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By: Don Lutz
Author of "The Weaning of America"
Submitted 22 Aug 2000

An interesting article appeared in the 3/26/2000 Gainesville Sun, addressing the issue of reform in the animal research program at the University of Florida. It saddened me that the larger issue was not addressed -- the very concept of animal research itself.

A position adopted and promoted by the animal research industry is: "Better to sacrifice a dog to save a child." This ridiculous view is predicated on the false assumption that we have no other options. In reality, there are better ways to study human disease than trying to pretend that the results of testing members of a different species can be applied to our own species, particularly when the test subjects are imprisoned, isolated, and fed an unnatural diet, before and during the actual experiments. Dozens of books by doctors, former researchers, and other scientists have challenged the efficacy, practicality and morality of experimenting on non human animals. Among them are the classics by Peter Singer ("Animal Liberation"), Tom Regan ("The Case for Animal Rights") and Hans Ruesch (Slaughter of the Innocent", "The Naked Empress" and "1,000 Doctors Against Vivisection"). Two recent efforts, "Animal Experimentation: A Harvest of Shame" by Dr. Moneim A. Faladi, and "Sacred Cows and Golden Geese" by Dr. Ray Greek, update and expand on the earlier works.

Even if animal experimentation does benefit humans (which it does occasionally, rather by accident), does that make it morally right? Do the 100,000,000 animals that die annually in American labs deserve no voice in the matter? From a truly objective point of view, is it any more ethical to "sacrifice" non human animals to benefit humans, than to "sacrifice" humans to benefit the other animals?

At least 100,000 Americans die annually from drugs that were deemed safe after experiments on non humans. Hundreds of drugs have been recalled after their side effects caused untold suffering for humans. Of course, when doctors and pharmaceutical companies are sued for such mistakes, they can say "These drugs (or these procedures) were tested on animals, so it’s not our fault." And some judges (who too often have financial ties to the medical / pharmaceutical industry) rule in favor of the defendants, because of potential loss to themselves.

Rationalization for animal experimentation is founded on the premise that humans are God’s ":chosen darlings", and that the pain and suffering of no one else really matters. Steven J. Gould (who spoke at The University of Florida in April) and many others have challenged the myth that humans are the culmination of evolution, or have a God-given "right" to exploit, alter, enslave, torture and kill, any (or perhaps all) of the other inhabitants of this planet to satisfy our curiosity, gluttony and need to profit. An open-minded look at animal experimentation reveals that:

1) Animal Research has not been the great boon to human health that the medical and pharmaceutical industries claim. It’s history is a chronicle of illogical theories, distorted facts, ghastly errors and incredible waste. The case has been made convincingly that such research has done more harm than good for humans as well as the other animals.

2) Research on non human animals is done largely for the profit motive (corporate funding), and there are valid and practical alternatives that offer far greater benefits to all concerned.

3) The rationale for all animal experimentation is based on human misconceptions about human needs and the nature of animals and their experience of pleasure and pain.

4) All animals have an inherent right to life, liberty and a natural experience of life according to their species. Even if vivisection does result in benefits for humans, there is no logical argument that denies consideration of these basic animal rights.

Experimentation on humans without their consent is considered unethical and immoral. This is not because we are intelligent, build churches, or are the dominant species at the moment. It is wrong because such research causes pain and suffering. Only the most callous and egoistic claim that pain and suffering is experienced only by humans. This attitude has made humans the "unnatural" enemy to all other living things. We pollute our environment and create our own disease by choosing unhealthful diets and lifestyles, and then make innocent animals pay for our sins in after-the-fact attempts to understand our mistakes. Of course there is little glory or profit in preventing disease; better to wait until disease is advanced and come in with a heroic (and profitable) cure.

A University of Florida professor made a statement in 1998 that all medical schools do animal research because they have no other choice. In reality, at least seventy American medical schools, at least claim not to have animal labs. Research on non human animals is being phased out for practical as well as ethical reasons. The prestigious Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Washington, DC) boasts a membership of over 5,000 physicians and 100,000 laypersons who oppose research on live animals. In 1983, a former vivisectionist told an audience of 4,000 outside the University of Wisconsin that "the day will come when we will look back upon the 400 years of animal experimentation as the Dark Ages of medical research."

--Don Lutz

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