Monday, December 1, 2008

The only argument that matters

There is a lot of debate on the value of experimenting on animals for human gains. If you look, you can find hundreds of papers explaining why we must continue to experiment on animals and the medical and scientific advances we make as a result. Alternatively, you can find just as many papers, many by doctors and scientists, stating the ineffectiveness of animal experimentation, to the point of actually being harmful to humans, not just ineffective. The doctors and scientists that speak out against the use of animals point to the numerous alternatives that have been created in order to bypass the use of unwilling participants.

For me, none of those arguments matter in this debate. As far as I’m concerned, it is not a matter of whether or not we gain from these experiments, but whether or not we have the right to perform these experiments.

I’m constantly surprised by the otherwise thoughtful, caring and intelligent people who seem to be okay with the animal experimentation that currently is conducted all over the world. When they learn of my opposition to vivisection, they offer a sort of apologetic smile and remind me that as humans, we have benefited greatly from these experiments. Of course, not one of them could probably cite even one animal experiment that we’ve benefited from, but again, that’s a separate issue, and is not a part of my opposition. I’ve listened to scientists who used to be in support of animal experiments, who have since abandoned those methods and now speak out against them as needless, cruel to animals, and harmful to humans.

The fact is, roughly 8% of medications that are tested on animals are brought to market, and of those, roughly half are later recalled due to human death or severe side effects. Which means that approximately 96% of those experiments are performed with no gain to humans at all.

But again, this is not part of my argument against animal testing, because even if it were a proven method that produced 100% useable results for humans, I would still be against it.

Why? Because we do not have the right to use any living beings in experiments against their will. Period. I state this, not as my opinion, but as fact. Just because something is legal (slavery, discrimination against women and minorities, etc) does not make it morally or ethically correct. We have worked hard as a people to do away with racism and sexism (with still much work to do in those areas), and yet largely ignored by the masses is the ongoing problem of speciesism.

We feel justified in using animals for experiments because we view them as “less than us”. They do not have the level of intelligence that we as humans have, nor the ability to reason like us. And for some reason these facts make us feel better about conducting these unusually cruel and inhumane tortures on those lesser beings.

But if it’s lack of intelligence and ability to reason as we do that makes a prime subject for experimentation, what about the use of mentally handicapped people? As humans, there could be no better test subjects for determining the safety or effectiveness of drugs and other products meant for human consumption that are currently tested on animals.

If we are to be honest, wouldn’t we all feel a lot better about that medicine we’re taking or that product we’re using if it was deemed safe for human use after having been tested on humans, rather than rats, or primates?

If it’s a matter of which beings deserve freedom, what about using inmates for experiments? Our government has done this in the past (and not just to inmates, but to military personnel, as well as minorities) so we can all agree that it’s at least possible.

Most of us would never stand for that kind of treatment of other humans, however, no matter their intelligence level or their right to personal freedoms. How could we, with clear conscious, sew the eyes shut on a mentally handicapped person in order to perform an experiment on sight depravation? We couldn’t. What about impregnating a female inmate, forcing her to ingest nicotine, and then cutting the baby out of her womb in order to test the effects of smoking on an unborn baby? Never. The mere suggestion seems ridiculous, and if it were brought to the table in a serious manner, it would be met with angry opposition to the point of full-scale riots and violence.

And yet still, most people see nothing wrong with doing these things to animals, against their will.

So really, the question becomes not one of benefits, but of humanity. We rail against discriminations and abuses of groups of people, all the while we are subjecting free-willed beings to the most horrific and painful experiments imaginable. Hitler’s own Dr. Mengele, the man who spent so much time experimenting on the Jews, would be proud.

