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Animals in research: do the costs outweigh the benefits?

Studies in non-human animals have led to “countless” treatments for various diseases, according to a recent article on The Conversation. But the author, Gavan McNally, provided no scientific references…

Some value may accrue from animal research – but is it enough? www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk

Studies in non-human animals have led to “countless” treatments for various diseases, according to a recent article on The Conversation.

But the author, Gavan McNally, provided no scientific references to support his claim. In this, of course, he’s not alone: there’s an intriguing history of animal researchers making insufficiently substantiated claims about the value of their work.

The best available evidence

Those in positions of authority who publicly claim important social benefits from research upon which their careers are dependent have a moral obligation to ensure those claims are supported by sound evidence.

The best evidence we have about the social utility of animal research comes from systematic reviews. Such analyses aim to include all relevant scientific publications (such as animal studies), and include multiple steps to minimise bias.

The research question being investigated must be clearly defined in advance, and at least two scientific literature databases must be comprehensively searched, using a thorough and transparent search strategy, to minimise any risk of missing relevant reports.

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Criteria for excluding publications, such as lack of relevance or poor quality, must be clearly specified in advance.

Hundreds of reports of animal experiments are commonly identified in these reviews — sometimes more than 1,000. Where resource constraints prevent examination of all experiments located, any subsets selected for examination must be chosen using randomisation, or similarly impartial and methodical means.

Finally, the whole process must be conducted with a level of scientific rigour sufficient to ensure subsequent publication of the review in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

In 2007 I comprehensively searched the scientific literature to locate successfully published systematic reviews. Among the 20 I found that examined human clinical utility, animal models appeared to demonstrate significant potential to contribute toward the development of new clinical interventions in only two cases, one of which was contentious because the study results did not support the conclusions.

Included among those 20 reviews were animal experiments that should have been most likely to yield tangible benefits — such as experiments expected by ethics committees to lead to medical advances, highly-cited experiments published in major journals, and chimpanzee experiments — that investigated the species most generally predictive of human outcomes.

In each of seven additional reviews I located that examined toxicity prediction, animal models failed to reliably predict the most important human toxicities — carcinogenicity or teratogenicity, the propensity to cause cancer or birth defects, respectively. Results in animal models were frequently ambiguous or inconsistent with human outcomes.

Weighing costs and benefits

Nevertheless, Professor McNally was correct to assert some value may accrue from animal research. Unless experimental results are not obtained, or are unreliable or duplicative, animal research can usually be argued to have advanced scientific knowledge in some way and, therefore, to have some degree of scientific merit.

But this ignores the costs incurred by such research.

Those costs may include animal lives, the consumption of considerable financial and scientific resources and, potentially, even adverse impacts on patients and consumers, when human results differ from those predicted by animal models.

John McGuire

Keeping it real

Overestimation of the social benefits of invasive animal research appears widespread. This was exemplified in a 2011 review of research using non-human primates (NHPs), in which a panel of eminent scientists examined virtually all UK primate research conducted during a recent decade, only to report that:

In most cases […] little direct evidence was available of actual medical benefit in the form of changes in clinical practice or new treatments.

The same report, again with regards to research on NHPs, stated that:

the Panel’s assessments of medical and other benefits were made with difficulty and often could be no more than informed guesses. This contrasts with the emphatic public statements about the medical benefits of NHP research made by some of the funding bodies and by grant applicants.

The panel — comprising experts in neurobiology, neurology, psychology, zoology, reproductive biology and translational research — recommended that:

In their public engagement, the funders and researchers should avoid overstating and generalising the medical benefit of NHP research, since this cannot be substantiated in many cases.

If the arguments made by researchers such as McNally are to be believed, Australia’s extensive regulatory framework should prevent such problems. “The institution, its animal ethics committee and researchers are subject to inspections”, he assures us; they are part of a framework that ensures “regulatory compliance and continual improvement in animal welfare”.

McNally points to other “independent checks” in the Australian system:

[R]esearchers seek funding from independent agencies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council. These funds are exceptionally hard-won. The idea that research funded via these agencies lacks significance and scientific excellence is absurd.

At first glance, it appears McNally may be right. As scientists in this field, our main regulatory instrument is the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes.

