Toxicologists As Animal Advocates?

Happy Rat

Happy Rat! FitOldDog likes rats to be happy, but not in my house, please.

An athlete needs to be physically, emotionally and ethically healthy (and fiscally, for that matter), to which end I suggest that Toxicologists, and other scientists working in the field of Toxicology (The Science of Poisons), would make the most effective animal advocates during chemical safety testing.

Frances Oldham Kelsey, a Regulatory Toxicologist, apparently single-handedly, prevented a major tragedy in the USA, while Europe was less fortunate, by refusing to approve the drug Thalidomide.

Frances Oldham Kelsey, a Regulatory Toxicologist, apparently single-handedly, prevented a major tragedy in the USA, while Europe was less fortunate, by refusing to approve the drug Thalidomide.

It’s ironic that, as a veterinarian, I entered the field of Toxicology, because of a love of  the French language, to transmogrify into a mouse killer.  My Francophilia transported me, via Geneva, Switzerland, to a 40-year career as a Toxicologic Pathologist [translation: the study of the nature of disease, as it pertains to the science of poisons.], which was fascinating. Ever since then a French friend of many years has repeatedly labeled me “A killer of little mice.” (“Tueurs des petites souris.”) That made me feel good about myself, NOT! At least it made me think more deeply about the issue, coming from the land of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and steak and kidney pies, as I do.

Never occurred to me to become a vegetarian, until recently!

Having been encouraged (pressured) to consider alternatives to animal testing, when it comes to chemical safety testing, I have been grappling with the problem for years – applied mathematics did allow me to escape the killing of rodents towards the end of my career in chemical safety testing, by the way; that felt great.

It is easy to say that we shouldn’t use animals for assessing chemical safety, but it’s not so easy if you want to avoid exposure of your family, friends, and the entire ecosystem of the planet, to dangerous man-made toxins. The discipline that works to protect us from such poisons is called Toxicology, and it is under constant pressure from animal rights advocates to reduce or eliminate animal testing. I suspect that the most effective outcomes, in this regard, will be the result of collaborations between these groups. In fact, I see this happening already, which is very encouraging.

Ignaz Semmelweis washing his hands

In spite of a carefully designed scientific study, which left no doubt as to the cause of sepsis in women and newborns during childbirth, Ignaz failed to convince his physician colleagues of the value of hand washing between a necropsy and baby delivery! Fools?

I have been posting my thoughts on this topic, on what I call my Scratch Pad Website,  at The Thoughtful Athlete.

New scientific methods will help to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, animal testing, eventually, but it really comes down to people.

Great science will not be enough: Progress is also dependent upon the will of all stakeholders in the chemical safety pipeline to accept the necessary changes. My proposal is that every toxicology team (Comprising: Animal Care, Toxicologists, Statisticians, Bioinformaticians, Pathologists, Chemists, Biochemists, Pharmacologists, Management, and many more) elect one member of the group to be the Animal Advocate.

Toxicologists as Animal Advocates?

The function of Animal Advocates would be to challenge the necessity of each and every proposed animal test, by championing alternative approaches that do not impair the ability of the team to protect human health.

No small task, my friends.

In the meantime, I will continue to scratch my head, as I seek effective solutions to this really tricky problem.


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.