Farm Animals, on the Plate and in the Lab, and Human Hypocrisy

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Farm Animals, on the Plate and in the Lab, and Human Hypocrisy

 By Stephanie Ernst on Change.org

A few days ago, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled "This Little Piggie Went to the Science Lab." And I owe a hat tip to both Google Search and Doris of About.com (whose differently focused take on this you should also read) for alerting me to it.

The article begins, "Watch out, little white lab mouse. Barnyard animals are gunning for your job." These sorts of remarks don't bother me when they come from animal advocates because I know they're made with sarcasm, with a deep sense of knowing; I myself have made them. When mainstreamers remark with such flippancy, however, I roll my eyes. The mainstream doesn't need any additional reinforcement of the idea that being cruelly experimented on is just a boring job, rather than an existence of confinement and misery, for any of these animals. Preposterous. But let's move on to the really perplexing part, shall we?

A bullish group of agricultural scientists says that farm animals have been vastly underrated as a resource for improving human health -- and they're vying for some of the billions of dollars the government invests in biomedical research.

The human-sized hearts and blood vessels of pigs are well-suited for the study of cardiovascular disease, they say. Cow embryos have the unusual ability to start forming body structures in lab dishes, where they are easy to observe. Chickens are the only animals besides humans known to suffer from ovarian cancer.

"Farm animals are more closely related to humans genetically and physiologically," said Jim Ireland, a professor of animal science and physiology at Michigan State University in East Lansing, who notes with pride that at least 17 Nobel Prize winners used barnyard species in their experiments.

Let's be clear about what we're saying here. Proponents of animal agriculture spend a lot of time trying to convince us of how different we are from the animals we eat, of how supposedly little we have in common, of how these vast differences are what makes it OK for us to breed, separate, mutilate, torment, confine, and kill them by the billions.

But now, when it suits them, the same folks are telling us how similar they are to us. They're vastly different when we want to torment and kill them to eat them, but they're remarkably the same when we want to torment and kill them for research. Interesting.

So what's the truth? Like other animals, they're the same in the ways that matter, and they're different in the ways that matter. Their desire to live and live freely and their capacity for suffering, joy, sadness, boredom, grief, and affection and for bonding with friends and family--they are the same in those ways, and so we should not be killing them because we think they (and their secretions) taste good. But it is true that they are not human, and their systems do not exactly mirror ours--and we do not need to research on them--so those differences combined with the important similarities mean we shouldn't be tormenting and killing them for research either.

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 okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the animals are not like us." Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.
-Charles R. Magel

Oppose animal research. Support alternatives. Do not donate to charities that fund animal research. And go vegan.

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