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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   Op Ed | VegSource Interactive, Inc.

"Animal Experimentation Is Good!"
How Industry Front Organizations
Try to Twist Public Perceptions
by VegSource Staff

June 4, 2001 -- Many journalists and writers around the world use "Profnet," an e-mail service provided by PR Newswire. They use Profnet to gather information and contacts for stories they're researching. Queries are distributed on the massive Profnet list several times a day.

While bona fide journalistic outlets will use this service to try to research and develop a balanced story, investigating all sides of a particular issue, the front organizations for the meat, dairy and chemical industries use the service quite differently.

Consider how a typical Profnet query reads:

"HIGH PROTEIN VERSUS LOW-FAT: WHICH IS BETTER?
Need MD and nutritionist experts on both sides for USA Today article. Contact Joe Blow joe.the.writer@usatoday.com. No phone calls, please. Need leads by tomorrow 5 pm."

Once sent out to the list, any of the thousands of people who pay to receive Profnet queries can respond to Joe, and send him ideas and contact info for experts they think he should consider interviewing. 

It's a great service; writers can get easy access to various experts, leading authors, and scientists on an enormous variety of subjects. And those experts have a chance to be quoted in major media outlets - and maybe get the name of their book or business promoted in print as a side-benefit.


 



In contrast to queries sent out by reputable journalistic outlets, here is an actual Profnet query recently sent out by a fake research group called "the American Council on Science and Health":

**1. RADICAL EFFORTS OF ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS - PRIORITIES FOR HEALTH.
I'm looking for critics or skeptics of the animal rights movement who can talk about the radical efforts of animal rights groups, e.g., threats of violence, the destruction of labs, the stealing of animals, etc. I'd also like to speak with an animal researcher or scientist. Priorities for Health is a print and electronic publication of the American Council on Science & Health. No phone calls, please. Need leads by June 15. >>> Nina Silberstein <nswriter@uswest.net> Web site: http://www.prioritiesforhealth.com [hl::5/18:3422]

Here on VegSource we have previously written about the American Council on Science & Health (ACSH), a non-profit "scientific" organization. ACSH claims to be a group of unbiased experts concerned about health, and vigorously promotes what it terms "sound science." What it actually is is another animal entirely. (Linked below are related articles further exposing how ACSH and organizations like it are funded and work.) 

When you hear the term "sound science," you know you're most likely listening to someone who gets money from a company which sells products that make people sick or pollute the environment.

And this is exactly the case with ACSH.

In recent years, a number of such non-profit fronts have sprung up, soaking millions from corporate interests in exchange for the non-profit's attempts to confuse the public about research which points to safety problems of various chemicals, foods, tobacco products, global warming, etc.

Both sides of a story

Glaringly absent from the ACSH Profnet query above is the usual request for experts to provide information or opinions on the other side of the issue. In this case, that would mean seeking experts to discuss evidence which may support the case that animal experimentation has been a scientific and medical disaster.

ACSH will no doubt be successful in finding "scientists" to assert that we absolutely need animal experiments in order to discover how safe new drugs are before we give them to humans.

But they won't talk to a credible researcher who might point to information like the fact that the combination of fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine (or "phen-fen"), prescribed by thousands of doctors to combat obesity, was tested on animals for years, and deemed safe for humans. But it caused heart valve abnormalities in people, and some died from this "magic fat pill." The arthritis drug Opren was tested on monkeys and came up clean. 61 people were killed before it was withdrawn from the market. And Cylert, given to children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder, appeared to be fine for animals, but caused liver failure in 13 children before it was withdrawn.

Jerome Burne, the editor of the monthly newsletter Medicine Today, recently detailed in a report in the London Guardian how thousands of people have been injured or killed by drugs that were found to be safe for other species. At least animal testing can determine something as basic as whether or not a chemical causes cancer, right? Not quite -- the results may be totally contradictory. The American National Institute of Envionmental Health Sciences tested 392 chemicals tested for carcinogenic effects. But 96 came out positive in the rat and negative in the mouse or vice versa. So which of those are harmful to humans? The institute doesn't know. 

