Adventures in Ethics and Science

For those who have been following the activities of “animal rights” activists, including their attacks of the homes of researchers — and the reticence of the public in the face of such violent attacks — a recent Commentary in Biological Psychiatry [1] will be of interest. In it, a number of scientists call on their scientific peers to actively engage in dialogue with the public about what scientific research with animals actually involves and why it is important.

From the commentary:

The attacks are horribly misguided. It is impossible to reconcile the willingness of these terrorists to harm humans, particularly people who are working to alleviate human suffering, with their contention that they value life of all kinds. Scientists, like Dr. London, care about the primates that they study. Scientists are partners with other interested groups in the ongoing international effort to improve the principles and practices governing animal research (briefly reviewed at http://www.nabr.org/pdf/orange.pdf). This peaceful and collaborative process is critical to preserve in the face of the recent violence.

We need to support our colleagues and to work to preserve the integrity of the mission of alleviating human suffering through biomedical research involving animals. In so doing, we might help to ensure that these attacks upon scientists do not discourage much-needed research by demoralizing scientists or by stimulating institutions to adopt overly burdensome administrative practices. The recent events at UCLA make clear that diligently improving the ethical standards for primate research procedures is not, by itself, sufficient to prevent attacks. It is encouraging, for example, that on February 22, 2008, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a restraining order against the Animal Liberation Brigade, the Animal Liberation Front, and UCLA Primate Freedom Project that created a protective buffer zone around the homes of UCLA research faculty members.

These terrorist acts might intimidate people and institutions that would otherwise speak out in support of nonhuman primate research and against terrorism. By failing to take public action, we contribute to the isolation of the scientists involved and the institutions in which they work. Frustration with the absence of a vigorous public response to recent terrorist attacks led Robert Palazzo, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland to ask, “Where’s the noise on this?” Several organizations, such as the Society for Neuroscience (http://www.sfn.org), the National Association for Biomedical Research (http://www.nabr.org), and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (http://www.acnp.org), are helping to educate the public on these issues. There are growing opportunities for animal research advocacy. The failure to publicly address the crimes against its faculty was initially a problem at UCLA, but this institution now is at the vanguard of protecting its scientists and speaking out on behalf of medical research. In addition, the Society for Neuroscience has issued a report on “Best Practices for Protecting Researchers and Research” to assist investigators and institutions targeted by terrorists (http://www.sfn.org/skins/main/pdf/gpa/Best_Practices_for_Protecting.pdf).

(pp. 726-727)

We’ve covered some of this ground before. You can’t persuasively profess that you care for all animals if you’re mounting physical attacks on the animals who practice science. Moreover, adopting tactics that involve physical attacks to make your point make it look at least likely that you’ve given up on making your point by actually engaging in a dialogue with scientists or with the larger public.

Reasoning with ALF probably isn’t a winning strategy. But what this commentary calls for is speaking to the public. Not only can members of the public make reasonable assessments of their own interests when given the chance to do so, but they may have a view as to whether intimidation by animal rights activists is a good way for scientists and institutions to decide what research to pursue.

In some ways, this may be the case of the public not thinking very much about where scientific knowledge comes from. It seems magically to appear on the shelf, wrapped in plastic on its little Styrofoam tray — kind of like meat in the supermarket. The public can value a product while keeping itself innocent of the process that generated that product. Indeed, arguably the public’s disconnection is greater when it comes to scientific knowledge, given that people generally leave it to others (doctors, policy makers, etc.) to apply that scientific knowledge for us.

Demystifying where the knowledge comes from, and how it matters to the lives of ordinary people, is something scientists can do. Explaining the ways animal use is essential to producing this knowledge — and why in vitro work, computer modeling, or even work with animals that the average American would classify as vermin if they turned up in the kitchen cannot be substituted without losing some of the knowledge scientists are trying to establish — puts non-scientists in a better place to evaluate whether animal use is defensible. Being clear to the public about the regulatory mechanisms in place to ensure animal welfare and the personal efforts scientists make to show care for the animals used in their research can help dispel the impression that scientists are cold, emotionless fiends who are either unable to care for animals or who actually take pleasure in causing animals distress.

