Friday, April 28, 2006

The problem with animal models

Here is what I find one of the most powerful, effective arguments for replacing animal experiments with other methods of investigation.

It is an essay in logic of science and is written in a formal way, so for those who are not inclined to read it all I’ll try to summarize it in non-formal style here.

The authors of the essay, entitled Two Models of Models in Biomedical Research, Hugh LaFollette and Niall Shanks, make the crucial distinction between two uses of animals as models. These two models are normally confused in the general discourse, leading to the current difficulties in clarifying the question of usefulness of animal experiments (we are here letting aside the ethical question).

The two models are:

1) animals as models that are similar to the objects to be modelled, ie humans, functionally (HAMs). To understand what it means, think of the planetary model of the atom in physics. In the early stages of the atomic theory, when knowledge was limited, the solar system has indeed served as a useful tool, something known to help understand the unknown.
Or think of a spiral staircase as a model of DNA molecules.

In this way, though, the only use of a model is to inspire hypotheses, but, crucially, not to test them.

There are indeed demonstrable functional similarities between humans and our close biological relatives.

But there is a big difference between an animal model's being a good source of hypotheses and its being a good means to test hypotheses.

2) animals as models that are similar to humans causally (CAMs). Here is where the problem lies, because most biological phenomena do not follow a simple linear cause-effect pattern (deterministic), but are probabilistic: only in a certain percentage of cases the same effect will follow the same cause.

In fact, biomedical experiments on animals are doubly probabilistic: they involve not only the probabilistic causality within the (non-human) laboratory population, but also the probabilistic causality within the human population outside the laboratory.

In addition, there is an uncertainty about whether the results observed in the non-human animal population will be (statistically) relevant to the human biomedical phenomena of interest.
For this uncertainty to be small, there must be no causally relevant disanalogies between the test subjects and humans (the model and the thing modelled)..

The fact is: these important causal disanalogies exist.

Researchers who think non-human animals are good causal models (CAMs) of human biomedical phenomena believe human and non-human animal systems are causally similar because they are functionally similar.

But this is not so.

The same function in biological systems can be caused by entirely different mechanisms. Both birds’ and mammals’ lungs oxygenate blood (same function); but peribronchial lungs of birds, ventilated in a unidirectional fashion using a series of air sacs, and the alveolar lungs of mammals, ventilated in a tidal fashion using a diaphragm, differ considerably in structure and mechanism.

Functional similarity does not guarantee underlying causal similarity, nor does it make such similarity "probable".

This is predictable from Darwin’s evolution theory. Different organisms have evolved similar functions due to their phylogenetic proximity, but "descent with modification" means, in part, "modification of anatomical and physiological sub-systems, and the relations between them."

Resultant species differences are biologically significant. "The species is one of the basic foundations of almost all biological disciplines. Each species has different biological characteristics" (Mayr p. 331). Species differences, even when small, often result in radically divergent responses to qualitatively identical stimuli.

This is why, for example, even when species are phylogenetically close, as are the rat and the mouse, we cannot assume that the two species will react similarly to similar stimuli. Tests for chemically induced cancers in rats and mice yield the same results for only 70% of the substances tested. The figure drops to 51% for site-specific cancers.

Human mechanisms for metabolizing phenol are closer to the mechanisms in rats than to the mechanisms in pigs, despite the fact that humans are phylogenetically closer to pigs than to rats. And the carcinogenic effect of aflatoxin B is more similar in rats and monkeys than in rats and mice.

So, to reason that phylogenetic continuity implies underlying causal similarity is a fallacy.

As if all this were not enough, an additional complication is given by the fact that the various sub-systems of a biological organism interact with each other, thus multiplicating the number of variations of possible effects.

Biological objects are complex in the extreme: this is why the simple modelling method to test hypotheses that animal experimenters have imported from physics does not work in biomedical research.

