Frankie Trull's Nice Summary of Animal Research

Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, wrote a nice op-ed about animal research that was picked up by the Orlando Sentinel. I particularly liked her summary of the important role that animal research has played in improving the lot of humankind,

Advances in genetic engineering have enabled scientists to develop excellent rodent models for research. The availability of “transgenic mice” (which have added genes) and “knock-out mice” (which have disabled genes) has revolutionized our understanding of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, memory loss, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injuries. The so-called “nude mouse” — lacking a functioning immune system — has become an incredibly important model for understanding cancer suppression.

Thanks to animal research, many diseases that once killed millions of people every year are either treatable or have been eradicated altogether. Immunizations against polio, diphtheria, mumps, rubella and hepatitis save countless lives, and the survival rates from many major diseases are at an all-time high, thanks to the discovery of new drugs, medical devices and surgical procedures. According to the American Cancer Society, the fight against cancer has seen 24 significant biomedical advances in the past 30 years.

None of them could have occurred without animal research.

Eight of the discoveries required the use of living animals, and virtually all of those that did not use animals relied on information gained from earlier animal studies. Six of the discoveries were recognized with a Nobel Prize, among them: the bone-marrow transplantation technique; cloning of the first gene; and discovery of proto-oncogenes in normal DNA, showing that a normal cell could have latent cancer genes.

And, of course, animal rights activists lie and distort the realities of almost every one of those discoveries. The other day, for example, I ran across a site where the author was claiming that animal research played no role at all in the isolation of the AIDS virus.

If that’s true, I have to ask this: what exactly were the rabbits that Gallo used in December 1983 to produce the first HIV-specific reagent which allowed him to test for the presence of HIV? This test was crucial in allowing Gallo to follow Since they were not animals, were these vegetables or minerals?

Currently marketed tests for HIV typically use a variety of animal antibodies. I cannot wait for animal rights activists to produce an alternative taxonomy which explains how these animals are not really animals but something else — or else, confess that they know very little about medical research aside from what they copy and paste from the same tired “factsheets”.


Animal-test research has saved many human lives. Frankie L. Trull, The Orlando Sentinel, April 7, 2002.

French Researchers Clone Rabbits

Researchers in France recently announced they had successfully cloned rabbits. Their report, published in the Nature Biotechnology, describes how the researchers used cells from an adult rabbit to produce several cloned rabbits.

Like other cloned animals, this procedure required hundreds of cloned embryos to produce six live births. Two of the rabbits died shortly after birth, leaving four clones that appear to be growing and reproducing normally.

Rabbits are an important research tool because they are genetically more similar to human beings than are other lab animals, such as mice, but they have a much shorter gestation period than larger mammals such as sheep or cows.

“The advantage is that rabbits reproduce so quickly,” Dr. Jean-Paul Renard told The BBC. “The pregnancy lasts one month, then it takes four months to sexual maturity…” The average gestation period for a rabbit is only 31 days, producing an average litter size of 8.

Combined with the cloning technique, this would allow researchers to create genetically modified rabbits for medical research purposes very quickly.

For example, one of the areas that the French researchers are already working on is creating a rabbit model for cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is caused by a defect on a gene that happens to be very similar between human beings and rabbits. The ability to produce a large number of rabbits with a similar defect on this gene could lead to a much better animal model for cystic fibrosis and improved progress on understanding and treating the disease.

Rabbits are also used in heart disease as well as the production of monoclonal antibodies (which animal rights activists like to pretend are non-animal alternatives to research). The rabbit’s immune system is similar to human beings, and studies of how rabbits cope with organ transplants has yielded important information on preventing organ transplant rejection in human beings.

In fact, as The Washington Post noted, cloning technology itself rests in part upon advances in the understanding of reproduction obtained through extensive research in rabbits.


Rabbits join the cloning club. The BBC, March 29, 2002.

A big hop forward: Rabbits cloned; Research promise seen in second lab animal to be replicated. David Brown, Washington Post, March 30, 2002.

These Easter bunnies are clones. Roger Highfield, Daily Telegraph (London), March 30, 2002.

Animal Rights Activists vs. the Heifer Project

In September 2001 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for an end to U.S. government contributions to Heifer International. Now that the events of September 11 are fading, PETA and other animal rights activists are returning to that campaign against one of the most innovative international charity’s around.

Activists are angry because Heifer International is planning to send chickens to and other farm animals to poor families in Afghanistan. The charity specializes in using donor money to buy people in developing world animals from cows to camels and everything in between. Currently, Heifer International is working in Afghani refugee camps in Pakistan. The charity is giving families chickens, goats and cattle and training the families to care for the animals.

The idea behind Heifer International is to use aid money to make families self-sufficient rather than dependent on aid agencies.

Of course this is anathema to animal rights activists. As animal rights activist Barbara Biel put it in the subject of an e-mail protesting Oxygen’s support such efforts, “‘Send a Chick to Afghanistan’ is CRUEL!” The sample letter Biel and other activists are circulating is hilarious.