This commentary is a recognition that it is not individual scientists that are under attack, but the community of scientists who see animal experimentation as necessary to their work. It is also a recognition that the public need not be aligned against scientific progress here. Rather, communication with the public can help non-scientists better understand where their interests and the scientists’ are connected.

(For scientists looking for a place to start, the DVD reviewed here has some good strategies for talking with non-scientists about animal research. Plus, it’s free.)

——
[1] John H. Krystal et al., “It Is Time to Take a Stand for Medical Research and Against Terrorism Targeting Medical Scientists,” Biol. Psychiatry 2008; 63: 725-727

Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    March 26, 2008

    A very good post. Thanks, Janet.

    It’s also possible — in the longer range — that if we first can enlist the support of right-wing Christians for animal research (What percentage of them are taking prescription medicines that wouldn’t be available without animal research?), we then may be able to get them to understand that the reason animal research is pertinent to humans is due to similarities in physiology/metabolism due to evolution.

  2. #2 Mark P
    March 26, 2008

    Unfortunately, the use of animals in any research that involves harming the animal is not a black and white issue. You have framed the question by placing on one side responsible, humane scientists doing research to benefit humans, and on the other side people who endanger humans to protest animal research. But there are others types on both sides. And it begs the real question, which is whether humans have the basic right to harm other animals to benefit themselves. Pointing out that we harm beef cattle is not addressing that question. That would be justifying one possibly bad behavior by saying that some people engage in other possibly bad behaviors. Pointing out the benefits to humans is not addressing that question. That would be roughly the same as justifying cutting all the redwoods in California because we need lots of high-quality building material.

    I tend to place different types of research like this into different categories, some acceptable and some not. This is generally based not so much on the benefit to humans but on my perception of how much suffering the animal experiences and how capable the animal is of experiencing it. But I also recognize that I am not being entirely ethically consistent on the issue. Justifying harming animals, even for the best of perceived reasons, places one ethically at some point on a scale going from one extreme to the other. There is little difference between small steps on that scale either way, but eventually those small steps lead to the extremes. How do you ethically justify stopping at one particular step? Do you have any ethical basis for criticizing someone for stopping at another step nearby? And how far away does that point have to be before it becomes unacceptable to you, and for what reason?

    I think I also need to point out that right-wing christians have no ethical problem with animal experimentation or, for that matter, cutting down redwoods, at least historically. The basic christian view is that the entire world is here for humans to use as they see fit. Animals have no souls, so their suffering is meaningless. The only value of a tree is its use for human industry. I would not like to see scientists appeal to that sentiment to justify their actions.

  3. #3 Jane
    March 26, 2008

    Surely not ALL research done on animals is ethically justified! Some is justified and some isn’t. I disagree with the ALF’s tactics on both moral and strategic grounds, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a point.

    As a philosopher, you must certainly be aware of some very cogent arguments against animal experimentation. Until we scientists admit that we aren’t always in the right on this, we can’t hope — and don’t deserve — to win the public over.

  4. #4 Janet D. Stemwedel
    March 26, 2008

    Yes, of course it’s not the case that any imaginable piece of research involving animals would be ethical. I’ve spent a number of posts exploring that very issue (for example, here, here, and here).

    However, the scientists who are being exhorted in this commentary to engage with the public about what it is they do with animals presumably take their own experiments to be ethical ones. Under the current regulations in the U.S., they had to make the case to the IACUC (institutional animal care and use committee) that their animal use is warranted, that they have taken steps to replace animals with appropriate in vitro studies, reduce the number of animals used, refine experimental techniques, and deal appropriately with animal discomfort (and with enriching the environment of the animals used in the study, for example). Explicitly addressing ethical considerations is necessary to get your protocol approved.

    Now, it’s certainly possible that talking about animal research with non-scientists may illuminate places where scientists and non-scientists weigh benefits and harms differently. To the extent that this communication will be a dialogue (which, I think, is the only way to avoid the non-scientists deciding that the scientists are a bunch of bossy, robotic, pointy-headed intellectuals worthy of the public’s scorn), scientists can make their best case for the ethical status of their research, but they’ll also have to take seriously the concerns expressed by the non-scientists.