Moreover, the differences between species will be greater and more difficult to compensate for exactly in those areas which interest animal researchers: this is the case, for example, of metabolic differences between species, which are centrally important in toxicological and teratological (effect on the fetus) investigations.

As one widely-used pharmacology text sums it up: "The lack of correlation between toxicity data in animals and adverse effects in humans is well known".

In short: different animal species are similar functionally but not causally, and that includes the human species. We tend to think they are similar because we only consider what is visible, ie the functions, not the underlying causal mechanisms.

Finally, the argument often used by animal experiments’ advocates, “It just works”, is subjected to such a potent critical analysis that it leaves it almost as naked as a tree in winter.

Partly, the authors here use an argument which is similar to the one explaining the post hoc, propter hoc fallacy used by Pietro Croce in his classical book Vivisection Or Science: A Choice To Make.

In a nutshell, simplified, it goes like this: how do we know that animal experimentation works?

Because, wait for this, after experimenting on animals, we then test the results of those animal experiments on humans!


Strategy posts

Anti-vivisection strategy: a suggestion
Victory over vivisection on medical grounds will advance the ethical case
UK McDonald’s in crisis
Animal equality may be a better name
Animal-movement political parties
Animals Count party for animals
Green Party and animal issues
Green Party and ritual slaughter

UK McDonald’s in crisis

McDonalds outlet in UK

The Sunday Times of 23th April 2006 reports about McDonald’s being in crisis in Britain.
“McDonald’s faces a tough battle in the UK, having to fight declining sales, an increasingly vociferous anti-obesity lobby and intense competition” writes the London newspaper.

From our viewpoint as animal activists campaigning to spread vegetarianism, it teaches us 2 lessons in strategy:

1) Publicity campaigns carried out in major media do produce massive results. McDonald’s in the UK has been hit by all the furore surrounding the ‘health fad’, as The Sunday Times puts it, promoted in recent months by various high-profile forms of advertising. Examples of these are celebrity chefs criticizing current school meals and launching healthier alternatives to them, and the bombardment to which British TV viewers have been submitted over the Christmas holiday period with program after program highlighting the health risks of fat-rich diets, condemning a long list of foods and drinks for contributing to diseases, showing shocking or disgusting pictures of abnormally obese people (and of their body products too), and so on.
In fact, McDonald’s has not been the only commercial victim of this: fizzy, sugary drinks’ sales have been affected too.
True, McDonald’s has seen its popularity decline over a period of time for other adverse publicity reasons, but nothing has hit them as much as the recent ‘health fad’.

2) There is probably a market for a vegetarian fast food restaurants chain, a vegetarian McDonald’s. If somebody invested money, time and effort in it, it would likely be a succes. I think of it as a number of diners, American-style, sort of 50s, with juke-boxes. They should also have internet points, magazines, videos; they should become a place in which young people meet, not just to have a meal but also for social purposes, to find old friends and to make new ones. They should be aimed at youngsters, perhaps teenagers, and be perceived by them as cool and hip places.

Why? Because this is the group we want to target. Young people are already more vegetarian, on average, than the rest of the population. We want to encourage that, because they are obviously the future. Youngsters like fast food joints: there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Our aim is to create an association in their minds between vegetarianism and places which are fun and cool, places where their friends choose to hang around, places which have nothing to do with the past but are evocative of the future, new and fresh.

This is the sort of ‘campaigning’ on which I believe we should focus more: not just on the negative, but on the positive too, and not just using reason and logic or even appeals to compassion, but also taking into consideration and acting on people’s needs, desires and psychological make-up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Heuristic value of animal intelligence

The common idea that non-human animals are guided mostly or exclusively by ‘instinct’ or conditioned reflexes has never convinced me.

Granted, when we say ‘animals’ we use an extremely broad concept, that obviously comprises species hugely different from each other.

So, we must make distinctions here.

One of the reasons most usually given to deny that animal intelligence can be comparable to ours is to point to the animals’ not having created a visible, tangible form of it, some products.

They have not constructed buildings or written poems.

But think of dolphins, for example.

We know that dolphins are highly intelligent. Yet, how could they possibly have produced things like buildings or works of art?

The medium in which they live, primarily, and their lack of suitable limbs, a consequence of it, would have made it impossible.

Dolphins make me think of the situation in which a very intelligent human with physical disabilities might have been, possibly, in the past, when technology was not there to help. Such a person’s high intellect may have never been discovered.

I think that the best position to take on the question of the intelligence of other species is that we still do not know enough about it, in a general sense, to make a judgement. The jury is still out.

However, given this uncertainty, it is better to believe that, generally speaking, non-human animals are much more intelligent and self-aware than is commonly thought.


Because this work hypothesis has a higher heuristic value, that is it is more fertile in terms of the scientific theories and discoveries that it may lead to, than its alternative, the belief that there is nothing there to discover.

In science, when two hypotheses compete, then, coeteris paribus, ie if there is no clear reason to prefer one over the other, we should choose the hypothesis with greater heuristic potential.

Is absence of emotions always rational?

We tend to define ‘emotive’ or ‘emotional’, especially as opposed to ‘rational’, as a state, or reason (in the sense of motive) characterized by the presence of emotions.

But a reason for doing something can be ‘emotional’ if it is characterized by the absence of emotions as well.

Suppose that some-one fully understands the rational ethical arguments for vegetarianism and knows that they are valid because s/he cannot find any fault with them, rationally.

But suppose that this person, nevertheless, continues eating meat because s/he emotionally does not care about the issue and likes the taste of meat.

Then, this behaviour is not dictated by reason (reason commands the opposite), but rather by emotion (lack of it).

In this case, it’s the lack of emotion that leads to a behaviour that goes against reason.

Casino, poker, gambling

Whether we want to gamble or like to gamble or not, life is a gigantic casino that forces us to constantly play a metaphorical poker.

There lies the appeal of the Deal or No Deal show on British and other TVs.

The game consists of 22 identical, sealed boxes containing varying sums of money, from 1p to £250,000 (we are now talking about British pounds). From these boxes the player, the contestant in the ‘hot seat’, has to choose which ones to open progressively. The sums which are uncovered are lost to the player who, in order to win, should keep the largest sums of money undisclosed for as long as possible.

The reason for this is that the so-called banker, a mysterious figure behind the scenes playing a sort of poker game complete with bluff and high stakes with the player, will make the player offers of money that reflect the situation of the game at different, pre-determined moments of the game.

So, for instance, if the big sums of £250,000, £100,000, £75,000 and £50,000 are still to be disclosed, the banker will make a higher offer than if these sums are revealed.

Why? Because if they are unrevealed, one of the large sums might be contained in the sealed box that the player has in front of him or her, picked up at random at the beginning of the game. Whatever sum of money is in that box the player will have won at the end of the game, unless s/he deals with the banker by accepting his offer before.

It is in the banker’s interest to make a high offer of cash if the development of the game allows the possibility of a great sum of money to be won by the player.

Remember that in the box there could be 1 penny, or there could be a quarter of a million. Real wealth, lots of cash, what they call life-changing money can be easily won and just as easily lost. There is so much at stake.

What is fascinating about this gambling TV show is exactly that: it is an entire gamble. The player has no idea how much money each of the boxes contains.

And this is the situation we are in many times in real life.

Like the players, we don’t know what’s in the boxes that we encounter in our lives, yet we must make decisions about them, about things that we have not enough knowledge about. Informed decisions are a luxury in the big casino of life; more often than not, we have to play poker, we have to download an existential game and gamble.


Vegetarianism and animal farming posts

The Immorality of Eating Meat: Reflections on Engel's essay
Health benefits of vegetarian diet
Vegetarian dogs
Vegetarian cats
UK McDonald’s in crisis
Green Party and animal issues
Green Party and ritual slaughter
The half vegan monks who are the world's healthiest people
Carcinogens, food poisoning and meat
Eating bacon and sausages every day increases cancer risk by 20%, new authoritative report says
Growth in animal farming increases disease risks for humans, says FAO
Big changes for free-range hens & chickens in EU law & UK consumers demand
This week's Observer article on broiler chickens
RSPCA Freedom Food under scrutiny
Junk food diet is killing UK's pets, say vets of leading charity
Meat workers health problems

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Immorality of Eating Meat: Reflections on Engel's essay

I have read, as suggested by Animal Ethics, Mylan Engel's essay "The Immorality of Eating Meat".

This is what it made me think.

Often, when one argues for vegetarianism, one hears a reply by somebody who claims s/he has no duty to be vegetarian because ‘plants feel pain too’. Therefore, so the claim goes, since we must eat something and anything we may eat was alive and sentient, we may as well eat whatever we like.

When we demonstrate to the person who made that claim that s/he is actually causing the death of, on average, 10 times as many plants by eating meat as s/he would if vegetarian, due to the waste of nutrients along the food chain, what happens? Does that person realize that, in virtue of the claim that himself/herself has made, s/he should, if consistent, become vegetarian?

What does all this tell you?

It tells you that the alleged reason for continuing meat-eating (in this case sentience of plants) was not a reason at all, but rather an excuse that that person, albeit misguidedly and naively, found convenient for the purpose.

When I read Mylan Engel's essay "The Immorality of Eating Meat", I was reminded of that type of occurrence.

As Engels himself at one point admits, philosophers who reject the ethical argument for vegetarianism are relying on excuses, not reasons.

All of which begs the question: what is the point of trying to convince them by re-formulating the argument in a different way?
His argument, with his stress on avoiding unnecessary suffering, on performing calculations balancing pleasure and pain of all involved, and on animals' sentient nature, seems to me a re-formulation of the utilitarian argument.

His quotation from the philosopher Bonnie Steinbock in her Speciesism And The Idea Of Equality is particularly interesting. In that paper she writes:
‘I doubt that anyone will be able to come up with a concrete and morally relevant difference that would justify, say, using a chimpanzee in an experiment rather than a human being with less capacity for reasoning, moral responsibility, etc. Should we then experiment on the severely retarded? Utilitarian considerations aside (the difficulty of comparing intelligence between species, for example), we feel a special obligation to care for the handicapped members of our own species, who cannot survive in this world without such care. Nonhuman animals manage very well, despite their "lower intelligence" and lesser capacities; most of them do not require special care from us. This does not, of course, justify experimenting on them. However, to subject to experimentation those people who depend on us seems even worse than subjecting members of other species to it. In addition, when we consider the severely retarded, we think, "That could be me." It makes sense to think that one might have been born retarded, but not to think that one might have been born a monkey. And so, although one can imagine oneself in the monkey's place, one feels a closer identification with the severely retarded human being. Here we are getting away from such things as "morally relevant differences" and are talking about something much more difficult to articulate, namely, the role of feelings and sentiment in moral thinking.’

Funny. I thought that the role of philosophy, since the time of Socratic dialogue, was to challenge what we feel to be true and analyze if it stands up to the scrutiny of reason and logic, and not to use our feelings as the basis of our theories.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A point of view is inevitable. And desirable too

The idea that one should not have a point of view when writing is fallacious.

This is an idea frequently encountered in the old and new media alike.
For example, Wikipedia, an online community site which, nonetheless, carries many interesting and useful articles, says:

‘Our Wikipedia community has by experience developed an informal hierarchy of core principles — the most important being that articles be written with a neutral point of view.’

A neutral point of view for a writer is just as possible as a neutral point of view for a camera. That is: totally impossible.

Imagine a photograph taken by a camera.
The camera has to be placed somewhere. The picture taken will be different from the picture of the same subject taken from a different spot. The angle will be different, and will give a dissimilar view of this particular piece of reality.

But it is simply inevitable.

