The necessity of animal testing: a rebuttal »
When I wrote about the terrible experiments scientists are conducting at the University of Texas, someone reblogged it with a lot to say. Here’s the final paragraph:
“REALLY want to protest animal testing? Walk away from the next antibiotic your doctor prescribes, turn down the next necessary surgery you are recommended, and hope you’re never hospitalized. I can assure you that each and every one of the medications and procedures that you come across has been tested on animals, using the most extreme conditions that could possibly be encountered in real practice.”
Do you know why this is bullshit? Benefiting from things we learned in past experiments that we now consider ethically wrong does not mean we should support ethically wrong experiments or continue them in the future. There are all kinds of experiments that went on in the past that are now considered immoral—experiments on PEOPLE—and we’ve learned a lot from them. Think about the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; they were despicable and I hope we never, ever see anything like that again, but we benefitted from the knowledge we gained from them.
Even in psychology—the Milgram experiment? They teach that in every psych class and it’s pretty messed up. And don’t get me started on the Stanford prison experiment and its lasting effects on participants. That inspired new standards of ethics, and now would be considered officially unethical. We also learned a lot from that study, and it is frequently discussed in classrooms.
Peta is also trying to get the president of U.T. to investigate the experiments because they may be illegally abusive to animals. That’s the greater point to many of these cases Peta takes on: the research labs are performing animal experiments beyond what is allowed. Even if you are pro-animal testing, you still have to follow the rules. For example, after a Peta investigation, University of Utah was investigated by the USDA and cited for nine violations under the federal animal protection laws.
Saying “Medical research mostly deserves to be left alone” is cruelly short-sighted. Animal testing should be illegal, but in the meantime it must be closely monitored to make sure the testers are abiding by the law; clearly they can’t be relied upon to do so on their own. If a lab conducts illegal experiments, it should be shut down. Try to find some legal tests to get behind, if you are going to support animal testing.
We have knowledge from unethical—and now illegal—experiments, and that knowledge is valuable. We can’t pretend certain information doesn’t exist when it does. We also can’t condone these experiments and can’t continue them. If we know an antibiotic can cure an illness because that medicine was initially tested on non-consenting humans, do we pretend we don’t know the antibiotic is effective? No. Can we still condemn these experiments? Yes. Do we fight to make sure they never happen again? Yes. The same can be said if the non-consenting subjects were animals. Benefitting from knowledge derived from morally reprehensible experiments doesn’t mean we have to condone them and it doesn’t mean we should continue to practice them in the future.