spiked proposals: Animal research
In supporting the development of science and medicine, political leaders should get on a platform and argue the need to put humans first.
In supporting the development of science and medicine, political leaders should get on a platform and argue the following:
- Animal research has played a major part in the development of medicine.
From the first steps towards the eradication of polio to the routine techniques of transplantation and the future hope for the eradication of diseases such as AIDS, animal research has and will continue to be a vital component in the advancement of medicine. Without animal research the development of new drugs and surgical techniques will be severely impeded, with some branches of medical research coming to a complete stop.
In-house Ethics Committees or Internal Review Boards routinely evaluate all medical research for ethical purposes. These bodies ensure that any experimental procedure is carried out appropriately and for the direct benefit of the patient and/or for the greater benefit of medicine without harm to the volunteers. It is ridiculous to extend greater protections when the research subject is an animal. The necessity for Home Office approval in the UK, and further ethical assessment by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees in the USA, is inappropriately restrictive and should be abandoned.
The three R’s are refinement, reduction and replacement. Scientists pledge to refine their techniques so as to induce the minimum amount of suffering; reduce the number of animals used; and replace animals with other techniques wherever possible. While these principles seem reasonable, they imply that, ordinarily, animal research involves deliberate suffering via wasteful and unnecessary procedures.
The impression is that research animals are a ‘necessary evil’, when, in fact, they are necessary, period. The three R’s reinforce a lowlife opinion of animal researchers and encourage the notion that animal experiments are problematic. The three R’s are also unnecessary; all scientists strive to complete their experiments with minimal waste and minimal stress to their research subjects, animal or human.
Many animals will necessarily perish and undergo unpleasant routines in order to advance human wellbeing. Taking a course to avoid this reality is an affront to humanity in general and a particularly acute blow to those individuals whose very lives depend on medical research. Defending the welfare of animals means placing the life of a mouse, rat, cat, dog, monkey or whatever above that of seriously ill people such as Stephen Hawking, Christopher Reeve or somebody’s parent, sibling, friend or neighbour.
Animal researchers should remember for whom and what they are working and should cease trying to placate animal rights protesters. The agendas of science and the animal rights lobby are diametrically opposed. Any compromise, including concessions to animal welfare, will only lead towards the ultimate abolition of vivisection.
Stuart Derbyshire is an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Anaethesiology. He is a contributor to Animal Experimentation: Good or Bad?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).
spiked-issue: On animals
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