The Encyclopedia That Went to the Dogs
Then, too, the editors may not even have read Fox's Britannica revision. One passage declares that the use of dogs in biomedical research "often entails much suffering, has been questioned for its scientific validity and medical relevance to human health problems." The entry goes on to mention some of the substances tested on dogs: household bleach, drain cleaner and cigarette smoke.
The revised encyclopedia had been on sale for less than a year when Britannica began receiving hundreds of angry letters from researchers and physicians, including such luminaries as Dr. Michael DeBakey, who performed the first heart-bypass operation, and Nobel laureate Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who pioneered kidney transplants. "I object to the statement that animals in research are badly treated," DeBakey said. "Nothing could be further from the truth." Many researchers were also dismayed that the entry failed to mention that insulin, artificial hips and joints, pacemakers, open-heart surgery and heart transplantation all were developed or refined through experiments conducted on dogs. DeBakey went so far as to demand a correction. "Otherwise," he wrote, "I cannot see recommending Encyclopaedia Britannica as an objective, factual source to anyone in the future."
Belatedly, general editor Robert McHenry admitted the passage was unbalanced. In an acrimonious exchange of letters, he suggested a toned-down version for the 1993 edition, Fox rejected it, and the two parted company. It is expected that a revised version will appear in the 1993 edition. Fox, 54, who grew up in Derbyshire, England, and moved to the U.S. in 1962, is anything but contrite. "I felt I had to speak for the dog, one of the most significant companion animals in my life," he says.
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