full story, more comments:
Vivisection is right, but it is nasty - and we must be brave enough to admit this
So, is it OK to sew kittens' eyelids together to stop children going blind? All too often the arguments surrounding live-animal experimentation, aka vivisection, circle around the putative torments of genetically engineered rodents (which no one much cares about) and monstrous cruelties inflicted on our ape close-cousins (illegal here anyway). But the story that scientists at Cardiff University have been studying the way brains react to induced blindness by 'modelling' the condition in young cats has crystallised the arguments in a way that may end up being very helpful.
I have always believed animal experimentation is not only right but a moral necessity. Put simply, without the use of animals in the lab we would not have modern medicine. We would have no cancer drugs, no effective antibiotics, no proper analgesics. Many surgical procedures would be impossible. Of course medicine could advance on an ad hoc basis using only humans as guinea pigs but that would require us to live in a totally alien ethical (not to mention legal) world.
I have always decried the antics of the loonies, the people who put letter bombs and faeces through the front doors of scientists, the activists who make working at any lab involving animal experimentation an exercise akin to being a member of the RUC in 1970s Ulster. These people do their cause no good.
And one of the main arguments against animal-rights lunacy is the sheer hypocrisy. Last year, according to the Home Office, 3.8m 'procedures' were carried out on animals in Britain in the name of science and medicine. There is no doubt that although some pain and suffering was caused, most of these animal recruits lead better lives, and certainly better deaths, than the estimated billion or so chickens, bullocks, pigs and lambs slaughtered in the same period to provide us with food.
Any argument about animal welfare in the lab is specious in a nation which still allows battery poultry farming. And yet it is not quite so simple as that. Even carnivores can see, for instance, that (say) squirting makeup into the eyes of rabbits in the name of human vanity is wrong even if we are happy to throw said bunny in the pot with some onions and red wine. So what about injecting chemotherapy or AIDS drugs into the veins of the same rabbit to see what happens? Better than the cosmetic tests, for sure, but on a very emotional level something feels very different about messing around with an animal to make us (maybe, one day) feel better and simply killing it to satiate our meat-hunger (of course as far as the rabbit is concerned this is angels-on-pinhead stuff).
What would help is a bit more honesty. All too often scientists and doctors lapse into euphemism and obfuscation when describing procedures that must be unendurable in a small number of cases. They often talk about 'discomfort', when they mean 'screaming agony' for example (in fact too many doctors are prone to do this with human patients. If this is something that is taught in medical school, please can it be stopped, now).
Yesterday Cardiff University put out a press release defending the kitten business which failed to acknowledge or even mention the grisly nature of the procedure and certainly did not address the reality that as far as the animals were concerned this would have been hugely unpleasant. In a world where 1600 animals (the vast bulk being chickens) are slaughtered every second for food, most in conditions that do not bear thinking about, it does seem facile to be considering the 'rights' of 31 Welsh kittens stumbling around their pens in the dark.
Facile perhaps, but necessary too. The scientists are generally right; research like this is needed. But they need to be made to keep reminding us why it is right and to keep justifying procedures that, without the watchful eye of the BUAV (and, yes, the loonies as well) would perhaps become so routine that no one would give them a moment's thought. Animal experimentation is nasty. That does not make it wrong, but those of us who defend it must be brave enough to admit the truth, in all its grisly detail.
Because animals are unnecessarily used for food -and it is unnecessary to
use animals for food- does not justify torturing animals in other ways, such
as for experimentation.
Posted by: Dr Sandy Cole | 25 July 2012 at 01:28 AM
oh my dear mr Michael Hanlon, there is one reason why they are not honest to the world, It does not bring any benefit to human health by using a different species, notice eating animals does not bring any benefit either, both business's supported by some financial gain, notice alone how many times we have heard, we "think" we have found a cure for cancer or aids in a mouse which "potentially" could cure the human being, mmmm, Thats been said for years, why be open about such cruel research, when they have nothing to show, and never will, if you think i am wrong tell them to prove it,
Posted by: elain minns | 24 July 2012 at 10:43 PM
There is nothing "right" about vivisection. Science without ethics is lost. Cruelty inflicted upon humans or nonhumans without consent is wrong and nonhumans can never consent. Stop behaving like "might is right"; leave the innocents alone.
Posted by: Jerry Friedman | 24 July 2012 at 05:19 PM