Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Primate Vivisectors Target and Mislead Children

"Saving Lives With Biomedical Research" [.pdf] is a comic book produced by the National Institutes of Health's Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) paid for by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and intended to be used to propagandize middle school-aged children. Their propaganda efforts target children as young as 6 years of age.

At ONPRC's sister facility, the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, vivisectors have said that the issue is far too complex and nuanced for lay people to grapple with... simple-minded citizens ought not be empowered to make ethical decisions about the use of animals in the labs. They must wish we'd all been forced to read the "Lucky Puppy" when we were six.

In any case, "Saving Lives With Biomedical Research" is a gem of the propagandist's art. Bright colors, characters the target audience can (hopefully) identify with, a talking monkey, half truths, hidden realities, falsehoods, and its all just so politically correct.

It's my sincere desire that readers will come away from this essay a bit more informed and aware of the efforts underway nationally to convince young children that hurting and killing animals is a good thing.

This is how the story begins. Readers have no idea what Brandon might have said in his report. Did he have visual aides? Lots of pictures from inside ONPRC are available. Maybe he even showed the video of the macaque having his penis electro-shocked and the technician saying that if the animal rights people ever saw what was going on that they would probably be able to shut down ONPRC. We just don't know what Brandon said in his report.

The rest of the comic book is dedicated to a debunking Brandon's classmate Zach's apparently erroneous impressions about vivisectors and animal experimentation.

It's more than a little odd that ONPRC chose to use a very anthropomorphic monkey to be its chief spokesman in the story; criticism has been leveled at animal rightists with claims that they are doing exactly what ONPRC is doing:
Groups such as PETA and the Animal Liberation Project (ALP) frequently employ graphic photos of animals suffering in laboratories and slaughterhouses. They make Holocaust analogies or employ anthropomorphic depictions of animals that would make Walt Disney blush. (The Nonhuman Animal. Michael P. Orsi. The American Spectator August 10, 2010. Linked to by the Discovery Institute.)

Should we be surprised that Zach's mother has cancer or that she believes that experiments on animals were necessary for the development of her treatments, or that Zach's opinions might be pitted against his mother's health?

This picture of Max, the talking monkey, is sort of funny. His hands and feet are very un-monkey like. I'd have thought that an institution dedicated to using monkeys would have at least not misled children this way. I think too, that they ought to have named him something else, maybe Quisling?

This is a bit of oleo. The title of the page says that these animal types are needed for research, but it offers a conglomeration of reasons. Scientists "need" lobsters to study Parkinson's? Pigs have certainly been used by scientists studying burns, but whether they were needed is a question left unasked in this comic book. I wonder whether Brandon showed pictures of pigs being burnt with blow torches in his report?
There is a lot wrong on this page. At ONPRC, no one can just ride up to the front door on their bike. At ONPRC, no buildings can be seen from the road. A winding drive leads to an electric gate where surveillance cameras determine whether or not the security staff ought to be sent to interrogate you.

And tours? Please. Vivisectors at the Wisconsin primate center promised repeatedly in public to show people around their facility. When they were asked for a tour, they quickly changed their minds and offered instead a very limited number of people a very carefully guided tour.

"Open air shelter"? ONPRC calls them corrals; they raise monkeys to sell to other labs. Wisconsin keeps all its monkeys indoors, as do most labs using monkeys. At ONPRC, a USDA inspector cited them for the poor conditions in the corrals. They had to walk through feces-fouled slime covered pools of rain water to get to their food. Disease outbreaks were common.

The page below is particularly misleading.

A few years ago, it was discovered that ONPRC vivisector Martha Neuringer had been videotaping some of the many individually caged monkeys there. She left cameras running for hours on end. It took a protracted lawsuit to get the tapes, but when they were finally turned over, we saw hours upon hours of endless pacing and "looping." Essentially all monkeys used in the labs live in small barren stainless steel cages, many of them alone (approx 200 in Wisconsin) and driven mentally ill from the grotesquely unnatural isolation forced upon them.