    This is all for the good.

    In this scenario, folks on each side of the dialogue come in with some non-zero chance that they’ll change their mind, but no one resorts to the use of incendiary devices.

  5. #5 woody, tokin librul
    March 26, 2008

    Why exempt people, then?
    If the instrumental consequence is worth the means, why stop at “other” animals.
    Let’s experiment on people.
    Prisoners on death row, or life w/out parole.
    the terminally ill…they wouldn’t mind, if they know they’re going anyway.
    Prob’ly they’d volunteer, if the rhetoric was just right…the promise of a possible cure, or a meaningful–not just painful–death?
    The poor…Pay ‘em to be experimental subjects.

    Howsoever ya wanna rationalize it, the logic’s the same.

  6. #6 Janet D. Stemwedel
    March 26, 2008

    The legal requirements on research with human subjects are different, is part of the reason why. Coercion of human subjects (especially those made vulnerable by their poverty or incarceration) is guarded against. And, research with human subjects is not allowed to proceed until the appropriate preliminary studies with animals have been conducted.

    You may think there’s an artificial distinction here between what’s good for humans and what’s good for animals. However, given that both sets of regulations have their origins in public opinion (as it was voiced to lawmakers, etc.), changing the logic of these regulations would seem to require a thoroughgoing dialogue that includes scientists and a good swath of the public — again, an exchange where people reason each other to some common ground rather than trying to get their way through violence or intimidation.

  7. #7 Mark P
    March 26, 2008

    Although the recent violence may be the proximate cause of this discussion, it’s secondary to the real issue. It is a manifestation of the extreme end of the spectrum. Surely we can agree that at this point violence is not justified, but that agreement alone doesn’t really add much to the discussion.

  8. #8 Paul
    March 27, 2008

    I’ve posted a lot about the need for scientists and supporters of science to do more to show public support for scientists who are threatened and/or attacked by extremists so I’ll say that anyone interested in this should take a look at the website of the UK based Pro-Test http://www.pro-test.org.uk/

    “Explaining the ways animal use is essential to producing this knowledge — and why in vitro work, computer modeling, or even work with animals that the average American would classify as vermin if they turned up in the kitchen cannot be substituted without losing some of the knowledge scientists are trying to establish — puts non-scientists in a better place to evaluate whether animal use is defensible.”

    I think the key word in the above paragraph is “why”. Scientists and animal research advocacy groups are pretty good at debunking allegations made by anti-vivisectionists and in pointing out the role played by animal research in past medical advances, but less good at communicating why animal research is undertaken now. Animal research usually takes place alongside research using non-animal methods, and much more needs to be done to make good quality information available to the public explaining what information it provides that other methods cannot. We all know that techniques change, most are eventually are replaced, and new techniques are invented; the types of animal research done have changed markedly over the years, but that doesn’t always come across in communication with the public.

    Another thing to remember is that anti-vivisectionist groups usually try to portray “vivisectionists” as rather isolated figures who do their own thing and are not aware of or ignore other methods, which is far from the reality of animal research. A more sophisticated approach to discussing the role of animals in the research process could do much to counter this misrepresentation.

  9. #9 Woody Tanaka
    March 27, 2008

    “Surely we can agree that at this point violence is not justified…”

    Depends on how you define “violence.” Are you including the violence to the animals in that definition? If not, then you’ve simply uncovered the differences in the outlooks.

    To these animal rights activist who are taking this action, the experimenters are not innocents, unfairly subject to “terrorism”; they are perpetrators of horrendous violence on innocent and unwitting creatures who’ve done nothing to deserve it. The animals are the victims of the terrorism. In their view, the violence they commit is mitigated, if not wholly justified, by the violence committed by the scientists against the animals.

