Pain is a very unpleasant topic. We don’t like to think about it. We
certainly don’t want to experience it. We avoid doctors or dentists to evade
injections or fillings. And we are always anesthetized for major medical
Those who perform animal experiments are supposed to use anesthesia in the experiments. The Animal Welfare Act seems to require it:
“(iv) Procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or
distress to the animals will:
(A) Be performed with appropriate sedatives, analgesics or anesthetics,
unless withholding such agents is justified for scientific reasons”
In other words, pain relief must be used, unless it would interfere with the experiment. So, from the beginning we see that the experiment is more important than the animal.
How widespread is this practice of using animals in painful experiments without pain relief? By our estimates, during 2011, just over 116,000 animals experienced unrelieved pain in U.S. laboratories. 97,179 of those animals or 84 % were used in just 20 laboratories, and you can see the full list here. Unrelieved pain, intentionally inflicted. In those 20 labs, 294 dogs, 211 cats, 43,177 guinea pigs, 47,116 hamsters, 2,853 rabbits, 544 primates, 1,545 pigs, and over 1,400 other animals experienced unrelieved pain, or about 11 every hour.
What do we mean by unrelieved pain? This is the truly unpleasant topic. At the University of Maryland in Baltimore 46 rhesus macaque monkeys were irradiated causing GI (gastro-intestinal) Acute Radiation syndrome. At the same lab, 1,064 guinea pigs were “exposed to organophosporous (OP) compounds to induce signs of OP toxicity potentially including neurotoxic/neurobehavioral effects, convulsions and possible mortality.” Organophosporous compounds are chemical weapons.
The caring staff of the National Institutes of Health injected botulinum toxin into either the temporal lobe of the brain or the cerebrospinal fluid of one rhesus monkey. Eight dogs were exposed to “leishmaniasis, a fatal disease of dogs. . . . dogs that succumb to visceral leishmaniasis show clinical signs including loss of weight, loss of hair, elongated nails, diarrhea, wasting, renal failure, ulceration, and enlargement of internal organs including liver and spleen.” They say that they didn’t see these severe clinical signs in this, the first year of their study, but the second year of the study is about to begin.
The University of Pennsylvania did open castration of unanaesthetized 7–10 day old male piglets in their Swine Teaching Herd. This is not a new practice, has been a part of veterinary training for many years. Apparently only now have the folks at the U of PA realized that young piglets are vertebrate animals who are capable of feeling pain. Actually this lab deserves a bit of credit. The other veterinary schools in the U.S. haven’t yet admitted the truth.
The University of Texas, Galveston, used 6 hamsters in a project that looked at the innate immune response to viral infection. “ . . . most of the animals will subsequently develop symptoms of encephalitis (lethargy, anorexia, irritability, and possibly transient limb weakness) within a week. About 50% of the hamsters will recover . . . The other 50% will develop the same initial symptoms . . . but then go on to develop progressively severe symptoms of neuroinvasive disease (difficulty walking, tremors, limb paralysis, loss of balance, and inability to eat or drink). At this point the animals will be euthanized, since it is probable that they will eventually die and are in distress.” Probable? Really?
The list of atrocities is almost endless. After reading about a few thousand animals dying horribly, you almost become numb. Your mind can only handle so much brutality at one time. We can only psychologically and empathetically process a limited amount of cruelty.
The pictures that are generated in my mind become a ghoulish nightmare. Irradiated monkeys wasting away. Infant male pigs screaming in pain. Hamsters immobilized by neuroinvasive disease, waiting to die. Hundreds of dogs, cats, and primates – tens of thousands of hamsters and guinea pigs – all suffering and dying painfully from human-inflicted pathologies.
Wading through this information is like walking in a river of blood and slowly drowning.
All these animals are part of my experience. Dogs and cats share my home. I have known many species of monkeys. In my childhood, hamsters were companions. Rabbits, pigs, all of these animals have been present in my life. They are all intelligent and sensitive. They want only to be allowed to live freely, and yet they all suffer and die at out hands.
As I write this article I am interrupted by three kittens we recently rescued. Playing roughly, they tumble around. Meowing as they nip on limbs, they expend kittenish energy. Then they are mentally swept up into this nightmare scenario, infected with some killer disease and languishing until dead. Each of these three kittens repeats this picture 70 times.
This would seem to be too much for anyone to bear, and yet some of us choose to do so. This is more than can ever be asked of any one person, and yet we do it willingly. For as immense as our sorrow becomes, as critical as the psychic overload, it is still absolutely nothing in comparison to what the animals endure. I only describe it. They LIVE it. And die in pain.
When will I walk away from this? Not ever. Not until I’m dead. When will it be too much? Constantly, every day of my life. Who will fight with me? Who will stand next to me, in this river of blood?
I hope it’s you.
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