Maximum Tolerated Dose: A dose of reality

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Maximum Tolerated Dose: A dose of reality

Maximum Tolerated Dose posterOn August 3rd, Liberation BC screened a new documentary, Maximum Tolerated Dose, as part of our Eyes Wide Open free film series.  I hadn’t seen it yet and I will admit that I was very nervous.  The title alone sounded ominous. I hoped it might not have scenes of horrific violence like many other documentaries about animal cruelty, but mostly I was afraid of the pure sadness that would certainly be portrayed.  And there was sadness but fortunately the filmmakers were thoughtful and softened the blow for their viewers.

The first thing that struck me about the film and stayed with me long afterward was the music. It was haunting, to say the least, and provided a perfect backdrop to the scenes throughout the film and the meaning behind the title:  “Maximum Tolerated Dose” refers to the maximum amount of a chemical that can be tolerated by a test subject without causing fatality.

The film tells the story of the lives of animals–specifically, rats, dogs, and chimps–used in research, through the words of the humans who worked with them in the research business…at least, until those humans could no longer be a part of the sadness.

The filmmakers did a wonderful job of allowing us to look each of the animals in the eyes and see them as individual sentient beings treated as slaves.  In fact, one of the most disturbing scenes showed some people trapping baby chimpanzees to sell for research purposes.  As the men paddled a canoe down a jungle river, one of them raked the tall trees with a long pole, knocking babies from their mothers’ arms.  Once on the ground, the babies were stuffed into plastic bags and shoved under the floor boards of the boat.  It was hard for me not to see a parallel between this horrific scene and that of human slaves who were stolen from their homes in Africa and shipped to America in the bottoms of boats.  Equally upsetting were the scenes of beagles, bred strictly for research, living their lives in cages with no stimulation, no toys, no spirit.

But the real strength of the movie came from the scientists and former research assistants who shared their stories and their reasons for leaving and trying to make a difference. They recounted stories of their connections with the animals. Not surprisingly, they were the ones who conducted the tests while the administrators operated in buildings separate from where the animals were housed.  They all came to the realization that this research was not even necessary. I was shocked to find that the majority of research done on animals is not even done for medical purposes and that which is done for medicine is rarely transferable to humans.  Like many people, I believed that vivisection was one area tough to debate because it benefits human beings so much–wrong!  To hear this from people who once believed in the need for this research too but changed their minds was very powerful.

The film was followed by a Q-and-A session with filmmaker Karol Orzechowski and producer Jennifer Bundock.  What came through was their passion and their determination to get the film shown to potential research students in universities in the hopes of changing attitudes towards vivisection from the inside.  It really made me think twice about all the fundraising campaigns for various human diseases and where most of that money is really going.  (You can learn more about charities which only conduct non-animal-based research at HumaneSeal.org.) It was an honour to meet these people who have dedicated their lives to helping animals and I encourage you to see the film when you get the chance.

Our next free film screening will be Got the Facts on Milk? on October 16th.  Hope you can make it!


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