  10. #10 Bee
    March 27, 2008

    Certainly making the general public more aware of how the animals are treated is the first thing to do. At present you have people believing that family pets are stolen by thieves who then ‘sell them to laboratories’, and the images people have of research animals, particularly apes and monkeys, most often hark back to iconic photos of monkeys with exposed brain tissue, studded with instruments, and looking utterly miserable.

    People in general have very skewed views of how we humans on the whole treat animals, getting all horrified at the way mice are treated in the lab, yet unable to see anything particularly wrong with the number of mice collaterally destroyed by agricultural machinery. Some claim that the intent of the human makes the difference, ethically speaking, but I fail to see this: the farmer knows his haycutter will kill some nesting mice, the lab worker knows his experiment will kill some mice – there’s no difference as far as the mice are concerned.

    I often see an urban/rural split on this kind of issue, with rural people sometimes indignantly dismissed as ‘ignorant’ by urbanites who rarely even see live animals other than pets and zoo animals. These are the people who focus through often Disneyfied perceptions of animals, get horrified by any presumed ill-treatment of animals brought to the fore by animal rights groups, yet are seemingly oblivious to the fact that everything they eat (not just meat), wear, and shelter under has, somewhere along the line, caused animal suffering in its manufacture, directly or through habitat destruction or environmental degradation.

    I am greatly concerned with animal welfare in general, but I think the focus on lab animals, which are protected in many ways by regulations, is an example of animal rights organizations wasting their resources, when they could be dealing with some of the abusive (and sometimes changeable) human practices that are leading to extinctions around the world.

  11. #11 Dave Briggs
    March 27, 2008

    Although the recent violence may be the proximate cause of this discussion, it’s secondary to the real issue. It is a manifestation of the extreme end of the spectrum. Surely we can agree that at this point violence is not justified, but that agreement alone doesn’t really add much to the discussion.

    Posted by: Mark P | March 26, 2008 11:11 PM

    I agree with Mark, but sometimes it seems that if you can do nothing else, then trying to hold calm discussions can sometimes lead to further progress so it is worth a try.
    Dave Briggs :~)

  12. #13 padraig
    March 27, 2008

    Janet, thanks for this discussion. I have friends who work in primate research who have been harassed, and I believe I have some insight as to why university researchers are a prime target for aggressive AR tactics:

    1) Nature of research — Most of the general public don’t understand the purpose of basic scientific research, so it’s difficult for them to understand its value. This echoes your point about scientific advances arriving on shelves like shrink-wrapped food. So if an AR attacks a researcher, who in the general public is going to jump up and defend the researcher?

    2) Secretiveness
    Although research results are ultimately published, researchers are usually very secretive about the study while in progress for many reasons that you could elucidate better than I. Also, animal research is normally done in closed labs, both for security and for the welfare of the animals. NHP’s in particular really don’t like a lot of strange people wandering by. This gives some credibility to the AR’s claims that “they’re hiding something!”

    3) FOIA
    University labs are publicly funded, so some of their activity is subject to Freedom of Information Act demands. This doesn’t work on Covance or Huntington Labs, which are private. So AR’s have an additional weapon against research done in the public sector.

    4) Nature of researchers
    Pardon me for stereotyping, but researchers aren’t known for being terribly outgoing. Maybe it’s from getting too many blank stares when you try to explain your jobs. But I would encourage all of you to show pride in the important work you do, and react calmly and rationally to harassment.

  13. #14 Robert Bird
    March 27, 2008

    Woody – Your rationale (or the one suggested but don’t necessarily hold) sounds a little too much like that of Operation Rescue, etc., for comfort. Theoretically, the use of military forces or police snipers might fall into that category as well (destroying life to save (more of) it). However, the difference that legitimizes the latter two over either the ALF or Operation Rescue is public oversight. Our government is (for the most part) subject to versight by people – they set the permissible boundaries for gov’t institutions to act and can withdraw permission for such acts if desired. Violence substituting for political processes intends to substitute the beliefs of its perpetrators for those of the populace – they want the right to dictate political ends without the authority to do so. If violence can successfully substitute for political discussion and action, then the political process is exchanged for one in which “he who is willing to kill the most people wins”, which would seem to be in no one’s best interest. The actions do not seem to be directly to save animals, but indirectly to dictate the appropriate uses (if any) of animals to people, which would seem to fit squarely in the above class of “using violence to substitute for political processes”.

