Is Pain Research Worthless?

Patricia Wolff of New West Research recently posted an e-mail to AR-NEWS about animal research conducted at the John Hopkins School of Medicine which Wolff headlined, “Painful, Worthless Animal Experiment.” In fact, while the experiment was, of necessity, painful, it was far from worthless.

The study involved research into whether or not a soy-based diet can reduce pain and inflammation, and was the result of a chance observation by John Hopkins researchers while collaborating with an Israeli researcher on sabbatical in this country.

The Israeli researcher had bred a strain of rats for use in studying nerve injury pain. Some of those rats were sent to the United States. But when he began his experiments in the United States, the rats did not experience as much pain as did his mice back in Israel. After eliminating a number of factors, it turned out that the two sets of rats had been fed different diets. The rats in the United States had been fed a soy-based diet.

John Hopkins researcher Jill Tall and her colleagues set out to discover if the soy-based diet was indeed responsible for the diminished pain. So they took 20 rats, and fed 10 of them a dairy protein diet and the other 10 a soy based diet. Then the rats were randomly injected with either a placebo or an inflammatory solution. The rats who received the inflammatory solution and were on the soy-based diet experienced significantly less inflammation than the rats fed the dairy protein diet.

The rats on a soy-based diet also exhibited a much higher pain tolerance than did the rats on the dairy protein diet.

This is obviously a small, preliminary study but will lead to further studies. Currently Tall and her colleagues are looking in detail at the soy protein trying to get a better idea of what might component might be helping to relieve pain.

Many people seem to think that such pain research is an unjustifiable use of animals. But Tall is a research fellow in anesthesiology and critical care who specializes in pain experienced by cancer patients. The reality is that the advent of safe, reliable anesthetics relied heavily on animal research (anesthetic techniques which are also used to minimize the pain of animals during medical research). Continued progress on relieving pain will also rely on animal research which, by its very nature, unfortunately involves intentionally inflicting pain on animals.

Wolff had it half right — such research is painful, but hardly worthless.


Soy diet eases pain, animal study finds. Nicolle Charbonneau, HealthScoutNews, March 15, 2002.

Animal activists whine about America’s Most Wanted

Fox TV’s America’s Most
earned the wrath of animal rights activists for highlighting
two Animal Liberation Front terrorists on its February 6, 1999 show. The
show featured |Adam Peace| and |James Blackmon|, both of Utah, wanted
for their involvement in ALF bombings.

Peace, 21, allegedly participated
in the March 11, 1997 bombing of the Fur Breeders Co-Op in Salt Lake,
Utah, that caused over $700,000 in damage. Peace is one of the activists
apparently implicated by Josh Ellerman, who is currently serving 7 years
in jail for his role in that bombing.

Blackmon, 23, is also wanted for
allegedly participating in the Fur Breeders Co-op bombing. In addition,
Blackmon is wanted for a July 17, 1996, break-in at a mink farm in Utah
which did $200,000 in damage.

Animal rights activists were
none too happy with having their dirty laundry aired on national television.
New West Research‘s Patricia Wolff wrote a scathing article that was posted
to an animal rights list claiming the show “targeted two animal liberationists
… and in so doing, smeared the entire animal rights movement.” Of
course since such large segments of the animal rights movement seem so
enamored of this sort of direct action, it seems a bit odd to blame America’s
Most Wanted
for the animal rights movement penchant for defending even
violent extremists in their midst.

After all, AMW didn’t
force PETA president Alex Pacheco to say, “Arson, property destruction,
burglary and theft are ‘acceptable crimes’ when used for the animal cause.”

Wolff also lamented that the
“real criminals” – those who profit from the fur industry –
weren’t profiled. She complained that while a fur industry spokesman denounced
the destruction of the Fur Breeders Co-op as a “very violent and
terrorist-type act” there was “no mention of the violence of
and terrorism the fur industry commits against animals.”

There were also the pseudo-conspiratorial
claims from Wolff that seem a bit too common among animal rights
activists. Not understanding that society has an interest in punishing
individuals who place pipe bombs at legitimate businesses, Wolff claimed
“their [AMW’s] report is clearly politically motivated” (this
mirrors the line taken by some anti-abortion extremists about coverage
of abortion-related violence) and wondered “what role did the fur
industry have in all this?”

Uh, Patricia, they were the
victims of the bombing.