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!
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.
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.
Friday’s StoryCorps on NPR was the sweetest, did you hear it? A Boise couple waxed on about how cute and loving all the rats at their rat sanctuary are, and hurray the whole lefty, NPR-loving world heard about it! Tune in for your dose of heart-warming and adorbs for the day.
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]
Hello, friends! It’s WTF Wednesday! »
You guys, it is the season of sickness. I don’t know what’s going on, but since Monday I have been feeling cold, nauseated, and headachey. Sleeping doesn’t help, drinking water doesn’t help, even cuddling with Allen doesn’t help (especially when he falls asleep and starts kicking). I’m at a loss—there’s really nothing you can do about a cold except wait it out and suffer. And continue going to work where other people are sick and probably getting you to bonus levels of sickness. On Monday afternoon I just snuck into my office and took a 10-minute nap. That was great!
Besides sickness, there are two things that are not great this week. The first is the knowledge that in Japan, artists are murdering rats and painting them to look like Pikachu. The rats don’t even look that much like Pikachu. What they look like are fucking murdered rats painted yellow. What? Why? How does this even qualify as art? What is the message here? Capitalism? Anime? Mass-consumerism? I don’t understand it! What’s even more disturbing is that one of the comments I read about this monstrosity was a discussion on how the rats must have been killed in order to maintain their bodies. It turns out that in cases like this, people sometimes drown the rats in a cage, which is noted as being fast, economical, and relatively easy for the rats! Dude, what are you smoking? Drowning may be fast and economical, but having your lungs filled with water while stuck in a small cage sounds like anything but easy. It sounds like one of the top 10 worst ways to die, with number one being involved in some kind of trap from Saw. God, those movies are scary!
Here’s the other thing that isn’t great: people torturing cats because they’re depressed. OK, so cats can be kind of messed up, choking out hair balls, vomiting, and peeing all over the place. (My brother has like 15 cats. I hear stories.) Horrible. Yes, we can blame cats for all of these things (the same way I can blame a rabbit for pooping a lot, but then understanding that this is just how things are). Yes, we can whine about it. No, we cannot start blaming cats for our depression to justify strangling them. Seriously, people need to stop. Depressed people don’t torture animals. Most of the time they just don’t have the energy. Psychopaths, however…
That’s it for this week. I’m going to climb back into bed. Please email me links for next week, and I wish you a Wednesday filled with antibacterial handwash.
Shocking tasers, shorted-out circuits, and food porn in today’s SHOCKING (themed) link-o-rama! »
How about that: a goat in a blue suit! According to Vice, who did the photoshoot, it’s Look 25 from Dunhill’s spring/summer 2010 collection. I’m not sure about that, honestly—I think it just as easily could be Look 27. Thoughts?
By the way, this is Steve filling in for Meave this week, who blames her absence on a shorted out MacBook keyboard following a coffee spill disaster. But between you and me, I’m suspecting cilantro poisoning.
Upcoming vegan events!
Like vegan cupcakes? Feeling judgy? Then sign up to be a judge for the 2nd Annual Vegan Cupcake Bake-off on May 22nd in Oakland. This will probably be the biggest field trip ever, so get those permission slips sorted out in advance.
Here’s an epic battle of the century that you won’t want to miss, organized by VegNews and Earth Island Journal. Cattle rancher-turned-vegan Howard Lyman and Niman Ranch co-founder Nicolette Niman will debate why or why not meat is a sustainable and ethical product. Tickets are $10 and will sell out quickly.
Miscellaneous items of significant social importance!
The Taser company funded a “study” that involved anesthetizing sheep, putting them on a methamphetamine IV drip, and then shocking them with Tasers—in order to test “the effects of Tasers on meth-addled targets.” But don’t worry, it didn’t cause the sheep any immediate heart problems!
Kelly Osborne has discovered the super-grossnosity of the U.S. meat industry, and in response has resolved to eat only “organic” meat.
Speaking of grossnosity, McDonald’s really, really doesn’t want to buy even 5 percent of its eggs for its U.S. stores from cage-free sources.
