Not the usual suspects

The first patented genetically modified animal, the oncomouse, is reportedly “still leading the way on cancer research”. The oncomouse, a mouse highly susceptible to cancer, was produced in the early 1980 at Harvard Medical School. Since then, the “history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse … We have cured mice of cancer for decades–and it simply didn’t work in humans.” The former director of the National Cancer Institute in the US, Dr. Richard Klausner, said this in 1998 and it still holds true.

But research using animals, genetically modified or otherwise, is increasing although we have known for a long time that animals aren’t good models for human behaviour or disease.

Governments still largely support this out-dated, cruel and ineffective industry. However, opposition sometimes comes from unexpected places.

Ten- and eleven-year-old students at the Paul Klee Gymnasium in Gersthofen, a high school in Bavaria, Germany have explored the rights of animals in their ethics classes and came to the conclusion that animal experimentation is wrong. They have written a submission to the Bavarian Parliament asking politicians to ban animal experiments. More than 30 students signed the submission. But the students don’t hold their breath. They know their submission will not achieve immediate change.

While these German students argue against animal experimentation on ethical grounds, a diverse group of people in the U.S. – conservatives and liberals – have teamed up against animal research because they consider it a waste of precious resources. Currently, the White Coat Waste Project urges Americans to lobby their politicians to defund wasteful taxpayer-funded dog experiments in federal labs. The following is an extract from a letter they want citizens to send to Congress:

I was disturbed to learn from the White Coat Waste Project that more than 1,100 beagles, hounds and mixed-breed dogs–even puppies–are subjected to expensive, secretive and wasteful experiments each year inside federal laboratories run by the NIH, VA, DOD, CDC and FDA. As a taxpayer, I’m outraged that I’m forced to pay for this abuse, especially since the agencies involved do not even inform the public what’s being done, why or how much public money is being spent. Recent experiments conducted in government labs include exposing dogs to anthrax, forcing them to suffer heart attacks and drilling into their skulls. On one of the few projects for which spending data is available, NIH experimenters have used $5.95 million of taxpayers’ money since 2011 to give dogs heart attacks. Like most Americans, I oppose these experiments, want them phased out and their funding reduced.

The man who started White Coat Waste is by no means your usual animal rights campaigner. Anthony Belotti is “a former Republican strategist who has consulted for campaigns against Obamacare and Planned Parenthood” and “served as Executive Director of the American Association of Political Consultants and as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Senior Research Analyst during the successful 2006 reelection effort.”

In an interview with the Huffington Post Belotti described the group as follows:

We’re a bipartisan mix of Republicans, Democrats, libertarians and populists. We’re political consultants and public affairs professionals. We’re advertising executives with experience ranging from Madison Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. We’re campaign warriors. We’re doctors and scientists too.

But most importantly we’re all new blood. We’re largely outsiders to the old animal movement. That’s the common denominator that binds us. That, and of course, the principle that we don’t think taxpayers should be forced to pay for painful, wasteful and unnecessary animal experiments.

White Coat Waste is a charitable non-profit organisation and funded by donations.

High school students who lobby their politicians and a coalition of people with politically diverse views are not the usual suspects. Animal advocacy comes in many forms.



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