It’s valuable when scientists argue in favor of appropriate medical research using animals. But it’s a whole different story when an animal activist and diehard vegan takes a similar stance.
When a commentary starts out with this line – from a researcher who experiments on animals -- I’m sitting up straight and dialing it in.
“ For nearly 30 years, I was a strict vegetarian — even turning vegan for a while, abstaining not only from meat but eggs, milk and cheese. I refused to do animal dissection for biology A-level (my teacher gave me a leaf to dissect instead, accompanied by a sardonic smile) and was an ardent member of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.”
A bit extreme, perhaps, but there are thousands of people who hold a world view that is very similar. Only in this case the quote above is from one Dr. Max Pemberton, a psychiatrist who writes for the London newspaper The Daily Mail under the nickname “The Mind Doctor.” He makes no pretense about the fact that he still advocates for animal rights.
Yet he noted that he felt “ deeply uncomfortable” about recently released statistics about medical research in Great Britain.
According to statistics from the British Home Office, 185,000 animals were subjected to what The Mind Doctor labeled as “'almost unbearable pain” during experiments in the nation’s laboratories in 2014.
As much as I hate saying this, sometimes vivisection is the only answer. Of course, we shouldn't inflict unnecessary suffering. There must be tight rules, enforced with iron discipline.
Those data have emerged because, for the first time, scientists in Britain are now legally required to report on the numbers of animals used annually in medical research. That’s fodder for wailing and sobbing on the part of animal activists, but listen to what Dr. Pemberton told the newspaper.
“It makes me shudder — but it doesn't make me want to ban animal testing,” he said. “The more human suffering I've seen, the more I've started to question my old views.”
Mind over movement
Having reviewed literally thousands of activists screeds over the years, I was totally unprepared for the conclusion the good doctor expressed. He even teed up his statement with more gruesome talking points.
“I remember going shopping a few years ago and seeing a stall with horrifying posters of animal experiments,” he said. “One showed a monkey with part of its skull removed, its brain exposed and wires coming out.”
Yet shortly afterwards he said that he saw a report about research that offered hope to wounded soldiers, noting that, “Scientists had managed to fit monkeys with brain implants that accurately controlled artificial limbs.”
As the story reported, laboratory tests using monkeys progressed to the point that the monkeys could move an artificial arm using only their minds, and were able to feed themselves with almost 100% accuracy. Previous attempts to give patients such limbs had been unsuccessful because of the complex degree of brain activity involved in even simple tasks.
That is undeniably an incredible breakthrough, and one that absolutely would have been impossible using the vaunted “computer modeling” that animal activists always tout as the replacement for any and all medical research.
After a lengthy and often horrendous description of the suffering endured by both soldiers and civilians with neurological disorders that compromise their mobility, Dr. Pemberton ended his column with the following statement:
“People like [those] patients aren't standing on street corners with emotive posters because people like them can't stand at all. Their voices aren't heard.
“But there's a chance animal testing might end their nightmare. I couldn't look my patient in the eye and tell him I valued an animal's rights before his. Could you?”
No, I couldn’t.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator.