June 8, 2022
It is not new news that individuals and groups engaged in political campaigns against animal research rarely miss an opportunity to amplify their message and promote their agenda by jumping on current world events. A look at PETA’s webpage, for example, will tell you about PETA Germany’s efforts to save pets in war-torn Ukraine and, for PRIDE month, an article titled “A Quick History Lesson: How Queer Icons Teamed Up With PETA to Save Animals.”
PETA also jumped at the chance to capitalize on the media coverage and public fear about an infectious disease, monkeypox, which is currently in the news. Monkeypox is a rare disease that is spread by a virus. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “Monkeypox symptoms are similar to but milder than smallpox symptoms.” For many people, the infection results in “a disease course mild and self-limiting in the absence of specific treatment. The CDC warns that the prognosis varies, however, depending on other factors. The CDC and World Health Organization provide accurate and detailed information on the disease, current outbreak, transmission, prevention, and treatment.
In contrast, PETA has used the outbreak to highlight its own campaigns against research. While not surprising if confined to PETA’s web page, it is disturbing to see these same claims in widely read and reputable media, sometimes in contradictory ways. As noted in a recent Guardian editorial on monkeypox, for example:
“It is, in fact, more likely to come from rodents, from eating undercooked and infected meat, and from handling infected animal fur or skins. Its transmission between humans is mainly through close contact, c This is why it is spread through sexual contact.However, it is not a sexually transmitted disease, but a virus that can also be spread by coughing, sharing laundry or touching infected skin. Its exotic-sounding name is neither accurate nor helpful.” (emphasis added)
Yet in another recent Guardian article, we see the statement: “Monkeypox, a viral cousin of smallpox currently spreading in the United States and Europe, has long been associated with primates being shipped to research labs.” The following is not a statement or source containing factual information about the current outbreak, but rather a message from someone representing PETA in its campaign against primate research, Lisa Jones-Engel. “’There are so many monkeys flocking to US airports of entry,’ Jones-Engel says. Last week, for example, she heard from a whistleblower about an EgyptAir cargo flight that took off from Cambodia with a hold full of “almost certainly sick” long-tailed macaques, which were transported by truck 1800 miles across country to Texas after landing.
The danger of spreading false information about threats to public health is obvious. As the Guardian notes in its editorial, “Communication is key.”
The fight against disinformation is of crucial importance. It is also hard and endless work that requires the time, expertise and sustained efforts of many individuals and groups. To successfully reach a large audience, it takes a lot to amplify and spread factual information through their circles, networks and listeners.
To Speaking of research we are grateful for the efforts of Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) to combat the blatant misinformation campaign surrounding monkeypox. AMP writes:
“While monkeypox – like all other disease risks – should be taken seriously, Americans for Medical Progress is aware of the campaigns by animal rights groups to weaponize this limited epidemic. communications seeking to scare an already traumatized public, falsely suggesting that monkeypox came from research animals, they also offered to immediately end animal studies to “eliminate the threat” they strongly promote. attempts are the worst form of fearmongering, and they also defy logic.
Several disease epidemics have been prevented, diminished and even ended thanks to the vaccines created through the necessary study of animals. Examples include chickenpox, smallpox, diphtheria, poliomyelitis and Ebola. In the case of COVID-19, tens of thousands of deaths have been prevented with currently available vaccines. Therefore, the proposal by opponents of animal research to end animal studies would actually increase the risk, not decrease it.
Americans for Medical Progress
What can you do to help? Go read the AMP statement. The statement is available at this link. Share the statement with others. AMP generously invites organizations “to share or adopt these messages as appropriate in their own public statements and responses.” Accept the offer and help reach a wider audience with accurate facts and information.