Purely a figment of your imagination

What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz

Testing the Water

4 Comments

Hello dear readers.

A Request

I’d like to conduct a little survey – I don’t really know how big my regular readership is (I seem to coast along at around 20-50 hits/day except for when someone amazing links to the site or writing about very popular topic) or indeed what kind of people it is composed of.

There’s something I have been considering writing about for some time now; that is:

Animals in scientific research

Others write about it, it probably wouldn’t all be unique content, but I wonder if the demand/interest is out there. Please do leave a comment if you have an opinion on my writing further articles in this vein.

Full Disclosure

I think most people who know me are aware that it comes into my work/studies. Also those people will be aware of my love of nature, wildlife, animals generally.

Lots of people seem to think that accepting animal research in science and/or doing it means that you must have little interest or respect for furry critters – this is simply not true.

I have shied away from writing about my work and the wider issue of animal research mostly, I will admit, out of fear. I felt I was not ready to deal with (what I thought would be) the inevitable tide of abuse and threats, but perhaps that is unreasonable.

A Changing Climate

I was inspired by a talk we had on Friday from a member of Understanding Animal Research – we were reassured that public opinion is a bit more on our side than it used to be, not least because of some horrendous action from the animal rights extremist (ARE) camp over the last decade or so. The most notorious incident probably being the exhumation of a woman’s body because her relatives ran a guinea pig farm. Purely terrorism, and I will always argue the fact that these people’s tactics do not give them the right to take any moral high ground whatsoever.

I have followed Pro-Test for some time, and they have had some relative success in mobilising residents/students of Oxford and the eventual building of the new facility there. There’s now an American arm, too.

There’s a lot of hypocrisy in the ARE group, as there tends to be in any absolutist movement.

They claim to care about animals, yet the release of lab-bred animals can be disastrous for the environment and indeed for the animals themselves (e.g. mink released from fur farms – not that I agree with fur in fashion at all). They get their food from humans, may have been captive-bred for many generations, and like Trafalgar Square’s pigeons or domestic pets, are generally crap at surviving in the wild. So releasing them may well be a death sentence, if they’re not hunted down first.

Upgrading animal facilities is vital to maintain a high standard of care, comfort and health for the animals within. Opposing upgrades is nonsensical, as it just mens inhabitatants will have to spend longer in the older, less adequate housing.

So aside from the extremist angle, there are a lot of people who join legitimate, peaceful protests against animal research too. They’re perfectly within their right to do so.

WWYD?

The only argument I’ve ever really used is a personal one; when faced with the death of a loved one, if you were to be offered the hypothetical choice of them surviving in exchange for some animals – it’s generally the case that people will choose their loved ones, even in the hypothetical situation alone.

That’s normal; we’re human beings, we have strong emotional ties to family and friends for many reasons – evolutionary and cultural (arguably linked anyway). That doesn’t mean we can’t also care deeply for animals. I know I do. But still, given the choice between, say, my mum’s wellbeing and that of our dog, mum comes first.

Animals in research have helped our drug development as long as it’s been going. No, animals don’t always respond in the same way, but without them we’d have to take new drugs straight to people and I for one don’t know of anyone who will offer up their kids (or indeed themselves) to random compound testing. It’s dangerous, it’d kill and injure a lot more people than it already does (testing new drugs is not without its dangers, even after animal testing phases – but that does not render that research useless either).

I absolutely do not support animal testing for cosmetics (which is in fact no longer permitted in the UK anyway) or other such non-medical products.

I don’t like the use of animals research, I don’t know of anyone who does. It’s never nice to have to make such sacrificies. But I realise the overall value of the work, even if I won’t be doing it myself forever. I don’t think I will – also, I eagerly await the day we can replace most or all of it with computer modelling etc. but that day really isn’t now (whatever campaigners try to tell you, it is not the case), our knowledge and technology are not sufficient to rely on those alternatives.

This is worth reading (though sadly full thing closed except to subscribers since last time I checked), for anyone still holding the misguided view that anyone working on animals must be some sort of heartless sadist. Most people are in medical science precisely because they care about and value life – not just that of humans, medical research also benefits animals. Chemo and radio therapy, surgical techniques, many developed drugs are also used in veterinary science.

What Say You?

So, if I were to write some more on the subject; the reality, the applications – would people be interested? Or would you just want to kill me (more)?

My sister (hi Jules!) is a vet nurse, as my mum was, and loves animals to the point where you can barely move in their house for them. If you’ve got a pet you don’t want and it’s sufficiently cute/dysfunctional, she might be able to take it off your hands 😉

She is the only person I know who really doesn’t want to think about this subject but is still happy to go camping/boozing with me so I’m hoping most people out there are equally reasonable.

Please leave me your feedback should you have any, and I shall muse further on the topic. Otherwise, that’s the last you’re hearing about it!

Edit: you know what? I think I’ll leave it to the pros.

Edit II: Dean has been very brave writing this, and reading it as a guest report on the Pod Delusion. As anticipated, he’s already been compared to Hitler (amazing how you can often judge the strength of a side’s argument by its time-to-Godwin) and dubbed ‘mutilator‘. I hope none of those people ever use medicine or hospitals, goddamn hypocrites.

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Author: noodlemaz

I prefer to think of myself as a realist rather than a pessimist, but perhaps that's just optimistic. Honest, atheist, scientist, feminist.

4 thoughts on “Testing the Water

  1. I used to work with a chap who was then, and still is, a fairly loud mouthpiece for this issue. He has a button in his kitchen that connects to an alarm at Special Branch.

    He and colleagues do a good job and take the risks for the rest of us. My advice would be to leave it to them.

    http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/

  2. Agree with above. Tread carefully. Did you know animal activists picked up on the imascientist twitter threads and posted some unpleasant stuff despite all the discussion being uncontroversial and balanced.

  3. I would certainly continue reading with interest.

    My immediate prejudice is against writing such a blog, except anonymously.

    Were such an anonymous blog to exist, I would subscribe.

  4. I’d be very interested.

    If asked for an opinion, my younger self would have said “I can’t say I actually like it and I probably wouldn’t do it myself. I’m completely opposed to it unless it is for really vital research, such as medicine that would help lots of people.”

    My older self says, simply: “I don’t know enough.”

    Because between the screaming hype, accusations, fluffy bunnies, terrorism etc – there’s a huge lack of knowledge, probably a direct result of all this fear.

    I want to know what happens in these labs, what the animals do, what sort of tests they undergo, what it’s like working with them – enough to be able to see it both from their point of view and the scientists’.

    I’m all in favour of finding alternatives where possible, but this won’t happen in a climate of terror. And I’ll never forget the lecture we had at university on thalidomide – exactly what happens in the womb at what point, and where the effects are and why – and why thalidomide had an effect at a very specific time – and the lecturer remarked: “Animal testing would have found that out.” Fewer animals would have suffered than the number of people who ended up doing so.

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