Thursday, June 23, 2011

Animal Rights, And Wrongs

I don’t believe in testing drugs
On poms or poodles, pits or pugs;
Those scientists are merely thugs
To do the things they do.

I feel, in no uncertain terms,
Protective of the slugs and worms;
In fact, the new resistant germs
Deserve protection too.

I cherish every living thing
Despite diseases they might bring
To life—all life—I fiercely cling
And each gets equal weight

And so of course, I think it best
To halt this sort of horrid test
(I’ve got my health—as for the rest,
Well, that’s the hand of fate)

Bacteria are living, too
And thus deserving, in my view
Of shielding from the folks, like you,
Who say they merit killin’

So I’ll stand up as one who fights
For every living being’s rights
Next up, I’ve got to set my sights
On banning penicillin.

Inspired by the comments on this thread. The above verse is, of course, a strawman; this comment has a much more nuanced view, which I endorse. Of course, given Cuttleson's diabetes, I have an interest in animal testing, and my priorities are clear.


Mandy said...

The core of my being is an animal lover. I'm going to college to obtain a biology degree and devote my life to animals. Animal research ethics is a major interest of mine. You are absolutely right that there is lots of grey areas. Unfortunately groups like PETA, and Animal Aid mentioned on PZ's post, don't actually do anything to help animals. PETA in particular uses dishonest tactics, which hurts the cause rather than actually enacting any real change. I wish more professionals like "SPQR" would speak out about practices that need to change (killing an animal so that a student can practice surgery - WTF!!). I wish animal rights groups would sit down and have an open, honest conversation with scientists about the realities of important medical research. The goals of both sides should be to continue important research while taking in to account the welfare of individual animals and doing the least amount of harm to any living thing involved in the research.

mherzog said...

Here is a good video on animal rights:

Epinephrine said...

Mandy: What makes you think that researchers don't already talk about how to minimise harm, or that they don't try to limit the number of animals used?

There is no need for sit-downs with ARAs, as the researchers already take great pains, and regulatory agencies are trying to adopt changes as well - sometimes the sticking point is in fact regulation, *not* research.

There are efforts at an international level to try to reduce the number of animals used. For example, just by coming up with international standards one can prevent needing to run multiple types of tests, and only do the tests that everyone agrees on. There is a push to use cell-based assays when possible, but obviously only when it is an effective alternative. In other cases there may be conflict between different regulatory agencies, and the researchers have to go with the most conservative (generally animal-based) tests, until more evidence has accrued on the newer assay. Researchers will only switch assays if the results will be accepted in major jurisdiction. Not much point in running tests that governments don't accept.

That's not to place blame on governments and regulators, either. What tests are acceptable and sufficient to show safety and/or efficacy depends on convincing scientists of the value of the test, and sometimes different groups can arrive at different conclusions looking at the same evidence - it's not that any side is "wrong", but that they may interpret results differently. Nobody would be upset at using fewer animals - regulators don't want to insist on animal tests if there are alternatives; animal testing is expensive, and companies don't want the added expense or the negative reactions to animal testing, and researchers (at least, all the researchers in the labs in which I've worked, and the associated labs in my current work) don't enjoy sacrificing animals, especially if they feel that better results could have been obtained without an animal.

Don't assume that researchers don't care about animals, or that they don't feel for their subjects.

Cuttlefish: Brilliant, as usual.

Mandy said...

Epinephrine, I never said researchers do not care about animals. I appreciate your comments because you have the perspective of someone who works in laboratories but I don't appreciate words being put into my mouth. It sounds like you may not have read Cuttlefish's link to the comment on Pharyngula, which was the inspiration for my original post. It was from someone claiming, just like you, to have personal and professional experience in this area. According to he/she there is room for improvement within the scientific community in order to reduce animal suffering.
I respect science and hope to contribute to the wealth of scientific knowledge in grad school and beyond. I would not be pursuing a biology degree if I believed the field was full of callous people. My post was as much about chiding animal rights groups for their tactics and lack of understanding about research, as it was suggesting that more needs to be done to minimize suffering.
You are wrong that animal rights orgs should not be part of the discussion. I am not suggesting that untrained individuals should be creating research criteria. I am saying that perhaps people who devote their lives to animal welfare might have something intelligent to add to the debate. The more ideas and perspectives, the better. Dismissing outside viewpoints outright does nothing but limit knowledge.
We should always look for ways to improve the lives of all animals, including people. I firmly believe that when we are discussing the well-being of any living thing, the debate should never stop.

TravelingBiker said...

It's interesting you believe animals have or should have civil liberties. I'd be interested in knowing where do you draw the line. If the fact they are alive is what entitles them to civil rights, what about plants, bacteria, etc. And how far should we take it? They should either have rights or they shouldn't, and if they should, then I should be prosecuted for murder for stomping on a cock roach in my kitchen, and for manslaughter if my vehicle strikes a bird or a bug, and people who apply pesticides should be charged with genocide. Is that really what you believe?

Cuttlefish said...

Traveling Biker--

Let me introduce you to a word: "satire". The comment about the verse being a strawman was intended to let people in on that little secret.

The rest, I suspect, you will be able to gather on your own.