Care of Nigel Osborne

The National Post on-line published a story in November 2009 revealing the Department of National Defence (out of a location in Alberta) was using pigs for experiments in an effort to help trauma experts treat wounded soldiers better in a combat theatre.

The experiments characterized are varied and include inducing head trauma on pigs to simulate human brain injuries and dismemberment or sudden amputation to simulate limb loss due to IED devices and proximity explosions. Needless to say, a few moments of visualization of such experiments will cause any relatively compassionate person to halt what they are doing for at least a few moments to gather their composure.

Outraged (as I often am on issues regarding animal cruelty), I wrote to the Honourable Peter McKay, Minister of Defence for Canada. Unexpectedly, and to his credit, he responded (see below documenting the e-mail exchanges). I have since enlisted PCRM and PETA to provide me the plethora of research information and data supporting the superior alternatives to swine and animal abuse for trauma testing. Once my wife and I are able to collate and digest all the information we will prepare a presentation. Once completed, we will contact the doctor at the DND (whose name and contact info Mr. McKay supplied me) and will arrange a presentation (assuming this person is agreeable).

Keep your fingers crossed that we will succeed!

Email History with Mr. McKay

Dear Mr. Osborne:

Thank you for your e-mail concerning alternatives to using swine in scientific research at the Department of National Defence. Please accept my apology for this delay in responding.

I appreciate your position against animal usage and commend you for your interest in developing alternative research methods. Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Suffield has shown leadership through significantly reducing the use of animals as test subjects over the past years, in addition to strictly following the Canadian Council on Animal Care’s moral and ethical requirements regarding the use of animals in research and ensuring that the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, and

refinement) of animal usage are fully respected. DRDC also has staff whose primary research interests are finding viable alternatives to the animal model, with some of this work now internationally recognized.

We remain committed to considering alternative non-invasive models capable of increasing our understanding and ability to save lives, both in theatres of war and in the national context. The necessary standard is that the effectiveness of any such model must be validated through peer review by the international scientific community. Should you know of alternatives to the animal model that meet this standard, please feel free to contact Dr. Kurtis H. Simpson, Director of Personnel, DRDC, whose directorate deals with combat casualty care research issues. Dr. Simpson can be reached at 613-947-7810 or at simpson.k@forces.gc.ca.

I trust the information I have provided is of assistance, and thank you for your interest in Department of National Defence research commitments.

Sincerely,

Peter MacKay

Minister of National Defence

—–Original Message—–

Sent: Tuesday, 18, May, 2010 09:33 AM

To: +MCU@MCU@Ottawa-Hull

Subject: RE: New e-mail address: Pig proxies root out solutions for soldiers

Importance: High

 Dear Mr. McKay,

 On March 11th, 2010 I replied to an e-mail response you sent me regards the enclosed subject matter (please see below). My e-mail contained an offer to research alternative methods to the DND’s practise of using pig proxies to solve medical trauma issues for soldiers and present it to the relevant team within your department.

As I neglected to provide you forwarding e-mail address (which changed shortly after sending my offer) your response may simply have been returned as “undeliverable”. Thus I am providing another, current e-mail address in hopes this will reach you and you might consider my offer.

Many thanks,

Nigel Osborne

 

Dear Mr. McKay,

Thank you so much for your response – I appreciate that you are an extraordinarily busy man! Therefore, I propose the following:

Allow me to research alternative methods that are scientifically valid and will achieve the same goals and extract the same information that these experiments would achieve without the use of animals and/or animal vivisection, and I will come to Ottawa to present these alternatives to the staff responsible for management and oversight of the research in question. I would of course require a brief so I would understand the parameters of this research.

This would be of no cost to your department or the Canadian government.

Regards,

Nigel Osborne

 

—–Original Message—–

Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2010 2:36 PM

Subject: RE: Pig proxies root out solutions for soldiers, National Post

– Monday, November 23rd, 2009

 

Dear Mr. Osborne:

Thank you for your e-mail concerning the use of swine for research and training at Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC). Please accept my apology for this delay in responding.

I appreciate your position on this important matter and fully realize that many differing and legitimate perspectives on the use of animals in such contexts do exist, covering a broad spectrum of opinions.

