Consider the source, Ed Silverman

October 7, 2010

I admit I am not a highly regular reader of Ed Silverman’s Pharmalot blog, although I do keep up with his Twitts and read the occasional post. So I have little knowledge of where he’s coming from on this issue. But he had a post that basically parroted the animal rights extremist’s party line without a smidgen of critical thought.

The background is that pictures of severely wounded monkeys got out from a scientific supply company. The animal rights extremist organizations are all over this. Dog bites man story. They are, of course, certain that these pictures provide smoking gun evidence indicting all of animal research and nonhuman primate research in particular, demonstrating the general incompetence and uncaring nature of the industry.

This is their a priori belief. The extremist organizations that want to halt all use of animals in research by any means necessary do not have their opinion changed by facts either supporting or undermining their arguments. They feel free to lie, misrepresent or otherwise play fast and loose with any situation. This is what they do.

Ed Silverman should know this.

In his blog post, Silverman makes at least two glaring mistakes. The most troubling one is this one because it is deployed by the author in a way that makes it sound as if he agrees with the charge.

Primate Products ceo Don Bradford recently told NBC that the conditions depicted in the photos were not caused by medical testing, but due to injuries caused by other animals, and the monkeys have since healed. But the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida does not seem to believe him

the second item is a direct quote from an extremist group- still troubling because it contains an unexamined accusation:

These serious injuries may have resulted from self-mutilation, experimental procedures, or fights between animals who had been improperly housed.

As if the beliefs of anti-research extremist groups have any bearing on anything of evidentiary or probative value. They are against research. They are against researchers. They are against medical advances that are made possible only through the use of animals in research. Period. There is nothing that can be said or proven with facts that will make them “believe” anything anyone who is in support of well regulated humane use of animals in research has to say. Facts are irrelevant.

Which is why, Ed Silverman, it is essential for those who are presumably interested in the facts of a matter to account properly for the opinions offered by the person who comes from an unfalsifiable, unassailable fundamentalist belief structure that is impervious to fact. In this case properly means “deeply suspicious”.

Fortunately, the Speaking of Research organization has an excellent bit up on their blog which underlines something anyone might have come up with on only a moment’s thought. Anyone who has a National Geographic level understanding of the natural world and the behavior of species, that is.

There are two observations relevant to my points about Ed Silverman’s dismal coverage. First, that macaque monkeys are, at times, socially aggressive organisms in their natural social and environmental niche- this frequently results in major wounding and even death. Second, that this means that the only “proper” housing that can guarantee zero wounding is single housing. And we all know how the animal rights groups feel about the propriety of that choice.

In other words, the animal rights extremist reaction to this situation betrays their usual profound misunderstanding of the natural world. It also illustrates their theologically driven desire to make the world we actually live in conform to some Utopian ideal in which all species are somehow equivalently enlightened and interacting as truly sentient (in the real sense of the word) organisms.

Science fiction is a nice read, but it is just a fantasy.

Additional reading is a mere PubMed click away.

Or you can visit the American Journal of Primatology and use the search box for macaque

It does not require much effort to turn half-baked opinion into even minimally-informed opinion…assuming one is unafraid to have one’s uninformed views modified by facts, that is.

No Responses Yet to “Consider the source, Ed Silverman”

  1. becca Says:

    Observation: macaques are creepy…

    One minor incredibly irritating bit of that blog post is the quote about “oh this paper just came out this month and it says they got the monkeys from that source!!!111”. This reveals a PROFOUND lack of understanding of scientific publishing (perhaps especially scientific publishing from big pharma, if I have been informed correctly), to not get the delay involved.

    Nonetheless, I read some of his other posts. It seems about par for the course- using quotes to make anything associated with big pharma seem ethically shady. And, in fairness, I’m happier trusting pharmaceutical companies with both the FDA *and* the press watching them.


  2. FreetheAnimals Says:

    We compassionate folks at [yet another extremist org] look forward to our continued campaign against the cruel primate slave trade in general and [the vendor involved in this case] in particular. We vow to do everything within our right to shut this abhorrent facility down. As we’ve said before, we won’t stop until the imprisoned primates are rehomed in safe sanctuaries. And we don’t hesitate to proclaim our goal is the complete abolition of vivisection, an end to its reign of terror, which has mutilated, maimed, and murdered countless human and non-human animal lives. For science not psuedoscientific sadism.


  3. Paul Says:

    Thanks for posting this, the sooner people realise that a lot of what the anim al rights movement are telling them is a pack of lies the better.


  4. tideliar Says:

    Primate slave trade? Fucking LOL assholes.


  5. drugmonkey Says:

    Tideliar, I do hope it is not news to you how these AR nutjobs really think. Their philosophy is not mainstream, it is way out there and if fully realized it has implications even they refuse to fully admit*. But the main mouthpieces know to keep the full scope of their position hidden in cases like this. Our goal should be to draw out their true position so that it may remain in the public discourse when a case like this one comes to news media attention.

    *how many rodents die in the fields as they are being plowed and harvested? oh, industrialized agriculture is on the no-no list too? so how are we going to feed the people that currently exist without meat or large-scale agriculture? hmmm?


  6. Tsu Dho Nimh Says:

    Look at the teeth an adult rhesus monkey has! If they were socially housing them, they could easily have shredded each other. I know they do their best to shred researchers if given the opportunity.

    Looking at the pictures, it looks to me like the “bald spots” are shaved areas, perhaps to check for puncture wounds.


  7. Allyson J. Bennett Says:

    Thanks for posting on this and helping to counter the faulty interpretation of the photos made by AR groups. The report on the USDA’s clean inspection of the facility is publicly available, along with a comment from the USDA spokesman. Glad to see that Ed Silverman has taken note of it as well.


  8. drugmonkey Says:

    From a David Dobbs interview

    but then while I was working on the story, this amazing monkey coup happened, where one group of monkeys ousted the top group of monkeys, killing a few of them. It was one of those things that, when it happened, I realized this is great for the story. It was quite dramatic. It illustrated some vital things about the ideas in play. And it drew some new thoughts from Suomi. I met with Suomi about two weeks later, and you could see in his face, and hear in the timbre of his voice, how big a deal it was. It seemed to affect him emotionally as well. Which it would. He follows these monkeys for years, and suddenly they’re killing each other.


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