1. Student Rights Option: Important Developments
The primary argument of proponents of dissection in education has always been that there are no adequate substitutes for this hands-on, "real thing" experience. Their assumption is that since direct contact with the body of an animal most closely approximates the paradigmatic biomedical treatment, surgery, it follows that dissection best teaches biology, the basic science of which biomedicine is an application.
Advocates of "alternatives" in education have typically responded with the arguments that (1) only a very small percent of high school, or even undergraduate, students, go on to a career in medicine or other sciences and (2) new technologies such as computers and interactive videos teach biology as well as if not better than the traditional frog lab.
The hands-on argument has always been weak, never backed by empirical demonstration. In fact, existing scientific studies provide evidence to the contrary; students using alternatives perform academically as well or better than those participating in dissection. In any case, even with respect to slogans, now "hands-on" is being replaced. Enter "virtual reality."
In an article in the prestigious medical journal JAMA, a commentator provides an extended anecdote about a surgeon utilizing the "revolutionary technology" of laparoscopy. Using this procedure a gall bladder operation is no longer performed through a large incision. Instead, a "long tube with the video camera on the end" is inserted through a 1-cm incision. Guided by this televised view, the surgeon grasps, cuts, and electrocauterizes the gallbladder through the indirect manipulation of tools entering the cavity through two other narrow-tubed openings.
This is a set of skills better acquired through extensive experience with Nintendo, interactive video, and other high-tech interfaces. Clearly, surgery is entering a new world where indirect visualizing and imaging guide indirect manipulation and laser beams. The dramatic operating theater of open surgery is giving way to a world of virtual reality - a reality that is both hyper-real and once- removed.
This development is seen even more clearly in diagnostics than in treatment. A physician no longer examines us the way he or she used to; extensive and careful physical examination is being replaced by chemical analysis of our various bodily fluids and by sophisticated imaging techniques.
In terms of the current debate over the use of animals in education, the meaning of these developments is that "hands-on" doesn't mean what it once did. If hands-on refers to a learning experience that best approximates the applicable working experience, the teaching lab should no longer consist of the dissection of frogs or cats. To produce the physicians and research biologists of the next generation, we would be well-advised to leave the frogs in the ponds (while there are still some left) and refurbish the teaching lab with cd-roms.
Of course, we are already witnessing backlash and foot-dragging. In its most recent position statement, the National Association of Biology Teachers has partly abandoned its earlier more progressive stance on the use of animals in biology. As reported in a past PSYeta newsletter, the American Psychological Association's most recent guidelines also give up ground by eliminating the provision that alternatives meeting instructional goals be given priority and used in lieu of animals.
Even at the local level, instructors still take the hard line, although they usually back down when challenged. Recently in Arkansas, that bastion of centrist fairness, an instructor in experimental psychology advised an undergraduate psychology major, who objected to a lab in which she would have been required to deprive a rat of food and water, to change majors! On the other hand, New York state recently passed legislation that prohibits vivisection in primary and secondary classrooms, with a waiver for students in grades 10-12 in advanced science courses. It also provides an alternative to dissection for students who object on moral or religious grounds.
2. PSYeta Joint Venture Finalized
As announced earlier, PSYeta and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have been negotiating an arrangement, now completed, whereby the two organizations will jointly work on several projects.
The centerpiece of the affiliation is the co-publication of a professional journal. The inaugural issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS) will appear this fall, with quarterly issues beginning January 1996. The first two issues will feature comprehensive reviews of the state of animal welfare science in four content areas, listed here with the respective section editors: Laboratory Animals, David Morton; Farm Animals, Joy Mench; Wildlife/Zoo Animals, Marc Bekoff; and Companion Animals, James Serpell.
JAAWS will publish scientific reports that contribute to the improvement of conditions for animals in all settings. By providing a peer-reviewed journal, it will encourage an increasing number of scientists to undertake investigations to this end. The journal will be co-edited by K. Shapiro and the ASPCA's Stephen Zawistowski, also a psychologist. Along with the four section editors, there is also a board of editors of more than 25 scientists currently doing research in animal welfare. For information about article submissions, please contact PSYeta. For subscription information, see the coupon below.
An additional project to be undertaken this year with ASPCA is the planning and design of a study of the psychology of adult animal abusers. This is particularly timely as three men in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, were convicted this month of maiming, torturing, and killing a Dalmatian. We need a study of such people to help us understand and work toward the early detection and prevention of such aberrant behavior.
Anyone with a background in personality, social, or developmental psychology who would be interested in working on this project, please contact PSYeta immediately. Graduate students are also welcome.
3. Court Decisions
- Washington Supreme Court Rules in PAWS Favor
- The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society who sought access to an unfunded grant application by University of Washington psychologist Gene Sackett. It affirmed the lower court's decision compelling the release of the grant proposal under Washington's Public Disclosure Law. The American Psychological Association (APA) had filed an amicus brief in support of University of Washington, claiming that public disclosure of unfunded grant applications would subject members of scientific review panels to "politically motivated harassment."
- Animal Protection Groups Sue NIH over Guide Revision
- The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and PSYeta have sued the NIH over its refusal to allow animal protectionists onto the committee set up to revise the Guide for the Care and Use of Lab Animals. The suit charges the government with violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act by blocking their participation in committee work and even their access to committee documents.
4. Charities Who Do Not Fund Animal Research
At the 1994 Summit for the Animals, a resolution was passed by leading animal protection organizations stating that research-supporting charities should discontinue funding all experiments involving animals, and until that goal is achieved, provide a full public disclosure of current animal use and steps being taken for its discontinuation.
The following private health foundations DO NOT fund animal research:
- American Kidney Fund
- Association of Birth Defect Children
- Cancer Care, Inc.
- Cancer Fund of America, Inc.
- Designer Institute Foundation for AIDS
- Disabled American Veterans
- Easter Seals
- Heimlich Foundation,
- International Child Health Foundation
- International Eye Foundation
- Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
- National Federation of the Blind
- National Burn Victim Foundation
- Quest Cancer Test
For more information, contact Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 5100 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 404, Washington, DC 20016, 202-686-2210. PCRM has also initiated a campaign concerning the March of Dimes and its use of donations to fund animal research.
The Monkey Wars by Judy Blum (Oxford University Press, 1994) offers a relatively balanced account of the heated controversy concerning the use of primates in medical research. Of special interest to PSYeta members is the book's discussion of two of our Board members, Roger Fouts and Viktor Reinhardt. The book's first chapter lays out the thesis that Fouts lost funding for his work with chimpanzees because of his sympathetic views on animal protection issues.
The Animals' Agenda has a special offer for PSYeta members. For every $22, one-year (6 issues) subscription to the magazine sold by PSYeta, Agenda will refund $6 to PSYeta. To subscribe, send check/money order for $22/1 year or $39/2 years to The Animals' Agenda, Department - 15R27X, P.O. Box 1242, Darien, CT 06820.
- Referral Network
- PSYeta has assembled a confidential listing of mental health professionals who are interested in serving activists in animal rights and other movements. Activists in search of a mental health provider for any reason are encouraged to contact us for names in your geographical area. If you are a clinician and would like your name added to the provider list, please contact K. Shapiro for further information.
- Course on Ethical Issues of Animal Research
- June 24-29, 1995 at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics in Washington, DC. The course will focus on skills in teaching about ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in research. For more information contact: Moheba Hanif, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 20057, 202-687-6833.In the Company of Animals Conference
- April 6-8, 1995 at the New School for Social Research, 66 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003. Contact Evalyn Roberts at 212-229-5755 for more information.
7. Support PSYeta
Membership. Please pay your 1995 dues now. The code on your envelope's mailing label is a reminder of when you last aid dues. For example, "03/15/94 25.00" means you paid dues in March of 1994 and, thus, we would appreciate payment of 1995 dues at this time.
Bequests. Persons wishing to become benefactors of PSYeta should consult an attorney or incorporate the following provisions carefully into their wills. "I bequeath to Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, P.O. Box 1297, Washington Grove, MD 20880, the sum of _________" to be applicable to the general purposes of the organization. Or if so desired, you may designate a specific purpose for the money.
PSYeta Newsletter edited by: Ken Shapiro, Margaret Carpenter