A graduate from our Humane Education Certificate Program just emailed me the link to a new coloring book produced by the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research. It’s called The Lucky Puppy, and it’s not simply a coloring book: it’s simple propaganda. Coming from a supposed scientific organization, it is also egregious.
In the story, two children are sad because their puppy, Lucky, is sick. Mom and children take the puppy to a veterinarian who gives him the appropriate medicine. The curious children wonder how the vet knew what medicine to give Lucky, and the vet explains:
“A long time ago, a research scientist found the medicine I gave Lucky. I’ll tell you how. She did research in a lab. A lab is a place where scientists work, and it is short for laboratory. She had mice in her lab. They lived in nice, clean cages. They were fed good food. But they were sick with the same disease Lucky had. She gave the mice many different medicines. At first, none of the medicine she tried made the mice better. But she kept trying. Then one day she tried a new medicine that helped the mice. So, she did more research using that medicine. She tried a little of it on one group of mice. But that was too little. They stayed sick. She tried a lot of it on the second group, but that was too much! They got even sicker. At last, she tried just the right amount of medicine on a third group. They all got better! It turned out the the medicine not only was good for sick mice. It also was good for sick puppies, like Lucky….”
By the end of the story, the little boy wants to be a veterinarian to help animals, but, clearly even better, the little girl wants to be a research scientist because, as she says, “Then I can help animals and people!”
What is so terribly galling about this propaganda is that it is promoting science through lies, distortion, and manipulation – the opposite of what science is. Science is meant to be rigorous, factual, and truthful. Scientists are supposed to be honest and committed to accuracy.
The Lucky Puppy would have children believe that mice happen to get sick with diseases, and that helpful scientists work diligently to cure them, helping those suffering animals, as well as people, at the same time. The Lucky Puppy omits the part about actually giving mice –- or the many other animals used in labs, including apes and monkeys, dogs, pigs, ferrets, cats, etc. — diseases, as well as starving them; burning them; practicing surgery on them; addicting them to drugs and alcohol; testing cosmetics, cleaning products, and industrial chemicals on their abraded skin, and force-feeding them huge quantities of the same in order to determine the fatal dose; using them in military research to test chemical weapons and explosives; and ultimately killing each and every one of them (with the exception of some chimpanzees, a few of whom have been allowed to live out the remainder of their lives in sanctuaries).
You may believe that it is ethical to experiment on animals no matter how much suffering it may cause them. Or you may believe that some animal experimentation is justified while others is not. Or you may be opposed to animal experimentation entirely. This issue is contentious and controversial and deserves to be debated honestly by adolescents (not young children) and adults. There are important ethical and scientific issues involved in vivisection that should be considered carefully, honestly, and deeply. So when a pro-animal research lobby turns what should be an issue in education into pure indoctrination, we should all be outraged.
This is why we need humane education, taught age-appropriately with a commitment to the 3 Cs: fostering curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. That a pro-science organization would choose blatant manipulation of little children over critical thinking is appalling. But I will use The Lucky Puppy in humane education programs, nonetheless; I’ll use it to turn help youth and adults become better critical thinkers and engaged citizens.