100 years on... are we still the "...ignorant, shallow, credulous, half-miseducated, pecuniarily anxious people... trying every bottle and pill the advertist druggist can persuade us to buy?" --George Bernard Shaw 1906.
I was recently doing an order online from an established natural health product company and casually had a look at a new product, Dr Red’s Olevine Coffee. I was very surprised to read in the description ‘TESTED ON ANIMALS’! I used the ‘Contact Us’ link on the site and sent a protest to its Founder.
He replied within twenty-four hours, thanking me and saying that the company had never been happy that some of the research carried out using Dr Red products involved animal testing. He said that this took place before they were involved with the product range and that they could not deny that it had happened.
They had accepted Dr Red because they believed the range does offer potential benefits to humans. And that the human trials now being conducted could not have been sanctioned without the previous testing. He wrote that they had now removed the offending text from the website but that did not change the fact that they were very sorry for having caused offence. When it comes to remedial products (as opposed to superfoods), he said it is almost impossible to find any that have not, at some point, been tested on animals.
He finished his reply by assuring me that their company did not support animal testing and hoped that his response had gone some way to restoring my faith in them as a provider of good quality food supplements.
I replied thanking him for the apology and said I was glad that his company did not support animal testing. However, it was not the ‘text’ that was offensive but the practice of testing on animals. Removing the ‘text’ (correctly informing that the beneficial results described came from animal testing) and keeping the product was surely not being honest? Products that describe health benefits using animal data should be boycotted – simply on ethical grounds.
I understood the history of animal testing and that it was almost impossible to find a commercial product (or its ingredients) that had not been tested on animals. But there was now an accepted ‘cut-off’ point whereby products can claim, ‘as from this date’, that the ingredients are no longer tested on animals. I suggested that Dr Red had not yet reached this stage of ethical principal but hoped that the Founder had. I finished my reply with a quote from George Bernard Shaw:
“You do not settle whether an experiment is justified or not merely by showing that it is of some use. The distinction is not between useful and useless experiments but between barbarous and civilised behaviour. Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.”
I then looked up Dr Red on the Internet:
All Dr Red’s Tea and Coffee products claimed marvellous results based on the findings of published papers of scientific testing by vivisectionist Professor Lindsay Brown, University of S. Queensland, Australia. The Blueberry Punch was tested by vivisectionist Dr Qihan Dong, University of Sidney.
I viewed the published papers at the University’s Research site – Dr Red’s products are tested on laboratory-bred OBESE RATS. No data based on human biology. (Other animals listed as used at this University’s Research Centre were dogs, cats, rodents and sheep.)
Dr Purple is the UK and European name of Dr Red Nutraceuticals(1), a company based near Brisbane, Australia. This company sponsors experiments on animals. Dr Purple’s Tea and Coffee health claims are based on studies that fed rats a diet high in sugar and beef tallow fat to mimic obese humans. After the Tea was added to obese rats’ diet, their waistlines and blood pressure returned to normal despite no changes to their diet. Professor Lindsay Brown said that the next step was to carry out clinical trials on humans ‘to hopefully target what has become an obesity epidemic’.
Dr Purple’s Blueberry Punch claims ‘exciting’ results from tests on cancer mouse models. There was a reduction in the size of the tumours on mice fed the punch (2007). (Yet in 1998, Dr Richard Klausner, then director of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) admitted, “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 doesn’t work with humans”. )
I sent a resumé of this information to the Founder and pointed out that the name of his company was on Dr Red’s site as the UK contact for buying these animal tested products.
I received no reply to this particular communication.
It was apparent that he had the best of intentions and believed that he did not support animal testing but incorrectly thought that animal testing was a legal pre-requisite before trials on humans. I decided to send him a booklet I had recently produced called Vivisection Is a Social Evil which records the confusion of viewpoints that proliferate when Ethical understanding is absent. Also, a booklet by research scientists against vivisection for both moral and scientific reasons, A Critical Look At Animal Experimentation by the Medical Research Modernisation Committee.
In an accompanying letter I pointed out the inconsistency in his statement about being against animal testing yet promoting products of an Australian company that did animal testing? Also that “human trials could not have been sanctioned without the previous testing on animals” I believed to be incorrect within British law. Australian law may be different. I included information to clarify the legal position within British Vivisection Law taken from a talk on the subject given at Oxford University by Dr Matthew Simpson, VERO (Voices for Ethical Research at Oxford):
‘The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act of 1986 makes formal and explicit that researchers in the medical sciences must do all they can to avoid using animals at all, or failing that to use as few as possible. And accordingly it requires institutions to make sure that relevant scientists fully appreciate the ethics or anti-ethics of vivisection, and have thorough knowledge of all the research technologies which might obviate the need for animals in their research. These non-animal technologies are commonly called “alternatives”, but that is a misleading understatement: if they can be used in place of animals, they’re not an option but a legal obligation.’
The Founder replied to this communication thanking me and saying he was looking forward to reading the booklets and circulating them amongst his colleagues so that they could become better informed on these issues.
I replied that I had been hesitant about including the booklet ‘A Critical look At Animal Experimentation’ because all animal data is tainted and would never have arisen if the ethical view had been in place first. However, it did highlight the second serious error (the first being unethical) in Dr. Red’s (aka Dr Purple’s) case, that the results from animal data can “neither confirm nor refute hypotheses about human physiology or pathology; human clinical investigation is the only way such hypothesis can be tested.”
I left him with this question: Is it our experience that morality/ethics is information that can be learned from a book? Or is it that information can but heighten awareness so that morality can rise (or re-awaken) from within, as a result of seeing and knowing suffering with direct, decisive understanding?
One hundred years on... are we still the “...ignorant, shallow, credulous, half-miseducated, pecuniarily anxious people... trying every bottle and pill the advertiser druggist (or health product company, or TV doctor, or internet health guru) can persuade us to buy”? —George Bernard Shaw 1906. Or can we as democratic citizens and informed consumers do our duty in the confident knowledge that testing on animals is unethical and wrong? And send a clear message through our ‘ethical choices’ to reach the research scientists (particularly in premier universities like Oxford) to comply more wholeheartedly with the 1986 Act and to perceive the very great merit and desirability of making British Universities world leaders in non-animal research in the medical sciences.
This would have far reaching effects throughout the world and be a universal model of ethical excellence for Australian and all universities to follow. Assuming that everyone wants to end the suffering of animals in laboratories, it effectively requires that researchers want it.
(1) Nutraceutical foods are not subject to the same testing and regulations as pharmaceutical drugs unless they claim that the product is a medicine therefore becoming subject to pharmaceutical regulation in each country of sale.
‘Vivisection Is A Social Evil’ by Linden Brough
Free Postage: www.amazon.co.uk
‘A Critical Look At Animal Experimentation’ by Medical Research Modernisation Committee
Free Download: www.animalexperiments.ch
Free Booklet: www.SaferMedicines.org Tel: 020 8265 2880