    Maybe “Swiftboating”, global warming arguments, “intelligent design”, etc., have made people believe that an open discussion of anything is impossible, and that convincing the population of their objectives through open discussion is not possible. (It isn’t really the job of advocacy groups to assure the openness and truthfulness of public discussions other than in being honest themselves, and the people who might have had the responsibility to do so have shirked it.) When discussions are won by those who lie the loudest and spend the most money to publicize their lies, the options for effective and rational public discussion of issues disappear, and the ability of the people to discuss and influence (control) public policy disappears as well. I don’t know how to do anything about that, though, other than to speak as truthfully as I can and try to know something before I speak.

  14. #15 Woody Tanaka
    March 27, 2008

    Robert,

    My comment was designed merely to point out that we can’t start the conversation by simply asserting that everyone agrees that “violence” is not justified, especialy if you limit the definition of the word only to violence against the scientists. Because not everyone agrees that the violence is not justified; obviously those who commit these acts do so precisely because they believe them to be justified.

    (Full disclosure: I don’t hold these views regarding violence, I’m just arguing. However, I do find persuasive the ethical view that says that animals are not tools for our use, without regard for their interest, for whatever that’s worth.)

    But this only stands to reason, because whether an action is justified or not is wholly subjective. As with most human things — especially when it comes to morals and ethics — there is a range of opinion that is generlaly held by most people, so there is the illusion that this majority opinion is objective, but it really isn’t. People lose sight of the fact that it is not objective, and, I think, that’s where the problem in the failure of communication begins.

  15. #16 Clinton
    March 27, 2008

    Woody, please answer Bee’s point about agriculture. Why are you and the rest of the ARA extremists not out saving field mice from being plowed into oblivion and fruit flies from being poisoned in orchards? There are millions of innocent animals being lost to provide you with fruit and vegetables to eat! The manner of death for the mice is not even remotely tidy or free of suffering…unlike those mice used in scientific research. Where ARE you people on this agricultural tragedy?

  16. #17 Clinton
    March 27, 2008

    there is the illusion that this majority opinion is objective, but it really isn’t. People lose sight of the fact that it is not objective, and, I think, that’s where the problem in the failure of communication begins.

    Are you kidding? If anyone loses sight of the fact that we are talking about subjective values it is the ARA types who wish to convince the majority that their subjective, theologically driven preferences are somehow universal objective principles having to do with the inalienable rights of animals. That is where the supposed “failure of communication” lies.

    Of course, there is in fact very little “failure of communication” at work here. All due respect Janet. The violent extremists are not motivated by a poor understanding of the treatment of animals in laboratory science. They are motivated by a desire to end all use of animals for human ends. The only thing that would “communicate” with them is “ok you win we’ll do things your way and end all animal use for research, food, etc”. And this will never happen. So it is not possible to “communicate” anything to the violent fringe element other than “fine, you have the liberty under our system to do that but don’t be surprised if there are legal consequences for your actions”.

  17. #18 Woody Tanaka
    March 27, 2008

    “Woody, please answer Bee’s point about agriculture.”

    Well, I can only speak for myself and not the “ARA extremists” (neat-o how you make up that super-cool lingo, though), but my response would be that you make the machines as animal friendly as technologically feasible, and you take the steps necessary to avoid, as much as reasonably possible, any unnecessary animal injury and death. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how intent bears on this ethical question.

  18. #19 Woody Tanaka
    March 27, 2008

    “If anyone loses sight of the fact that we are talking about subjective values it is the ARA types who wish to convince the majority that their subjective, theologically driven preferences are somehow universal objective principles having to do with the inalienable rights of animals. That is where the supposed ‘failure of communication’ lies.”

