Misinformed protest

I was appalled to read Ryan Merkley’s attack on UR faculty who questioned the wisdom of inviting a high-ranking member of PETA to speak on scientific objectivity. Bruce Friedrich, the speaker in question, represents an organization dedicated to ending the use of animals for human benefit of any sort, at all costs.

A man who, in 2001, said that “it would be great if all… these laboratories and the banks who funded them exploded tomorrow” can hardly be trusted to give an objective opinion on scientific research.

Friedrich is even quoted on page 1 of the same issue of CT as saying that he “bring[s] a lot of bias to the table.” How is that supposed to be objective?

Meanwhile, Merkley goes on to say that URMC “continue[s] to torture and kill animals,” and that animal research has done nothing to stop the diseases most responsible for deaths in the US. What “objective” source has this information come from?

Is Mr. Merkley even aware of the strict rules that researchers must follow to use animals in research? Perhaps a quick visit to http://www.apa.org/science/anguide.html would help.

As for the accusation that animal testing is useless, I would suggest that Mr. Merkley – and anyone else who shares this position – stop using all medical products that exist because of animal research.

No more antibiotics, since those all get tested on animals before they move to human trials. No more insulin for your diabetic friends, since it was first isolated from dogs used in a research lab.

No more vaccines, since those are all developed from research on lab animals – not to mention that the word “vaccine” comes from the use of cows to develop something that could fight smallpox.

If the great moral crusaders of PETA and similar groups are ready to stop using all of these products, then maybe the legitimate scientific community will start taking them seriously.

And while they’re at it, a suggestion for something to replace animal testing would be helpful. Perhaps Mr. Merkley can offer us something already, since his scientific expertise elevates him above the “lazy” and “unimaginative manner of research” that is animal testing.

-Joshua M. Feldblyum Class of ’05

PETA not perfect

Some faculty attempted to stop PETA’s Bruce Friedrich from speaking on campus last week. What is more disappointing than their attempt to stifle free speech is that they did not show up to try to refute Friedrich. One would have thought that someone would relish the opportunity to try to set him straight on the nutritional facts about eating animals and the science of experimenting on them.

Perhaps no critics showed up because they were at the library reading the Journal of the American Dietetic Association’s June 2003 position paper that shows that vegetarian diets provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

It said that vegetarians have lower body mass indices than non-vegetarians, lower rates of heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and prostate and colon cancer (http://nyvegan.org/ada.pdf).

These are American’s biggest killers, and you would think that healthcare providers would have been there to encourage people to easily and cheaply improve their health by going vegetarian. Friedrich’s science was from top medical journals. Where was anyone to argue that, for their health, people shouldn’t go vegetarian?

People were upset because PETA condemns the torture and killing of animals for science. That fear is understandable given the funding UR gets doing just that.

But can these researchers make a case that they are really helping people through those experiments?

Many doctors, veterinarians and scientists argue that they can’t, and no researcher from UR would ever debate the issue. They would never address the question of whether more people would benefit were these funds directed towards non-animal research, prevention and education.PETA rejects the common prejudice that animals are ours to eat, wear and experiment on – they argue that no conscious, feeling beings – human or non-human – are mere “things” to be used for pleasure or profit. The arguments of the best academic philosophers support PETA – and this might explain why so few philosophers attempt to defend vivisection or animal agribusiness.

So perhaps none of Friedrich’s critics showed up because, in all honesty, there really isn’t much to debate about these issues – while controversial, unfortunately only one side has much reasonable to say on its behalf.

-Nathan NobisGraduate StudentPhilosophy Dept.

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