Breakthrough in Feline Dementia Research May Actually End Up Killing More Cats Than It Saves
"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction."
-- Charles R. Magel.
A huge increase in the number of cats that are forced to donate their lives in the search to find a cure to Alzheimer's disease is expected in the wake of last week's announcement by a group of Scottish researchers that they have discovered a protein in the brains of elderly cats that is also found in people suffering from dementia. This protein, Beta-Amyloide, causes tangles inside the nerve cells of both cats and humans and thus prevents information from being properly processed by the brain.
As is the case with humans, the presence of thick, gritty plaques on the outside of elderly cats' brains has long been regarded as one indicator of dementia. The discovery of the protein not only confirms that cats suffer from a form of Alzheimer's but also that their central nervous system is being compromised in a manner similar to that of their human counterparts.
This is not surprising in that cats and humans afflicted with dementia exhibit many of the same symptoms. Whereas humans become forgetful, get lost in public places, and fail to recognize family members, old cats sometimes fail to recognize their owners, wander aimlessly, cry at night, exhibit aggressive behavior, and become incontinent.
The researchers, led by Danielle Gunn-Moore of the University of Edinburgh, found neurological abnormalities in the brains of seventeen out of nineteen cats that they dissected. These findings thus appear to support previous research that has suggested that up to twenty-eight per cent of cats between the ages of eleven and fourteen tend to develop at least one old age related behavioral problem. For felines over the age of fifteen the percentage jumps to more than fifty per cent.
Questions have already arisen concerning how the cats were acquired and how they were killed. For instance, a joint press release posted on the University of St. Andrews' website, which also participated in the study, claims that the cats "succumbed naturally to the disease," whereas Stern reported on December 6th that they were between the ages of sixteen weeks and fourteen years of age. (See "Vergessliche Katzen.")
The researchers are most likely lying. It strains credulity that they waited around for the cats to drop dead in order to cut them up. Moreover, it appears that they killed kittens as well as old cats. After all, it seems only logical that they would want to compare young and old brains for neurological wear and tear.
None of this however deterred The Scotsman of Edinburgh from declaring on December 6th that it was unlikely that cats would be experimented upon in order to find a cure for Alzheimer's because of physiological differences between them and humans. (See "Cats a Clue to Development of Alzheimer's in Humans.") This is, quite obviously, pure tosh.
Physiological differences have never deterred the scientific community from torturing and killing animals by the millions. For example, cats have long been used not only to study Alzheimer's, but also to investigate spinal cord injuries, AIDS, diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and vision impairments. (See photo above of a cat with an electrode implanted in its brain.)
Professor Charles R. Magel summed up the moral conundrum rather well when he once said, "Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction."
In spite of the thousands of cats that will be sacrificed in the race to find a cure to Alzheimer's, the researchers are nonetheless attempting to pass off their findings as being a great boon for cats because it will pave the way for the development of new drugs that will allow their dementia to be treated. This, they allege, will discourage cat owners from "putting down" their elderly cats.
All of that assumes that cat owners will be either willing or able to afford these new drugs once they come on the market. Regrettably, most cat owners are not only too cheap to buy the drugs but too lazy and selfish to attend to an aging cat with health problems. (See Cat Defender posts of December 7, 2006 and February 9, 2006 entitled, respectively, "After Nineteen Years of Service and Companionship, Ingrates at Iowa Library Murder Dewey Readmore Books" and "Newspaper Cat Named Tripod Is Killed Off by Journalists He Befriended in Vermont.")
Just as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, mental stimulation, a healthy diet, and companionship have been shown to retard the onset of dementia in both cats and humans. "If humans and their cats live in a poor environment with little company and stimulation, they are both at higher risk of dementia," Gunn-Moore conceded. "However, if the owner plays with the cat, it is good for both human and cat. A good diet enriched with antioxidants is also helpful in warding off dementia, so a cat owner sharing healthy meals like chicken and fish with their pet will benefit them both."
If Gunn-Moore truly believes what she is espousing, it would not only be more morally correct but also less expensive for the scientific community to invest its time and expertise in promoting healthy living for both cats and humans rather than conducting senility research. Public health initiatives, such as mass inoculations, clean air and water, and improvements in sanitation, have produced far greater benefits for the whole of mankind and the animal world alike than all the horrors and crimes ever committed in the name of science in animal research laboratories.
There is, however, a tremendous amount of money and glory in animal research. Besides, vivisectors love torturing and killing small animals. It makes them feel like they are gods although devils would be closer to the truth.
There is an even more glaring contradiction in Gunn-Moore's motivation for undertaking the study of feline dementia. She and her husband Frank, an Alzheimer's specialist at the University of St. Andrews, became interested in the topic when their cat, Cardhu (See photo above), was diagnosed with the ailment at the tender age of eight. Hopefully, they were not feeding it single malt scotch whiskey.
While it is certainly understandable that she would want to find a cure for this debilitating disease, it is equally hard to comprehend how any genuine cat lover could sacrifice thousands of totally innocent cats to the machinations of vivisectors no matter how lofty the goal. Just as cloning cannot restore life to a departed cat, torturing and killing cats in search of a cure for dementia is not going to bring back Cardhu.
Photos: Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive (cat with electrode in its brain) and University of St. Andrews (Cardhu).