    You’re absolutely right, Clinton. Your views on the subject are, I’m sure, wholly, absolutely, completely and utterly objective in every single respect — devoid of even a smidgen of subjectivity. I can see how your approach to the matter is in no way obsticle to communications. It’s nice to see that you’ve got it all figured out. It’s a damned shame that the other people — you know, the subjective ones — don’t recognize your brilliance.

  19. #20 Robert Bird
    March 27, 2008

    Woody – I think that there would be a problem with the use of violence whether or not the issue being discussed (abortion, animal rights, etc.) is legitimate, because if violence is effective, then it short-circuits the political system, both encouraging its further use as a means to political ends and pulling energy from what might be less destructive ways of achieving the same ends (or perhaps, the ability of society to achieve any ends at all). If the political system is unresponsive, there may be ways either to render it more responsive or to circumvent it (at least in the case of private businesses engaging in undesired behavior, for example, one can boycott them), short of destroying it. The large fly in the ointment is the lack of an arena in which to rationally discuss matters of importance, because the debate is intentionally poisoned in many cases by people with something to lose. Even with that, there may still be effective ways to change people’s minds about issues without destroying the political system. Destroying the political system completely is probably neither in people’s interests or those of the people/animals/etc. one intends to protect.

  20. #21 Bee
    March 27, 2008

    Woody says: “my response would be that you make the machines as animal friendly as technologically feasible, and you take the steps necessary to avoid, as much as reasonably possible, any unnecessary animal injury and death. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how intent bears on this ethical question.”

    And that would make sense. As would, for example, delaying the haying for a few days, in some cases, give various ground nesting birds time to raise offspring (Bobolinks in my area have been almost wiped out by the practice of a second hay crop). But these kinds of practical solutions are never put forward by animal rights extremists – it’s all “lab rats and baby seals, man, and let’s set loose a few hundred domesticated mink on the unsuspecting endangered small mammals of the local countryside, cuz then they’re free, man”.

    Human intent, btw, has absolutely no impact on the animals in question, human action does. Animal rights activists could command respect if they were in fact trying to better the survival chances of endangered creatures that really need help, which are in the thousands, or trying to advance agriculture or mining practices to avoid animal suffering.

    But they don’t. They always champion the high profile, the cute, the warm and fuzzy, the easy public mark. Shame on them.

  21. #22 Mark P
    March 27, 2008

    ” … theologically driven preferences … ”

    I am not sure about this, but I doubt it. In my experience, most christians have almost the opposite view; that is, that animals are here entirely for our use, and since they have no souls, their suffering is irrelevant.

    I agree with Bee’s point about the pervasiveness of animal suffering in this country. I would have a lot more sympathy for the animal rights “terrorists” if they attacked slaughterhouses or blew holes in animal control facilities to free the impounded animals. If a giant bell were rung every time an animal suffered cruelty or death at the hands of a human in the US, we would all be deaf.

  22. #23 Clinton
    March 28, 2008

    Mark P, the use of “theological” does not imply “christian” nor any religious denomination. It was used to describe (accurately) the nature of the belief system that ARAs operate under. It is based on a set of unwavering beliefs that are essentially as arbitrary and preference-based as any religious tradition. The belief system of ARAs is about as amenable to logic and evidence and data as are religious systems. That’s all I’m saying.

    Woody, no I do not assert that my position is objective. I fully recognize that the critical issue, whether we as humans are justified in using animals for our own purposes or not is a subjective one. You can tart it up however you like with hand waving rationale but it comes down to an arbitrary judgment based on preference. You feel obligated to argue a false “objectivity” for your position because subjectivity implies that the correct answer really comes down to majority opinion. And as we well know, the genuine anti-animal-research position (i.e., not talking about the people swayed with lies about “torture” and pet-stealing) is in the tiny minority. So you are left with PR campaigns based on lies (since the reality is not doing the job for you) or faux-objective arguments to get your way.

    my response would be that you make the machines as animal friendly as technologically feasible, and you take the steps necessary to avoid, as much as reasonably possible, any unnecessary animal injury and death.

