Worthy research

Letters to the Boston editors, September 9, 2011
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  September 7, 2011



In his interview with Liz Pelly ("PETA on Primates," Back Talk, August 5), PETA's Justin Goodman mixes up a stew of half-truths and misstatements and then slops the results all over biomedical research with animals. His goal is not to enlighten but to confuse.

Goodman says he has tried to get in touch with Harvard and MIT but no one will talk to him. Is he surprised? Does he expect to convince actual Nobel laureates that they don't know their science? He is irked that he cannot review their facilities. And yet inspectors from USDA, state agencies, and accrediting organizations get access. Maybe working for PETA does not qualify him to go into labs just because he wants to.

He states that 100 million animals are used in biomedical research in the United States and only about one million are covered by the Animal Welfare Act. There's almost a grain of truth there. But he also says that the vast majority of research in the US is publicly funded. What he slyly omits is that federal rules require all publicly funded researchers to follow the AWA rules even for non-covered species. So in his own words, the "overwhelming majority" of animals are treated just like the covered animals.

Goodman says that profit is the main motive for animal research. It actually turns out to be rather expensive to do animal research: organizations invest those funds because it is a valid, crucial component in preclinical research, essential to lifesaving outcomes.

He claims that non-human primate research has led to HIV drugs that were safe and effective in monkeys but that failed Phase 1 human trials. He forgets that animal research screened out hundreds, or maybe thousands, of compounds before those trials. If he is trying to suggest that animal research has somehow impeded HIV drugs, he has the story backward — it has made the search more efficient.


Related: Letters to the Boston editors, August 26, 2011, A jolly good biomass mess, PETA on primates, More more >
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