Most of you, I’m assuming, would be unable to conduct these experiments on animals yourselves, being unable to stomach the visuals – the primate who screams in agony and struggles against his restraints as parts of his skull are removed, or his eyes are sewn shut; the cat who is so tightly clamped down with metal head restraints that it is unable to move at all while large devices are attached to it’s exposed brain; the dog who is forcefully overfed to the point of death, laying listless and bloody. Those that survive another day of experiments are brought back to their small wire cages, where they will cower in fear at the slightest sounds, whimpering, licking their wounds that will never heal, and in many cases, inflicting new wounds on themselves as they thrash about trying to free themselves from this life that they’ve been forced into, even if their only escape is death. Self-mutilation, especially in primates, has been documented by these labs over and over and over.

We are right to recoil in horror from these sights, but we must not ignore the fact that this goes on, every single day, all over the world.

All animals are born with free will. Even the animal who is born and raised in a laboratory will long to be free, to act according to it’s natural instincts. To build a home. To meet a mate. To start and raise a family. It is not within our rights to remove these animals from their habitats, from their families, from the life that they would lead, simply to use them and discard them as we see fit, so that old men can get erect, or so that we can continue to prove that smoking is dangerous to everyone’s health.

The argument of whether or not animal experiments benefit us is not important. The only argument that matters is, DO WE HAVE THE RIGHT?

Can any of you provide an argument for why we should continue to mutilate animals in these ways, in the face of real alternatives, and knowing the horrors that animals face in labs?

More importantly, will any of you speak up to help end it, or will you be silent partners with the vivisectors? The choice is yours. Which, incidentally, is one more thing that separates us from the animals in the labs – they have no choice.

"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is ‘Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction." -- Professor Charles R. Magel (1980)


  1. You'll get no arguement from me on this one... you are 100% correct...

    tis not just medical but also cosmetic experimentation...

  2. i've thought a lot about testing on inmates. here's my plan. under my future political system, compassionate fascism, this will be the norm.

    inmates are offered the opportunity to participate in testing. people in for life sentences will be offered the chance to have tests done on them for life threatening diseases, like be exposed to resistance strains of TB and have vaccines tested on them. the deal with be that they will be moved out of the usual jail into a more comfortable, but still high security, facility. basically, it would be a meaningful way for, say, a truly repentant murderer, so atone for his actions. talk is cheap, mr. killington. show us how much you regret it by doing something truly selfless.

    people in prison for lesser crimes could also volunteer for testing, for less serious stuff. like drug addiction studies or erectile dysfunction meds or something.

    i seriously don't think that this is a terrible idea. these people are sitting around, possibly getting some benefit but mostly not, definitely not benefiting society, often just getting more hardened, more deeply entrenched in the vicious circle. so give them the opportunity to do some good.

    potential problem: a death row convict escapes from the more cush medical facility, carrying a gnarly disease and creates a global pandemic. whoops! something i'll need to work out before i start the program.

    also, in order to get gym privileges, they'd have to ride exercise bikes for an hour a day, and those bikes would create electricity, that would go towards powering the prison.

    also maybe go back to having prison factories, where they work to produce american goods, but they'd be paid something for their work, and that pay could either be used in the commissary for cigarettes and whatnot, or be held for them by a prison system credit union, and available to them upon release, and even be used to help them establish credit for once they're released.

    i read about some programs that use stray dogs to help rehabilitate prisoners. have you heard anything about that?

  3. Vote for Kira! Seriously though, I like the prison ideas. I wish there was more availability for volunteer testing. Maybe there is and I don't know about it. I know that animals have been used in various ways to help bring comfort to the sick, or the elderly, I'm not as familiar with the program for using stray dogs with prisoners, but if the dogs are being treated well, it sounds like a good thing. Animals have a way of getting to someone's heart, no matter how hardened the person, or how "un-typical" the animal (like, possums for example, aren't thought of as cute or adorable, but given the chance to see one's personality, they'd probably become really endearing).

    I like your ideas.

  4. I'm all for testing hair shaping products on animals with long hair provided it looks good. I want to be sure the effect will stand up to the abuse that comes with chasing skirt (dogs call it something else, but i digress).

    Seriously, I'll chime in and say we don't have the right. The arguments that justify testing on animals rest on the same slippery slope that allows human genocide to occur.