    Reduction, Replacement, Refinement. In other words the animal researchers already meet this standard. So to continue in your ARA line, you must admit that we are simply arguing over what is “unnecessary”, “technologically feasible” and “reasonably possible”. In other words we get right back to the argument over whether the ends justify the means. Placing the question right back on you once again- Why are you not going after agriculture? The sources of the unending stream of pets euthanized in shelters essential because of convenience? People who kill household vermin?

    Is “convenience” really a better “end” than is scientific progress? It must be in your view because we know for sure that rat/mouse traps, household cats and poison are a heck of a lot more distressing methods of killing rats/mice than are the veterinarian-established techniques used in laboratories. A lot more pet dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters than are used for research.

    I’m sure I don’t have to explain how intent bears on this ethical question.

    Yes, you do. When an orchard is sprayed to eradicate fruit flies (you do realize that the numbers of these animals used in research dwarfs the numbers of charismatic species beloved of ARAs by several orders of magnitude, right?) the intent is pretty clearly a local genocide action. When a farmer plows over a field at the end of corn harvest, they know damn well there are lots of animals out there that are going to be killed and/or distressed severely. The “intent” is to grow food, yes. But guess what? The “intent” of scientists is to discover things. The object of the enterprise is not simply to kill animals. I fail to see any obvious moral distinction but perhaps you can enlighten us.

    When one follows these analogies a little farther it strikes one that the agri-business should be the first target of ARAs for another reason. In that it is theoretically possible to, say, grow citrus without having to eradicate fruit flies. Possible in a way that doesn’t just make up facts like the ARAs do when they think that “computer models” can replace animal research.

    You simply need to have immense, highly controlled greenhouses, right? Physical technology to exclude the fruit fly pests without harming a one. And yet those dastardly fruit growers haven’t developed the technology. It is almost as though they want to kill flies, isn’t it?

  23. #24 a more informed "librul"
    March 28, 2008

    “the terminally ill…they wouldn’t mind, if they know they’re going anyway.
    Prob’ly they’d volunteer, if the rhetoric was just right…the promise of a possible cure, or a meaningful–not just painful–death?
    The poor…Pay ‘em to be experimental subjects.”

    Actually, they do pay “the poor” to be experimental subjects: http://www.testwiththebest.com/main.php

    And last fall there was quite a bit of controversy about the rights of terminally ill patients to access drugs still in the experimental phase, even though they’ve been told the drugs may do nothing or even quicken death: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/18/1268

  24. #25 coathangrrr
    March 29, 2008

    Woody, please answer Bee’s point about agriculture. Why are you and the rest of the ARA extremists not out saving field mice from being plowed into oblivion and fruit flies from being poisoned in orchards?

    Actually, a great many animal rights people do try to reduce this kind of death, it’s called encouraging vegetarianism and veganism. The animals that people eat are fed from grains raised on farmland, thus the less meat people eat the less animals die, not even counting the animals that would die to provide the meat.

    If your argument is that killing the animals in the field is necessary to provide food and ARAs eat food, therefore they are guilty of supporting the death of animals, then sure, I am responsible for the death of animals. But to make the claim that this makes it okay to perform violent animal testing(there are different types of animal testing, not all damage the animals).

    By this rationale I’m justified in keeping slaves because you eat chocolate. A good chunk of chocolate, somewhere around a quarter, is produced by children who are essentially slaves. If they do a poor job they get beat, if they try to run away they will sometimes even get a hand chopped off. Since you eat chocolate, it is clear that you approve of this. I need someone to clean my house, so I’m just going to get a slave.

    Mark P, the use of “theological” does not imply “christian” nor any religious denomination. It was used to describe (accurately) the nature of the belief system that ARAs operate under. It is based on a set of unwavering beliefs that are essentially as arbitrary and preference-based as any religious tradition. The belief system of ARAs is about as amenable to logic and evidence and data as are religious systems. That’s all I’m saying.

    As opposed to your unwavering belief in the superiority of humans? Methinks you doth protest to much. To base the discussion on animal testing around whether or not it is useful, which is what you seem to do, completely sidesteps the real question, is it right to harm animals for human gain? You say yes, and call any disagreement “theological,” though I would ask you to look at where you get your idea of humans as the most important species. I expect you’ll find some theology there.