For example,

The HPI gift catalog shows numerous smiling adults and children hugging or cuddling goats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, llama, chickens, cows, water buffalo . . . Not surprising, there are no pictures showing the animals being killed for consumption. The catalog does mention protein, meat, selling offspring, but pictures of slaughter would make this catalog messy and off-putting to the folks they want to sucker in with cutesy writing such as:

“Your granddaughter is celebrating her very first Christmas. What better way to share the joy you see in the eyes of such happy, healthy little girl than to give her a trio of bunny rabbits to a struggling family in her name.”

. . .

How happy and joyous will this child be when she’s old enough to know that violence was done in her name? How happy and joyous would a child be witnessing the killing of rabbits?

And so on. But it gets better. The letter continues,

According to the catalog, HPI provides “free Sunday school lessons and faith-based materials similar to ‘A hero’s Story’ that teach children ages 5-12 about the problems of hunger and poverty.” No doubt, these materials fail to mention that HPI teaches exploitation and lack of compassion for other living beings. HPI fails to mention that it teaches killing. HPI doesn’t tell young people that it is invested in spreading animal agriculture, rather than plant-based sustainable agriculture [one would think the presence of animals might tip them off, but maybe Biel’s a bit too slow to notice that]. There is no education about the politics of hunger and food distribution, and the dire health and environmental costs of animal agribusiness.

. . .

Contrary to HPI’s belief, animals are not renewable resources but individuals capable of experiencing not only crude emotions like fear, but far more subtle and complex emotions such as love, grief, pride, shame, joy, and loneliness.

Huh? Has anyone ever seen a rabbit act ashamed?

The letter ends by calling Heifer International “insidious and dangerous because it promotes violence and labels it ‘doing good.'” Apparently opposed to animal rights activist who promote lies and label it as “the truth.”

PETA, meanwhile, is upset that about $13 million in international aid from the United States has been distributed through Heifer International. It wants people to write the U.S. Agency for International Development and “ask that it immediately stop exporting animal cruelty.”


Stop the Use of Tax Dollars to Promote Animal Cruelty in Developing Countries. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Press Release, September 20, 2001. thinks HPI is doing good work–Pls send letter. Barbara Biel, E-mail communication, Accessed: January 24, 2002.

Researchers Reverse Heart Damage in Rabbits

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center recently reported that they had successfully used a genetically engineered treatment to reverse the damage from congestive heart failure in rabbits. The results were reported in a paper published in Circulation.

The team had previously used a genetically engineered treatment to prevent heart damage to rabbits afflicted with congestive heart failure. In patients suffering from congestive heart failure, whether they be rabbits or human beings, the cells in the heart lose their flexibility and no longer contract and expand properly. As a result, blood doesn’t circulate efficiently and the body floods the heart with an adrenaline compound that forces to pump faster to compensate, which leads to heart failure in the long term.

The Duke team modified the common cold virus to carry a copy of a gene which stops this adrenaline compound from being released and thereby forestalling heart failure. In the experiments with rabbits, a week after suffering heart failure, the cells in the heart were functioning normally.

If this approached works in human beings, it could dramatically extend the life expectancy of those suffering from congestive heart failure. Lead researcher Walter Koch told The BBC,

If our work continues to progress as it has, we anticipate being able to possibly test this approach in a certain group of patients within three years. We would like to try it first on severe heart failure patients in the hospital awaiting a heart transplant to see if we could reverse the dysfunctioning part of the heart.


Heart failure damage reversed. The BBC, March 6, 2001.

PETA Protests Military Survival Training

One of the major missions of
the U.S. military is to ensure its soldiers have the skills needed to
not only fight effectively but also to train them to survive the myriad of conditions they might face in armed combat. As part of that mission, the military provides training
to soldiers on how to survive if they are trapped behind enemy lines.

Since eating
is a big part of surviving and a stranded soldier cannot just walk into
an Iraqi restaurant and order takeout, the military teaches soldiers how to kill and cook animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is having a fit because the Air Force buys hundreds of rabbits and
uses them to show soldiers how to bludgeon the animal with a club and
then properly prepare them. Soldiers are also taught how to prepare snakes,
turtles and chickens.

According to PETA, “It is
pointless for a soldier to practice killing small domestic mammals and
birds, considering that in a true survival experience, few would have
trouble killing such an animal if survival depended on it.” Well at least
PETA’s not suggesting that soldiers should carry Linda McCartney t-shirts
saying “Go Veggie” on them if in a survival situation, but simply assuming
that all soldiers would know how to kill animals for food is the sort
of assumption that gets people killed when they are finally faced with
emergency situations.

In other news, PETA announced
in a press release that MediaCom Inc. had cancelled the billboard space
that PETA purchased in Regina and Calgary, Canada to run its ad linking
meat eating to impotence. The ad features a woman in a bikini next to
the message, “I threw a party but the cattlemen couldn’t come.” According
to PETA, MediaCom informed the animal rights group that it received so
many calls from “angry residents and women’s groups” that it was yanking
the ads. PETA said its lawyers are studying whether or not PETA might
have a legal remedy against MediaCom for breach of contract.