Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Failure of the Day: PETA

As promised, I have some thoughts about PETA. I should start out by saying that it is impossible not to oppose vivisection, cosmetics testing, and fur clothing as unnecessary and unnecessarily cruel. But PETA has demonstrated repeatedly that it is not enough merely to care about animals. PETA wants you to care about animals more than human beings and humanity as a whole.

There was the notorious billboard of a famous man who was currently undergoing chemotherapy, which implied that his cancer was his own doing because he drank cow's milk. And the ad that compared a hamburger to the Holocaust. Those are tasteless, sure, and PR gaffs of hilarious proportions, but I love the 1st amendment and PETA is certainly free to continue to exercise their right to make themselves look like the anti-humanitarians they are.

But my real problem is with the destruction of scientific research. I can set aside the fact that there's not a person in this country who hasn't directly benefited from medical testing on animals. (Ever take an aspirin? Were you born in a hospital?) But let's say those young, able-bodied vegans have given up anything that ever been within 3 feet of an animal. Good for them!

There's just one thing. Same as the Moral Majority, same as the anti-abortion zealots, it's not enough that they choose it for themselves—they need everyone else to choose it too. And if the rest of humanity doesn't agree, well, I guess they have to make the choices for us. It's a predatory belief system, the hallmark of fundamentalists.

But whoop-de-do; there have always been zealots, and they have always irritated independent thinkers. But it seems to me that to destroy labs containing who knows how many years of research into the factors of a disease process necessitates a belief that not only will you, members of PETA, never get any sort of illness in your life, but that no one that you know or care about will ever get sick and need medical care either. The odds? Not so much in your favor. Aye, there's the rub: the cure you destroy may be your own.

But what right do humans have to experiment on other sentient beings? As I have previously stated, I am fairly content with my place on the food chain. I am also pretty sure that A) even if I weren't content with it, there's not dick I can do about it, and B.) the food chain is not a political issue. Pass all the laws you like, the big animals will always eat the little animals. Nature is not cuddly. It is not sweet and not gentle. It is brutal and gory and cruel. Chris had a guinea pig that ate every last one of her babies. Would PETA have protested her?

Finally, there's an argument to made that that the animal model is not perfect for testing whether something will work on human beings. It's a strong argument, and I agree with it. It's not perfect; it's only the best one possible. It doesn't always work. But it doesn't always fail, either, and human suffering is reduced because of it. You have to admire PETA…it takes guts to oppose the reduction of human suffering.

The following paragraph is hard to read and harder to understand. But try. It describes how scientists in Milan have reversed the damage in the central nervous system of mice with MS.

Widespread demyelination and axonal loss are the pathological hallmarks of multiple sclerosis. The multifocal nature of this chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system complicates cellular therapy and puts emphasis on both the donor cell origin and the route of cell transplantation. We established syngenic adult neural stem cell cultures and injected them into an animal model of multiple sclerosis—experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in the mouse—either intravenously or intracerebroventricularly. In both cases, significant numbers of donor cells entered into demyelinating areas of the central nervous system and differentiated into mature brain cells. Within these areas, oligodendrocyte progenitors markedly increased, with many of them being of donor origin and actively remyelinating axons. Furthermore, a significant reduction of astrogliosis and a marked decrease in the extent of demyelination and axonal loss were observed in transplanted animals. The functional impairment caused by EAE was almost abolished in transplanted mice, both clinically and neurophysiologically. Thus, adult neural precursor cells promote multifocal remyelination and functional recovery after intravenous or intrathecal injection in a chronic model of multiple sclerosis.


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