I further recognize that from your standpoint, any statement indicating that all testing and research done by the Department of National Defence

(DND) fully adheres to the strict requirements set out by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is nonetheless an insufficient response. Even so, the Department’s unwavering compliance to such legal requirements is extremely important and worth emphasizing. The CCAC establishes national norms on the use of vertebrates in research, teaching, and testing that promote and ensure responsibility, accountability, and ethics in these matters. DND fully supports and consistently abides by these norms as a means of ensuring the humane treatment of all animal subjects.

I would like to add information not reported in Mr. Blackwell’s National Post article. DRDC scientists clearly recognize the sensitive nature of their work and the need to ensure that ethical review and stringent animal care standards are developed through a thorough and independent process. Specifically, they commissioned a review of their protocols by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. This review included access to and review of DRDC facilities and programs. DRDC also contracted an independent ethical review by the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences as well as the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia. The strict protocols in use are designed to reduce the suffering of any animal subject through the use of anaesthesia and the constant supervision of trained staff.

In order to satisfy DND’s critical duty to care obligations, the Canadian Forces must ensure that its members have the highest standard of health, protection, and medical treatment. This goal necessitates ongoing research and development. While we differ in our opinions concerning the use of swine in research and training in support of members of the Canadian Forces, we do share respect for our soldiers, and I wish to sincerely thank you for that.

 

Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Peter MacKay

Minister of National Defence

________________________________

 

Sent: Tuesday, 24, November, 2009 10:54 AM

 

Subject: FW: Pig proxies root out solutions for soldiers, National Post

– Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Importance: High

 

 

Sent: November 24, 2009 10:52 AM

 

Subject: RE: Pig proxies root out solutions for soldiers, National Post

– Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Importance: High

Dear Mr. McKay,

I am responding to a story that appeared in the National Post on Monday, November 23rd, 2009 entitled: “Pig proxies root out solutions for soldiers”.

It is with dismay and outrage that I am compelled to send this e-mail and demand an immediate halt to such an unnecessary, abhorrent and cruel practice. Given the finite financial military resources, I have no doubt they could be reallocated to other uses, research or equipment that would result in far more substantial gain than what can be achieved in the inhumane vivisection being conducted at the DRDC in Alberta and elsewhere.

Undoubtedly, I will receive replies to this e-mail espousing the benefits of such experimentation in defense of our soldiers sacrifices. Make no mistake, I more than most people have profound respect for what our soldiers do and desire that they suffer no more than the non-human animals who unfortunately will be sacrificing their lives through this act of cruelty. Furthermore, I am sure I will receive assurances that Federal animal welfare guidelines are being met to help minimize the animals suffering. Such responses are insufficient.

What must be considered here is the moral and ethical implications of such experimentation. The basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment; it requires equal consideration. Non-human animals have a right to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation. When deciding on a being’s rights, the question is not ‘can they reason?’ nor ‘can they talk?’ but ‘can they suffer?'” The capacity for suffering is the vital characteristic that gives a being the right to equal consideration. The capacity for suffering is not just another characteristic like the capacity for language or higher mathematics. All non-human animals have the ability to suffer in the same way and to the same degree that humans do. They feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and maternal instincts. Whenever we consider doing something that would interfere with their needs, we are morally obligated to take them into account.

Only prejudice allows us to deny others the rights that we expect to have for ourselves. Whether it’s based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or species, prejudice is morally unacceptable. If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why eat a pig? Dogs and pigs have the same capacity to feel pain, but it is prejudice based on species that allows us to think of one animal as a companion and the other as dinner.

You may claim to be an animal welfarist in reassuring me that these pigs will be treated humanely, however, what you are really saying is their interests can be traded away as long as the human benefits are thought to justify the sacrifice. However, non-human animals, like human animals, have interests that cannot be sacrificed or traded away to benefit others.

A non-human animal’s inability to understand and adhere to our rules is as irrelevant as a child’s or as that of a person with a severe developmental disability. Non-human animals are not always able to choose to change their behaviours, but adult human beings have the intelligence and ability to choose between behaviours that hurt others and behaviours that do not hurt others. When given the choice, we are morally obligated to choose compassion.

I implore you to stop these experiments.

Respectfully yours,

Nigel Osborne