And positive reinforcement? Here's a less-comic glimpse of the reality:

The page above is filled with gibberish. Veterinarians in primate labs are not infrequently also vivisectors. At the Wisconsin center, for instance, the head vet, Saverio "Buddy" Capuano III, (no buddy to the monkey) has coauthored a number of scientific papers documenting monkeys' declining health after injecting them with always-terminal disease-causing viruses.

And the tired claim that monkeys live longer in the labs than in the wild is just that, a tired propaganda device. In order to fairly judge the comparative risks between a life in the wild and in lab, one would need to look at the age of death of a population of monkeys. Except in very rare cases, every monkey in the labs will die an unnatural death. Almost all of them will be killed by a vivisector. And the ones who aren't are likely to be found dead in their cage after a long bout of incurable diarrhea, or dehydration from a clogged water tube gone unnoticed by the lab staff, or a chronic undiagnosed infection, and even in some cases death from being scalded in a cage-washer. The claim that monkeys live longer in the labs than they do in the wild are far-fetched wild unscientific assertions intended only to mislead the public, and in the case of this comic book, intended to mislead children.

The claim above is a common one: something said to be the result of some use of animals could not have occurred otherwise. But this is a fallacy. It's sort of like saying that for want of the nail, the war was lost, or in this case, without dogs insulin couldn't have been discovered. But this is nonsense. It's like saying that without Christopher Columbus, Europeans would never have found North and South America.

The numbers the comic book cites are also misleading. Type 2 diabetes represents about 90 to 95 percent of the cases in the US and its frequency is increasing. Sadly, the primary risk factors are diet and lifestyle. It wasn't the use of animals that led to the understanding that overweight sedentary consumers of diets high in meat and dairy are at much greater risk of developing the condition. ONPRC could have served their targeted audience by including characters more representative of American children and urging them to eat less animal fat and to exercise more.

Complete baloney. In fact, even USDA inspectors sometimes have a difficult time getting into the labs. These people look forward to visitors the way normal people look forward to a colonoscopy. Saying otherwise in a comic book for children is manipulative and dishonest.

Zach's report is misleading. It conflates "needed" with "used." Even vivisectors admit that other vivisectors may not be doing important work and are using animals in ways that they ought not to. Also, the report says that since 1970, there has been a 50% reduction in the number of animals used. But the USDA didn't start keeping such statistics until 1973, so it's hard to know where Zach got his information. And, the USDA reported that 1,653,345 animals were used that year, and that 1,134,693 were used in 2010, hardly a 50% drop, and moreover, most observers agree that the widespread demand for mutant mice has added an astronomical number of animals to the actual total, but because neither rats nor mice are counted by the USDA, they do not appear in the reported numbers. All told, Zach seems to have been duped by the vivisectors he spoke with and the information they gave to him.

You'd think that by now, given the essentially limitless number of mice and rats experimented on, that rats and mice would be disease free and now would be more or less immortal. But, of course, they aren't. A few years ago we took a sick rat to the vet. He had no idea whatsoever how to help him. He tried some drug that was used in cats to no effect. He did help the poor guy a little by giving him some oxygen, but in spite of at least many hundreds of millions of rats having been dissected, injected, force fed everything under the sun, subjected to millions of different surgeries, help them when they are dying is still just as difficult as it is to help a dying human. As much as anything else, this simple fact would seem to put the lie to the specious arguments that experiments on them will benefit us; those experiments don't even lead to cures for the animals the vivisectors use the most.

It's telling that most of the sources ONPRC encourages children to consult are matter-of-fact special interest groups whose common mission is selling snake oil.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If they want to show kids their version of animal research, then show them the real photos...The monkey awake with his brain exposed? Or the rat/mouse in some of their egregious experiment high on cocaine? Or the other primates high on acid, starving, thirsty deprived of this so they will respond on command??? This goes beyond the grounds of manipulation, this is a form of brain washing so the next generation will support research…Forget about prevention of heart disease, diabetes and such. Our children are worth more sick and alive than healthy or dead. I am 44 years old and healthy preventing my risks of disease by protection, eating healthy and exercising. A comic or story book should show a primate guiding our children thru this process and not cutting the animal up!!!!! I am so ashamed to live in Oregon where lies prey on the innocent sick adults and children. Given false hope daily!!