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My Pet Peeve -- (Non)-Reporting on Lab Animal Pain

I’ve already written how it irks me that so few scientific publications include good detail of...

Pain and Laboratory Animals

Hot off the press: the National Research Council’s Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory...

Single Drug Lethal Injection --- For Animals

On December 8, the state of Ohio broke with tradition and killed a condemned prisoner with a single...

Scientists Discover Why Suffocation Causes Fear (in Mice)

As a veterinarian for research animals, I have an odd job, and part of the oddness is the amount...

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Larry CarboneRSS Feed of this column.

Veterinarian in laboratory animal care, blogging on the animals behind the science. Author of "What Animals Want: Expertise and Advocacy in Laboratory Animal Welfare Policy" [2004, Oxford Univeristy... Read More »


The NY Times headline on Nov 18, 2009, read: “Why Exercise Makes you Less Anxious

FOXP2 is known as “the language gene.” When it goes wrong, as it famously did for a family in England, it can cause severe deficits in language ability. In the “KE family" in England, for instance, several family members carry a defective mutation of the gene and have trouble with grammar and writing, and with making the right face and mouth movements for normal speech.  There’s a nice write-up on the gene at “Not Exactly Rocket Science” 

As a mouse vet, my job is to suggest refinements to make cancer studies as easy as possible on the mice. 

In 1971, Richard Nixon signed a bill that launched the American “war on cancer.”  That war has sent millions of mice to their deaths. Survival has improved for some cancers; not so much for others. The War on Cancer is still on, and mice remain its conscripts.

So, I told you that I have an odd job.

Though I’m a veterinarian, I work at a large human medical center, behind the scenes, in the animal laboratories. Few of my friends are scientists or medical people, so they don’t always understand how a human medical center could keep a vet employed ---- or a team of 6 vets and a dozen veterinary technicians. After all, if the point is to make animals sick so you can study their diseases, wouldn’t a vet be beside the point?

Fact: virtually no new medicine or surgery will come to the American public any time soon unless it has first made the rounds of animal laboratories. Every piece of medical news you read is but a few steps removed from animal studies.  And yet, despite their central role in medical progress, despite the efforts of animal rights advocates to shine a light on these animals, their role remains mostly unknown, unremarked, unthanked.