BOOKS: In The Name of Science

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1993:

In The Name of Science:
Issues In Responsible Animal Experimentation
by F. Barbara Orlans, Oxford Univ. Press (200 Madison Ave., NY 10016)
1993, 304 pages, $39.95.
Christine Stevens of the Animal Welfare
Institute describes In The Name of Scienceas being “writ-
ten for scientists by a scientist.” Stevens is technically
right, as Barbara Orlans is certainly a respected scien-
tist––a former heart disease researcher at the National
Institutes of Health, now a physiologist at Georgetown
University––and she is primarily addressing her col-
leagues. But Orlans’ lucid writing is easily accessible to
anyone who might read ANIMAL PEOPLE, and ought
to be read by anyone who wants to be conversant on the
use of animals in science.

Orlans updates the professional critique of labo-
ratory animal use issued by Andrew Rowan a decade ago
in his volume Of Mice, Models, & Men, still the stan-
dard reference on animal research up to 1984. In addition,
Orlans profiles the major organizations that defend ani-
mal-based biomedical research, extensively covers the
use of animals in science fairs and other student projects,
and perhaps most important, thoroughly reviews the
progress of biomedical research journals in policing the
treatment of animals during the experiments their pages
describe. A stickler for context, Orlans explains how an
early attempt by a prominent science editor to curb scien-
tific abuse of animals became distorted into a self-con-
scious effort to sanitize and desacralize any reference to
animals, including deletion of mentions of suffering and
even of gender. She goes on to note indications that the
trend is now in the opposite direction, despite noteworthy
holdouts––for instance, the prestigious Journal of the
American Medical Association.
More than any other writer who has addressed
vivisection at book length, Orlans realizes the influence
that journal editorial policies have upon the nature and
quality of scientific experimentation itself. Accordingly,
one of her six bottom-line recommendations is that critics
of animal-based biomedical research must “Heighten
awareness of animal issues among editors.” By this, she
does not mean that activists should picket editorial offices
or send editors complimentary copies of the works of
Hans Reusch. Rather, she means that scientists them-
selves must emphasize the importance of proper animal
care in insuring the validity of any animal experiments
that are performed; make plain, peer to peer, that animal
experiments may no longer be the best way to achieve
breaking-edge discovery; and that editorial failures to
address potential misuse of animals will bring rebuke
from the scientific community.
Orlans’ other recommendations are that the sci-
entific community should “adopt a meaningful pain scale,”
to assess and regulate the degree of animal suffering
involved in experiments; improve data collection, to
reduce the use of animals in redundant experiments; bar
invasive animal experimentation below the university
level; legally distinguish the use of animals in education
from use in testing and research; replace both pound
seizure and anti-pound seizure laws with what she calls an
“acute study” policy, which would allow the use of pound
animals in painless terminal experiments only; and
“Establish a national commission,” to set up and enforce
uniform ethical guidelines for institutional animal care and
use committees.
Abolitionists may object that Orlans is not an
abolitionist. This is beside the point. Orlans is inside the
biomedical research community. She has current, direct
knowledge that neither abolitionists nor reducers, refiners,
and replacers are going to get anywhere else. Her stature
insures that her message will be heard where it most needs
to be heard. It is finally worth pointing out that even in
proposing her “acute study” alternative to pound seizure,
Orlans is postulating the accomplishment of an important
abolitionist goal: the demise of the often unscrupulous
random-source animal dealer network. Replacing the ran-
dom-source dealers with a humanely regulated animal
supply will not lead directly to the abolition of animal use,
but it would certainly accelerate reductions of use, partic-
ularly in the most painful kinds of experiment.
––Merritt Clifton
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