On paper, the Code does seem to require a reasonable ethical assessment of proposed research, and appears committed to the implementation of the famous “three Rs”:

  • Replacement of animals with non-animal models
  • Reduction of animal numbers
  • Refinement of experimental procedures to decrease suffering, wherever possible

But unfortunately, as I have described in detail elsewhere, the protection actually afforded to laboratory animals differs significantly from its prima facie appearance.

As outlined above, a large and remarkably consistent body of evidence indicates that resultant social benefits are rarely, if ever, sufficient to justify the costs incurred by animals subjected to invasive research.

Therefore, rigorous regulatory adherence should result in minimal invasive animal use. And yet, Australia is one of the leading international users of laboratory animals.

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To date, global comparisons have only been published for 2005. Despite data from multiple Australian states or territories remaining publicly unavailable, my calculations have revealed that, even when limited to states releasing figures, Australia was still the fourth largest user of laboratory animals worldwide, both overall and per capita. Only the US, Japan and China used more animals, overall.

It seems clear that the fundamental regulatory requirement to ensure animal research is “adequately justified” is honoured more in the breach than the observance.

Significant bias of ethics committees in favour of animal research is the obvious, and most likely, cause. Animal welfare representatives invariably constitute a small minority, and documented irregularities have included disproportionate numbers of researchers on committees, and supposedly independent representatives appointed from within the university concerned.

Although animal ethics committees allow researchers to claim their research has “ethical approval”, in truth I would argue such systemic biases render the process fundamentally unethical.

In short, contrary to the poorly-substantiated claims of animal researchers, the overwhelming majority of invasive animal experiments do not pass the cost-benefit test required by regulations and expected by society.
Further reading:
- Animals in research: benefits, ethics and assessment, by Gavan McNally
- More Conversation articles on animals in research.

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60 Comments sorted by

  1. Olav Muurlink

    Research Fellow, Griffith Business School at Griffith University

    This is a great summary Andrew. I'd add that one other problem with animal research, even if it successful in creating new knowledge or reinforcing existing clinical evidence, is that we, the beneficiaries, don't systematically make use of it. The animal suffering involved in experimentation is often in vain. The day we, as a species, take our health really seriously (and there's probably literally no fun in that) will be a day when the ethics of animal experimentation can be seen in a suddenly more positive light.

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  2. Bron Larner

    Retired Humantities

    Thank you for such an excellent contribution. This is a debate we need to have.

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    1. Bron Larner

      Retired Humantities

      In reply to Bron Larner

      I would like to add that I experience incredible frustration with health-care professionals who simply will not listen to their patients, preferring to rely on 'studies' rather than the human in front of them. The views of a living, speaking, educated human, who can elaborate on and articulate their experience in detail, is dismissed as being of less validity than those deduced by observation of a rabbit, or a rat. My arguments are apparently anecdotal, and therefore of no value whatsoever. I refer in this case to MAOIs, which are almost impossible to get hold of. The medical fraternity have a horror of them. Why not listen to real live people for feedback on what works and what doesn't? How can researchers deduce whether a rabbit or a rat is happy or not? The mind boggles.

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  3. Mark McGuire

    climate consensus rebel

    Apparently researchers are stopping using rats for experiments and are now going to use lawyers as there are things even a rat wont do.

    It's an old joke, but a good one.

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  4. Chris Booker

    Research scientist

    Oh for the love of god.. here goes the Conversation again with another animal research article!! Let me just say this - arguing about animal research is like arguing about religion, it's never going to get solved and nothing new ever comes to the table. What you get is just the same old arguments re-hashed and re-packaged.

    What you can be sure about, however, is that someone will produce flimsy arguments overlooking basic aspects of logic or portraying a research world that doesn't exist. Whether…

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    1. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Booker

      Thank you for that input Chris.

      Indeed, the very question posed in the title is laden with emotion and is more a values based question than a scientifically robust one.

      What costs are we talking about here? If you are talking about the 'cost of animal lives', then where you stand on that one is entirely a values and moral one, and we all know that different people have different values and morals. Some would argue that it is worth the cost of thousands of animal lives if one human life…

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    2. Rob Buttrose

      University of Melbourne

      In reply to Chris Booker

      This is not true. There is plenty being brought to the table in this debate such as getting researchers to understand that their claims about the necessity and value of animal research are overstated, and that the Code of Practice needs to be reformed and better complied with.

