The Nice Repackaging of Cruel Animal Testing
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The Nice Repackaging of Cruel Animal Testing

By Toby Köberle
Melbourne, Australia
December 2006

It is interesting how we humans use language manipulation to make our sordid mistreatment of our fellow creatures more palatable.

“Pests” are “managed” or “controlled”, “laboratory” animals are “utilized”, and wild herds are “culled”.
Animals are never “murdered”, “tortured”, or dealt “genocide”. But of course, they are.

There is a difference in terminology for identical acts which depends on whether the victim is human or not. This a result of both Cartesian philosophy, which underlies all Western thinking (ie. animals as mechanisms), and also a continuation of the current trend which sees horrendous acts (regardless of whether against human or animal) toned down by the media and society in general. This is done by manipulation and (mis)use of language.

If I tell you of a chimpanzee being cruelly vivisected (cut apart and/or operated on without anaesthetics or painkillers), subjected to agonising pain over a period of many days before being clubbed to death, you will probably think, “Oh, how horrible! That should not be allowed!”
If, on the other hand, I tell you of “primate research being conducted with the aim of treating a human disease to improve the quality of life for all”… well, that sounds much better, doesn’t it? As if the nice wording justifies the act!

This sort of thing goes on every minute of every day. Ever since the cruellest forms of animal experimentation were made public in the 1970’s, there has been a great deal of covering up and “relabelling” by those responsible. But animal experiments - including vivisection - are alive and well (pun intended), and have – generally speaking - actually increased in the last ten years. Incidentally, biotechnology was supposed to eliminate the need for animal experiments but the reverse occurred. (Just like genetically-modified crops were supposed to use less pesticides and computers were supposed to create “paperless offices”).

Animal testing is not necessary at all. Research can be conducted more accurately by various other available means.

Firstly, it is a known fact that results obtained from experimenting on animals are unreliable. There are numerous cases that highlight the absurdity of assuming that humans and animals have a sufficiently similar biological make-up for experimentation to yield useful results.

For example: morphine calms humans but excites cats, cortisone causes birth defects in mice but not in humans, penicillin kills guinea pigs and hamsters and aspirin poisons cats. Certain steroids, adrenaline, insulin and some antibiotics are also toxic to many animals but medically beneficial to humans.

Second, there are many reliable, cost-effective alternatives available. The most common alternative methods are: in-vitro tests (testing on cell cultures), computer software (modelling and projection using existing data), databases of tests already done (to avoid duplication), even human "clinical trial" tests and new scanning technologies (such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging). All of these can help doctors learn about disease from human patients without the need for invasive surgery or animal testing. For the cosmetics and chemical industries there are also many alternatives, such as use of synthetic membranes (which simulate human skin). For example, the Department of Transportation became the first US agency to accept tests for skin corrosivity conducted on artificially-grown cells in 1993. The traditional test simply measured how far a corrosive substance ate into an anaesthetised rabbit's shaved back. Instead, the replacement uses reconstructed human skin, or a synthetic material called 'Corrositex'. Similar solutions could be developed for many other types of experiments which currently use animals.

Sadly, it is often nothing more than laziness that sees a company continue animal testing rather than explore the alternatives. It is this same laziness which has seen cruelty toward animals repackaged in nice wording to make it more palatable. Don’t be fooled for a minute that animal experiments or “animal management” techniques have become any more ‘humane’. Government ‘environmental’ and ‘natural resource’ departments, large corporations and the “pest-control” (ie. mass-murder of unwanted animals) industry in particular are very skilled at this verbal manipulation.

By bringing you this short essay, I urge you to look at the bloody reality which lies behind all the nice words of animal mistreatment and experimentation and please, make the effort to purchase only cosmetics, cleaning products, medicines etc which are guaranteed to be free from animal testing.  

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