  25. #26 coathangrrr
    March 29, 2008

    I just wanted to add that pretty much everyone in fact supports animal rights, it’s just a matter of what animals get those rights. Most people restrict them to human animals.

  26. #27 Bee
    March 29, 2008

    Coathangrr, you still seem to be missing the point: agriculture directly kills, often quite horribly, countless small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. It does not really lessen your impact greatly by being a vegetarian. Your vegetables and your grains and your fruit require extensive manipulation of habitat, including razing wild habitat, draining wet areas, irrigating dry areas – that’s just the beginning, because now you bring in the killing machines, the plows, the harrows, the threshers, the diggers, the harvesters, all of which have big killing blades of various sorts. Then you must add the herbicides, the pesticides, the fertilizers which inevitably drain into the streams and lakes and rivers.

    And one of the biggest agricultural killers of them all: cotton, which occupies vast swathes of land and drinks huge amounts of water, since pretty well 99 humans out of 100 wear cotton, sleep under cotton, drape cotton on their furnishings.

    Be a vegan, by all means, if you like – no doubt a few cows will be grateful and you’ll be healthy. But don’t for one minute think that anyone who has seen agriculture in action doesn’t know that the slaughter of cattle and poultry is the mere tip of the iceberg in terms of animal suffering for the food and clothing requirements of humans.

    Coathangrr said: “I just wanted to add that pretty much everyone in fact supports animal rights, it’s just a matter of what animals get those rights. Most people restrict them to human animals.”

    That’s right. You included, when push comes to shove, since I’d bet you’re not about to rid your wardrobe and your house of cotton, or stop eating.

    None of this makes animal suffering ‘okay’. The goal should be to minimize it as much as possible, as it can’t be eliminated – no mammal manages to not impact on other mammals. ARAs demonstrably are completely disinterested in encouraging reduced harm unless the animals are visible, have a high publicity value, are cute, or are eaten by people, therefore likely to elicit guilt.

  27. #28 coathangrrr
    March 30, 2008

    It does not really lessen your impact greatly by being a vegetarian.

    You clearly don’t know what you are talking about and didn’t actually read what I wrote. When you eat meat it requires much more farmland than if you don’t eat meat, that is the fact of the matter and your denial of that changes it not one whit. Every pound of beef that is produced requires that a cow be fed food. Food that was farmed. So yes, in fact, not eating meat does reduce the amount of farmland used and lessens greatly your impact on the environment and on animals.

    Your vegetables and your grains and your fruit require extensive manipulation of habitat, including razing wild habitat, draining wet areas, irrigating dry areas – that’s just the beginning, because now you bring in the killing machines, the plows, the harrows, the threshers, the diggers, the harvesters, all of which have big killing blades of various sorts. Then you must add the herbicides, the pesticides, the fertilizers which inevitably drain into the streams and lakes and rivers.

    Again, I never denied that this is the case. I said that it doesn’t make it right to perform violent, harmful experiments on animals just because farming hurt animals. Just because there is a war in Iraq doesn’t make it okay for me to kill people. You are intentionally confusing the issues. If you want to talk about how to improve farming techniques to make them less environmentally invasive then we can, but you don’t want to do that, you want to play a little game where you try to show that I am wrong about animal testing by pointing out that things have to die for me to eat. The two are separate issues.

    That’s right. You included, when push comes to shove, since I’d bet you’re not about to rid your wardrobe and your house of cotton, or stop eating.

    My inability to rid my life of cotton or food doesn’t mean that it is right for our society to treat animals essentially as property.

    ARAs demonstrably are completely disinterested in encouraging reduced harm unless the animals are visible, have a high publicity value, are cute, or are eaten by people, therefore likely to elicit guilt.

    If you mean that it is easier for ARAs to make examples with animals that people think are cute then, yes. Don’t think for a minute that isn’t representative of the fact that society at large, not ARAs, are more easily swayed by arguments about cute animals than they are about fish.

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