      It is also important, and this is my particular focus, to communicate to researchers what ethics and ethical thinking are about. There seems to be this persistent misunderstanding in that community that if you can say…

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  5. Monika Merkes

    Honorary Associate, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing at La Trobe University

    Thank you Andrew for an excellent article.
    The Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes 8th edition was released last month, updating the previous 2004 version. On the positive side, the new code has introduced an "obligation to respect animals" – but what does that mean and how is it supposed to translate into practice? It is disappointing to see that the new version has not strengthened the 3Rs.
    The code is still part of a self-regulatory system that does not require information associated with animal research to be made publicly available. Rob Buttrose and I have argued elsewhere that “The true purpose of the code is to legitimise the interests of the industry rather than the purported support and safeguard of animal wellbeing.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-01/merkes-and-buttrose-animal-testing/4857604

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  6. Malcolm Caulfield

    Principal Lawyer

    Chris Booker's dismissive reaction to Andrew Knight's piece on the relevance of animal research is unfortunate, but rather typical. During my 25 years as a research scientist (some in the pharmaceutical industry) I probably would have reacted the same way. There is no doubt that the huge advances in physiology and medicine that occurred from the end of the nineteenth century onwards, at least to the 1990s, were largely attributable to animal experiments. But with advancing awareness and knowledge…

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  7. James Heathers

    PhD Candidate in Applied Physiology at University of Sydney

    From Gavan McNally's previous:
    "Studies in non-human animals have led to countless others treatments. Some examples include vaccinations, medications for high blood pressure, neuroprotective agents, deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease, antidepressants, analgesics, cardiac defibrillators, and pacemakers. These alleviate pain and suffering. They extend lifespans.

    Along the way to these successes were numerous discoveries in basic science. The knowledge from basic research was central…

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  8. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    In general, I agree that it is unethical to cause suffering to lab animals without the study having a good chance of providing useful information. Any researcher using animals has the moral obligation to ensure that the methodology used is as sound as possible - both to minimise suffering, but also to ensure that the animal's role was not wasted.

    Having said that, though, I see a fundamental conflict in values which doesn't seem to be covered very often. Most lab animals are not primates or even fluffy bunnies, but rats and mice. Here is the conflict: in our homes, shops and factories, we commonly use traps, poison and even other animals to eradicate rodents.

    If it is morally wrong to use rats and mice for medical research, is it also morally wrong to kill rats and mice that get into our homes, businesses or farms? How would we draw the distinction?

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    1. Rob Buttrose

      University of Melbourne

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Because in the "home invasion" case the animals are a threat and it's "us or them". Animal research is different. Lab animals are innocent and not a threat. And it's never a case of "us or them". It has never been and will never be the case that we can say that if we don't experiment on this animal, someone is going to die.
      In summary, we inflict pain and suffering and death upon innocent sentient creatures that are not a threat for own our purposes that do not include directly saving a human life - which, by any justifiable standard, is patently unethical.

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    2. Monika Merkes

      Honorary Associate, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing at La Trobe University

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      A good question, Sue, and one that I’m still grappling with. And there is of course the biggest area (in terms of numbers) where animal cruelty occurs, intensive animal farming. Personally, I find it much easier not to eat or use animal products than to deal with the rodents that chew though the water pipes and electric wiring in my house. Like Rob just wrote, in my house it’s a matter of “us or them”. I try to mouse-proof the place as much as I can, but chomping through wires can lead to a fire…

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    3. Chris Booker

      Research scientist

      In reply to Monika Merkes

      I don't buy the 'us or them' take on having rats and mice in the home. It's not their fault they've evolved into highly efficient scavengers, and that humans tend to leave around food or 'food waste' (from a human perspective), along with warmer spaces away from the cold and other predators.

      Besides, how is it 'us or them', they're not lions or poisonous snakes, are they really a threat? Apart from extreme situations like hantavirus, which is only in some parts of the world, there's really little risk in having rats or mice in the home: people kill them simply because they don't like them, and they do so using traps or poison which would never make it past an ethics committee on animal welfare.

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    4. Rob Buttrose

      University of Melbourne

      In reply to Chris Booker

      Yes I would agree with that. I should have added to my comment that we take all reasonable to drive rodents away in these situations without harming them and that the use of most traps and poisons should not be allowed. But when all such attempts fail and there are health and associated risks, we are entitled to defend ourselves just are we entitled to harm and even kill an animal when it attacks us.

