Blast From the Past: Hans Ruesch and Anti-Research Idiocy

Not much mention of Hans Ruesch is made these days, even on animal rights sites and e-mail lists, but Ruesch’s 1978 book Slaughter of the Innocents had a major influence on the animal rights movement’s anti-research agenda. And since some people still remember him, such as the author of this fawning profile, so it is worth briefly looking at the original idiot who inspired the animal rights movement when it was just beginning to coalesce.

Ruesch’s book was originally published in Italy, before being published in Great Britain and the United States. Ruesch has always claimed the book was “suppressed” by its publisher, Bantam, which let the book go out of print citing poor sales. Bantam also had to be concerned about Ruesch’s habit of libeling people in his books.

Future, which picked up the book after Bantam dropped it, was forced to settle an early libel lawsuit with heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard, for example, over claims Ruesch made in the book that Barnard was mentally ill. Much of Ruesch’s later venom was reserved for animal rights groups and activists whom he deemed were not sufficiently anti-research or whom wouldn’t simply republish Ruesch’s nonsensical claims (Peter Singer won a judgment against Ruesch and the British Anti-Vivisection Association in 1993).

Obviously the space is lacking here for a thorough debunking of all of Ruesch’s claims, but one of his oddest claims will amply give a view into how he thinks. Years before other nutcases would arise to deny that HIV caused AIDS or that AIDS was even a real disease, Ruesch applied the same sort of thinking to rabies. That’s right, Ruesch challenges the idea that rabies even exists, much less that Pasteur developed a vaccine to treat it.

In Slaughter of the Innocent, Ruesch wrote,

Some informed doctors [!] believe that rabies, as a separate and distinguishable disease, exists only in animals and not in man, and that what is diagnosed as rabies is often tetanus (lockjaw), which has similar symptoms. Contamination of any kind of wound can cause tetanus, and it is interesting to note that today in Germany those who get bitten by a dog are regularly given just an anti-tetanus shot. According to Germany’s most authoritative weekly, exactly 5 Germans are supposed to have died of rabies in 20 years (Der Spiegel, 18/1972, p.175). But how can anyone be sure that they died of rabies? Hundreds die of tetanus.

. ..

Pasteur never identified the rabies virus. Today, everything concerning this malady is still more insecure than at Pasteur’s time.

Only one thing is sure: ever since Pasteur developed his “vaccine,” the cases of death from rabies have increased, not diminished.

This sort of nonsense was a bit much for even those animal rights groups that have no problem distorting the history of medical research. A number of groups still recommend Ruesch’s book, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but he’s clearly a marginalized figure within a marginalized movement. In fact animal rights groups generally just don’t talk about rabies since the key role that animal research played in its discovery and treatment.

The current state of rabies vaccination also illustrates the tradeoffs often attendant in the reduce, refine, replace efforts to minimize the number of animals used in medical research. There are currently three vaccines for rabies, two of which are derived from human cell lines and the third — and newest — vaccine which is grown in chicken embryos. Why create a new animal-based vaccine when two perfectly good human cell-based vaccines already existed?

The answer, of course, is money. The chicken embryo-based vaccine is significantly cheaper to produce than the human cell-derived vaccines. Since most cases of rabies occur in the developing world, producing a vaccine as cheaply as possible is paramount to preventing death in the areas where it is still a major problem.

For Ruesch, of course, none of that matters — animal research can’t possibly ever lead to advances in treating human medical conditions, and if the facts contradict that, so much worse for the facts.

Sources:

The Man Who Cried “The Empress is Naked!”. Guenady, December 2004.

Rabies vaccination. Hans Ruesch.

Recommendation of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP) Rabies Prevention — United States, 1984. MMWR 33(28); 393-402, 407-9, July 20, 1984.

Getting Started. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Undated, Accessed: March 7, 2005.

SAEN: Animal Research? Must Be The Money!

Stop Animal Exploitation Now’s Leana Stormont held a press conference at the University of Iowa in February to denounce animal research outside Spence Laboratories.

Spence Laboratories was the site of a much-publicized Animal Liberation Front attack last year, in which animals were stolen and machinery was smashed by extremists.

Stormont held a press conference outside Spence saying that the only reason researchers at the University of Iowa were continuing to conduct animal research was to enrich themselves.

Stormont said,

Barbaric experiments are under way at the University of Iowa. This is not about science. This is about money — attracing hundreds of thousands of dollars to UI’s coffers.

But Stormont seems to have limited knowledge about the research going on at the University of Iowa. The Iowa City Press-Citizen noted that Stormant denounced University of Iowa researcher Gary Van Hoesen research on macaques.

Just one problem, according to the Press-Citizen,

However, Van Hoesen said he has not used monkeys since 1982. He now conducts research on the human brain related to Alzheimer’s disease

Animal rights activists’ compassion is matched only by their accuracy.

