Pigs, Organs, and the Lies They Want You to Believe

The Rise for Animals Team, June 11, 2024

As you have probably seen, the human use of animals as “spare parts” has been getting significant media coverage over the past many weeks, as animal researchers have angled to reframe their unethical and ineffective practice of xenotransplantation (i.e., transplantation of other-than-human organs into humans).

Xenotransplantation still kills animals and fails to save humans (while also putting them at significant risk), just as it always has; but, just as has also always been, animal researchers would be out of business if they let facts get in their way – so they spin them.

Animal researchers rely on manipulating public perception – on veiling their unjustifiable exploitations as life-saving efforts – and, by this measure, their pig-to-human-organ-transplant fiasco is shaping up to be a masterpiece. 

In discussing recent events, animal researchers have themselves stated publicly that “[o]ne of the greatest hurdles” to expanding xenotransplantation research has been “public perception” , which has been “‘hindering research,’…” 

It seems that much of the general public had started to understand that the animal-to-human organ trade was not realizing the successes that researchers kept promising – and that they had been promising for centuries. (After animal-to-human blood transfusions, skin grafts, corneal implants, and transplants of “slices” of “testes”, modern researchers started transplanting other-than-human organs into humans in the 20th century.)  

So, animal researchers – faced with not being able to un-spill the proverbial beans and not being able to make the “science” work – started shouting: but wait . . . PIGS!

Said animal researchers: organ transplants from non-human primates may not have worked, but not to worry – the victim can be easily changed and our hollow (and self-serving) promises repackaged.

Though researchers admit that their anatomical and physiological similarities to humans are lessor than nonhuman primates, animal researchers want to use pigs because they are far more easily available (with researchers identifying their “availability” as “unlimited”), have better “breeding potential” (as well as shorter pregnancies and greater numbers of offspring), grow more quickly, are cheaper . . . and, critically but tragically, are more palatable victims by society’s standards. 

In a nutshell, then, it is not about the “science”; it is about pigs being more easily exploitable in every way – and not least because, as researchers unabashedly admit, “public opinion” is “more in favor” of the use of pigs than nonhuman primates.

By 2022, animal researchers had begun transplanting pig organs (including “pig hearts, kidneys, and a thymus”) into humans. Yet, as history foretold – and despite intensive breeding, unprecedented gene editing, and unimaginable animal suffering – xenotransplantation is still not working . . . not even as well as “predicted” by research on nonhuman primates (into whom pig organs have been forced).

As recent news has featured:

  • The two humans who have received pig hearts “died around two months” post-transplant.
  • The “first living person to receive a kidney from a pig died” less than two months after surgery and “sooner than his doctors had expected” (though researchers celebrated the transplant as a “‘historic milestone’ in medical research”).
  • The second living person “to receive a pig kidney transplant” had the “failing organ” removed “after just 47 days”. 

Desperate to defuse these continued failings – and manipulate them into rallying cries for vivisectionist support – animal researchers have used media coverage to distract and misguidedly excite the public.

Here’s how they’ve done it:

  • Step 1Deflect Blame: Animal researchers have denied any responsibility for the humans’ deaths and the procedures’ ultimate failings, instead blaming the humans – we didn’t fail, they say; their health was already poor. (Yes, which is why these supposedly “life-saving”, experimental procedures were performed . . . but, we digress.)
  • Step 2Distract and Confuse: Animal researchers have diverted attention from the poor experimental outcomes by emphasizing that the recipients’ bodies may not have rejected the pigs organs (i.e., that organ rejection was not the problem). Indeed, this has been a critical thrust of their efforts, because (a) organ rejection would signal the very same failures they have realized for decades, and (b) they want us to focus on the idea that the organs did not kill the humans – that these transplants were somehow successful – rather than appreciating that recent events provide even more evidence that xenotransplantation is not the answer to “extend[ing] the life of a person experiencing organ failure.”
  • Step 3Exploit Confusion for Personal Gain: While loudly pursuing this bait-and-switch, animal researchers have also, albeit more quietly, pushed for even more victims. In fact, the industry wants to ensure a funding landslide for continued xenotransplantation efforts by nudging the FDA to permit and begin clinical (human) trials, which would see the sacrifice of unknown numbers of pigs and humans.

Researchers are self-interestedly bent on continuing animal-to-human organ transplants despite the existence of incomparably more promising, ethically superior, and less risky options.

In addition to longstanding opportunities, such as incentivizing human organ donation, new (human-relevant and non-animal) technologies – like 3D printing and organoidslegitimately, ethically, and more economically hold the promise of generating human organs. 

Moreover, not only would the resulting organs be made of human cells only (and, even more promisingly, of a specific recipient’s own cells!), but they would not be contaminated with non-human pathogens. Indeed, one of the two pig hearts recently transplanted into humans was found, after the recipient’s death, to be infected with a porcine virus that “was missed by tests before the transplant”. This speaks not only to a plausible risk of xenotransplantation failure but also to the devastating potential for zoonotic disease transmission, with researchers admitting that viruses they don’t even know to test for may lurk: “‘swine organs come to us with endogenous viruses that are part of the pig genetic material. Genetic engineering has been able to remove some of the swine retroviruses, but we don’t know if others are still there.’”

And, they’re getting away with it, once again proving successful in translating human fear into support for their professions.

The media storm that has accompanied recent pig-to-human organ transplants has done its job of instilling (false) hope among humans. Animal researchers (who had just received a quarter of a million dollars to “delve deeply into better, more efficient ways to produce pigs that are better suited for xenotransplantation purposes”) made the point for us when they said:

‘Now we are seeing people walk out of the hospital with a pig kidney – now (the public) is going to think that could be a possibility to save the life of a loved one down the road.’

And, that is really what it’s all about – what we, humans, think. 

So, in the interest of all animals, including humans, please help us reach more humans with the truth, which was beautifully summed up recently by one commenting journalist:

[Industry] isn’t doing us any favors by continuing to waste time and money on animal testing that may or may not have any practical applications for human health . . . There’s no reason for us to keep trying a process with such clear ethical drawbacks and minimal success. We have newer, better technology–let’s use it.

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