      My main point, in to reply Sue's query, was that the animals used in research, in contrast to invading rodents, are not any kind of threat and have done no harm to us. That is the moral distinction between the two cases.

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  9. Sandra Mornington

    Nurse

    I followed the link given in this article. The exact quote form the report on use of non-human primates is:

    "The Panel also noted that the identification and tracing of medical benefit derived from specific research projects was difficult in most cases, although this was in part because of the short time which had elapsed between the commissioning of the research and the review"

    Which begs the question of why this author decided to cut the quote in half, thus leaving out the important caveat…

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    1. Rob Buttrose

      University of Melbourne

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      It is false to say that if harmful animal research was not allowed 30 years ago we would not have deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's or bionic implants etc., simply because such advances may have been made by other, non-animal methods. You cannot rule that possibility out. Indeed, one of the great problems with animal research is its opportunity cost. If all that money and all those resources were directed elsewhere, then it is unknown what would have been discovered without using animals, but…

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    2. David Vu

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Rob Buttrose

      But that's the problem - how would you suppose doing research on "deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's or bionic implants etc" without the use of animals? Without being able to answer that question, you can't really make an argument based on its opportunity cost.

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    3. Rob Buttrose

      University of Melbourne

      In reply to David Vu

      I don't have the definitive answer to that counterfactual. My best guess would be research on humans (non-invasive, not harmful, or harmful only within acceptable limits and with the patients' consent). But that I, or perhaps anyone, are unable to say how it could have been done without animals , does not mean that it would not have been, particularly given much more effort would have been made to do so, if an ethical restriction on animal use was in place. Nothing like necessity and the ingenuity…

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    4. Rob Buttrose

      University of Melbourne

      In reply to Rob Buttrose

      Gaining medical knowledge through treatment is an area that should also be developed more and, of course, it is more ethical . In animals, as in humans, as much as possible we should be researching conditions in the process of treating individuals who are suffering those conditions. This approach is in contrast to standard invasive animal research, where researchers make a healthy individual sick ( with infections and cancers and by bodily alteration and organ removal) , test drugs and other interventions, and then typically kill it to examine its tissues.

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    5. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Rob Buttrose

      No, Rob, you misunderstand me. what irritates me is that animal advocates always have to distort the facts, quotes, and scinetific evidence, to make their points. IN the example I used, Dr. Knight, who is always quoted as being one of the leading lights of this viewpoint, proves to be exactly the same, by cutting the quote from the report in half. I mean, if you need to do this to gather sympathy, should this not be telling you something? I honestly was expecting a better article from Dr. Knigth…

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    6. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Rob Buttrose

      Rob, your logic here makes me wonder. You try to tell me that no one has proof that similar medical advances would not have been reached by different means? What type of proof would this be? A visit to an alternate reality?

      On the other hand, try this: can you prove that if we DO stop a process that is working up to now, we will still be able to reach the same level of medical advances, at the same pace?

      The moral question is real, and I give you this. However, is it ethical to gamble with the life and welfare of real people, based on the hope that things will turn out all right?

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  10. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    The West Australian newspaper reported in 2010 that the Barnett Government would no longer disclose how many animals are used in research or what experiments are conducted on them because that would be "resource-intensive".

    WA’s 2009 statistics showed that 400 whales, dolphins and porpoises had been used in experiments and Humane Research Australia (HRA) advised the West that almost 2.2 million animals had been tested on in WA in 2006 - up from 514,000 in 2005 and 178,000 in 2004.

    The UK’s…

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    1. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Rob Buttrose

      Not a good look Rob for a “first world” nation that portrays a callous indifference to its animals in captivity – not only scientifically but commercially too.

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    2. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Or maybe, because Australians have such a good regulatory system, the figures for animal usage in this country are more reliable?

      Previous posts in the conversation have already discussed the flawed nature of the numbers you are using. "Animal usage" does not equal to use in invasive experiments, or in experiments that result in death.

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    3. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      Sandra, the only flaws I can find is your flawed inference that I (and others) were alluding entirely to the “deaths” and “invasive experiments” of 7 million animals tested on in the most recent annual estimates. The other flaw is your claim that “Australians have such a good regulatory system.”

