slideshow widget

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Congress once tried to end science

Throughout the years there have been many people who put animals and things before human beings.  Obviously we want to make sure animals are treated humanely, although scientists also must be able to use animals to test new drugs that one day may be used to the many diseases that plague the human race.

Perhaps one of the first attempts to put animals before humans was in 1899 when U.S. Senator Gallinger proposed a bill before Congress that caused an outcry among the medical profession.  In January of 1900 Dr. W.W. Keen wrote the following letter to address member physicians around the U.S. of this "menace" to "scientific progress": (1, page 38)
The cause of humanity and of scientific progress is seriously menaced. Senator Gallinger has again introduced into Congress the bill for the "Further Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the District of Columbia," which he has so strenuously and misguidedly advocated in the last two Congresses. It is Senate Bill No. 34. Twice the Committee on the District of Columbia has, also unfortunately and misguidedly, reported the bill with a favorable consideration. It is speciously drawn to seem as if it were intended only in the interest of prevention of cruelty to animals, but the real object is twofold: 1, to prohibit vivisection, and, 2, to aid the passage of similar bills in all the state legislatures.
This is a 113 year old example (113 years to the day) of how Congress never seems to stop trying to make laws regarding things they do not duly understand.  And I understand that lawmakers propose such bills with a heavy heart, and a love for animals.  Although I do not think they understand the unintended consequences of such action.

Could you imagine if such a law were passed in the year 2000.  Many of the medicines that save lives, including epinephrine and Ventolin, would never have been tested on animals first to see their effects.  They would have had to go immediately to tests on humans.  Does this mean that some people value animals more so than human beings?  So it seems.

We see similar such actions today, as this past Thanksgiving Paul McCartney recommended to Americans not to eat a Turkey.  Yet does Paul understand that if it were not for the eating of animals that he wouldn't exist today.

Dr. Keen continues: (1, page 38)
It hardly needs to be pointed out that this would seriously interfere with or even absolutely stop the experimental work of the Bureau of Animal Industry and the three medical departments of the Government, the Army, the Navy, and the Marine-Hospital Service. The animals themselves might well cry out to be saved from their friends. No more humane work can be done than to discover the means of the prevention of diseases which have ravaged our flocks and herds. All those who raise or own animals, such as horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, etc., are vitally interested in the preservation of their health and the prevention of disease.
I'm not on a mission by this post to make a statement, I just thought this was an interesting battle.  It was a time when the medical profession was making rapid gains.  It was a time when medicines like epinephrine, theophylline and cortisone were discovered, and perhaps if this law was passed these discoveries may not have been made.

Keen mentions this:   (1, page 38)
The inestimable value of these scientific researches as to the prevention and care of disease among human beings it is superfluous to point out. Modern surgery and the antitoxin treatment of diphtheria alone would justify all the vivisection ever done.
And he undoubtedly was right.  Yet this was the beginning of the progressive era of government, where many poorly managed industries were forced to clean up or shut of by law.  Much of this change was needed.  To prevent the medical profession, and the scientific community, from performing research by use of animals was not a good idea, as you can see by the letter from Dr. Keen.

  1. Brown, John E., et al, Editorial, The Columbus Medical Journal, A magazine of medicine and surgery, Issued by the Columbus Medical Publishing Company, Vol. XXIV, No. 1, January 5, 1900, 

No comments: