Sacred Cows and Golden Geese
"The United States medical establishment is no easy target. It is regarded as pre-eminent, both here and abroad. Our scientists have received more
Nobel Prizes than scientists in any other country. Yet, today the United States ranks twenty-ninth in infant mortality, sixteenth in maternal death rates, fifteenth in life expectancy for
women, and twenty-second in life expectancy for men. These are astonishing statistics. In light of these, careful scrutiny of some of the factors that send medicine in this country askew is
merited and overdue." C. Ray Greek, MD, and Jean Swingle Greek, DVM; Introduction, Sacred Cows and Golden Geese: The Human Cost of Experiments on Animals, by C. Ray Greek, MD, and Jean
Swingle Greek, DVM. ISBN 0-8264-1226-2, Continuum International Publishing Group, New York, 2000. This book may be ordered from amazon.com
by Jane Goodall, PhD
Sacred Cows and Golden Geese bears an important message. It challenges the widely held belief that the use of living
animals in biomedical research is absolutely necessary for the advancement of human medical knowledge. The authors, Drs. Jean and Ray Greek, show that the use of live animals in medical
research is unethical, not with relation to the suffering of the animals as more commonly held, but because faulty science underpins it. This leads, in the long run, to human as well as
For years I have been criticizing the ethics of using animals on the grounds of their proven sentience and sapience. For nearly forty years I have had the
privilege of working with and learning from our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees. As we have gradually discovered how like us they are (or we like them), the line that was once seen
as so sharp between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has increasingly blurred. Chimpanzees have vivid personalities, a complex social life, humanlike cognitive abilities, and
emotions similar to ours. They are capable of compassion, they can show true altruism, and they have a sense of humor. Not surprisingly, they are also physiologically very like humans as
well. That is why these closest relatives of ours have been - and still are - used as "models" in the study of human diseases. With no regard for their human-like behavior, hundreds have been
condemned to life imprisonment (up to sixty years) in five-foot by five-foot laboratory cages. And the only reason this is tolerated by anyone is because we have been told, repeatedly told,
that only by testing drugs and vaccines on these human-like bodies can we find ways of alleviating human suffering.
For the same reason, we tolerate the shocking abuse of many other sentient beings. If anyone other than white-coated scientists treated monkeys, dogs, cats,
rabbits, pigs, and so forth as they do behind the locked doors of the animal lab, he or she would be prosecuted for cruelty. But, say the animal experimenters, it is for the good of humans.
If animal experimentation were stopped, we are told, so too would human medical progress. How else could we learn about the nature of human diseases, find new cures and vaccines, perfect new
medical technologies? This is the argument that is repeated, again and again, by the animal experimenters.
In most cases, people will choose to sacrifice any animal to save or improve the quality of a human life. In other words, in a scenario of "them" or "us,"
humans will always prevail. And this is hardly surprising. No matter how much a woman may love dogs or chimps, she will choose to sacrifice a dog or a chimp if told that this will save her
child. Evolution has programmed us to make choices that ensure our genes will be represented in future generations. We choose in favor of our own children over the children of other people or
other creatures. This is why those fighting for animal rights by using ethical and philosophical arguments, although they have made progress in changing attitudes toward animals, can never
hope to bring all animal experimentation to an end by using these arguments alone.
However, what if it can be shown that the use of animals, in very many instances, provides misleading results? How often are potentially healing drugs withheld
from humans because they harm animals? By contrast, how often are drugs that do not harm animals used on humans with disastrous results?
We dedicate vast amounts of research energy and research dollars to inflicting human-like diseases on animals and seeking ways to treat them. Scientists use
the data this generates to write papers in order to get new grants. What is less generally realized, unless one carefully follows the scientific journals, is how seldom these animal
"breakthroughs" are useful in curing the "real" diseases in their human form.
And why is this? Although in many ways animals show physiological similarities to humans, they are different. Even chimpanzees, with immune systems so like
ours, do not respond as humans do to a variety of diseases. Of all the hundreds of chimpanzees that have been infected with the human HIV retrovirus, for example, none have developed the
typical symptoms of human AIDS. (Even in the two - yes, only two - who apparently died of AIDS, the course of the disease was very different.) Yet millions of dollars have gone into AIDS
research using chimpanzees as (very inappropriate) models. Millions and millions more dollars have been used to infect animals even less like us.
Of course, thousands of people comprise the vast animal experimentation industry - the manufacturers and salesmen for cages, animal food, lab equipment
paraphernalia, and specially bred genetic lines of experimental animals, the animal care staff, and all the scientists themselves. They would be out of a job if the animal research carpet
were pulled from under their feet. All these people are, for obvious reasons, very anxious to preserve the status quo. This, presumably, is why those who are searching for alternatives to the
use of live animals in experimentation so often get the cold shoulder from the scientific establishment. This is why there are no Nobel Prizes for alternative techniques. And this is why it
is so much harder to get a new non-animal procedure approved than a new procedure involving animals.
I have a growing conviction that many animal data are not only obtained unethically, at huge cost in animal suffering, but are also unscientific, misleading,
wasteful (in terms of dollars and effort) and may be actually harmful to humans. I constantly read through journals on alternatives to animal experimentation in my quest for good, solid,
scientific facts to substantiate this conviction. Here, at last, is a book that exhaustively examines and synthesizes the literature on this subject. The facts are set out clearly and quite
without sentimentality. The arguments presented here are not those of most animal rights activists that play on emotions to generate sympathy for animals. Nor are they the arguments of moral
philosophers, based on logic. Instead the authors use factual, scientific arguments to explain how, in their view, the infliction of suffering on animals in medical research is not a
biomedical evil, necessary to save human lives, but a real betrayal of the scientific method. Animal experimentation is unethical and cruel. It hurts animals, it is expensive, and it is so
often detrimental to the very species it professes to be helping - our own.
Jean and Ray Greek are singularly well qualified to write this book since they are well versed in the science of medicine, both from the human and the animal
perspective. Their specified aim in writing Sacred Cows and Golden Geese is to bring this whole issue into the domain of the general public. And because it is so clearly written, and the
issues discussed so logically, those who read it will be in a far better position to evaluate the scientific pros and cons of animal experimentation. It will, for this reason, be invaluable
for animal rights activists who have not, to date, considered the scientific arguments against animal experimentation. It should be read by all students who plan a career in medicine. It
should find a place in all libraries, including high school libraries. Only when the general public has a better understanding of the issues can we expect a ground-swell of opposition to
animal experimentation. This will force science to direct its collectively awesome intellect into different pathways in its search to alleviate human suffering.
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