The American College of Surgeon’s View of Animal Research

In a letter to the editor of the Tribune & Georgian, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Aysha Akhtar responds to a previous letter published in that newspaper attacking PCRM.

Akhtar discusses the current state of animal use in medical schools and writes,

The America [sic] College of Surgeons no longer uses live animals in its clinical training programs and has endorsed the use of simulation technologies to replace live animal use in surgery training programs.

Since Akhtar is so fond of the American College of Surgeons, it might be useful to look at the entirety of their position statement on animals in education and research. The following is the full text of that statement, first adopted in 1991 and then altered slightly in 2002 to reflect changes in federal animal regulations,

The American College of Surgeons supports the responsible use and humane care and treatment of laboratory animals in research, education, teaching, and product safety testing in accordance with applicable local, state, and federal animal welfare laws. Further, the membership believes that only as many animals as necessary should be used; that any pain or distress animals may experience should be minimized or alleviated; and that, wherever feasible, alternatives to the use of live animals should be developed and employed.

The American College of Surgeons believes that now and in the foreseeable future it is not possible to completely replace the use of animals and that the study of whole living organisms, tissues, and cells is an indispensable element of biomedical research, education, and teaching.

Certainly the American College of Surgeons has recommended the use of non-animal alternatives for clinical teaching where the non-animal alternatives are equal to or better than traditional animal methods, but the ACS does not share Akhtar’s or PCRM’s view of “the need to move away from using animals in medical research and education.”


Animals are not meant for medical research. Aysha Akhtar, Letter to the Editor, The Tribune & Georgian, March 6, 2007.

Statement on the Use of Animals in Research, Education, and Teaching. American College of Surgeons, 2002.

PCRM Lawsuit Against Dairy Industry Demands Warning Labels

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is bankrolling a class-action lawsuit against the dairy industry demanding that milk carry labels warning consumers of the possible effects of lactose intolerance.

PCRM found 10 plaintiffs, including PCRM advisory board member Milton Mills, to join the suit claiming that they suffered various problems — including cramps and diarrhea — after consuming milk. The plaintiffs are all from the predominantly black city of Washington, D.C. (blacks are more likely to suffer from lactose intolerance as compared to whites).

Mills told the Associated Press,

Lactose intolerance is very prevalence in persons of color. As a physician I see people who are dealing with conditions related to their inability to digest lactose. They’re led to believe they need to include dairy for health benefits. That is not true.

Susan Ruland, vice president for communications at the International Dairy Foods Association, told the Associated Press,

It’s [the lawsuit] just another attempt on the part of an animal rights group to attack dairy and milk products. They’re trying a new strategy of suing people right and left. It’s unfortunate to see that when it has to do with an issue of nutrition.

PCRM’s lawsuit asks for up to $100,000 in damages to the 10 plaintiffs.


Lawsuit Seeks Warning Labels on Milk. Frederic Frommer, Associated Press, October 6, 2005.

Lawsuit targets dairy industry. Marguerite Higgins, The Washington times, October 6, 2005.

More Animal Rights Reactions to Dog Cloning

As was mentioned a few days ago, South Korean researchers recently managed to clone a dog. Animal rights activists quickly reacted to this announcement by denouncing it as immoral.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Neal Barnard complained that the whole process was immoral and pointless. In an op-ed for the Ft. Worth Telegram, Barnard wrote,

First, one basic moral issue: The cloning process often means operating on
hundreds of animals to extract their eggs in order to try to produce an infant.
About 90 percent of cloning attempts fail to produce viable offspring. Those
born alive often have compromised immune systems and higher rates of infection
and tumor growth. A dismaying number — perhaps about 30 percent — suffer
from “large offspring syndrome,” a debilitating condition marked by an enlarged
heart, immature lungs and other health problems.

Even if cloning were more efficient, it still would not be the scientific
path we need to pursue. Answers to the most pressing human health problems —
heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and others — lie in understanding
human cells, human genes and, in some cases, human habits.

Profound physiological differences make it very difficult to extrapolate
experimental results from any animal to a human. Trying to use animals as
“models” for humans has produced catastrophic results: The anti-inflammatory drug
Vioxx, which tested as safe in mice and rats, turned out to double the risk of
heart attack and stroke in humans.

