Human Exceptionalism

Animal Rights War on Medical Cures

If we want to advance our biological knowledge toward the end of creating new medical treatments and cures, we absolutely must allow animal research. That is incontrovertibly true, blatant lies by the ilk of PETA claiming no human good comes out of animal research, notwithstanding. 

One can argue legitimately that despite the gains we receive from animal research, we foreswear from the enterprise for ethical reasons. I disagree, but it is an argument with integrity, albeit terribly misplaced priorities.

That said, animal researchers should not be vilified. But that is what animal rights activists frequently do, sometimes leading to violence, as happened with disturbing frequency for a time here in California.

But personally vilify they do–all over the world. In Germany, a researcher into the brains of monkeys has been continually attacked. Court cases have been brought and he has been completely cleared of all unethical behavior.  Yet, he is attacked personally in ads, his photo shown as a special method of intimidation. From a Science story:

The text says that “animal experimenters are a special kind of being—you should not lightly call them human.” The ad questions the validity of Kreiter’s study results and denounces his group’s research as “cruel,” “barbaric,” and “scientifically pointless.” It ends with an appeal to citizens to “treat animal experimenters with contempt.”

No, animal rights activists who personally attack researchers should be treated with contempt.

Like a wolf pack, these animal rights bullies always pick one person or company to attack and try to drive them out of their careers. As I documented in my book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, sometimes it works.

I am reminded of the infamous Silver Spring Monkey case in which Dr. Edward Taub was infiltrated by PETA activists and his life and work almost destroyed by false allegations of cruelty to monkeys. Yet, thanks to Taub’s work with monkeys, a wonderful new treatment for stroke infirmities came into being. From my NRO piece, “A Monkey for Your Grandmother:”

More importantly, the animal research that so distressed animal liberationists helped Taub achieve a medical breakthrough in the treatment of stroke victims–called Constraint-Induced Movement (CI Therapy)–by which the brain is induced to “rewire itself” following stroke or other serious brain trauma. CI Therapy is so successful that there is now a long waiting list of stroke patients with upper limb impairments at Taub’s Alabama clinic.

The technique is also in further human trials for other conditions, including as an approach to treating children with cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury.

Not only has the treatment been approved for Medicare coverage, but Taub is teaching the technique all around the world. The human suffering he has ameliorated can’t be measured.

Here’s the truth: No medical treatment in the last 60 years could have come into being without animal research.  It is a human rights issue of gravest import, first instituted as such by the Nuremberg Code.

Moreover, many dangerous approaches were kept from hurting people because of animal research. Our knowledge of basic science has grown exponentially because of animal research.

As Taub told me, he could either have not used animals in research or he could have not developed the stroke treatment. That’s what I call the “grim good” of animal research. I know which I choose.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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