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

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