On two vegan websites yesterday I came across an article about an experiment done on rats that indicated an addictive quality to fatty foods:
Not surprisingly, the rats that gorged themselves on the human food quickly became obese. But their brains also changed. By monitoring implanted brain electrodes, the researchers found that the rats in the third group gradually developed a tolerance to the pleasure the food gave them and had to eat more to experience a high.
They began to eat compulsively, to the point where they continued to do so in the face of pain. When the researchers applied an electric shock to the rats’ feet in the presence of the food, the rats in the first two groups were frightened away from eating. But the obese rats were not. “Their attention was solely focused on consuming food,” says Kenny.
In previous studies, rats have exhibited similar brain changes when given unlimited access to cocaine or heroin. And rats have similarly ignored punishment to continue consuming cocaine, the researchers note.
The information about how foods may produce drug-like brain responses is certainly interesting. It could help explain why quitting meat, dairy, and other fatty foods can be difficult for many people. Perhaps vegan advocates should act like the people who work to help end drug addictions. Speaking from experience as a former cigarette smoker, I can certainly agree that there are similarities between quitting smoking and going vegan.
But it bothered me to see this article on vegan websites. Here’s why:
- The experiments were cruel: implanted brain electrodes, electric shocks… and most likely they killed and dissected the rats.
- The article explains, “research [on animals] may not directly translate to humans“. They tortured rats, possibly for naught. The information gleaned from these experiments may not be useful in any way other than to satisfy sadists’ curiosity.
I absolutely devoured the information contained in The China Study and I highly recommend that anyone interested in nutrition read that book. However, Dr. Campbell defends animal testing in the early pages of the book. His rationalizations are flimsy. Even though the book as a whole is filled with compelling evidence about human nutrition gained from looking at human data (not rat data), the fact that he can so callously brush off the serious ethical and practical problems of animal testing made me wonder about his integrity.
What’s more addictive? Fatty foods or the scientific community’s obsession with torturing rats?