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05/13/2014

Male scientists stress out otherwise super-chill lab rats, or Why animal testing is the wackness  »

From Flickr user Feistea.

New findings show that male scientists may cause stress to rats and mice, resulting in different test results than female scientists achieve (warning: I don’t know the full extent of shiz they are doing to these poor animals but they seem to know a lot about their pain threshold): 

In research published online April 28 in Nature Methods, the scientists report that the presence of male experimenters produced a stress response in mice and rats  equivalent to that caused by restraining the rodents for 15 minutes in a tube or forcing them to swim for three minutes. This stress-induced reaction made mice and rats of both sexes less sensitive to pain. Female experimenters produced no such effects.

And it’s not just pain (shudder! Ugh, why do they know so much about what causes them pain!), “the researchers found that other behavioural assays sensitive to stress were affected by male but not female experimenters or T-shirts.”

There’s “good news” though!

The problem is easily solved by simple changes to experimental procedures. For example, since the effect of males’ presence diminishes over time, the male experimenter can stay in the room with the animals before starting testing.  At the very least, published papers should state the gender of the experimenter who performed the behavioral testing.

Hmm. I can think of a better solution. How about we not test on animals at all?! Yay!

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From flickr user Halfabear.

But seriously, animal testing is so flawed. First of all, I doubt these mice and rats aren’t generally stressed. So maybe they are going through these tests with super pain-resilience all the time. But that’s just one of a plethora of issues. Take a look at what one writer for the Guardian had to say:

I analysed in detail 27 systematic reviews examining the contributions of animal experiments to human healthcare. Their outcomes are remarkably consistent. Animal studies rarely contribute to the development of clinical interventions effective in human patients.

It’s not hard to fathom why. Animals have a plethora of genetic, biochemical and physiological differences that alter disease progression, drug uptake, distribution and effect. Stressful environments and experiments are common, and distort outcomes. Additionally, numerous studies have revealed scientific flaws in the design of many animal experiments.

The moral of the story: ANIMALS AREN’T PEOPLE. They respond to treatments and experiments differently! And while some studies may save human lives, check this out: 

Modern drugs are more carefully studied than ever before. After lengthy tests on animals, those considered safe, and potentially effective, enter very limited human trials. About 92% are then weeded out and deemed unsafe or ineffective.

The remaining 8% are some of the most closely scrutinised compounds on the planet. You might be forgiven, therefore, for assuming they are safe. But at least 39 studies over three decades have ranked adverse drug reactions as an important cause of hospital deaths. Only heart disease, cancer and stroke are more reliably lethal.

Slate chimes in too: 

just how often do animal tests predict side effects in humans? Surprisingly, although it is central to the legitimacy of animal testing, only a dozen or so scholars over the past 30 years have explored this question. The results, such as they are, have been somewhat discouraging. One of the scientists, Ralph Heywood, stated in 1989 that “there is no reliable way of predicting what type of toxicity will develop in different species to the same compound.” The concordance between man and animal toxicity tests, he said, assessing three decades of studies on the subject, was somewhere below 25 percent. “Toxicology,” concluded Heywood, “is a science without a scientific underpinning.”

Dude. If the main argument is that animal testing saves human lives, I say we have a problem. I can go on—or rather PCRM can—but the point is, animal testing is not the great life-saving necessary evil it’s painted to be.

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Fun with false dichotomies. 

But whether it saves human lives or not, the bottom line is it’s just not ethical. To be honest, I do care more about people than animals. If I could only save a human baby or a puppy—in some bizarre world where I ever actually have to make this choice—I would pick the baby. I’m not totally sure why but I think I would. BUT just because I value humans more than animals, I don’t think that means we can just do whatever we want to animals. Feel free to correct my reasoning but the way I think about it is like how I, without a doubt, care more about my sister than your sister. If one of them had to die, I would rather it was your sister. Truthbomb. But I don’t think that means we should go doing experiments on your sister because it might save my sister’s life! 

Thinking that another being is lesser and therefore you can do with them what you will is exactly why people did horrible experiments on jewish captives in nazi Germany or people of color in America. It’s just wrong. 

12/09/2013

Mouse decorates Christmas tree, is a genius.  »

Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!

