A response to Cruelty Free International

Several of you may have seen an article this week by Cruelty Free Inernational called “Why is a Scottish university deliberately causing distress to seals?” written by Carla Owen.

In this article she claims that St Andrews University are blasting seals with sound equivalent to that of a jet engine which makes them “leap out of the water in fear”.

She has a point at first glance. The researchers used sounds up to 170 decibels which is indeed higher than a jet engine which is around 140 decibels. The problem with this is it equivalent to saying “It’s 30 degrees outside”. In the UK we’re breaking out suncream and in the US people are dressing warmly. It’s all a matter of scale.

Sounds in the water are drastically different to sounds in the air and without depth measurements they are not telling the full story. For example, a blue whale makes sounds up to 188 decibels but how often has anyone heard a blue whale? Has anyone ever said “No, I won’t buy this house it’s near a blue whale route, they’ll keep me awake”

I’m not trying to be rude to Cruelty Free Intenational or Carla Owens but the University of St Andrews is subject to strict scrutiny by the Home Office and to regular random inspections of facilities and animals. All animal experiments are subjected to an Ethical Approval process before anyone lays eyes on an animal. The researchers and the inspectors are people at the top of their respective fields and one would suggest that possibly Cruelty Free Interntional has made an error here and jumped in front of a bullet that was heading for a tree.

Now everyone makes mistakes so lets not judge her too harshly, I’m sure she is well intentioned. The problem with articles like this, from all manner of campaign groups, is that they don’t seem to do their homework and seem to be outraged for no reason. I realise Cruelty Free International is against all animal experiments. However, these experiments being done so that sonar and wind turbines are made to avoid similarity to animal sounds and ultimately help them.

The article ends with the phrase “Why are the university keeping the public in the dark?” That’s easy, they’re not. I’ve read a reply from one of the researchers explaining the sound issues and is she very happy to address any conerns, could it be that maybe the researchers weren’t asked? Furthermore if the Home Office are satisfied and all other ethical hoops are jumped though why does the university need to justify itself to anyone else?

By all means be outraged at animal cruelty, I encourage that. But maybe just take a minute to understand the issues before diving in headfirst. It just makes research more difficult without any reason.

The full article is here should you with to partake in the outrage.


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Scott Thomson
Recent ecology and conservation graduate. My blog is here https://wildchatblog.wordpress.com/
Scott Thomson

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