Well, at least no one will ever accuse Barnard of letting evidence get in his way. It is interesting that Barnard mentions heart disease, cancer and diabetes — all diseases that animal research has played a key role in understanding and treating — before falsely claiming that animal models are useless.

And, of course, Barnard cannot be bothered to note that the side effects of Vioxx also did not show up in human clinical trials either for a very good reason — the increase in heart and stroke risk appears to only occur after long-term use of the drug. The real issue raised by the Vioxx problem is how to balance the tradeoffs between getting a potentially lifesaving drug to market and having thorough clinical data of the long term effects of using a drug. Perhaps Barnard would favor requiring that companies do more animal testing that lasts for longer periods of time, as that is one clear way of discovering side effects like that seen with Vioxx.

Besides, the South Korean researchers made clear that their ultimate goal was creating embryonic stem cell lines with their technology, not the production of a line of cloned dogs. Unique aspects of the canine reproductive system mean that dog cloning is unlikely to become common.

Jennifer Fearing of United Animal Nations wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle expressing similar views to Barnard’s,

And while some see animal cloning as an opportunity — albeit grotesquely
inefficient and arguably immoral — to advance animal or human health, others
are engaged in the effort strictly as a for-profit venture to reproduce
people’s pets. The wholly unregulated company that sold the cat Little Nicky as a
clone for $50,000 in December is aggressively marketing its gene-banking
services to veterinarians and to pet lovers across the country through direct mail
and ambitious public-relations strategies. Despite having produced only a
handful of cat clones and no dogs, this company, based in Sausalito, will
happily take your $1,395 (plus $150 a year in storage fees) along with Fido’s or
Fluffy’s DNA, on the off chance you can one day afford to pay the remaining
$30,000 to order up your clone. All this while, millions of healthy and
adoptable cats and dogs die every year only because there are not enough homes.

I’ll admit to being especially fond of animals, but I don’t know any pet
lover who would willingly comply with a process that caused the pain and
suffering of hundreds of animals to clone his or her favorite pet. Once people
really understand that the odds are better than not that the clone will not act
and possibly not even look like the animal they hope to replace, most are
turned off. They’re among more than 80 percent of the American public who are
opposed to pet cloning, according to a poll commissioned by the American Anti-
Vivisection Society. Those who fall for cloning’s false promise are being
misled, blinded by the grief of losing their beloved companion, or are more
interested in vanity and novelty than they are in what it means to be a companion
in the first place.

. . .

Don’t be fooled by the cute photos. For every one of those kittens and
puppies that they bring out into the light, there are hundreds more who suffered
to make that photo op possible. The “promise” of pet cloning isn’t humane —
to either the animals or the humans involved. It is a consumer fraud and an
animal welfare atrocity.

An atrocity!

The American Anti-Vivisection Society, which failed in its efforts to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate pet cloning firms, issued a press release that said, in part,

This experiment strongly reinforces the scientific consensus that animal cloning is consistently inefficient and results in traumatic animal suffering. According to the dog cloning study to be published in Nature August 4, 2005, multiple cloned embryos were transplanted into each of 123 dogs resulting in only three pregnancies and two live births. Of the two cloned Afghan hound male puppies, one survived; the other suffered respiratory distress and succumbed to aspiration pneumonia at three weeks of age.

In broader terms, this extremely inefficient pet cloning methodology may lead to misuse of pet cloning for profit and could seriously compromise the welfare of countless dogs. The American Anti-Vivisection Society is particularly concerned about the situation in the U.S. where pet cloning is unregulated, and the industry has been aggressively marketing pet cloning to veterinarians and potential consumers. AAVS, anticipating this event, has led a series of efforts to prohibit pet cloning and educate the public, including producing a report detailing the dangers of pet cloning, co-sponsored legislation in California to prohibit the sale of cloned pets, filing a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting regulation, continuing to meet with USDA, and keeping the media and consumers informed about the issue.

That legislation, also endorsed by United Animal Nations, has so far failed to make it out of committee in the California legislature.


Good grief, Snuppy. Jennifer Fearing, San Francisco Chronicle, August 10, 2005.

Is the tail wagging the dog? Neal Barnard, Ft. Worth Star Telegram, August 12, 2005.

PCRM Sues OSU — Wants Photographs and/or Videotapes of Spinal Cord Injury Course

In April, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a lawsuit against Ohio State University’s board of trustees seeking photographs and/or videotapes of OSU’s three-week long Spinal Cord Injury Research Techniques Course.