Update/Correction: Thanks to Rick Bogle for pointing out that there are serious problems with the Press-Citizen’s reporting above that Van Hoesen has not done any research on monkeys since 1982. Van Hoesen is, in fact, listed as the last author on a number of studies that involve research on monkeys in recent years. Van Hoesen is probably correct that he hasn’t personally done any research on monkeys, and his name is probably being add as the last author due to convention of adding senior researchers and program heads on research that comes out of their department (Van Hoesen is the director of the Alzheimer’s disease program at the University of Iowa). But Stormont was being completely reasonable, in my opinion, in assuming that Van Hoesen was conducting research on monkeys since his name was attached to a number of such studies, and the Press-Citizen and/or Van Hoesen was being grossly unfair and deceptive in depicting Stormont as being ignorant or relying on outdated information. AnimalRights.Net regrets reproducing the Press-Citizen’s deceptive characterization of Stormont.

Sources:

UI target of animal rights group. Kristen Schorsch, Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 11, 2005.

Group pressures University of Iowa to halt animal research. Associated Press, February 11, 2005.

Activists March Against Oxford

In late January, about 200 activist showed up to march against Oxford University in an event organized by SPEAK. Oxford is moving ahead with plans to construct its animal research facility, and SPEAK and other activists apparently see this as drawing a line in the sand — if they can stop this from being built, the activists apparently believe they’ll create a cascading effect that will bring down animal research around the world (odd — I thought the perpetually imminent closure of Huntingdon Life Sciences was going to have that effect.

Anyway, here’s a statement SPEAK circulated earlier this year about its focus on Oxford University,

JUDGEMENT DAY!

The animal rights movement is on the verge of achieving a truly historic victory against Oxford University. The ramifications for the vivisection industry both in this country and abroad cannot be underestimated: it could even in the long run mean the end of the vivisection industry in this country and ultimately, where the UK vivisection industry leads, the world follows.

This Saturday will see a National Demonstration take place against Oxford University’s plans to build another animal research facility. At SPEAK we appreciate that people may have other things to do on a Saturday, however, it cannot be stressed enough, just how important a good turn out will be. For the last 7 months work has not taken place at South Parks Rd. The University has been scrabbling around to find a company gullible enough to take on the new contract.

Recent newspaper articles have reported the University as stating that the resumption of work is imminent. The tone of their statements has been both bullish and arrogant; their posturing is confrontational. It is vitally important that on Saturday the animal rights movement sends a loud and clear message to both the University and more importantly any potential contractor, that we are not going away and that we intend to fight them every inch of the way.

If we are able to prevent the completion of the new lab, the negative effect it is going to have on the vivisection industry will be immeasurable but one thing is clear – it will be a devastating blow to the vivisection industry and the ripples from the aftermath of such a victory has the potential to be felt the world over.

Last July, work on the new lab ceased, 7 months later, all is still quiet. The animal rights movement has achieved great things but we can achieve more and with a final push we can put an end to Oxford University’s goal of expanding its vivisection capabilities. Victory is within our grasp but its up to you to make it a reality. Everyone who truly cares about the plight of animals’ needs to ask themselves at the beginning of 2005: what am I going to do in order to defeat the plans by Oxford University to build another animal research centre? The animals need all of us to defend them – let’s make sure we don’t let them down. Let’s make 2005 a year to remember, a year that finally sees the demise of vivisection the world over.

Together we can and will win.

Great Britain is the world leader and trendsetter in animal research? Talk about being disconnected from reality.

New Zealand Animal Rights Activists Claim Xenotransplantation Cruel, Dangerous, and Everything Else In The Kitchen Sink

Give New Zealand’s Save Animals From Exploitation some credit for their opposition to xenotransplantation — if you do not agree with one of their arguments against xenotransplantation, they’re hoping you’ll find at least one of their potpourri of arguments appealing.

First, of course, using animals to save human lives is cruel. Save Animals From Exploitation’s Hans Kriek told Stuff.Co.NZ,

Animal organs used for xenotransplantation are not by-products from the slaughterhouse but come from transgenic animals which suffer genetic engineering, cloning, reproductive manipulations, surgical operations and close confinement in unnatural indoor conditions.

But what if you don’t consider the production of transgenic animals particularly cruel? Not to worry — xenotransplantation could also endanger the very existence of humanity. Again, according to Kriek,

All animals harbor viruses, and there is no better way to jump the species barrier than to implant animal organs into humans.

. . .

Xenotransplantation raises the stakes even further by increasing the danger of new, dreadful epidemics.

Which, of course, is why researchers are going to use transgenic animals. But don’t look at the man behind the curtain for the moment.

Instead, ponder the horrific outcome if it should turn out that many people reject the idea that creating transgenic is cruel and the virus situation is exaggerated. What if xenotransplantation actually reaches a point where it is viable?

Well, in that case, Kriek wants us to know that its all about those greedy researchers getting rich off our pain,

Xenotransplantation is heavily promoted by biotech and pharmaceutical companies who would gain huge profits from breeding transgenic animals and selling anti-rejection and other drugs.

Damn bastards! Actually spending large amounts of money researching xenotransplantation and expecting to make a profit off it at the end of the day, when we all know that all other medical technologies from life-saving insulin to heart transplants are completely free and have never involved any animal research at all.

Source:

Harvesting organs from animals for human transplants ‘cruel’. Kent Atkinson, Stuff.Co.NZ, February 2, 2005.

New Leader, Same Old British Union Against Vivisection

Back in August, this site noted the hiring of Italian animal rights activist Adolfo Sansolini to head the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. Different idiot at the helm, but the same old lies from BUAV.

In a letter to The Herald (Glasgow), Sansolini makes the typically absurd case against animal research,

Take the case of Aids, for example. It is well known that immunodeficiency viruses act differently in different species. It’s only humans who suffer from full-blown Aids, and most other animals are not even able to contract HIV. Yet research with primates still continues, even though virtually all of the breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of Aids have come from studies not involving animals, and species differences mean that research into cancer and Alzheimer’s and other diseases involving animals is a poor predictor of the disease in humans, and scientifically dubious. That’s one of the reasons that lead us to oppose all animal experiments, because they are an obstacle to the development of more scientific and reliable methods, which could really help to save lives.

Presumably the rabbit antiserum that played a key role in initially isolating HIV and then serving as the basis for a diagnostic test for detecting the disease was vegan rabbit antiserum. In fact, animals have played a central role in many areas of HIV research.

If you’ve ever had an HIV test, you’ve had a test that relies on animal antibodies at some point in the diagnosis determination.

Sansolini also leaves out some important information about the early 1990s withdrawal of manoplax (flosequinan). In Sansolini’s version,

Manoplax (flosequinan), for example, was a new drug for congestive heart failure launched in 1992. It was licensed for general prescription in the UK and the US, but withdrawn in July 1993 after human trials showed that it increased death rates. Manoplax was extensively tested using animals, including rats, rabbits, cats, baboons, dogs, guinea-pigs and ferrets.

First, as is typical with BUAV, Sansolini has his facts wrong. Manoplax never received “general prescription” approval in the United States. In fact, the FDA approved it to be used only in the patients suffering from congestive heart failure who could not tolerate existing treatments, and even then it had to carry a prominent warning on its label.

Second, Sansolini forgets to mention — for whatever reason — that manoplax also underwent almost a decade of clinical testing in human beings prior to approval.

What happened with manoplax? Congestive heart failure is not a curable condition, and manoplax did not attempt to cure it. Rather, what it did was provide a better quality of life for people with CHF. The downside was that when it was finally used in a post-approval trial of 3,000 people, it also turned out to significantly increase the risk of mortality.

Dr. Robert Fenichel, who worked with the FDA analyzing new drug applications, did a good job of outlining the sort of risks and benefits that the FDA and drug companies must weigh when approving drugs for diseases like congestive health failure. The New York Times asked Fenichel about how the FDA approaches cases where a drug has high risks but also conveys great benefits upon patients. He responded,

The most dramatic case, I think, was a drug called flosequinan, made by Boots Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom, for congestive heart failure. People with severe congestive heart failure are terribly disabled. Some cannot even walk across a room without becoming desperately short of breath, and their median survival from diagnosis is only two or three years. Flosequinan really made patients feel lots better. They stayed out of the hospital and they could move around.

And the drug increased mortality, by about 50 percent. I mean really a lot. They died of their congestive failure sooner than people who weren’t taking the drug.

Well, we thought about this, and the results with respect to feeling better were so impressive that people in the division thought, Gee, if I had that disease, I would want that drug. Now not everyone said that. But many people in the division thought, I would want that drug.

And so it was approved. And the company finally lost its nerve, and they never marketed it.

Source:

Why animal research testing is unreliable. Adolfo Sansolini, The Herald (UK), February 2, 2005.

A Conversation with Robert Fenichel. Denise Grady, The New York Times, March 6, 2001.

Manoplax: from heart to heartbreak. Patrick Hosking, The Independent, July 25, 1993.

Boots ‘unlucky’ over heart treatment drug. William Tinning, The Herald (Glasgow), July 20, 1993.

Jeremy Beckham Leads Protest Against University of Utah Researcher

The Salt Lake Tribune reported in January on a protest involving about 25 animal rights activists against University of Utah researcher Allesandra Angelucci.

The protest was organized by University of Utah student and Utah Primate Freedom Project’s Jeremy Beckham, who has crossed path with the University on a number of occasions.

The protesters used typical animal rights distortions. According to the Salt Lake Tribune (emphasis added),

On the street below [Angelucci’s residence], about 25 protesters held candles and signs proclaiming the immorality of primate research. Flashing images of caged monkeys lit the street from the four 100-inch screens of the “Tiger Truck” — essentially a moving van mounted with giant TVs. The truck was on loan to Beckham from the Showing Animals Respect and Kindness organization. The images displayed on its screens were captioned with brief insults like: “Angelucci gets rich abusing animals” and “Be advised: Ms. Angelucci has a violent nature. Keep pets away from her.” None of the images, however, were from the University of Utah, Beckham said.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Angelucci received a $400,000 primate research grant in August 2004 and this was the second protest against her home.

University of Utah spokeswoman Coralie Alder told the Salt Lake Tribune that Beckham has a First Amendment right to protest, but that, “We support the right of our faculty members to pursue their work from intimidation.”

Source:

Protesters gather outside researcher’s home. Michael Westley, The Salt Lake Tribune, January 31, 2005.