PETA's tortured logic – are NASA's Neurolab experiments cruel?

When the space shuttle Colombia
lifted off in late April it carried 2,000 animals onboard as part of NASA’s
Neurolab research project aimed at studying the effects of microgravity
on the nervous systems of animals. The payload consisted of 152 rats,
18 pregnant mice, 229 swordtail fish, 135 snails and 1,514 crickets. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
had numerous complaints about these experiments.

PETA voiced numerous complaints
about Neurolab — the silliest that “more than 6,000 ‘surplus’ rodents
were used as food for alligators on commercial farms, snakes in pet stores,
and prey for raptors at wildlife rehabilitation centers.” News flash
to PETA — alligators, snakes and raptors regularly kill or maim and
then eat other animals as a matter of course. Apparently PETA needs
to redouble its efforts to convert alligators to veganism.

PETA was also angered by reports
that over half of the baby rats onboard died from maternal neglect. NASA
scientists expected only a few deaths during the mission, but as PETA
put it, “more than 50% of the baby rats have already cruelly been
allowed to starve to death on Neurolab.” In fact astronauts worked
hard to save many of the baby rats who had been abandoned by their mothers.

Finally, PETA’s other major complaint
was that the experiments were completely unnecessary. As PETA put it in
a press release, “The Neurolab experiments are worthless … NASA
has 40 years’ worth of clinical and epidemiological studies on astronauts.
The database from these studies is far more valuable than anything we
could ever hope to learn from stressed out animals in space.” While
nobody disputes the value of data collected from astronauts, there is
still much about the effects of microgravity to be learned
from the Neurolab experiments, with its thousands of animals (which provides a much large sample than the handful of people who have ventured into space).

The most obvious example is the
baby rats that PETA was so concerned about. All of the astronaut data
is on mature adults. The point of putting baby rats in space was to study
the effects of microgravity on neural development. Neurolab’s Mammalian
Development Team will study the baby rats to measure “the effects
of microgravity on developing, maturing neural pathways, according
to a NASA press release.

The Adult Neuroplasticity Team, meanwhile, will
study the neurons of the mature animals to see how well they are able
“to sense and reorganize themselves after being introduced to microgravity,
thus adapting to the animal’s new environment.” Other experiments
will study the effects of microgravity on the internal clocks of rodents
to see how it effects the circadian rhythms of the animals.

Data from
such studies will help scientists better understand clinical conditions
such as vertigo and dizziness that affect millions of people. The studies
of circadian rhythms will provide important data for studying such disorders
as jet lag, insomnia and mental disorders such as winter depression.

PETA’s constant refrain that because
some data about a phenomenon exist, therefore any further data collection
is unnecessary, shows a rank ignorance about scientific investigations.

Sources:

Reuters News Service “Death toll for space shuttle rats unexpectedly high”
April 27, 1998.

Pauline Arrillaga “Rats continue to die aboard space shuttle” The
Associated Press April 28, 1998.

PETA “NASA’s Cruel Neurolab Experiments” Press Release April 1998.

NASA “Neurolab” Press Release April 1998.

Linda McCartney, animal rights activist, dies of breast cancer

Linda McCartney, animal rights activist
and wife of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, died in April from complications related to
breast cancer. She was 56, and one of an estimated 43,500 American women
who will die from breast cancer in 1998.

McCartney campaigned against animal
experimentation, including research sponsored by the March of Dimes to
find the causes and possible cures for birth defects. Her opposition to
animal experiments did not stop McCartney from using the results of such
experiments to extend her own life. Like many women stricken with breast
cancer, McCartney elected to undergo chemotherapy treatments for her cancer
– a technology developed with extensive testing on rodents and other animals.

Contrary to claims made by animal
rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, McCartney’s own life is proof that animal
experimentation has led to important medical advances in fighting life-threatening diseases such as breast cancer (it is instructive to note
that in an online tribute to McCartney by PETA, the animal rights organization
conveniently left out that McCartney had died from breast cancer, much
less that she received medical treatments developed through animal experimentation).

With continued support for animal
research, medical science may someday be able to dramatically improve
the survival rates of women with breast cancer and prevent the tragic
deaths of thousands of women.

Sources:

Cal Thomas. “Radical animal rights groups descend on Washington” Los Angeles
Times Syndicate 1997

Florence Shinkle, “Breast cancer’s random approach” St. Louis
Post-Dispatch/Scripps Howard News Service 1998;

PETA web page (http://www.petaonline.com/)
Linda McCartney Tribute April 28, 1998.

America's Funniest Animal Rights Organization?

In a recent Action Alert, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals revealed its indignation at, of all things, ABC’s “America’s Funniest
Home Videos.” The PETA Action Alert described examples of alleged
animal cruelty aired on the ABC show. For example

“During one recent show, a monkey who was chained in a back yard
climbed a tree carrying an obviously unwilling kitten. This poor kitten
was crying desperately, and as the monkey dangled the kitten upside
down by the tail, the crying worsened. Finally the monkey is shown sitting
in the tree cuddling the tormented kitten.”

Apparently the monkey didn’t get
PETA’s memo that it’s wrong to carry kittens up trees without the kittens’
permission. Expect PETA to protest the offending monkey any day.

PETA also wants your help keeping
the International Livestock Exposition from “targeting Chicago-area
schoolchildren by offering a field trip” to the Expo April 21-23.
The field trip includes such terrors as “a petting zoo, a cowboy
and horse, a Texas longhorn steer, and a variety of rodeo, dog, and pony
acts.”

PETA is also concerned that the
expo is sponsoring a coloring contest and giving the lucky winner a |horse|.
PETA wonders what a kid in urban Chicago is going to do with a horse.
Apparently PETA is unaware of a newfangled invention called the stable.
Somebody really should fill them in.