Animal Research is for Human Welfare
article can be read in its entirely at the following address:
17 | Issue 9 | 16 | May 5, 2003) Editorial (www.the-scientist.com)
A recent survey
revealed that nine out of 10 Brits do not know that beer is made from
barley, and one in 10 believe that rice is grown in the United Kingdom.1
Exactly where they think the paddy fields are located was not recorded.
This ignorance illustrates the growing disconnect between the city-dwelling
majority and the countryside in terms of food production. A further
disconnect is revealed in the changing attitude toward animals in the
United States. "I think there is an urban prism through which people
now view animal life, and it has had the effect of raising the moral
status of animals in the eyes of Americans," Franklin Loew, former
dean of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton,
Mass., has said.2 This cultural shift poses a threat to using animals
for experimentation in the future. It is but one of a number of factors
that conspire to undermine the widespread acceptability of using animals
in research. Loss of connection combined with syrupy sentimentality
is putting animals on a par with people, extending parity to the point
of giving animals "rights."2 These ideas go much further than
ensuring the proper treatment of animals and could be developed to preclude
experiments on animals altogether.
movement itself is a factor--not the mindless, violent minority who
arguably do more harm than good for their cause, but the passionate,
and I believe misguided, majority. Passion, right or wrong, can shift
public opinion. The tactics of antivivisectionists are designed to shock
and disgust the public, and the steady drip feed of "hideous and
appalling suffering undergone by animals" in the name of research
is bound to have an effect, particularly on young people who identify
with a principled stand.
to reclaim the moral high ground. Experiments are conducted on animals
for human welfare.
They are an absolute necessity, and they are conducted under stringent
safeguards of animal well-being. There is nothing to be apologetic about.
be more forthright. Engaging in dialogue with activists in search of
mutual understanding or a middle ground is dangerous. Antivivisectionists
simply have no interest in weighing the benefits of animal research,
and the net effect will be, according to Stuart Derbyshire, "to
add to the ratcheting down of animal experimentation, and to the palpable
public suspicion that animal experiments are cruel and unnecessary."3
What is desperately
needed is political leadership. In Britain at least, the government
has paid lip service to the importance of science, but the necessary
backup, the unequivocal support for experiments on animals, has been
lacking. Protection against intimidation and harassment--making it an
offense to demonstrate outside people's homes and removing the defense
of "reasonable grounds" for sending hate mail--has helped
address the "evil extremists." Now an active, positive campaign
in favor of animal research, from the Prime Minister down, is required.
1. "British confused about their food--new campaign gives it to
them on a plate," British Farming, April 14, 2003.
2. R. Worthington,
"Surgery opens debate at veterinary schools," Chicago Tribune,
Nov. 4, 1990.
3. S. Derbyshire,
"Animal research: A scientist's defence," March 29, 2001;
available online at www.spiked-online.com/Articles/000000005547.htm