitted as much because, when I wrote and asked him to please tell me what is the scientific basis for believing that the results are applicable to humans, he was honest enough to reply: ‘These results can’t be extrapolated to humans right away.’

Then why did he do the experiments in the first place? Nonetheless, does he think the results might be extrapolatable (able to predict what happens in humans) in the future, and if so, when, and why? Of course I heard nothing further from this seeker after the truth.

Researchers working for Big Tobacco, on the other hand, are striving to prove the opposite: that tobacco products such as heated (not burnt) tobacco ‘sticks’ (for example, iQOS and ‘glo’) are potentially less harmful than smoking in humans. See http://nicotinemonkey.com/?p=1642. At least Philip Morris, the subject of this post, are cautious enough in their lawyerly fashion only to refer to this new-fangled way of poisoning yourself with tobacco as a potentially reduced risk product.

You can ‘prove’ anything you want with animal experiments. They should be seen for what they are: crude, cruel and useless for understanding human diseases.

Vaping should also be seen for what it is: a way of continuing nicotine addiction that it is hoped will be safer than smoking.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

B*llsh*t from Philip Morris

It’s only a rat!

Perhaps in my post of 4 July 2017 (http://nicotinemonkey.com/?p=1642)  in which I accuse the tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) of torturing animals I was being a little unjust. I had not at that time seen their proclamation, ‘Our standards for animal testing’.

In this document they reassuringly tell us ‘PMI takes to heart public concerns about animal research’. Note how they deviously say ‘concerns about animal research (in general)’, not concerns about Philip Morris’s animal research. At least animal research as normally understood is done with the hope of finding cures for human ailments, however unscientific and misguided the endeavour of experimenting on non-human species may be.

So why does PMI carry out animal research?

We conduct research to better understand the mechanism by which tobacco smoke-related diseases develop.

Let us indulge for a moment in a little science-fiction fantasy, where at some indefinite time in the future, PMI has somehow managed to gain a perfect understanding of the mechanism by which tobacco smoke-related diseases (presumably they mean all of them) develop, what then? They add, ‘This is important for assessing the aerosol of PMI’s RRPs (reduced-risk products).’

And when they have assessed the aerosol of these products by their repulsive animal experiments, they will no doubt claim that their reduced risk products do, indeed, pose less  of a danger to the users thereof than ordinary cigarettes. Never mind that these products are still risky, that animal experiments are of dubious, if any, relevance for humans, and that the only way we’ll know how much less risky, if at all, these products are, will be if people are so misguided as to buy and use them for, say, twenty years – then we’ll know. But by then it may be too late for such willing human guinea pigs.

PMI then parrots the attempted justifications offered by animal experimenters engaged in the usual kind of medical research.

But before we get onto that, it should be noted that whereas conventional medical research is done with the intention of finding cures for afflictions like cancer and heart disease, PMI’s products are indisputably involved in the cause of cancer and heart disease, and other diseases. Therefore, obviously, the best thing PMI and others in the Big Tobacco cartel could do right now, if they were really concerned about public health, is to stop making cigarettes.

Furthermore, any research that Big Tobacco may sponsor or carry out is obviously likely to be self-serving and for this reason has come to be regarded with suspicion by the medical profession. This is why in 2013 The British Medical Journal and other major medical journals decided they would no longer consider for publication research that is partly or wholly funded by the tobacco industry – and rightly so.

Now let us look at some more of the spurious excuses PMI makes for torturing animals.

…we restrict animal studies to situations where no alternatives are available…If we could do research without any animal studies, we would. At present, we cannot.

How about the alternative of not doing the studies at all? Of course they won’t countenance that. Nonetheless, the public is supposed to be reassured by this and statements such as the following:

All activities related to animal testing are performed in accordance with applicable laws…as well as internationally established best practices in laboratory-animal care, to ensure that the animals are treated humanely and responsibly.

So that’s all right then.

Next, they throw in the pseudo-scientific shibboleth of the ‘3Rs’.

We always follow the widely recognized principles known as the ‘3Rs’ of animal research: Replace, Reduce, and Refine.

This is based on an assumption: that animal experiments produce results that are relevant to humans, or that the concept of an ‘animal model’ of human disease or physiology is valid. Such notions are highly dubious, not to say false. Here’s why:

This is a mouse

and this is a man (not to scale).

Therefore, if animals are good models for human disease one should continue and even do more of them rather than reduce them. And if they are not good models, then certainly they should be replaced. As for ‘Refine’, by which they mean ‘We use least-invasive procedures to minimize pain and distress’, this is an admission that their ‘procedures’ do cause pain and distress.

Apart from all such tests being unscientific because they are inherently incapable of producing meaningful results for humans (except by chance), one may ask what right has anyone to cause pain and suffering to even one laboratory rat? Especially for so trivial a reason as to develop new ways for humans to poison themselves with tobacco products.

I was indeed being unjust to PMI in the above-mentioned post – I was too kind.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Top photo © Doctors Against Animal Experiments