One might be sympathetic to the child-like adoration of animals, without a doubt. You might even naively think that researchers using animal test subjects are some kind of torturers. Then you find out that there are protections for the ethical treatment of animals for research, like the Animal Welfare Act. And then you find out that this research saves lives in the long run.
As I’ve mentioned before, these extremists harbor no interest whatsoever in participating as civil members of a civil society. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who outwardly look like decent people, who have signed up as supporters of such activist groups. But looks can be deceiving. Supporting such animal rights extremist groups is the mark of someone who is uninformed and condones violence.
I don’t say this for the sake of ranting, just to get your attention a little. The solution, as always, is educating people.
As Drug Monkey points out, a good start is to get potential new animal rights extremism supporters to read the Animal Welfare Act. That, afterall, is the law we should be talking about. (laws matter, right?) As the original act states (click the AWA link for its expansions and clarifications):
Enacted August 24, 1966, Public Law 89-544 is what commonly is referred to as The Animal Welfare Act although that title is not mentioned within the law. It authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate transport, sale, and handling of dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits intended to be used in research or “for other purposes.” It requires licensing and inspection of dog and cat dealers and humane handling at auction sales.
Another area to educate people on is the guidelines that major scientific organizations put implace to police themselves. Such as the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research run by the National Academies of Science. Not only do ILAR and other groups establish internal guidelines and help scientists to follow them, they publish reports and books constantly re-evaluating and validating current standards to ensure humane treatment of animals. Take this book, for instance, which establishes the factual basis for the causes of animal distress and how to alleviate it:
The first in a two-part update of ILAR’s 1992 report, Recognition and Alleviation of Distress in Laboratory Animals, focuses on the distress experienced by animals used in laboratory research. This book aims to educate laboratory animal veterinarians, students, and researchers, animal care staff, and animal welfare officers on the current scientific and ethical issues associated with stress and distress in laboratory animals. The report evaluates pertinent scientific literature and generates practical and pragmatic guidelines for the recognition, alleviation, and minimization of distress for animals in the laboratory setting.
If you are going to study a human disease you can’t, for ethical reasons, perform the initial work in humans; you have to develop a model. Some models may be in vitro – literally, in glass tubes â€“ but as you learn more and more, you must eventually test ideas in vivo- in living animals. That means you have to have a way of producing the disease that allows you to study it.
Let’s consider AIDS, one of Podell’s interests. You could take its causative agent, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), grow it in a test tube, and kill it by pouring bleach on it. Do you now have a way to kill HIV? Yes, you do. Do you have a treatment that can be used in humans? Absolutely not: bleach is toxic. Killing HIV in a test tube and killing it in a living animal are two very different accomplishments.
To complicate things further, viruses grow differently in test tubes than in humans. Humans have an immune system: test tubes do not. A virus growing in a test tube is not a good model for the human disease, but drugs that don’t kill the test tube virus probably won’t work in humans either â€“ and these might be eliminated from further consideration.
Animal models allow closer approximation to a human response. They are not perfect, of course; animals host different diseases and different responses. While the fundamentals of life are the same â€“ there is a 67 percent similarity between the DNA of humans and earthworms â€“ there are differences in species and even in individual animals. Some animals are good human-like models for one thing and some for another; some have a cardiovascular system that is similar to humans while others have similar skin.(3)
And lots of people are talking about this (hardly an exhaustive list, I’m sure):
Discovering Biology in a Digital World
Adventures in Ethics and Science
A Blog Around the Clock
The Frontal Cortex
Built on Facts
Dr. Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge
Greg Laden’s Blog
Let’s fight extremism and support civility, decency, and the proper grasp of the facts, shall we?