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From 6 November 2005 Issue

I Experimented on Animals in College
By Greg Lawson - ParkStRanger@aol.com 

Yes, it's true, when I was a graduate student in perceptual psychology at the University of Tennessee, I experimented on animals. I was even a vegetarian and an advocate of animal rights at the time. I felt that I had to conduct those experiments to finish my degree. The rule still is "publish or perish," not only for professors, but also for their research assistants. I also felt that I treated the animals I worked with humanely and in accordance with the federal animal welfare rules. I don't regret any of the animal research I conducted.

The animals I experimented on were human animals, mostly other psychology students, and my work was very non-invasive. The only suffering any of those animals might have endured was boredom. All of the subjects were consenting volunteers and were paid with either money or extra credit for their university classes. The results of our research were published in the Journal of Perceptual Psychology and hopefully added to the body of knowledge that will one day produce new sonar devices to help blind people navigate in our world.

How different this is from the rest of the animal research that goes on in universities across the country. While most (90%) of the animals used in research are mice and rats, there are also large numbers of dogs, cats, primates and other animals used in research. While most people can dismiss research on rodents as acceptable, the majority of society objects to the use of "higher" animals.

The area of animal research is one of the most controversial issues in the animal rights movement. Some of us wish for total animal liberation, some of us think that some animal experimentation is acceptable in order to find cures for disease. People who support research on animals believe in the utilitarian view that it is a necessary evil for animals to be sacrificed to benefit human health.

I hold the opinion that most animal research is wrong from an ethical point of view. From all the studies I have read, non-human animals are similar to us in that they feel pain and fear, in that they can suffer, in that they can experience complex emotions such as love, friendship, in that they mourn the loss of a loved one, in that they perform similar behaviors to humans and that they exhibit many other similarities.

A recent study in a national park in the Congo reported on a gorilla who was observed to wade into a pond, found the water too deep, and exited the water. She grabbed a branch and used it to test the depth of the pond. Animals are more like us than we usually like to admit. They use tools, they have language, we as humans are just slow to figure the language out.

But when it comes to medicine, most animals don't respond the same way that humans do. We have been fighting the "War Against Cancer" for decades, but we are losing. Animal research has not benefited humanity in any way when it comes to cancer. Cancer affects mice and rats much differently than it affects humans; billions of dollars and much research time has been wasted that could have been spent on epidemiology and on prevention through diet.

In 1929, when Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, he first tested it on rabbits. He found that it didn't cure the infection they had, so he put penicillin on the shelf for a decade. The vaccine for polio was similarly delayed for decades because it didn't work in animal tests. Many drugs have tested as safe in animals, but then were found to cause side effects in humans ranging from allergic reactions to birth defects to death. Animal tests results are at best a fifty-fifty proposition.

It is in our best interests, as it is in the interests of the tens of millions of animals who are annually tortured in laboratories for no other reason than scholarly research papers to add to resumes of professors and to bolster their careers, federal research grants to enrich colleges, to move beyond the dark ages of animal research. Lets move on towards real cures, shall we?

Recent studies on humans, epidemiology, have found that miso soup prevents breast cancer, that isoflavones in soy prevent pancreatic cancer, that the spice turmeric kills cancer cells, that eating more raw fruits and veggies protect against lung cancer, and that dairy products promote prostate and ovarian cancer, that red meat causes colon cancer.

The Cancer Institute of America says that 70% of all cancers are preventable by diet and lifestyle changes. It's probably a lot more than that, because a lot of the cancers they attribute to "environmental factors" are pesticides and hormones in our food.

Do we really need to continue to induce cancer in mice, primates, dogs and cats in an effort to find a cure? That sure seems stupid to me. Let's spend our tax dollars to promote a diet that Prevents cancer. Low fat (animal fat concentrates pesticides and hormones), high fruit and vegetable (so many fruits and vegetables are known to prevent cancer) diets are what we should be eating.

I object to paying high insurance rates because of what the majority of Americans eat. I object to their choice of killing animals for food, and I object to paying for their hospital costs when it catches up with them. I object to my tax dollars going to take care of people who made bad food choices during their lives.

OK, I don't object so much to the ignorant people who never knew, as I do to the people who Have read from many news articles that meat and dairy causes cancer and just can't seem to give up their addiction to animal products.

I'm sorry, they are just ignorant (in the sense of ignoring the evidence,) and fooled by the meat and dairy industry, they are not flesh eating zombies. ( or wait, perhaps they are)

I would like to minimize my paying for their health care and invest my money in a vegetarian restaurant, but the federal government takes and takes and takes, and gives price support to meat and dairy and gives money to research to kill animals to find a way to save human lives from the consequences of a meat based diet. Then it pays health care facilities to care for people who ate an animal based diet all their lives.

Will the federal government use tax dollars to rebuild the animal research facilities at Louisiana State University where over 8000 lab animals died in their cages because it was the first priority that humans escape the flood?

The vivisectionists at LSU have expressed no remorse over the animals, mice, rats, dogs, cats and primates that died in the flood, they have only expressed remorse over the data they have lost from their research. Research objects, or sentient beings? Do you want to rebuild Medical Centers to experiment on animals. I sure don't.

For more information go to PETA's site stopanimaltests.com and the National Antivivisection Society at navs.org

"I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't...the pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further." -Mark Twain

"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction."
-Professor Charles R. Magel

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