Animal Cruelty -- Animal Testing
No, the current problem with regard to using animals as experimental fodder, to be euthanized and cast away afterwards, is that it's become an ingrained habit, a custom, part of the methodology of science and what passes for science, like testing cosmetics and household goods on living things. There are alternatives, especially now in the golden age of computer simulations and live tissue fabrication, to that tradition which, I believe, would be implemented if enough people knew about the situation and cared about animals. Knowledge and understanding and empathy and action. Laws need to be passed. In China, for example, it's required by law to test cosmetics on animals. I think we're better than that.
Baldly stated, after 20 years of commercial fishing, mostly in Alaska, I've become somewhat inured to harsh conditions. That lifestyle not only toughens a person physically and mentally, naturally enough, but can also be emotionally desensitizing. That being said, however, I find the procedures performed on animals in the name of research and the mistreatment of farm animals, especially on corporate farms, deeply disturbing. And I find it simply incredulous that such practices are perfectly legal in our country and through most of the rest of the civilized world.
"Worldwide it is estimated that the number of vertebrate animals—from zebrafish to non-human primates—ranges from the tens of millions to more than 100 million used annually. Invertebrates, mice, rats, birds, fish, frogs, and animals not yet weaned are not included in the figures in the United States; one estimate of mice and rats used in the US alone in 2001 was 80 million." [Wikipedia]
In order to test the efficacy and side-effects of some experimental drug, including determination as to what constitutes a lethal overdose--usually accompanied by excrutiating pain--they first give the animal--a dog, cat, chimpanzee--the disease in question, then, at various stages of drug development and degree of disease, watch what transpires. If they've gone off on a tangent and the effects are detrimental, they backtrack and start again, euthanizing the animal, or animals, tested upon and grabbing a fresh batch, as though they were merely inanimate expendable things.
Testing of household products on animals--will this particular bleach or solvent cause blindness, skin blisters? What happens when this or that pesticide or toxic ingredient is ingested?--goes unnoticed. And even though it's completely unnecessary--given today's alternatives--the cosmetics industry continues to test products using animals.
Here's what I see. This practice of using animals to experiment on, either for behavioral and physiological research or to test products, medicinal or otherwise, began during World War II. At that time, the Germans had no compunction about using human beings, against their will, of course, as experimental fodder. People knew this. The stinging shock of it desensitized researchers and people at large into accepting, without much conscience, experimentation on lower animals.
Ancient Rome was the most sophisticated of societies, it represented the gold standard for civilization per se--we are taught--yet the Roman populace enjoyed watching gladiators fight to the death and people torn to pieces by lions. During the period of the Inquisition, the Church's authority was absolute and unrivaled. Suffusing all political systems in Europe, its rule was the ultimate expression of western civilization. As such, it realized new heights in imaginative ways to torture and kill people. And, without objection, before or after, Thomas Edison publically electrocuted an elephant, who suffered horribly, as one might expect, in order to demonstrate the power and efficiency of his DC current. Nowadays, none of the above would be allowed, at least not in any healthy society; our collective moral consciousness has evolved, grudgingly and in fits and starts perhaps, but evolved nonetheless.
However, experimenting on animals has not only continued, but has spread throughout the world, increasing exponentially. Is it because it's done behind closed doors? Out of sight? I think so. The cries and squeals and suffering of so many animals kept muffled and hidden can't possibly play on our conscience or our heartstrings. How would civilization progress? If we bother to contemplate lab animals at all, their plight is justified by an occasional breakthrough in a pharmaceutical product or genetic discovery, by the determination of something detrimental to our health at the cost of some animal's life.
It became accepted and tacitly approved by the public sixty to seventy years ago and since then has been routinely ingrained in our mind, part of the socialization process. But I believe unneccesarily treating animals with such cold-hearted contempt does our humanity no service, and its utility needs to be revisited. In truth, given today's computer capabilities compared to the Turing machines of World War II vintage, experimenting on animals is an anachronism, and may very well be holding back research and beneficial breakthroughs.
"Four states in the U.S. — Minnesota, Utah, Oklahoma, and Iowa — require their shelters to provide animals to research facilities. Fourteen states explicitly prohibit the practice, while the remainder either allow it or have no relevant legislation." [Wikipedia] Of the fourteen states prohibiting such practice, I find it curious that, except for Hawaii, no state is farther west than Pennsylvania. Do you know the policy of your local animal shelter with regard to selling dogs and cats to research facilities?
When I read the material and look at the pictures, I'm pushed back, stunned by disbelief. There's this whole other world going on, outside of normal, where such practices are not only legitimized and justified, but also publically and governmentally supported and sanctioned. Just looking at the home page of a major "biomedical resource supplier" like Marshall BioResources sends a chill down the spine. On the left side is a looping slideshow of a beagle, a mongrel, and a ferret. Focusing on that alone--apart from the context--one gets the impression of an animal rescue operation or shelter trying to find loving homes for its residents, not an international breeding company with global facilities displaying its merchandise to prospective customers to be used for experimentation purposes.
No one's supposed to raise an eyebrow; it's all quite ordinary and conventionally accepted; morality and empathy have no place--it's how things are done! How else are we supposed to test pharmaceuticals? Don't you want vaccines and drugs developed to help people? Of course I want chronic ailments and conditions controlled and, where possible, diseases eradicated; nonetheless, there are alternatives to torturing animals. Unfortunately, there's little will or incentive to employ them or to discover new ones. And as far as non-biomedical research using animals goes, it's completely unjustifiable. Surely there must be a way to determine a particular cosmetic, shampoo, or soap's irritability without sticking it into the eyes of some hapless animal (rabbit, cat, dog) to see what happens. Jesus.
Uhlenbroek supports Animal Aid Home: Latest News & Campaigns and their campaign against primate experiments, stating: "I have yet to hear a sufficiently compelling scientific argument that justifies the suffering inflicted on primates in medical research."
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