Acupuncture for alligator: What a croc!

A croc(k) of nonsense.

Acupuncture Helps Ailing Alligator in Brazil – ABC News.

Bino the albino alligator lives at the Sao Paulo Aquarium, where he’s been since 2007. Veterinarians said Wednesday that he was born eight years ago with his ailments, and nothing seemed to alleviate them.

So, in early 2011 veterinarians decided to see if acupuncture might help Bino, as it has other animals living at the aquarium.

“The acupuncture will … alleviate his pain and keep all his vital functions going,” said Rafael Gutierrez, a biologist at the aquarium of Sao Paulo, adding that the 30-minute weekly treatments would continue indefinitely, as long as they kept showing solid results.

Why should we be both doubtful and appalled by this piece? Let us count the ways.

Acupuncture does not work in the way it is described. There are no such things as “meridians” that control the flow of “qi”. There is no “qi”.  There is no evidence that sticking needles into anyone for any reason produces a positive health effect. The small effect may be a placebo response (which includes everything not related to the test including calculation errors and experimenter bias).

Acupuncture is a pre-scientific notion (busted by science), has no plausible mechanism to work and trials have shown that it doesn’t. [Source]

How can you measure animals response? Are they using precise measurements? It sounds like they are just observing. Bias. Subjective. No good.

They need to explain exactly how sticking needles into an animal will help with his musculo-skeletal problems. They have not done that. At all.

Finally, this is stressful for the animal to be caught and subjected to this. The risk to his health is greater than the possible positive effect (none has been demonstrated). So I would go so far as to say the intentions are good but this is unethical treatment of animals.

What a croc.
albino acupuncture

Extra enjoyment: This Bullshit Is Brought To You By The Letter “A” » The Digital Cuttlefish.

  4 comments for “Acupuncture for alligator: What a croc!

  1. August 30, 2013 at 11:12 PM

    as vezes tenho vergonha de ser brasileiro…

  2. September 4, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    This does raise an interesting idea; the prospect of using animals to test for the effectiveness of practices where a placebo is not possible to implement. There have been high quality studies which show that acupuncture is effective in pain relief (1) — but the difficulty is in establishing whether or not it is the practice itself of the act of being practiced upon (effectively placebo) which causes the effect. It’s really hard to devise a mock or sham procedure because you have to stick needles in.

    Animals, presumably are not subject to placebo at the same level as humans — in that they don’t know what you’re doing and have no expectations about the outcome.

    So how about this:
    - Animal is in discomfort
    - It’s possible to measure its discomfort (disrupted sleep patterns, behavioural patterns, movement, making noises, lack of appetite)
    - Implement the treatment practice being tested
    - Re-measure the animal’s discomfort

    Results could be potentially of value as they would exclude placebo.

    1) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Acupuncture/Pages/Evidence.aspx

    • September 4, 2013 at 8:57 AM

      We have to be careful with what we call placebo. It can still appear to show up in animal tests.

      http://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_poor_misunderstood_placebo

      Placebo effects fall into several categories: illusions of observation, bias, nonspecific effects, and physiological effects. Much of what is measured as a placebo effect is, in fact, simply an illusion of the process of observation. These illusory effects include regression to the mean, which is a statistical phenomenon that includes extreme symptoms becoming less extreme as a matter of course. For any variable symptom, periods of time when symptoms are at their worst are likely, by chance alone, to be followed by a return to more average symptoms.

      Other artifacts include the biases of the researchers and the subjects. Researchers want their interventions to work and may therefore bias their assessments to be more positive.

  3. September 4, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    …of course you’d need a thousand sick alligators. :-(

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