Why I Believe Animal Testing and Experimentation is Wrong
I appreciate the fact that I know which medications will help me when my allergies flare completely out of control. I appreciate the research that went into making sure that medication was safe for me to take. I truly do. I appreciate the studies that tell me which chemicals in my shampoo could be carcinogenic, and I honestly support the scientific community in all its brainy endeavors.
Except one. I cannot bring myself to agree with experimentation done on animals.
I am not a member of PETA, nor have I ever picked up the phone when one of those commercials comes on. You know the ones? Showing pictures of sad looking animals and a woman with a soft voice who tries to manipulate you into giving the ASPCA money. Well, to be fair I'm a college student so I'm pretty short on money these days.
Also, to be fair, though I am not dedicating my life to them, I like animals. I grew up around them, and they have followed me into adulthood. Their presence is a silent, persistent wet nose nudging me in the leg. I will never get away from owning animals.
But, make no mistake about it, we are more important than them. Humans rank top priority on my list over animals. I would give up my dog to save my baby's life, and I believe that as a member of the human species, it is normal to feel this way, perhaps even inevitable.
Unfortunately, as human beings, we have to make some difficult decisions about morality as we see it and these decisions affect more than just our species. These are large-scale decisions that affect millions of animals of other species.
Here are some of the reasons I don't support animal testing/experimentation.
It makes me uncomfortable.
This is as honest as it gets. Feelings are not the basis for sound decision making, but there is no escaping them, and animal testing gets a lot of people riled up, me included.
The thought of animals in cages, treated as part of an experiment is difficult for me. Picturing animals alone for hours without stimulation, being used in experiments that are painful or scary to them, or being euthanized after long, miserable, unfulfilling lives sets off my moral alarm. There is no other way to say it. I am biased against them.
I believe in the intrinsic value of life.
There are some things that can't be measured in a glass beaker. Human beings spend a lot of time constructing, defining and thinking. It is as though we were built to. But many of us by the end of our lives have no systematic conclusion about the meaning of it. Some of our most meaningful moments come from utterly inexplicable things.
Though it is debatable whether it is in our society's best interest to exploit animals, perhaps we shouldn't on principle. Perhaps we should stop thinking of them competitively, as one species pitted against another.
Is there value in something alive, even if it cannot build a bridge or do a complex math problem? I think so.
Animals aren't intelligent enough to have a say in the matter.
The idea of using something innocent, trusting and niave to do something it doesn't understand nor consent to makes me shudder. There are no release forms, no disclaimer of intent available for an animal. It does not understand why it is being cut into, that it could be saving human lives, it is just terrified.
It is interesting to note that some of our most horrifying and creative 'urban legends' as human beings have to do with being forced against our will to do something- think of the terror surrounding alien probes and extraterrestrial human experimentation.
I also find it interesting that according to Wikipedia one of the dog breeds most commonly used on animal testing is the beagle. Why? Because as anyone who has ever been around one knows, it has a gentle, even temperament and is a relatively genetically healthy breed. It is innocent, trusting and niave.
Animals are intelligent enough to feel pain, both emotional and physical.
Of course we know that neurologically, animals feel pain, but on an emotional level, many animals display a complex set of emotions.
If you don't believe me, there are many researchers studying dogs and cats that publish many readily available articles on the internet. Here is coverage of one study that suggests dogs understand the concepts of fair and unfair, which is quite a fascinating idea.
Do dogs understand as complex an emotion as human love? As anyone could tell you that has a dog with separation anxiety, they certainly understand some level of emotional attachment and that's more than enough for me.
There are alternatives to animal testing.
There aren't a lot, I'll admit. Cell cultures and computers can only do so much, but technology is rapidly improving and things are bound to get better, especially if we, as a society, push for them to. Speaking of which...
We, as a society, don't get a choice as to whether research is relevant enough to warrant studying on live animals. It is usually up to just a few people, and if the research is funded by the government, you are unwillingly paying for it! Is that fair? If it is our money, shouldn't taxpayers have a choice?
There are differences between animals and humans. Some tests end up being useless because of these differences. These tests aren't saving millions of lives. Are they still justifiable?
Consider the draize test, in which a cosmetic or another product is applied to an animals eye. Not only is the test's reliability flawed according to several studies, but human's and animal's eyes are different enough to create doubt.
There are laws in place to protect animals being tested, but scientists are people, and people don't always follow laws.
People have reported animal abuse at prominent universities in both the USA and the UK, such as the one at Columbia University in 2003 involving baboons being kept alive extended and unnecessary periods of time after experiencing a debilitating stroke.
Unfortunately, this is not an infallible system we have. Some researchers are good people that do as much as they can to not cause unnecessary suffering to animals in their experimentation.
Others do not share the same concern for life that most of society does, and some of these people are scientists or lab technicians that work directly with animals. There is also an element of researchers protecting everyone within their field or university that may hinder the process of fixing violations to these laws.
Until someone can assure me that no sociopaths will be able to get their kicks from animal experimentation, I don't want to support it. The science is only as ethical, relevant and purposeful as the people behind the experiments. But what about when the people aren't?
While I appreciate the animals, the people, and sometimes even the drug companies that work so hard to guarantee my lotion will not cause my skin to peel off, and while I appreciate that science is constantly working to test for and find new carcinogens for the FDA to ignore, I must take my vote out of the animal testing ballot box.