The camera needs a place to stand. It would be impossible to shoot a photo from a place which covers all space, or that, even better, does not exist in space, although either could certainly be called neutral.

Exactly the same thing happens when someone writes.
Even if the writer did not have a point of view on a subject prior to writing on it, s/he must have a point of view once s/he has started writing, which is to say has started thinking about it (unless of course someone copies or otherwise writes unthinkingly, which would be worthless).

If you think about it carefully, neutral point of view is a contradiction in terms and, since language corresponds to thought, this shows that a neutral point of view is an absurd concept.

So, the best practice in writing is not to strive for a neutrality or independence which are not only impossible but perhaps not even desirable, because a thought (a point of view) is what gives spice and interest to a piece of writing.
The best practice, I think, is not to hide one’s opinions under a screen, to declare them and to make them explicit.
This, I believe, is less deceitful than to fake impartiality.

And, following the example of science and philosophy, by confronting many subjective points of view we are more likely to arrive, if not at objectivity, at least at an inter-subjective result.

Let’s take pictures of the same thing from different angles.

Science and philosophy, the most rational human activities, encourage debate and controversy by asking the participants to give reasons (arguments, logic, empirical evidence, satistics) that support their point of view, and not to deny it.


Contractarianism and animal issuesContractarianism is a moral theory saying that moral rules are a sort of a contract, and therefore only beings who can understand the terms of the contract are bound by it.

So, strictly speaking, moral rules should apply only to behaviour among normal adult human beings, but they could be extended to also cover beings that the people who entered the ‘contract’ care about, like their children for example, for reasons of indirect duty.

Ancient Greek philosophyOther groups who could be protected by the moral rules of the contract in this indirect way are, shall we say, the groups protected by ‘political correctness’, that is whoever the majority of the human population cares enough about or anyway whoever it is considered a duty to care about by what happens to be the current ideological orthodoxy.

One problem with contractarianism is that it betrays the very purpose of philosophy.

Since its beginning in ancient Greece, philosophy has always had the role of challenging the ideas currently held by the majority.

A moral theory that, in principle, simply justifies and accepts whatever the majority happens to believe is more than a philosophical failure: it is a complete redundancy. People do what they like to do and what they’ve always found it easy to do anyway, there is no need for philosophers to pat them on the back and say: ‘Well done!’.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Other posts

Animal-movement political parties
A point of view is inevitable. And desirable too
Casino, poker, gambling
Theory of cheap ideas
Animals victims of road traffic
Online poll on the circus' treatment of elephants
Are pesticides saving animals' lives?
Christmas Anti-Fur Week at Harrods
Ethical wool
New Global Network Against the Fur Industry

Animal awareness

Animal awareness posts

Heuristic value of animal intelligence
How much can instinct explain? An anecdote


Ethics posts

Basic ethics
Animal equality may be a better name
Animal equality
What is speciesism?
Is absence of emotions always rational?
The Immorality of Eating Meat: Reflections on Engel's essay
The origin of moral judgements


Hunting posts

UK hunting ban revisited 1 year after


Cruelty-free posts

Are cosmetics, toiletries and other household products tested on animals?
Buy only cruelty-free products
Cruelty free products


Vivisection posts


Mesothelioma and asbestos
Cancer research
A letter to Cancer Research UK
Carcinogenicity studies on animals
Cancer and animals


Thalidomide tragedy, side effects, history
How the myth of vivisection is perpetuated: asymmetry between new drugs and withdrawn drugs
Fen-Phen drug combination: another case where animal studies misled research
Animal tests responsible for Elephant men drug disaster, UK official body says