      “Australia lags well behind the US and Britain in facing up to the malfeasance of multinational drug companies pushing unsafe products. Very often Big Pharma itself has largely conjured up the booming…

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    4. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      OK, Shirley, I really don't have the energy to go and answer to this entire diatribe. Just a few things:

      As a member of the nursing profession, and having worked both in trauma and neurology yards, I am very well positioned, thank you, to know how much human suffering is still out there that requires amelioration by research. I have also worked with doctors who also did research, and have come to know about various treatments that were derived form basic knowledge obtained in animals, then tested…

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    5. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      Sandra, since I am but the humble messenger, can we assume that you consider yourself sufficiently qualified to debunk the “diatribes” of the following academics, health professionals, researchers and government agencies?:

      Professor Anne Keogh, FDA, US Dept. of Justice, Victoria’s Bureau of Animal Welfare, former ethics committee member Cherie Wilson, Professor Donald Light - University of Medicine of New Jersey, Joel Lexchin - York University in Toronto, Peter King of Sydney University, Professor…

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    6. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Thank you Shirley for making it so clear the paradoxes in your views.

      Yes, I am not a scientist and never published anything, so my viewpoint is not to be taken seriously.

      But then again, if I were a scientist who published animal-based research you would also not take my viewpoint seriously, because I would have a conflict of interest, perhaps linked to all those millions of dollars I receive from big Pharma.

      And, of course, you prefer to listen to "your" experts, again providing links…

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    7. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      “Yes, I am not a scientist and never published anything, so my viewpoint is not to be taken seriously.”

      True since truth can be a casualty when one is incapable of providing even one link to validate one’s viewpoint.

      “And, of course, you prefer to listen to "your" experts, again providing links to non-peer reviewed "papers.”

      There were numerous peer reviewed papers provided. Are you capable of distinguishing a peer reviewed journal from a post-it sticker? Herewith an example of a peer…

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    8. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Oh, Dear, Shirley

      You really don’t need to become angry. It does not help your case and it seems to make you want to dig a bigger and bigger hole.

      I will start by saying that I am not going to be the one defending the pharmaceutical industry. However, your arguments are full of holes, and I can still think you are wrong without having to like the Big Pharma.

      Let’s examine the logic.

      First, you ask me for evidence. I believe that I don’t need to resort to any external materials beyond…

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    9. Rob Buttrose

      University of Melbourne

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      What are the "flaws" in the The Age article you mention that are relevant to Shirley's post? Shirley re-quotes Dr. Anne Keogh and Cherie Wilson on weaknesses , such as lack of transparency and the nearly 100% approval rate, with the ethical assessments undertaken by AECs . Are you claiming that these individuals did not make the remarks The Age attributes to them? On what grounds? Are you saying these assertions are false? On what grounds?

      Also, in the article about the breeding colonies http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/the-monkey-farm-primates-being-bred-for-experiments-20121124-2a0gz.html, Dr.Keogh makes no specific comments, let alone untrue assertions (“bloopers”) about those facilities as your post misleadingly suggests.

      Further, two key claims in the Age articles about the irregularities identified with AECs by Victoria's BAW and the numbers of animals used and killed in that state by animal research, are easily verified independently (e.g. from the DPI site)

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    10. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Rob Buttrose

      Hi Rob

      All factual errors with the article in the Age have already been mentioned in the discussion of other articles in the Conversation, incuding yours and Monica's piece on primate research (where, if I remember correctly, we first started talking). Most if not all of these were in fact not my points, so I'd rather if the interested readers went there to read the pros and cons...

      Also my comment here was a bit more general: why get your information from a newspaper article, if there are more reliable sources?

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    11. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      It’s obvious that you also have a problem with relevance therefore let me explain that the pharmaceutical corporations to which I alluded have all been cited for their complicity in, or direct abuse of lab animals. Despite your penchant to pull down the blinds (or the wool over one’s eyes), the pharmaceutical companies deliver grants to Australian researchers:

      1) Each year Pfizer awards more than AU$3 million in research grants and fellowships to basic biomedical scientists and early stage…

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    12. Yang Yin

      Occupational therapist

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Thank you ms Sandra for being so patient and not loosing your cool. I can only see one Bully in this conversation and it is not you. Your view points are very well taken and by not replying to Shirley Birney in the same way you only make her look bad. Be careful however because people like that often resort to violence when they see that no be is paying attention. In my College once we had animal rights people damaging he house of a professor. Fortunately the FBI now treats this kind of action like normal terrorism and this stopped things. I hope your country has similar laws.

