Animal-Rights Activists -- and Others -- Respond

It is ironic that Frederick Goodwin chose Alzheimer's disease to illustrate the need for animal research {Second Opinion, May 29}, because in reality there is no good animal model for this disease.

Several years ago, the president of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Foundation wrote of the difficulty of working with animals and stressed the need for autopsy and clinical studies of human patients.

Indeed, on the same day that Goodwin's commentary appeared, the media reported a major advance in understanding the abnormal plaques that form in the brains of Alzheimer's patients -- plaques that were isolated in human autopsies and studied through in vitro techniques. Neal D. Barnard, MD President Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The appalling cruelties exposed by the laboratory break-ins to date prove that a white lab coat no more denotes humaneness than a fat bankbook denotes integrity.

Let the research community unlock the laboratory doors and show the public what happens to nearly 20 million animals a year. Carla Bennett People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

The recent commentary on animal experiments in medical research cites examples of substances discovered, through animal experimentation, to be beneficial to humans. Some substances, however, that have been tested on animals and deemed safe have later been proved to cause extremely dangerous reactions in the human body.

One example is diethylstilbestrol -- DES -- the anti-miscarriage drug later found to cause cancers in children of women who were prescribed DES. In the opposite case, certain drugs, such as penicillin and aspirin, are harmful to some animals yet are of great benefit to humans.

Animal rights supporters are not against medical progress or the eradication of deadly or crippling diseases. They are against the infliction of harm on non-human species. Andrea Weckerle

McLean

A distinction should be made between animals in medical research and animals in product testing. Is it still necessary to continue animal testing of products that have been safely used for many years?

The animal protection movement is concerned with abuse and unnecessary product testing. Susan C. Wagner

Bowie

Recently, I happened to read about eye-cell transplants on rats afflicted with a genetic disease that leaves them blind. The transplants stopped the gradual loss of sight in rats that had retinal degeneration, and these early experiments hold out hope for many people who have one of the disorders that lead to loss of vision.

Treatment for people who suffer from conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration or Usher's syndrome may be only five to 10 years away, unless animal-rights activists, who of course can see and hear perfectly, trash the testing labs.

With regard to the handicapped and terminally ill, their motto should be: "Let them suffer; let them die. They're only people."

David Irvine

Alexandria

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