End to animal testing historic agreement
The greatest scientific event of the millennium
I have no more doubts about vivisection
The strange case of smoking animals, tobacco companies and research - Part I
The strange case of smoking animals, tobacco companies and research - Part II
The strange case of smoking animals, tobacco companies and research - Part III
Victory over vivisection on medical grounds will advance the ethical case
Animal experiments: ethical vs medical arguments
Pro Animal Experimentation new lobbyists
Animal experiments may be less useful than alternative methods
Anti-vivisection strategy: a suggestion
The problem with animal models
Obsession with avoiding health risks is unhealthy
When appeal to authority is misleading
Vivisection opinion polls
Animal experimentation public opinion. An Update
UK government’s animal experimentation cover-up is unlawful, court rules
Post hoc, propter hoc - a common fallacy of vivisection apologists
Singer's ambiguity on vivisection is damaging to animals
San Marino bans vivisection

Friday, April 07, 2006


Other animal sites

An Animal-Friendly Life
The Veg Blog
Animal Ethics
Brute Ethics
Animal Writings
Good Humans
Animal Rights Information and News Resource Blog

Blog directories
Blog Universe Blog
Blog Sweet
World Blog Directory
Weblog Directory
Blog Excerpts
Politics Blog Top Sites
FindingBlog - Blog Directory

Anti-vivisection strategy: a suggestion

A strategy to obtain results in the area of animal experiments must have realistic goals.

If people continue to require billions of animals to be slaughtered at the end of lives spent in the concentration-camps-like conditions of intensive farming only to satisfy humans’ taste for these animals’ flesh, which is a very trivial purpose, people are much less likely to want a ban on animal experiments which, whether successful or not, have at least in theory a more important purpose.

I suggest a 2-stages approach, which will also reconcile the endless dispute/conflict between the anti-vivisection medical versus ethical arguments.

The ethical argument requires nothing less than a total abolition of all animal experimentation, unless we are prepared to accept experimenting on humans at the same level of capacities: if we are not, then justice demands the same about non-human animals. Continuing in this double standard is pure speciesism.

Total abolition, therefore, is our final goal, long term.

But we know that it will not be realized soon.

What we can do is to set a short and medium term goal of reducing the number of animals used in research, by gradually replacing them with different methods.

This will have two benefits: saving animals and getting us nearer the final objective, because the people we want to convince here are not so much the general public and consumers (who are crucial in other campaigns such as cruelty-free products and fur coats) or the politicians, but indeed the researchers themselves. They are the ones who decide what methods to use.

If we can demonstrate to the satisfaction of researchers that the number of animals used in experiments can indeed be greatly and progressively reduced by the deploy of other techniques, we will make moves towards abolition.

In fact, we do not even need the law to be changed, in practice.
All we need is for more and more research workers to shift from an animal-centred experimental approach to an alternative-methods-centred one.

What we should be careful about doing, therefore, is about making statements that are likely to make us lose credibility.

Statements which have been made in his books by Hans Ruesch, still in many respects a great anti-vivisection author, and which one can often hear echoed by animal organizations.
In a nutshell, Ruesch says that animal experimentation has led to many medical and pharmacological disasters, has given false results and has distracted from the right path of clinical observation, the only one on which a medical science can be based.
Ergo, animal experimentation as a method is a total failure and must be abandoned.

There is a prima facie logical fallacy in this argument.

The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

The premise is not strong enough to sustain such a far-reaching conclusion.

The premise can only support the conclusion that animal experimentation is not perfect and cannot be relied on as an absolute guide.

But this premise is still compatible with a statement saying that animal experiments have a relative, limited use that can be complemented by the use of other methods at the same time.

If we take Ruesch’s own examples, even the major ones, like penicillin being fatal to guinea pigs, it’s easy to see that, after all, despite animal experimentation being the fundamental method of medical research, penicillin has been introduced, so the continued use of animal experimentation is compatible with its results being mitigated and revised in the light of other methods’ results as well.

Are cosmetics, toiletries and other household products tested on animals?

Rabbit used in cosmetic test

The UK stopped licensing cosmetic tests on animals in 1998, but there's no worldwide ban, and therefore the vast majority of cosmetics products sold in the UK will almost certainly have been tested on animals, even though the test will have taken place in another country.

