By now, everyone’s heard of the ice bucket challenge, the clever fund-raising scheme that has hordes of celebrities and many of the rest of us getting drenched with a bucket of ice water—all in the name of raising money to help find the cause and the cure for ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
In less than a month, close to $100 million dollars has been raised, thanks in large measure to the participation of such prominent celebrities as Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon; movie stars such as Tom Hanks, Reese Witherspoon, Channing Tatum, Jessica Alba, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (who doused himself with toilet water to promote a clean drinking water charity he supports) and politicians, including former President George Bush and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Even President Barack Obama received an ice bucket challenge from LeBron James, although the president declined in favor of making a donation to the cause.
Given its success, you’d think it was all in good fun, and all good as far as raising money for the ALS Association was concerned, right?
Of course not—not with ideologues like PETA ready to seize the opportunity to promote their extremist views.
Pamela Anderson, the former model/actress turned animal rights advocate and anti-fur campaigner, publicly denounced the ice bucket challenge because she doesn’t believe in using animals for research to find cures for diseases like ALS.
Last week, a Facebook post showed Anderson holding a sign that says “Stop Animal Testing.” According to the party line she and several other celebrity mouthpieces for PETA constantly claim, we don’t need to use animals for research. Everything science needs to discern to cure cancer, diabetes, ALS, or whatever affliction you care to name can be done with “computer modeling.”
At least that’s the argument all too many naïve consumers actually swallow.
The attacks on medical researchers who use lab animals for testing drug therapies—required by the FDA for new drug approvals, by the way—surgical procedures or metabolic interventions always focus on (alleged) animal suffering. Now, that’s not to say that no lab animal is ever subjected to the slightest discomfort, but assessing the impact of “suffering” truly depends on the definition of the term.
No well-run, professional research facility deliberately subjects animals to inhumane treatment or unnecessary pain, but by the very nature of medical research, necessary to ensure the safety and efficacy of both surgical and pharmaceutical therapies to make sure they work in living, biological systems, there is going to be some pain, discomfort and even death for the animals.
Activists like Anderson, however, define the very act of putting any animal in a cage as “torture,” “suffering” or “inhumane treatment.”
So the question must be asked: If all we need to find a cure for ALS and similar diseases are a bunch of computer geeks, then why hasn’t some deep-pocketed drug company already gone down that road? If they’re as ruthlessly mercenary as their critics depict, why wouldn’t they corner the market on some therapeutic agent that could cure arthritis or diabetes or cancer? Talk about ROI: They could make a fortune just by raiding Silicon Valley for a bunch of really smart programmers, right?
If it’s so easy to use computer modeling to cure disease, why hasn’t it already happened?
The answer is obvious: It isn’t possible to develop the range of medical therapies for which researchers are striving by sitting at a laptop, nor would it be acceptable to roll out human trials for experimental drugs without the assurance of safety and the quantification of side effects that’s only possible by observing the effects on animals.
In fact, The ALS Association echoed that logic in its response to Anderson’s charges:
“Significant advances have been made in ALS and other neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, using rodents, flies and worms to better understand disease mechanisms and to develop therapies,” the statement read. “With advances in technology made possible through research funding from The ALS Association, different approaches to minimize the use of these model systems are being developed. If a donor is not comfortable with a specific type of research, he or she can stipulate that their dollars not be invested in that particular area.”
Other than a couple idiotic comments from PETA supporters—such as one woman who suggested that instead of lab rats, “Why not start testing on pedofiles or rapers (sic)?”—the ALS position is a common sense one that is both reasonable and rational.
Exactly the opposite of virtually every position PETA people take on almost any topic related to animal agriculture, medical research or wildlife management.
At least they’re consistently wrong.