Author Archives: LV

Review: Rigor Mortis

Rigor Mortis by Richard Harris

Basic Books, 2017
ISBN: 9780465097906

Quaker Concern for Animals are pleased to feature the following review and commentary from our patron, Andre Menache, BSc(Hons) BVSc MRCVS

As an experienced science journalist, Richard Harris has done a good job of exposing many of the reasons why so much biomedical research, and sometimes clinical research, is unreliable. This « sloppy science » in his words, « creates worthless cures, crushes hope, and wastes billions. »

The aim of this book review is to focus on aspects of animal-based research discussed in the book, rather than cover the entire content. Harris provides several examples of the weaknesses and failures inherent in animal-based research but does not join the dots to reach a clear conclusion. The reason behind this may be because he does not want to knock the establishment more than necessary, or simply because he lacks the critical knowledge required to notice the elephant in the room. Harris is a science journalist, not an evolutionary biologist.

Following are some of the examples in the book that point a finger at animal-based research :

  1. There are 235 ways scientists can fool themselves by unconsciously biasing their studies (page 41).
  2. New research that showed mouse data do not apply to humans was rejected by several science journals on the grounds that « If this paper is published it will set the field [of mouse research] back 10 or 20 years … Clearly the old guard will suffer with a paradigm change, and sometimes their whole career will go away » (pages 50, 51).
  3. « Misleading animal studies have led to billions of dollars’ worth of wasted effort and dead ends in the search for drugs. Failures in animal studies have also had deadly consequences » (page 71).
  4. Harris quotes a researcher who continues to use animals as saying « The animal models are a disaster… I worry not just that they might be wrong … but what if the neurodegenerative disease models (ALS and Alzheimer’s) are not wrong but irrelevant ? Irrelevant is much worse than wrong. Because irrelevance sends you in the wrong direction » (page 82).
  5. One of the scientists interviewed in the book provides a key clue to why a treatment that appears to work in an animal subsequently fails in humans. « Evolution has created so many redundant [backup] systems that targeting a single pathway in a complex network will rarely work » (page 89).     

Overall, the book is a missed opportunity for not exposing animal-based research for the scientific fraud that it represents, given our current understanding of complex systems and evolutionary biology. Harris appears to support the idea that animal-based research can be improved by adhering to strict guidelines related to methodology. The real reason that animal studies fail is because they are not predictive of the way in which humans respond to drugs and disease. Increasing the number of animals used in a study is not the answer to the problem. Instead, what is required is a major overhaul of a research paradigm that is out of date with current scientific knowledge.

Dr Ray Greek and I have addressed this very point by publishing « Systematic Reviews of Animal Models : Methodology versus Epistemology »  http://www.medsci.org/v10p0206.htm

Dr Andre Menache is the Director of Antidote Europe and has been an active campaigner for the past 30 years, mainly in South Africa, Israel and the UK. 

AGM 2017: Minutes

QCA Annual General Meeting – MINUTES

Marjorie Sykes Room, Friends House, London

Saturday 20 May, 2017

 

  • Quaker Faith & Practice 2.89 was read during opening worship (11.15 -11.30 am)

 

  • Numbers attending: 3 Committee members (Ann Johnson, Thom Bonneville, Julie Hinman, with apologies from Jane Stanley) + 8 QCA members

 

  • The minutes of the 2016 AGM were discussed and accepted. An update on new website’s progress was given by the Clerk, at request of a Member. There is much interest in the location and format of the AGM, and we resolved to return to this in the Forum portion later in the day.

 

  • Accounts

    • The summary of 2016 Income & Expenditure was circulated and reviewed, along with a list of 2016 donations.

    • The Clerk read the Treasurer’s 2016 Summary Report.

 

  • Appointments.

    • The current Committee Members are all still serving their first triennia.

    • We have welcomed QCA member Martin Layton – Senior Programme Leader at Woodbrooke – onto the Committee, now comprising five Members.

    • The Committee warmly thanks those Members who came forward with offers of help in response to our AGM-related email appeal.

 

  • We have heard the Newsletter Report, and of the Editor’s increased attention to design and commitment to including a broad range of content (beyond ‘news’); the newsletter is a ‘magazine’ in nature. We agreed to discuss in today’s Forum ideas as to its name.

 

  • The Clerk recounted a list of ‘highlights’ of QCA activity and happenings since the time of the last AGM.

 

  • The Clerk closed the AGM at 12.30 pm.

 

The AGM was followed by the QCA Members Forum, facilitated by Julie Hinman of the Committee,  and then our guest speaker presentation (Duschanca Singh of The Mayhew Animal Home).