In the United States, where many well-known cosmetics manufacturers are based, there is not even legislation in place to ensure that laboratories collate accurate statistics on the number of animals they use in cosmetics research.

Anyway, the law and animal testing bans alone are not enough to stop cosmetics companies testing on animals because they can simply shift their animal testing to a country without a ban.

This is why the most effective method of stopping this type of unnecessary cruelty is consumers pressure.
This is an area where people can make a difference. Choosing products made by companies that DO NOT test on animals and rejecting those that do test on animals is a powerful way to make your views count and produce a result.
By their buying habits, people can make companies change their policies and bring about a real end to cosmetic testing on animals.

Buy only cruelty-free products

By purchasing only cruelty-free products, you can help save rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, rats, and other animals.

Hundreds of thousands of these animals are poisoned, blinded, and killed every year in outdated product tests for shampoos, household cleaners, cosmetics, hairspray, and other personal care and household items.
Over 500 companies have banned all animal tests forever, including some major ones.
But some corporations, including Procter & Gamble, Clorox, S.C. Johnson, and others, still test on animals, by pouring toxins onto animals' shaved, abraded skin, or squirting chemicals into animals' eyes, or forcing substances into their lungs, or pumping them into their stomachs.
These archaic tests are usually not required by law, and they often produce inaccurate or misleading results. And they don't protect consumers: even if a product has blinded an animal, it can still be sold to you.

Fortunately, scientists have developed many sophisticated non-animal product tests now in use today that are faster, cheaper, and far more accurate at predicting human reactions to a product than old blinding and poisoning animal tests, which were developed in the 1920s, ever were.
Human cell cultures and tissue studies (in vitro tests) and artificial human “skin” and “eyes” mimic the body’s natural properties, and a number of computer virtual organs serve as accurate models of human body parts.
Instead of measuring how long it took a chemical to burn away the cornea of a rabbit’s eye, manufacturers could now drop that chemical onto donated human corneas. Human skin cultures could be grown and ordered for irritancy testing.
Please vow never to buy products from companies that use animals.

Draize Eye Test - eye irritancy test on rabbits for cosmetic productsThere are a broad range of animal experiments used to test cosmetics and toiletries. These are some of the most commonly used tests.

Eye irritancy

Also known as the Draize Eye Test, this is used to assess the acute irritancy of a substance when applied directly to the eye. It usually uses at least three adult albino rabbits per substance. The substance is dripped into one eye of each conscious rabbit, often immobilised in stocks for dosing, whilst the other non-tested eye serves as a control. Rabbits have far less tear flow than humans and are therefore less able to 'cry away' painful substances, which is one of the reasons why scientists use this species. Rabbits also have no blink reflex, which makes applying the chemicals easier. During the tests, damage to the eyes such as cloudiness, reddening, lid swelling, ulceration or weeping eyes is recorded over a 21 day period for a single dose. No pain relief is normally given.

Skin irritancy

Used to assess the toxicity of a substance applied to the skin. It uses at least three adult abino rabbits or guinea pigs per substance and involves applying the test substance to their shaved and abraded (scratched) back. Over hours, day or weeks, any signs of redness, swelling, inflammation, skin cracking and ulceration are recorded. No pain relief is normally given.

Acute toxicity

There are many different types of toxicity (poisoning) experiments. This one is to assess the toxic effects on the whole body of a single dose of a substance. It usually uses 15-30 rats per substance and is administered either by force-feeding (oral), injection or inhalation, usually without any pain relief. The animals are housed for a minimum of five days to 'acclimatise' before being dosed with the substance and observed for 14 days. Animals being dosed orally will be starved before testing. Symptoms include blood pressure changes, weight loss, excessive salivation, internal organ damage, breathing disturbances, convulsions, bleeding from eyes, nose or anus, pilo-erection (hair standing on end), tremors, diarrhoea, coma and even death. All the animals are killed at the end of the test for autopsy.