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    13. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Yang Yin

      The FBI wrote that a history of animal abuse is one of the traits that regularly appear in their records of serial rapists and murderers, therefore I've concluded that you too are suffering from devolution - not that I wish to offend devolution:

      1) The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), 18 U.S.C. § 43, is a federal law designed by corporations for the purpose of protecting the profits they make from animal abuse and exploitation. It favours corporate interest over your First Amendment Rights…

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    14. Yang Yin

      Occupational therapist

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Your reaction is exactly what I expect from a common person without courtesy that you are proving to be. You will not make your view point accepted by bullying people. I maybe don't speak English as well but just because you happened to be born in a country does not make you right. How well do you speak Chinese anyway?

      You still do the same thing as ms. Sandra said and pick evidence to suit a narrow view point. His will not change no matter how much you bully people.

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    15. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Yang Yin

      "Your reaction is exactly what I expect from a common person without courtesy that you are proving to be."

      Yeah funny that. I’m just not into animal abusers and sociopaths.

      Mustard with your fried dog madam?

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    16. Yang Yin

      Occupational therapist

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      So you prefer to abuse human beings with racist remarks, because they dont agree with you. This brings me back to the star of my conversation. Next step you will think of sending disagreeing persons to concentration camps?

      By and large the debate about this topic has stayed civilised even though we cold have different view points. You are the only psycho.

      I say goodbye, goo ahead and have the final word. Your anti science posts will not be effective because you have proven to be a human being without any courtesy and respect.

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    17. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Yang Yin

      “So you prefer to abuse human beings with racist remarks, because they dont agree with you.”

      Considering the testimonials of my Chinese associates, I suspect they’d banish you to the dummkopfs’ corner.

      By the way, does your good professor get a tingling in his giblets when imaging a critter writhing in agony?

      And is your sock puppet for hire? I’m rather fond of clowns.

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    18. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Olav Muurlink

      That’s rather selective Dr Muurlink since it appears that you consider it perfectly acceptable for pro-cruelty contributors to use terms such as “concentration camps,” “psycho,” “racist,” "anti-science" and “bully” – you know that Ms Yin who implies that I’m a “terrorist?” So why haven’t you hit the delete button on all the posts, including the rest of mine?

      Nonetheless I’m pleased to learn that you are “anti-animal testing.” I understand that you are a former editor and owner of a newspaper (with “the highest circulation and best read newspaper in the region”) with a background in farming. As a result, I was confident in believing that you had many opportunities to publish on the abuse of animals in captivity. Problem is I am unable to locate a single article – zero results. Links please?

      “Those who contribute least, squawk loudest.” ~ Anon.

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    19. Olav Muurlink

      Research Fellow, Griffith Business School at Griffith University

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      The point is Shirley that this is supposed to be an arena for intelligent debate, where we play the ball, not the player, and if you feel offended by other comments (and by the sound of it, I probably would be), you should report them too... However, simply because other people have offended you doesn't mean you should be offensive. That's one of the reasons why the world is in the state today..animal cruelty and all. The Conversation is generally exceptional for the high standard of debate--I think that is one of the beauties of it.

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    20. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Olav Muurlink

      “However, simply because other people have offended you doesn't mean you should be offensive. That's one of the reasons why the world is in the state today..animal cruelty and all.”

      Horse feathers Dr Muurlink. The reason the world is in such a state is partly due to the mendacious, power-hungry Bush, Blair and Howard and the servile masses.

      The escalating, downward spiral of ethics and morality in this “first world” nation is predominantly a result of state-facilitated crimes against non-humans…

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    21. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Yang Yin

      Wow, a few days without checking the Conversation, and a lot happens...

      Dear Yang, thank you for trying to discuss with Shirley the fact that her posts were becoming more and more personal, but some people just can't help themselves. As you can see from the continuation of this thread, it is futile to argue when someone takes eveything so personally, and is always on the attack.

      I think you are quite correct when you suggest that the people who most often resort to violence are the ones who go on a debate with an unshakable conviction that they are right, and that other viewpoints are clearly wrong and need to be erradicated. Still, my suggestion is that we leave Shirley alone. She has already caused more damage to herself than anyone could possibly do. I hope that the moderators of The Conversation do NOT erase her posts, as I think it will be better if they live forever in the internet, so she has the opportunity in the future to be ashamed of what she wrote.

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    22. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      Madam, In patterns of argument it is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.