The course teaches students methods of injuring the spinal cords of laboratory animals so they can be used in animal models of such injuries. According to The Columbus Dispatch, 189 rats and 60 mice are injured as part of the course.

PCRM requested information from OSU about the course, and OSU turned over some written records about the course. But PCRM’s suit argues that it needs access to the photographs and/or videotapes in order to evaluate whether or not animals are being treated properly.

In its lawsuit, PCRM claims,

It is of significant societal importance that all U.S. and Ohio taxpayer-funded medical research performed by a noncommercial scientist at, through, and in conjunction with a public university is subject to public accountability and scrutiny.

By withholding the requested information, OSU is preventing the public from meaningfully and thoroughly understanding the process by which taxpayer-funded animal research, which purports to help humans, is conducted.

In its original communication to PCRM refusing to release any photographs or videotapes, OSU said that such records were OSU’s intellectual property, which is one of the exemptions to OSU’s public records law.


Doctors sue OSU for videos of spinal research on rats. Darrel Rowland, The Columbus Dispatch, April 12, 2005.

PCRM May Not Have Many Physicians, But Its Got Alicia Silverstone

As most readers of this web site realize, very few members of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are, in fact, physicians. But then again, who needs physicians when you’ve got Alicia Silverstone?

According to World Entertainment News Network, Silverstone was slated to speak at PCRM at its April The Art of Compassion Gala. According to WENN, Silverstone planned to discuss her advocacy of alternative medical therapies, including acupuncture and aromatherapy. No word on whether or not she also endorses magnets and chelation.

Silverstone styles herself as a not just a Clueless actress, but also something of a health consultant. She tells WENN (emphasis added),

I’d be at the farmer’s market and someone would ask me for tips about becoming a vegetarian. If I wasn’t an actor I’d be a hub of information for people who need help, whatever it is.

My favorite idea is to go to a grocery store and be at the front and show people what they should get because I love food and I love the grocery store, so I want to be able to help people find a good alternative choice.

I’ve also been helping sick people because a lot of my friends have been coming to me and saying, ‘My relative has cancer, can you help?’

I’ve been guiding them to alternative ways of healing and there’s been a lot of progress and it’s really rewarding. Just watching people take their lives and take control of their lives and get healthy on their own is the most rewarding experience.

Sounds like she and PCRM are a perfect fit.


Silverstone Fights for Alternative Medicines. World Entertainment News Network, March 28, 2005.

Jarrod Bailey Is No Animal Rights Activist?

I had to laugh out loud after reading the first couple paragraphs of a fluff piece on Dr. Jarrod Bailey that reporter Paul James wrote for The Newcastle Journal. Here’s James’ take on Bailey,

A Newcastle scientist is spearheading a campaign to end medical research on animals.

But Dr. Jarrod Bailey is no animal rights activists and his argument is founded entirely on the belief that it simply does not work.

As scientific director of Europeans for Medical Progress, Dr. Bailey, 34, said “archaic” animal methods have either harmed humans or set research back by decades.

Of course, Bailey is an animal rights activist.

Bailey is a regular consultant with U.S. animal rights group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and Europeans for Medical Progress is simply a British clone of PCRM.

According to PCRM, Bailey is the project development coordinator in the School of Population and Health Sciences at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in England.

The Europeans for Medical Progress web site demonstrates that PCRM’s British counterparts are well-school in PCRM-style deception. For example, as proponents of animal research regularly note, most Nobel Prizes award in biological sciences were the result of animal research. EMP just dismisses this argument,

Yes, most did. But it doesn’t follow that the discoveries would not have occurred without animals. It only means that the market for lab animals was thriving and accessible.

From the second half of the 19th century onward, experimenting on animals became part of all medical curricula. Therefore researchers were obliged to perform animal experiments to earn their degrees.

In the instances wherein animals were used for the Nobel Prize-winning results, they were not necessary. Though animal tissue research was the convention, human tissue was available and more viable – as many Nobel Prize winners have since remarked.

I would love Bailey or EMP to explain how, for example, Walter Hess could have demonstrated how the brain functionally organizes the workings of the internal organs, for which he shared a Nobel Prize in 1949, by restricting himself to just tissue samples (Hess used cats).


Scientist: Animal tests don’t work. Paul James, The Journal (Newcastle), February 24, 2005.