Turning the Page on Animal Research

The Rise for Animals Team, November 29, 2023

Every facet of the animal-industrial complex is controlled by corporate (and self) interests. And medical journals are no exception.

Far from impartial arbiters of “good science”, journals are powerful actors with vested interests in the animal research industry.

A stark example of this was brought to the fore again last week when more than 1,000 scientists and health care professionals joined together to call out (and boycott) medical journal Nutrients, claiming that the journal has chosen to continue publishing “egregious animal experiments that could have been ethically conducted in humans”.

Nutrients markets itself as a “human clinical nutrition journal”, yet approximately 20% of the articles it publishes rely on “‘sadistic, cruel, and unnecessary….’” animal experiments. 

Nutrients is not alone in this, and the problem goes far deeper than a willingness to publish unethical, exploitative research – indeed, medical journals want to publish animal research and display a strong “animal methods bias” in their publication decisions. 

They do this for many reasons, including the least surprising of all: financial self-interest.

Journals know that animal researchers – whose career survival and advancement is predicated heavily on their success at publishing articles – are willing to spend big money to pad their resumes.

Enter “pay-to-publish” journals like Nutrients, which itself generates more than $16 million in annual revenue from fees charged to authors wanting to have their articles published, and you have a “‘a business model [with] real potential to corrupt the whole research arena.’”

Part and parcel of the same industry, animal researchers and medical journals like Nutrients both benefit from the churning out of research papers, and this is exactly what they’ve done: while Nutrients published “just over 5,000 papers” between 2009 and 2017, it published 5,400 articles in 2022 alone. 

Journals are reaping in profits while banishing any sense of ethics.

The effects of journals’ financial “motives” have been far reaching and so far undeterred by pushback even from their own. Indeed, in 2018, Nutrients’ senior leadership quit due to a lack of commitment to scientific integrity . . . yet the journal remained steadfast in its allegiance to revenue and, consequently, unethical, pseudo “science”.

The push to end experimentation on other-than-human animals is, therefore, also a call to restore ethics to science in more than one sense.

Ethical restoration would benefit all, including humans, and researchers whose interests extend beyond their own make this clear: the over 1,000 professionals boycotting Nutrients have stated that they will neither publish in nor serve as reviewers for Nutrients until it implements a “‘policy of publishing only studies using human participants or human data for nutrition research’”.

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