      Score on debating the topic:

      Sandra Mornington: Score: 1/10 Fail

      Yang Yin: Score: 0/10 Fail

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    23. Shelly Zhang

      Research Scientist

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Thank you for the information. I do agree that this area of research has failed to foster a culture of scientific integrity. The compelling evidence shows that scientists who experiment on animals are not free from political and corporate interference to ensure impartiality.

      I am of the opinion that the frightful quantity of pain that these animals endure and the narrow-minded science that operates without a moral compass should be prohibited. We can and must do better.

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    24. Joshua Jennings

      Student

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Even if you say so yourself!!!

      It may come as a shock that for other people the scores may not seem so favourable to you. Web links do not constitute scientific evidence, and you seem obviously confused about peer reviewed versus non peer reviewed articles.

      Unintentionally, you have damaged the argument for substituting animal based research by human based research, by bringing up dead babies in Argentina, etc...

      Go read some real papers, not that I think this will change your views...

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  11. Andrew Knight

    Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

    Thank you to those people who’ve taken the time to read my editorial, and have then posted thoughtful comments. Unfortunately some comments have been less informed or considered. I’d like to take this opportunity to address a few of the claims made, in the following series.

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    1. Andrew Knight

      Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      ‘Experiments aimed at developing cures for human diseases comprise only a small proportion of animal research.’ First, this claim is quite simply false. On pp 20-21 of my book on animal research I analyze animal use within the 27 EU members states reporting such use, in 2008. When research and development for clinical interventions (22.8 %) was added to the production and quality control of such interventions intended for human use (10.9 %), and to toxicological and other safety evaluation (8.7…

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    2. Andrew Knight

      Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      ‘Methodological problems are admittedly endemic to animal research, but the same is true of human clinical research.’ This is exactly the sort of half truth one commentator incorrectly accused me of promulgating. Half of it is true: numerous systemic reviews have revealed that methodological problems (scientific flaws) are so prevalent within animal research that we frequently have no true understanding of the effect size of a drug or toxin in an animal, let alone in a human. For those interested…

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    3. Andrew Knight

      Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      It’s eminently clear that some commentators are most uncomfortable with animal research being scrutinised in The Conversation. Instead of providing reasonable, rational critique, some comments by supporters of animal research have unfortunately included language that is dismissive, insulting, and neither reasonable nor rational. Such language has revealed both a callous disregard for the lives of the animals some of these people use in laboratories, and also what appears to be an arrogant disrespect…

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    4. Andrew Knight

      Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      One commentator asserted that I misrepresented the Bateson Review of Research Using Non-Human Primates (NHPs). It is true that space limitations in this editorial prevented a detailed description or analysis of this review. For example, I was able to only briefly summarise one of their conclusions. In fact the Review panellists concluded that: “the actual and potential medical impacts of most of these studies were low.” And, as they later noted with respect to the NHP studies overall, “This contrasts…

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    5. Andrew Knight

      Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      One commentator asserted that there are numerous systematic reviews demonstrating the important contributions animal models have made, to the development of cures for major human diseases. However, no examples were provided. On the contrary, as I’ve described, most systematic reviews that have examined such contributions of animal models have yielded opposite conclusions. In only 2 of 20 such reviews were the animal models either significantly useful in contributing to the development of clinical…

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    6. Andrew Knight

      Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      It's OK to conduct invasive animal research with no apparent benefit for human health, because of the possibility it may contribute to some way to the development of a human disease cure in the far future. If there were no costs associated with animal research, this comprise be a logically reasonable argument. But, as noted by others and myself, there are considerable costs associated with animal research, including very substantial consumption of scientific and financial resources (which are then…

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    7. Andrew Knight

      Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      Apologies for typos. Of course I meant:

      Another claim appears to be that 'It's OK to conduct invasive animal research with no apparent benefit for human health, because of the possibility it may contribute to some way to the development of a human disease cure in the far future.' If there were no costs associated with animal research, this would comprise a logically reasonable argument...

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    8. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Andrew Knight

      Dr. Knight, I am sorry to have to point out that you are giving a very partial reading of the evidence here.

      You are correct in stating that you have prepared your case carefully for your book. Many of the scientific papers require expensive subscriptions to journals, whcih many of us can;t afford. However, sometimes the papers are freely available.

      In the case of the article you cite, you see it as a condemnation of animal-based research. However, the link to the paper discussed leads to…

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