Likely, the throbbing mass of humanity at my university knows at least a little more than it did before last week, owing to an article in the student newspaper about the institutional animal care and use committee. (It was a front-page article, so the chances that it attracted eyeballs was reasonably good.)
A few things that jumped out at me:
The very existence of an IACUC is treated as news.
It seems to be a big surprise that university researchers (and physiology professors) don’t just order mice like they do whiteboard markers — maybe because most of the students (and, perhaps, a significant number of faculty and staff in departments that don’t work with animal) don’t realize that there are federal regulations governing the use of animals in teaching and research.
Indeed, the president of the campus animal rights group (about which more in a moment) “had no prior knowledge of the animal use and care committee or the rules and regulations for animal use” at the university, according to the article. I guess I’m not as much surprised as I am disappointed by this, since searching on the phrase “animal use” in the university website yields many relevant results, and the first of these is the POLICY AND ASSURANCE FOR HUMANE CARE AND USE OF ANIMALS, which describes, among other things, the IACUC.
I suppose it may take awhile for internet searching to catch on with the young people, though.
Our campus has an animal rights group?
The article was the first I had heard of this group. Just goes to show what you can learn by reading the paper on a regular basis.
Then again, this is not what I’d have expected from an animal rights group.
From the article:
Vanessa Rego, who is the creator and president of the Students for Animal Rights club at SJSU, said that the club is against animal use at the university.
“As far as we are concerned, we don’t think animals should be used for human purposes in any way, whether that be for testing, entertainment, clothing, food,” she said. “We do realize that it’s not realistic to expect everyone to stop eating and using animals, but we are asking people to use them more humanely.”
Rego, who had no prior knowledge of the animal use and care committee or the rules and regulations for animal use at SJSU, said that she is aware that her views on animal rights are extreme, and said that even if animal testing is not abolished, she believes students at SJSU should be given more education on issues such as conservation and humanity.
I can’t help but notice that Ms. Rego sounds … pretty reasonable. Her group doesn’t expect people to stop eating meat or using animals in research. Their “demands” (and really, that seems like too strong a word) are that people use animals more humanely, and that students be educated about conservation and humanity.*
Education seems like a good thing — fuller information can only lead to better decision making. And the university policy itself calls for humane treatment of animals:
San Jose State University (SJSU) recognizes this policy as its reference for the humane care and use of animals and for in addressing ethical concerns in discussions, evaluations and policy matters regarding the care and use of animals by all individuals at SJSU and its affiliates.
SJSU acknowledges the public debate about the legitimacy, importance and relevance of the ethics of animal care and use. We recognize that within this debate there are a number of legitimate and responsible perspectives, concerns and unresolved issues that are expressed in various ways. We, therefore, commit ourselves to be a respectful and responsible party within this on-going public debate.
SJSU recognizes the relevance, value and significance of the ideals of the humane treatment of animals as part of conducting sound scientific research and quality teaching. Therefore, we commit ourselves actively to: seek satisfactory means that do not entail the use of animals, employ ways that minimize the number of animals used, minimize physical and psychological discomfort, and minimize the amount of euthanasia entailed in our work.
SJSU holds that among the sources of our ethical responsibilities in the care and use of animals are the relationships we have with the other members of the animal kingdom, and the life that we hold in common with them. Therefore, we view our role in the care of animals to be one of stewardship, which includes the responsibility actively to assess and meet the needs of animals in our charge and to provide for their comfort. We view our role in all instances of animal use to be one that must reflect a deep sense of humility. Our corresponding responsibilities must include efforts to seek and employ methods that embody most fully both respect for the life of individual animals and reverence for life itself.
It will be interesting to see whether the Students for Animal Rights club, sparked by the newspaper article, will find out more about the university’s existing policies and commitments, and whether doing so will lead to dialogue with other parts of the university community.
* I’m assuming here that the education in “humanity” would be geared toward teaching people how to behave more humanely.