Letter: Human benefit not a defense

Yale professor Marina Picciotto’s defense of her brutal experiments is as unconvincing as it is revealing (“Animal research saves lives,” Jan. 28). Picciotto seems to think that if she is able to point to any piece of information that currently eludes the scientific community, she has then justified the torment that animals are routinely exposed to in the name of science.

That there are facts about addiction that remain unknown in no way justifies the torture — drilling holes into the heads of animals, subjecting them to electrical shocks, addicting them to drugs and then decapitating them — that Picciotto conducts in her lab. Despite her self-serving exaggerations, it is true that benefits for humans have been derived from the abuse of animals — much in the manner that centuries of similar archaic practices have provided some result to an inordinate cost of suffering. It is time we renounce Picciotto’s methods just as we have renounced those.

We may not know every nuance of addiction but it is well established that animals are individuals leading their own lives. They are not mere pieces of laboratory equipment that can be used as Marina Picciotto sees fit.

Joseph Klett

Jan. 29

The writer is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Sociology.


  • Benefit of the Doubt

    I'm honestly curious what all these people who are writing letters angry about the treatment of these animals would do if, say, they found a mouse in their apartment right now. Mouse-traps? Obviously bad, since that's painful and deadly. Poison equally so. Kicking them outside in the winter? Cruel, certainly, especially with scarce food. So what would you do? I mean, unless we strive to harm no living thing - no eating meat, no squishing a spider, no getting rid of the ants in your kitchen - I would argue that the occasional and regrettable animals experiments, designed to help advance our own knowledge of things (including medicine), is certainly more agreeable than killing a spider because, well, it's in your bathroom and is a spider.

    Now with that out of the way, having met Dr. Picciotto in the past, I must say she is a warm, friendly person who no doubt does her absolute best to ensure the animals in her care are treated as well as possible. I'm sure most of us, including her, would love to see the day come when we can replace animals with (for example) computational models in which no harm is done to a living creature, but the fact is we're not there yet. Frankly, if I have to make the tough decision between hurting an animal because I know the research might lead to better treatments for, say, cancer, depression or drug addiction, I'm going to do it. I know people who have dealt with all three of those situations, and I know the progress we've made with them in the past few years alone, so we must be doing something right.

    Also, since the writer of this letter is in the Dept. of Sociology, I'll step into a field I know very little about, too. A famous ethnographic work by Margaret Mead on the Samoan culture caused a fair amount of shock and criticism here, and led to a number of stereotypes, some of which persist today. While stereotyping an entire culture might not cause physical harm, many minorities can happily explain how the harm is still very real and effects their lives on a constant basis. Perhaps its time we stop allowing sociologists to 'study' cultures for a few months and then write up their thoughts, since invariably the nuances they miss lead to confusion and misunderstandings for a great number of people. The benefit to our enlightened, Western understanding isn't worth the mischaracterization of other cultures that ensues!

  • Karen

    Is Ms Picciooto really warm and friendly or does she act this way. She made statements about the value of Animal-Reserch that are not supported by scientific facts,. Also, a friend of mine has contacted her several times in the past to give the scientific evidence to support her statements in a public debate with experts from http://www.curedisease.com and she was not interested. Taxpayers have the right to decide if medical research dollars are being spent wisely. Her refusal is not warm or friendly, it shows a lack of obligation to patients, consumers, and science itself.

  • Check your facts #1

    To: Benefit of the Doubt

    Your sad attempt at insulting the writer who is in Sociology is horribly inaccurate. Check your facts next time - Margaret Mead was Cultural Anthropologist ethnographer. Sociological ethnographers shun classic ethnographic methods such as M. Mead's.

    Also, your insult really has no relevance to the discussion. You'd be better off just stating that animal lives matter less to you, and if their death/experimental use can benefit humans than you are fine with it.

  • Minors

    I think that minors would add to the liberal arts education. If you are interested in classics and chemistry, its nearly impossible to major in both -- having a minor would allow one to pursue their professional and academic interests. I hope that this resolution gets approved by the university!