This is so cute! There are some better tricks but I’m feeling seasonal. I had no idea mice could do tricks like this! And this mouse is totally adorbs.

This little mouse is one of the first agility mice. Their trainer Marina keeps them as pets and teaches them little tricks ONLY through positive reinforcement. I for one think that’s great, animal companions should have plenty of mental stimulation! (btw, have you seen these puzzles for dogs? My Figgy is a fan!)

Marina is pretty much a mouse genius. She wants to show the world mice are smart! Maybe if people will listen, they won’t let them be used in scientific research constantly (sort of kind of eventually worked for chimpanzees)? I love this interview Marina did. Listen to her advice:

I find it important to note that mouse training is not as easy as it may seem in my videos. Unfortunately, some people spontaneously buy a mouse after seeing my videos and then are disappointed. Mice are highly sensitive, so you don’t just need background knowledge about positive animal training, but also much empathy for the feelings of the mice.

Only balanced and happy mice are trainable, and a mouse that has to spend its life alone in a 10 gallon tank will be chronically stressed. So the prerequisite for mouse training is species-appropriate keeping. Mice are highly social and must live in groups and in proper sized cages with enough enrichment. Their sensitivity and their nocturnal nature makes them unsuitable for children. They are demanding pets, not least because of their intelligence.

She also says she never fasts them (“can YOU concentrate better when you’re hungry?!”). Yup, all positive reinforcement.

I’m a little scared of mice—I don’t WANT to be! I just am! But I’m working on it. When you see these little guys, they are so cute, maybe it’ll make me less scared. Do any of you have pet mice? Do they know tricks?!

Note: It freaks me out that she says she feeds mice to her reptiles…I thought they were her friends?! Maybe it’s only after they’ve died? I don’t know.

02/20/2013

Tons of mice die needlessly for health testing. Thanks, science  »

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It’s no secret that loads of mice (literally hundreds of thousands) have been sacrificed to science for “research” purposes to help cure all kinds of human ailments. This has always been a tricky subject for vegans, because, you know, it’s medical ethics, duh. But it turns out that a new study recently reported in the New York Times suggests that all those mice very likely died in vain.

The bottom line of the study is that billions of dollars have been wasted and, like, mice cancer and heart disease is different from people cancer and heart disease. I know the precautionary principle is a moot point when it comes to mice when you’re a big fancy scientist being backed by a big fancy drug company, but I strongly believe that we shouldn’t just kill mice before we’re, you know, sure about this stuff. And it turns out people weren’t. At all. And now those mice are looking down on us from mouse heaven except there is no mouse heaven and oh I’m crying now so just excuse me while I leave out some peanut butter for the neighbors’ mice.

[Photo by Andrew via Flickr]

01/21/2013

Baddass mouse is totally baddass  »

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This is the grasshopper mouse, a carnivorous rodent found in Southwestern U.S. deserts. These wacky mofos are totally hardcore! They eat scorpions and howl at the moon. For real. And forget about digging their own burrows—they run up in other rodents’ homes and kick them out. And if times are tough, cannibalism is not beyond them. Damn, mouse, that’s some cold shit. This video is ridic:


[Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!]

OMG I want one! Why are they so crazy? National Geographic has another vid if you don’t mind some bug carnage. These baddasses don’t mess around. But remember: “Thug means never having to say you’re sorry.”

PS: you have to watch this

11/01/2012

Life as a lab animal is the worst: Thousands of NYU’s test rodents drowned this week  »


Despite being “one of the largest and most valuable [collection of carefully bred rodents] of its kind in the country,” the thousands of mice and rats living in a cellar in New York University’s Smilow Research Center drowned in the Sandy-related flooding that began on Monday night. The New York Times reports that while most of the test-subject animals housed at the Smilow Center were rescued, workers could not save something like 10,000 rats and mice.

But don’t worry:

Already scientists at two research centers, the University of Pennsylvania and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, have pledged to donate animals to restart some of the Smilow center’s colonies. “That’s the one really positive thing to come out of this,” Dr. Fishell said. “Individuals in the research community, who in most businesses would be considered my competitors, have been eager to help.”

Phew! I know I’m relieved our scientists can get back to torturing those animals in the name of humanity ASAP.

[Photo by Pockafwye via Flickr]

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