Fact Check: Are We Slowing Down Medical Research?

The Rise for Animals Team, September 7, 2023

This week, The Washington Times published an opinion piece written by Matthew Bailey, the president of both the National Association of Biomedical Research (“NABR”) and its sister organization, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (“FBR”). The only aspect of this puff piece that enjoys legitimacy (or, even more fundamentally, roots in reality) is its designation as “opinion” . . . because opinion does not require a basis in fact.

NABR and FBR, two of the animal research industry’s most prolific advocates, keep themselves in business by lying to us – by passing off propaganda as fact.

We previously covered attempts by NABR to prevent long-tailed macaques from securing any legal protections. As you might remember, NABR is a consortium of animal research entities that was specifically formed to combat the animal rights movement and acts as “the only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to advocating” for pro-animal research policy. NABR’s “public relations arm” – FBR – has been described as nothing more than a “propaganda machine” that churns out a “propaganda avalanche” in favor of animal research. And both NABR and FBR were founded by Frankie Trull, a former employee of Charles River Laboratories, the world’s largest supplier of laboratory animals, which has been described as the “‘General Motors of the laboratory animal industry.’”

Turning to the issue emphasized by Bailey in his opinion piece (i.e., the use of nonhuman primates in human research), it must also be recognized that NABR has, from inception, both focused on ensuring the supply of other-than-human animals for research and combatting any shifts to human-relevant, non-animal research methods. (Indeed, the Research Animal Alliance, which later became NABR through a merger, was founded to bolster “researchers’ access to an adequate supply of research animals” and to fight against legislation that sought to allot a large amount of research funding for the development of non-animal “alternatives”.) NABR has gone so far as to argue that “alternatives” to the use of other-than-human animals in research are “a chimera devised by antivivisectionists to make the public believe that experimental research on animals [is] no longer necessary.”

The current debate surrounding the importation of primates for use in research – by threatening to place restrictions on the “supply” of primates available to U.S. researchers and, thereby, bringing into sharper focus the need for non-animal alternatives to primate use – strikes at the heart of both NABR and FBR’s mission. And, it has gotten their defenses up. 

But, without ethics or facts on their side, NABR’s and FBR’s self-advocacy continues to predicate itself on nothing but propaganda. To be sure, in his opinion piece, NABR and FBR President Bailey submits a host of wholly unfactual and strategically misleading claims, including those that follow: 

The Claim: Those of us trying to protect nonhuman primates are “trying to slow down lifesaving medical research”.
The Truth: Those of us trying to protect nonhuman primates are seeking to elevate the interests of other-than-human animals in the pursuit of equity and justice.

We believe that this effort is necessary and important in its own right, but we also celebrate that it has positive implications for human health because, quite plainly, human medical interests are not best served by the practice of vivisection. 

The Claim: “Nearly all of the 25 most-used prescription drugs . . . were researched in primates before undergoing trials in humans.”
The Truth: The use of other-than-human animals for drug research is not synonymous with that use being necessary for human benefit!

Indeed, as medical experts themselves explain: “Yes, virtually all medical scientists have used animals . . . But did their innovations really depend on animals? No . . . The animal experimentation front and the media will always be accurate, as long as regulations demand animal testing, in saying that drugs were tested on animals. For reporters and for the public that is uninformed as to the deceptive role of animal testing, this is too subtle a point.” Indeed, until December 2022, the FDA mandated the use of other-than-human animals for drug testing, leaving researchers with no choice but to use them for every single drug

The Claim: “The adoption of “new restrictions on imports of long-tailed macaques . . . is leading to research delays that could have life-or-death consequences.”
The Truth: The fight to protect other-than-human animals from enslavement inside laboratories is a matter of “life-or-death” for the animals.

And, indirectly, it may be described as a similar matter for humans, but only because other-than-human animals cannot accurately “model” human systems. (Not only is the translation rate of findings from other-than-human animals to humans most often 0.5%, but humans die from drugs that tested safe in other-than-human animals and die without drugs that would be safe for them but tested dangerous in other-than-human animals.) To safeguard the health of both humans and other-than-human animals, resources need to be diverted away from animal research and to the development of human-relevant research methods, something aggressively opposed by NABR and FBR. Point in fact: “Countries that do not rely on animal testing have no higher incidence of adverse-drug reactions than the U.S., and frequently have access to the latest drugs years before we do.” 

The Claim: Any bans on the importation of long-tailed macaques would be “[n]eedless”.
The Truth: Bans on importing long-tailed macaques are necessary to protect not only the lives of many nonhuman primates but also to prevent species decimation.

Over the last 40 years, the long-tailed macaque population is estimated to have declined by about 40%, while researchers’ demands for them has continued to increase (and, in turn, has constituted an ever-increasing driver of the international primate trade). The long-tailed macaque is considered endangered by multiple international wildlife associations . . . while members of the animal research industry continue to be investigated for illegal importing them. 

NABR and FBR have always traded and continue to trade in deceit, and we must come to expect it, recognize it, and expose it.

We see what they’re doing, and we know why

Clearly, those whose entire professional life hinges on continued animal studies . . . will cling to the status quo as though to their very lives. Just as tobacco executives insisted, under oath, that cigarettes did not cause cancer nor were they addictive, those with a vested interest in animal experimentation will state that animal experiments are vital for new cures to be found. The animal experimentation industry spends millions annually to persuade the public that all medical advances are directly due to animal experimentation . . . the facts do not support this claim.” 

Together, we must make sure others understand the propaganda we are all being fed. Now, join us in exposing it.  

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