Mumbai now has an all-organic farmers market, which sells produce, cotton candy (YES PLEASE), “paint, paper, furniture, and cosmetics,” and prepared food like vegan quiche. Because we didn’t need enough reasons to visit India.
SFoodie has created a map to our fine city’s many seasonal farmers markets, where you can probably buy some wild leeks, a.k.a. ramps, which are this year’s fancy decorative green that non-professionals apparently don’t know what to do with. Or something.
The best baguette in Paris can be bought in Montmartre for less than two euro. But if you want to live forever, you had better forswear bread—and 50 percent of your body’s desired caloric intake—for the rest of that forever-life. The near-anorexics will rule us all, if very weakly.
Our local paper of record likes us; they really like us. SFGate started up a new vegan and vegetarian lifestyle section. We’re looking forward to more local coverage of veg issues, but we’re a bit less excited about the witty and insightful comments that we’re bound to get from the white-flight crowd that hangs out over there. Flame suits, on.
The Kitchn is on a vegan kick this week, with 10 Vegan Lunch Ideas. But breakfast is the most important meal of the day (especially if you eat breakfast food for lunch and dinner), so why not click through to their 10 Vegan Breakfast Ideas while you’re at it?
Killer whales kill (duh), unless you’re a dog. Then they’re like, “hop on my back, little friend, and I will take you on a magical tour of my sea kingdom.” But dogs aren’t safe if sharks are around so don’t forget a pair of “I’m With Orca” board shorts for your dog on beach walks.
Oh great. Almost everyone knows about the trash island the size of Texas floating in the Pacific, but did you know there are four others just like it? Check out photos from the North Atlantic Gyre courtesy of The 5 Gyres Project. I really can’t wait for a future of marine life evolved to eat a diet entirely of plastic.
WildCare brings us 15 seconds of how-can-I-exist-in-a-world-with-orphaned-ducklings tears in video form. Spring time means heavy rains and orphaned ducks in storm drains, so go sponsor some baby ducks, or the videos will keep getting sadder and shorter. No pressure.
The Winter Olympics are over, but how about a video of two dogs who may just win the gold in luge in 2014.
Humans are smarter and better than animals at everything, except for all the things they do exactly the same as us. Researchers in Portugal discovered that rats can understand complex game theory, and successfully cooperate with each other or manipulate other players in the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma game scenario.
Trace residue of hexane in soy burgers may have been the big health scare news story of the week, so of course this USDA report about veterinary drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals in the meat supply will get just as much attention, right? (Right guys? Guys? Anyone?)
Here’s some vegan chocolate food porn from chef and food stylist Claire Thomas, along with some bonus food erotica from The Physiology of Taste, written in 1825, describing how hot chocolate would have been prepared (with water, no milk) at Versaille.
Vegan.com says that Michael Pollan is "dodging the discussion" with Jonathon Safran Foer over criticism in Eating Animals, but saying that “nobody is anti-meat enough for the animal-rights purists” reads more like fighting words than an outright dodge. Sounds to us like it’s time to settle this one in the Octagon.
And because cats are the best, we’ll leave you with a video news clip about the Agee Sanctuary near Sacramento, new home of feral cats recently rescued from a Chinatown housing project. Apparently they have their own Winston, not to be confused with fourfour’s Winston who just joined Twitter this week and has almost as many followers as us. It’s hard out there for a dino.
The Humane Society of the United States had a photo contest for Spay/Neuter Day and HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT FACE. I don’t care if you don’t like rattie rats, YOU’RE A MONSTER. Rats are the very best and as smart as dogs and I love them all soooo much and GUESS WHAT? I’d rather marry a rat than your dumb ass. OH SNAP I HELLA SAID I’D RATHER MARRY A RAT THAN YOUR DUMB ASS! WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT YOU!?*
P.S. You should click through that link because there are hella cute photos, including a pit bull on wheels! that fool has wheels for legs! the future is now!
P.P.S. There is also a cat eating a book! Cats hate books! They also don’t think women should vote and are totally homophobic.