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A Dark Side to Alternative Medicine

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  • A Dark Side to Alternative Medicine

    Chinese Medicine Driving Rhinos to Extinction

    Biologists and game park officials in South Africa say that rhinos are being slaughtered at the rate of one each day, and that most of these animals are killed to feed a demand for traditional Chinese medicines and cures.

    According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 340 rhinos have been killed so far this year in South Africa, and the problem is getting worse. Last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature issued a report on endangered species, concluding that the western black rhino is now officially extinct. Two other species, the black and white rhinos, are also seriously endangered and could be gone from the wild within a few years.

    The rhinos are being poached to extinction largely for their horns, which are sometimes sold as trophies or decorations, but more often are ground up and used in traditional Chinese medicine. Sometimes the powder is added to food, or brewed in a tea, as some people believe that African rhino horns are a powerful aphrodisiac and panacea. These animals are not being killed for meat or to control their population, but because of misinformation and superstition.

    It's not just rhinos that face this threat. Throughout Asia, the penises, claws and bones of various animals — including tigers, rhinos, and bears — are sold in folk medicine shops to cure everything from arthritis to asthma, impotence to cancer. Some people believe that tiger bones and claws can cure a variety of maladies, including back pain, arthritis and fatigue.

    In July, officials along the border between Russia and China intercepted a truck carrying more than 1,000 bear claws and 26 elk lips — weighing 143 pounds in total — that were destined for medicine shops across Asia. The bears and elk were most likely left to bleed to death after their paws and lips were sliced off by the poachers.

    Shark populations have also declined dramatically in recent years, due in part to the demand for shark fins, eaten as a delicacy and used in Chinese medicine. The live, but finless, sharks are often thrown back into the ocean to die.

    There is no scientific evidence that any of these animal body parts treat or cure any disease or medical problem, but old beliefs die hard. The threat to Earth's biodiversity doesn't just come from pollution and human demand for food, and the extinction of the rhino reveals a dark side to belief in alternative medicines.

    This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries, then join us on Facebook.

    Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His website is Benjamin Radford.

  • #2
    Thank you for bringing this up really. Alternative medicine is indeed a slap on the face of modern Science, the enlightenment and the Age of Reason.
    It never ceases to amaze me how some people still rely on this hocus pocus instead of the searing light of science.
    China already has a terrible human rights record and now we find out they are slaughtering innocent Rhinos.
    There are no words to describe how awful this is.
    China and other countries involved in this are such detestable nations.
    Last edited by Sniffy the Atheist; November 20th, 2011, 07:00 PM.


    • #3
      Originally posted by zaith
      I can't agree more with your points. Nevertheless, given that the medical well-beings, welfare and health cares of human beings cannot even be certainly, humanely and honestly safeguarded, guaranteed and assured by the modern medical world today such as the several few examples of the dishonest medical practices mentioned in my previous posts, and thus, what can actually be done to practically and realistically safeguard the rights and lives of the animals.

      By the way, naturally anyone would surely agree that human rights to their very welfare, well-beings and health cares should undeniably and unquestionably come first before any animal rights. And hence, if there are flaws in the related medical system to achieve those purposes of effectively protecting the human beings, then just what more can be said and done about protecting the animals ?
      Thank you Zaith but I am a little confused, yes there are some dishonest doctors and scientists but surely we can't use that to deny the power of the searing light of the scientific method. Alternative medicine just does not live up to the rigorous standards demanded by evidence based medicine. Most studies have been poorly designed and the best evidence shows us that Alternative Medicine works no better than a placebo.
      China has a long brutal history of human and animal abuse.


      • #4
        You have brought up a lot points zaith. I am not picking on a single culture or tradition. The problem is alternative medicine and its proponents operate on a number of fallacies. It doesn't matter how popular a particular treatment is, people's subjective feelings about a particular treatment too are not all there is to it. Someone might claim to feel better after a homeopathic or accupuncture treatment, but their underlying physiology could still be messed up. Alternative medicine is considered Alternative and Complementary because it doesn't have (1) any plausibility and (2) good replicable evidence. Some treatments like Homeopathy in which dilute solutions with no active ingredient are used to treat medical conditions are outright strange and must be shunned others like accupuncture are potentially dangerous and must be shunned too because it invokes magical life forces (Qi) that have never been detected. Alternative medicine also lacks rigorous regulations.