They spent 30 years feeding high doses of a range of new chemicals to animals to discover if they caused cancer or other damage. They produced hundreds of thousands of pages of results. So how many of the substances they tested might produce tumors in humans at normal levels? The institute doesn't know. Well what about the ones that didn't harm rodents, how many of them might harm humans? They don't know that either. 

The lack of predictable differences between animal and human reactions is something that has bedeviled AIDS research. There's lots of money available for AIDS research. And while many may believe it's unethical to experiment on chimpanzees, the scale of this epidemic urges overlooking ethical objections in using them, right? After all, the chimp's genome is identical to ours, give or take a few percentage points, so they should yield more accurate results than rodents. 

But that turns out not to be the case at all. Out of about 100 chimps infected with HIV over a 10-year period only two have become sick (the fact that chimps are naturally immune to this disease may play some part in this). Chimp vaccine trials have turned out to be unreliable as well, because they don't show the antibody or cell-mediated response to HIV that humans do. Animal experimentation has played at most a tiny role in developing drug treatments for AIDS.

Then there are the many drugs that desperately sick people could not obtain and use because they caused dangerous reaction in animals, such as beta blockers and valium -- which were actually safe for humans. Legislation to stop the use of asbestos was held up for years because animals exposed to it didn't get cancer; the carcinogen benzene continued to be used long after clinicians were concerned about its safety, because it didn't cause leukemia in mice. And the list goes on and on.

ACSH: "Science" for sale

When you know who ACSH is and how they're funded, you can be assured that they are being paid to write this pro-animal research article by drug companies or other corporations with a vested interest in promoting this topic. The query above clearly reveals that the writer has her orders. 

Most likely this assignment comes from one of ACSH's funders who's feeling a pinch. People are becoming aware that animal research may not be the panecea that drug companies and others paint it to be.

So in response, ACSH creates a newsletter. They call it "Priorities for Health." 
Even the very name - "Priorities for Health" - suggests that whatever they print there must be critically important to health issues. 

They start with the premise that animal testing is a priority for health, and anyone with opinions competing with their corporate funders' premise -- need not apply.

It's very obvious from the ACSH query that they want to write a publicity piece casting people who oppose animal research as villains. The point of the article will be to assert, as the query does, that people opposed to animal experimentation are dangerous zealots, "radical," "violent," "thieves" who "threaten" and "destroy," according to the query, and who therefore must be devoid of any rational arguments to defend their position.

In other words, the article will state that there really are no good arguments against animal tests - while steadfastly avoiding any real discussion of what those arguments might be.

Any scientists they'll quote - you know, the kind who put electrodes into cat brains or commit other atrocities which they would otherwise get arrested for if they did them outside of a laboratory - these will be the "good guys."

We predict that ACSH will not disclose in their article that lab animal theft or violence against animal researchers is actually exceedingly rare. There are many more people doing animal experiments than are breaking into labs, and only a miniscule number of the people who are concerned about animal testing ever do anything violent or criminal.

Once this article has been finished and published by ACSH, they will no doubt put out a press release, and sites like DrKoop.com and others which are in on the corporate payola schemes will run the piece as though it's real. Maybe they'll get lucky and CNN or CBS will mention it. If that happens, the drug companies will have really gotten their monies worth from ACSH.

The truth is, ACSH doesn't really feel that people are going to be harmed if animal testing stops. It's that their own bottom line may be harmed if they don't write an article protecting their source of funding. "Meat, dairy, pesticides, and processed foods are all good for us," ACSH will dutifully assert, "and anyone who disputes this notion is a radical, violent thief." 

ACSH's "priorities for health" are not the health of people -- but the health of their own financial interests, which they put first. 

Click here for list of ACSH funders

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