Animals in advertising - discuss?

Mon Aug 1 17:05:21 EST 1994

Anthony Thomlinson wrote :
> In Cell 77:7, in the first few pages of ads, there is one for RIBI
> Adjuvant System, in which a white rabbit in a lab coat (photo) is shown
> being interviewed about its views on RAS.  Is it just me, or is this ad
> ill-conceived, exploitative, a slap in the face of those scientists who
> try to defend the use of animals in science as responsible, and ample
> fuel for those who claim the opposite?  Or is it just cute, and okay
> because the rabbit doesn't *look* too unhappy?  Please post;  I think the
> ad is stupid and irresponsible, and that we as scientists need to police
> ourselves, or someone will do it for us. 
> Anthony Tomlinson.
> P.S.  I suppose it could be a stuffed rabbit...........

Couldn't agree more. Recently here in Oz, a national radio talkback program had
some guests from The Society for Ethical Research. For those of you who aren't
familiar with these folks, their charter is not the ethical treatment of
animals in research, but the removal of all animals from research programs 
(sort of like the Creationists calling themselves The Society for Equality in
Teaching). Anyway, the line that they put forward was that all people who work
with animals in research were to be called "vivisectionists", a term which I
associate with Victorian era researchers dissecting without anaesthetic, and 
that their attitudes towards the animals they work on is implicit in the way 
that animals are referred to in their literature. This caused a flurry of calls
in their favour, and by the end of the discussion, the callers and the host 
were all refering to researchers as vivisectionists.

Unfortunately we do seem to allow this sort of rot to occur, in the same way 
that we create a niche for the Creationists - by ignoring the phenomena and
considering the debate beneath us. Meanwhile the fundos and animal libbers
get to talk to the public and twist the knife just a little more. Then all of
a sudden we start to notice public hostility directed at the scientific 
community. Not one researcher called the aforementioned phone-in (or were 
allowed on for the conspiracy theorists), and this from a program which 
regularly enjoys a reasonably intellectual crowd for its weekly "Science"
talk-back. Is it just apathy (in my case I couldn't use the phone in the Lab)
or do we have an ivory tower mentality which allows us to regard what we do as
holy and untouchable, and that no matter what the public thinks of us, we will 
be allowed to continue unmolested ? 

Personally, I support *some* of the advances that the Libbers have helped us 
achieve (Lab bombings and animal releases aside). It was public pressure led
by the Libbers, along with the personal campaigns of a lot of concerned
scientists which led to the downgrading of Draize testing and LD50's, and 
which has caused the quoted 90% reduction in animal usage in laboratories. What
we have to do is accept these changes and present ourselves as the reasonable
faction. Anyone who works with animals *should* be an "Animal Welfarist", that
is to say concerned for the subjects welfare. Ads like that mentioned only 
serve to sink us to the anthropomorhising that the Libbers are most guilty of.
Animals are animals and when they help us in research, they are worthy of our
respect as animals. This is the face we should show the public.

(gets down off soap box, and turns off rhetoric mode)

Just an example to show how much power the Libbers have, here in Queensland we
have just recently changed our rather archaic animal protection laws. Finally,
cephalopods, crabs and prawns have entered the animal kingdom (although oysters,
flies and cockroaches still haven't made it, luckily). However, several parts
of the legislation cause some concern. Firstly any members of the animal
welfare committee may enter any animal holding facility and judge whether the 
animals are being mistreated, whether they are qualified to or not, and then
arrange to have the animals removed. This sent a shiver down the spine of the 
folks here working with vaccinia, since just about everyone had to get
immunised. Secondly, an animal can only be used in research for which it was 
originally obtained. Our university, and so far as we can tell the government
has taken this as meaning alive or dead. Therefore, if the immunology group
has to cull a few of their mouse stock, and I need a few oxyurids from the gut
and someone else needs some liver tissue, we *should* order in two more sets
of mice, rather than use the culled carcasses. My practice of going to the 
local pound and removing Toxocara from already euthanased unwanted puppies is 
also illegal.

Sorry about the long posting, but someone hit my rhetoric button

Peter Darben, QUT, Brisbane, Australia

Still making the world safe from pig worms

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