Wednesday, May 25, 2005

On animals and men

I'm a vegetarian, but I also have a biology degree, and I work within a university on the commercialisation of research, so I have a rather mixed but relatively well informed (I like to think) view on animal use by humans. On one hand, I recognise that we no longer really *need* to eat meat, and that furthermore raising animals for meat causes terrible environmental damage.

On the other hand, I recognise that I have omnivorous dentition and all the right enzymes for digesting meat. And, when I was younger, I actually went rabbiting with a gun on a few occasions, because where I grew up it is traditional and no-one questions it. I would not force my vegetarianism on anyone. I have made my choice. So that is what I think about food.

However. My view on animal experimentation are somewhat different. I recognise that
*Animal use should be minimised. It is distressing and expensive. Despite what certain activists will tell you, NO scientist performs unnecessary experimentation because keeping and buying the animals is so damn expensive, and nearly all scientists work to tightly controlled research budgets.
*Animal use is necessary. Some medicines cannot - CANNOT - be developed without animal testing, such as vaccines. Vaccines interact with the mammal immune system ,which is incredibly complex and dynamic; such things cannot by modelled or simulated in vitro or in silico. Other examples of necessary animal use is in the development of novel neurosurgery.

The best counter-argument for banning animal use in experiments is the behaviour activists themselves. Some samples of the activities they are involved in:
Parkinson's victim accused of being a Nazi and told to 'roll over and die' - an example of the kind of revolutionary novel neurosurgery I refer to above. Note how they react to living evidence of the life-changing efficacy of animal derived surgery.
Researcher's children sent bomb wrapped in HIV infected needles
Grave desecrated
The moral high ground? In the meantime, the people they threaten and bomb will go on trying to cure diseases and ease both human and animal suffering.

I look forward to receiving hatemail on this topic. I WILL publish it verbatim so get your spelling and grammar right. And your facts. That'll be the hardest one.

And before you send me any anti-vivisection mail, check you're not wearing leather shoes.

I've quite got the hang of controversy now, I think I will talk about abortion tomorrow.


Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

Interesting post, Moai. A subject close to my heart.

On the one hand, I oppose all animal experiments on principle. On the other hand, medical conditions force me to take an array of drugs. I don't know if these have been tested on animals, but it would astonish me if they had not. So I am almost certainly a direct beneficiary of animal experiments.

As with fox hunting (for which there is no practical justification - no, there isn't) a lot of people get worked up about cute, fluffy animals without looking at the whole picture. On the other side of the argument are people who seem able to detach their consciences, who know that they are inflicting appalling suffering on creatures who don't by any definition deserve it, yet are still able to look at themselves in the mirror each morning. Since a lot of this latter group are employed in industries benefiting from animal experimentation, their livelihoods are at stake - so of course they find ways to justify it.

What gets lost in the middle of all this is a calm appreciation of the facts; and a realisation that, for one side or the other to prevail, sacrifices have to be made. This brings us to the very difficult ethical dilemma - do we human beings regard our own survival as so paramount that we are prepared to subjugate all other species to that aim? If so, let the vivisection continue unabated. If not, let us end it all, and accept that some people are going to die as a consequence. Anything in the middle is a fudge.

Good, this debate, isn't it? The same paradigm works for abortion, vegetarianism, war, capital punishment... all the big ones.

More (over at mine, on another occasion) about why the pros of vegetarianism outweigh the cons (yes, I am wearing non-leather shoes: get yours here!).

2:29 PM  
Blogger The Moai said...

Thanks Oscar - you're right. I was expecting ranting and I got a sensible, reasoned opinion. The inmternet surprises me sometimes!

The Moai

5:37 AM  

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