Our senior doctor Ray Greek has responded to a letter from the television vet personality Noel Fitzpatrick, ‘Supervet’ who promotes the false and deeply damaging medical concept that animal experiments hold predictive value for human patients.
Please find Dr Greek’s response to Noel’s letter below, which is reproduced in the indented text.
We are reproducing this here whilst Dr Greek’s website undergoes repairs.
Dr Greek’s response begins:
On October 24, 2017, The Humanimal Trust sent a letter to Patients Campaigning For Cures that I have indented and reproduced below.
“In acknowledgement of your recently launched petition addressed to our founder Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, we would like to take the opportunity to clarify a key point about what our organisation, The Humanimal Trust, has been set up to achieve. We strongly believe that human and animal health are intrinsically linked.”
This sentence has no meaning unless The Humanimal Trust is endorsing some form of mysticism or pantheism or New Age nonsense. Evolutionarily speaking, all life shares commonalities but the details differ dramatically and scientists do not usually use language like the above.
“We believe that progress in one could and should inform the other, if there were an effective platform for doing so.”
Again, this sounds more like New Age nonsense than it does science or philosophy. As I have pointed out numerous times, animal models have no predictive value for humans when considering diseases or medications. The use of the word inform is an attempt to be vague so that when, once again, the fact that animals and humans respond dramatically differently to drugs and disease is raised, The Humanimal Trust can deny that predictive value is what they meant and instead claim that they meant something like use to stimulate thought or some equally vague notion.
“We hope that the growing acceptance of this fact will reduce and perhaps one day eliminate the need for animal testing.”
I see no evidence that this is their goal but regardless the claim is not science-based. There is no need for animal testing currently as animal models are not capable of delivering predictive value for human response to drugs and disease despite the fact that this is how their use is sold to society. Giles, for example, writing in Nature stated: “In the contentious world of animal research, one question surfaces time and again: how useful are animal experiments as a way to prepare for trials of medical treatments in humans? The issue is crucial, as public opinion is behind animal research only if it helps develop better drugs. Consequently, scientists defending animal experiments insist they are essential for safe clinical trials, whereas animal-rights activists vehemently maintain that they are useless.” (Giles 2006)
The Humanimal Trust continues.
“Illustrated plainly, our hope is that while treating a much loved family dog with cancer, one might provide data that can be shared and inform a similar cancer in a human, thereby reducing the need to falsely create that disease in an animal model.”
This illustrates incompetence in The Humanimal Trust’s understanding of science in general, as well as the evolution of complex systems like humans and other animals. Case reports or anecdotes, such as observing a family dog, would be classified has little value in science. Randomized, blinded, multi-institutional, controlled studies are the accepted methodology when studying medical interventions. Furthermore, society already has a very good idea what the value of animal models of cancer provide, as 95% of drugs that were safe and effective in animal models failed in human clinical trials. I would probably look for another model if I were serious about finding cures for cancer in humans.
“Currently there is no infrastructure that supports this sharing of information”.
That’s because it has no value.
“and opportunities are missed for both animals and humans to benefit from that information.”
This is attractive fiction, nothing else.
“Today humans are treated for a number of conditions that animals are also afflicted with, particularly in the areas of oncology, joint disease, the nervous system and areas where regenerative medicine may be of benefit.”
Just because one disease superficially resembles another disease in another species has no relationship to whether the causes are the same, or to whether a treatment in one will benefit the other. The reason veterinarians use cancer treatments from humans on animals is because there is very little financial incentive for developing drugs for animals and much financial incentive for developing drugs for humans. Hence, vets borrow treatments from human medicine and attempt to find something that the drug will treat in animals. Even different animals respond differently to the same drug, so a drug that treats cats and humans might not be effective for dogs or monkeys. To imply otherwise is again attractive fiction that will appeal to the uninformed. But it does result in a continuation of the status quo.
“We respectfully submit that as living creatures on this planet we are all looking for answers and solutions and that medical and veterinary professionals would be better off working together rather than separately to aid one another in research to protect both human and animal life.”
Attractive fiction. Veterinarians, physicians, and PhDs have been working together for over a century using animals as models for humans and the results have been disastrous. (Shanks and Greek 2009, Shanks, Greek, and Greek 2009, Greek and Greek 2010, Greek 2012, Greek, Menache, and Rice 2012, Greek and Hansen 2013a, Greek and Hansen 2013b, Jones and Greek 2013) More and more scientists are admitting this and working to abandon animal models. Moreover, not everyone is seeking answers. Some are just seeking to continue the status quo howbeit for various reasons.