Cruelty free products

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which, with more than 800,000 members, is the largest animal rights organization in the world and was founded in 1980, produces a "Don't Test" list of cruelty-free companies, that do not test their products on animals.

The list includes cosmetics, personal care, and household cleaning product companies only. PETA's Caring Consumer Project was founded on the fact that no law requires animal testing of these types of products, so manufacturers of these products have no excuse for animal testing and should be boycotted until they change to a non-animal-testing policy.

In order to be listed, each company has stated that it does not conduct any animal tests that are not required by law.

Companies listed either have signed PETA's statement of assurance or provided a statement verifying that they do not conduct or commission any nonrequired animal tests on ingredients, formulations, or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

How much can instinct explain? An anecdote

Cat saved a lamb from drowning
There are so many animal behaviours that cannot be explained by the simplistic view of animals acting merely by instinct.

This episode is one of them.

A cat saved a lamb from drowning in a swimming pool.
Puss Puss, a black and white female cat in Cheltenham, England, discovered that a lamb had fallen into a pool and frantically meowed, running back and forth between the pool and the garden where her human companions, gardeners Adrian Bunton and Karen Lewis, were working, to alert them to his plight.
Jill Royle, the owner of the garden, said: "She was in a very, very agitated state, meowing and calling and crying and being an utter pest and dashing back and forward between them [the gardeners] and the pool."
"They found the lamb in the swimming pool" Royle said. "They got it out and it was OK."

This was reported in the Gloucestershire Echo newspaper on 6 October 2003.

What is speciesism?

Speciesism is species-selfishness.

It is arbitrarily to give priority to the interests of our species simply because it is OUR species, in a similar way as we could give more importance to the interests of our ethnic group, social group, continent, nation, tribe, clan, family and, ultimately, ourselves.

All these are examples of selfishness which start from its simplest form, selfishness relating to the individual, and extend to groups for no other reason than because the individual is part of them.

The 19th–century historian William Edward Hartpole Lecky wrote in his History of European Morals:

“At one time the benevolent affections embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a class, then a nation, then a colation of nations, then all humanity, and finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal world.”

Basic ethics

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Animal-movement political parties

We should create a political party in all Western countries, that could be elected, having a manifesto that puts at its centre the animal agenda of issues, but also has policies on all other issues which are of concern to the electorate and which are tackled and addressed by the other parties with policies in their own manifestos.

There are 2 reasons for such creation:

1) We can rely on other parties to enact policies to protect animal rights only in a limited way.

2) On the other hand, we cannot have an animal rights party which does not address all the other issues, because it would be a fringe party, one which the majority of the electorate would not find interesting.

Animal experiments may be less useful than alternative methods

The way the argument about usefulness of animal experimentation for medical purposes is put by its defenders is often fallacious for a very simple reason: it is on qualitative, and not quantitative, grounds.
(In addition, it goes against the nature of advanced science, historically, to reason in qualitative and not quantitative terms. The most developed sciences, like physics, and fields of science reach their maturity by going from being qualitative to being quantitative, especially in recent times.)

When people say ‘drug x was developed through animal experiments’ or ‘treatment y was found researching on animal models’, the point is not even whether what they say is true or not.

The relevant question is: how many (how many millions, more likely) animals were used, how many experiments that had no useful result were necessary before arriving at that particular single result?

It is a statistical problem that we should address.

Because, had we used a different method of research, the statistical utility (I mean, for example, the percentage of successes) could have been higher.
We must always use this yardstick, this criterion for comparison.
(This is the way that control groups are used in tests: I’m here transferring a scientific technique to a meta-scientific context.)

It may very well turn out that, when compared with other methods already in existence or that we know could be developed, the percentage of successes in medical animal experimentation, among the number of all experiments performed, is extremely low.
It could also turn out that the corresponding percentage of misleading results (eg penicillin, or the role of smoking in lung cancer) or downright deleterious effects is higher than it needs to be.

It’s certainly well worth investigating along these lines, from now on.