        • #5
          Originally posted by zaith
          But hey, as to the so-called "the power of the searing light of the scientific method" , well, one very realistic and practical issue arising here is such that, for all the related 100 % fully verified and officially accredited cures and therapies invented and developed by the searing light of the scientific method / FDA-approved ones, well, when some of them just turn out to be simply imperfect, highly risky, medically disadvantageous....
          It is true that many established treatments have turned out to be wrong treatments in terms of efficacy as well as safety. But we should also remember that many of these treatments were implemented on a poor scientific basis. And it was proper use of the scientific method that ultimately demonstrated that these treatments were inefficient/unsafe.


          • #6
            Originally posted by zaith
            By the way, naturally anyone would surely agree that human rights to their very welfare, well-beings and health cares should undeniably and unquestionably come first before any animal rights.
            Sorry Zaith, I cannot agree with you on this point.

            I support conservation of maximum global biodiversity at the cost of human population, and even human suffering. I'm not being a hypocrite about it either: if I knew that I could sacrifice my life to preserve viable wild populations of some species of endangered macrofauna for at least the next few hundred years, I'd do so proudly. Likewise, I wouldn't shoot an endangered white rhino for the sake my own health, or a loved one's health (though perhaps if they were actively being gored). I recognise there are further complications to this position, such as not knowing the victims, being far removed from third world suffering, and so on, but let's just say that I can rationalise it to myself.

            I do not believe there are any 'innate' human rights beyond those social rights we grant one another, and I most certainly do not grant any culture the right to knowingly endanger other species (especially macrofauna) under any but the most extreme circumstances.

            But let's not pretend that it's just the Chinese: cultures all over the world are contributing to the loss of species, whether directly or indirectly.

            Just check out the details of palm oil to see how almost every person in western society has played a role in the near extinction of the Sumatran tiger and Orangutan in the wild.

            Why should so many other animals be driven to extinction just because humans can't keep it in their pants? The use of endangered species in medicine of dubious efficacy is just the icing on the selfish-cake.
            Last edited by Epimetheus; November 27th, 2011, 10:58 PM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by zaith
              As such, I am not talking about killing animals for the sake of saving human lives.
              I apologise for my misinterpretation. I very much share your opinion on this point.

              Although I'll clarify that I have no problem having non-endangered species for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch, or any other kind of snack ).


              • #8
                Originally posted by zaith
                ...its key and purpose is mostly about saving human lives rather than making money to enrich themselves.
                Agreed. That's why I give donate to Médecins Sans Frontières and local hospitals, and not to 'alternative' medicine.

                I don't know a single real medical doctor who pursued a career in medicine for the money. I do know quite a few doctors, and they all did it for altruistic reasons. Unfortunately, almost every alternative practitioner I've met was largely in pursuit of profit or personal growth; their motivation was almost entirely selfish.

                But that's just my experience, your mileage may vary.


                • #9
                  One of the major advantages using alternative medicine is the approach to whole body healing and treatment of the underlying causes of diseases and conditions.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by HarveySmith View Post
                    One of the major advantages using alternative medicine is the approach to whole body healing and treatment of the underlying causes of diseases and conditions.
                    I'll try to be polite, but think you are being misleading. I'll rephrase your statement so it's not quite so loaded.

                    One of the major beliefs of alternative therapists is that they perform "whole body healing" and treat what they think are the underlying causes of diseases and conditions.

                    I'll add that one of the major criticisms of alternative therapies, is that this belief is not soundly based.


                    • #11

                      Its a regrettable news but it not concerns only for China.
                      Other countries are doing similar acts (okay the most country from west not doing such things now as I know, but they did it as well many years ago).
                      There is no protection for the rhinos there?
                      I do not think this is legal so I can not not imagine how they find and kill these rhinos , nothing else is there ??


                      • #12
                        Alternative Medicine for better cure or better survival?

                        Alternative medicine was then started long before. Indians who believed to be one of the most active society who uses alternative medicines since thousands years ago are very much strict in doing different ways and different techniques in curing. But despite of this medicinal strategy and procedure there are many lives that have been vanished. And animals are the best example for this. And here is the data that shows how many animals killed every year:

                        Animals die each year from testing
                        Recent (fiscal 2005) United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics list a total of 1,177,566 (a one-year increase of 7%) primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and other species as being subjected to experimental procedures. The species by species listings include:
                        66,610 dogs
                        57,531 primates
                        58,598 pigs
                        245,786 rabbits
                        22,921 cats
                        176,988 hamsters
                        64,146 other farm animals
                        32,260 sheep
                        231,440 other animals
                        221,286 guinea pigs
                        This data is according to wiki answer dot com.

                        Most of the animals who were killed is for medicinal testing and it's just too sad to know that. Well, for you, does alternative medicine is for better cure or better survival?