“Contrary to what you imply, our organisation does not experiment on animals and The Humanimal Trust will never support research where animals are used as experimental models.”
I don’t recall anyone ever claiming that The Humanimal Trust employed animal modelers. (Maybe someone has and I just am not aware of it.) But the underpinnings of their philosophy of science is the same as that for animal experimentation in general, they just add more outdated science to it. Moreover, statements like the following, from their website, refute the above claim. “It is the law in the UK and elsewhere that most new medical treatments, devices, drugs and therapies intended for human and veterinary use need to be tested on animals, and we accept that based on current scientific knowledge, there is sometimes no alternative way of proving the safety and efficacy of these innovations. Research into how the body works (in health as well as in disease) and the development of potential new therapies and treatments for humans and animals also involve some animal research.” (Emphasis added.)
The Humanimal Trust continues.
“We care about a fair deal for animals in medical science and the paradigm of One Medicine.”
The entire concept of One Medicine is refuted by current science especially the science of complex systems and evolutionary biology (see references above). Also see my blog titled Many Species Many Responses to Drugs and Diseases for more on this.
“We therefore invite any representative from your organisation to discuss with us how our respective organisations may work toward a better future for animals within the guidelines proposed by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reductions of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) (https://www.nc3rs.org.uk/the-3rs). It is our aim to work closely with organisations such as the NC3Rs.”
The above refutes their attractive fiction as the NC3Rs supports the notion that animals have predictive value for humans. The NC3Rs exists to continue the status quo regardless of their verbiage.
“We sincerely feel that awareness is very important and that there is much to be gained from understanding rather than discord. We respectfully submit that there is much more to be derived from a positive rather than a negative approach with regard to potential benefit for the animals we all care about.”
This is a straw man as no one wants discord, but a positive approach to nonsense is not beneficial to society. I understand their position completely and since it is not science-based, I reject it. I would be happy for The Humanimal Trust to work with For Life On Earth to arrange a peer-reviewed debate as outlined in several Early Day Motions in the UK Parliament.
“We would welcome a direct discussion with you on these matters conducted personally rather than through social media.”
I understand why The Humanimal Trust would rather keep these things behind closed doors as open exposure to their position results in society seeing the complete lack of scientific support for it.
For more on why animal models have no predictive value for human responses to perturbations like drugs and diseases, see the section titled Article published in the peer-reviewed literature available at the AFMA website.
Giles, J. 2006. “Animal experiments under fire for poor design.” Nature 444 (7122):981. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=17183281
Greek, R., and J. Greek. 2010. “Is the use of sentient animals in basic research justifiable?” Philos Ethics Humanit Med 5:14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=20825676
Greek, Ray. 2012. “Book Review. Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing.” Animals 2 (4):559-563. http://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/2/4/559
Greek, Ray, and LA Hansen. 2013a. “The Strengths and Limits of Animal Models as Illustrated by the Discovery and Development of Antibacterials.” Biological Systems: Open Access 2 (2):109. doi: 10.4172/BSO.1000109 http://omicsgroup.org/journals/the-strengths-and-limits-of-animal-models-as-illustrated-by-the-discovery and-development-of-antibacterials-BSO.1000109.php?aid=14441
Greek, Ray, and Lawrence A Hansen. 2013b. “Questions regarding the predictive value of one evolved complex adaptive system for a second: exemplified by the SOD1 mouse ” Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 113 (2):231-153. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079610713000539
Greek, Ray, Andre Menache, and Mark J. Rice. 2012. “Animal models in an age of personalized medicine.” Personalized Medicine 9 (1):47-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.2217/pme.11.89
Jones, R. C., and R. Greek. 2013. “A Review of the Institute of Medicine’s Analysis of using Chimpanzees in Biomedical Research.” Sci Eng Ethics:1-24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23616243
Shanks, N, and R Greek. 2009. Animal Models in Light of Evolution. Boca Raton: Brown Walker.
Shanks, N., R. Greek, and J. Greek. 2009. “Are animal models predictive for humans?” Philos. Ethics Humanit Med. 4:2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=19146696