Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Would you rather snap its neck in half?
So we’ve all seen those quirky animal rights activists on TV, throwing paint on fur jackets and burning down testing sites, fighting to the rights of rodents and the like outside laboratories that make our lives easier by finding new medicines and cures by experimenting on these meaningless animals. These people protest against testing on animals, yet almost any product or medicine that you or I use was tested, at some point, on a lower life form. Take simple behavioral patterns for instance: no one would ever know anything about conditioning in the human psychology without Pavlov’s dogs
In an editorial in Nature magazine , the PETA-esque people are back at work trying to find more humane ways to kill rodents that are used in experiments. They offer what seems more humane ways to kill the animals, like breaking the poor things’ necks or gassing them with more expensive anesthesia instead of the current carbon dioxide that is used in mass animal terminations. The main argument is that the animals feel the instant panic that humans feel when they inhale mass amounts of carbon dioxide, yet I beg to differ. The hard fact is that we cannot talk to these animals and ask them if they are okay while they are dying and therefore cannot fully ever believe that they experience the same sensations as humans, therefore, until technology allows a clear sense of the “emotions” of these animals, the cheapest and fastest way of getting rid of the rodents should still be the carbon dioxide.
Granted, technology is well on its way to forming a picture of the mind and feelings of animals but it has not yet accomplished this task. Even PETA states that animals differ from humans in such a way that it’s inadequate to test on them, yet if they are so different from humans, how do we know that they have the same emotional capacity of humans and therefore should be treated the same? If a rat has 99% of the same genes of humans , they are obviously more helpful to do medicinal experiments on than a fruit fly and many of the same effects that drugs may have on a human will affect onto the rat so a researcher can see what the effects would be on a human through the rat. The main problem is that if rats do have that much genetic similarity with humans, then can’t they feel the pain as humans do? There has not been enough research to guarantee that they cannot feel the pain, but the overwhelming idea is that the pain is so momentary that the advantage of having tested the animal far outweighs the disadvantage of the animal having suffered such a trivial amount of time.
The research industry is ardently trying to find simpler, cheaper, and more humane ways of doing animal testing and hoping to find ways to eliminate the use of animals all together, but until that day comes, the animals must be used. Animal rights activists, as sited in the Nature article, are just calling upon a more humane way of dealing with the used animals once their purpose has been fulfilled; yet this more humane way will cost the researchers much more money than, in my opinion, is worth. Granted, these animals did not ask to be bred for research purposes, but they also wouldn’t have ever been alive if they hadn’t been bred for research. The most cost effective and humane way, until research proves otherwise, is to gas ‘em with some carbon dioxide.
Not only are alternatives more costly, they also cause researchers undue squeamishness. Grabbing a rat and breaking its neck is effective to kill the rat, but the researcher has to do that thousands of times to get rid of the tested rodents and that can damage the human psyche. Although it would bring the ‘cruelty’ to the forefront and give researchers hands-on experience with the ‘suffering’ of the animals, it would be time consuming and grotesque. Some activists say that scientists should be able to kill the animals with their bare hands, since that is more ‘humane’. If animal rights activists are so passionate about animals being treated the same as humans, wouldn’t they be just as passionate about making the death penalty more ‘humane’?
If scientists did protest to this manual annihilation, they’d be forced to try alternatives to animal testing that would not suffice. An artificial, fleshy bit of material would never substitute for live tissue that can fully encompass the effects of medicines and other products. Though the material would help to see if a certain make-up matched someone’s skin tone, in the laboratory it would not be sufficient for proper testing, especially where medicines are concerned.
When I put on my Crest Whitestrips or wash my hair with Herbal Essence, I’m not looking at labels to see if they’ve been tested on animals or not, and my best guess it that you aren’t either. But that’s not the issue. The real issue is how to take care of the animals that have been tested on. Most carbon dioxide mass rodent euthanasia’s take 10 seconds , and though some have lasted for 4 minutes, the vast majority are over quickly and are extremely effective. Why do away with a common practice that has not been substantially proven to cause mental anguish to a bunch of rats when it works almost perfectly and is effective? I see no real reason, until the activists can provide concrete evidence saying that the rodents suffer to the same degree a human would, and once that happens, I’ll buy the rodents a round of anesthetics to humanely kill them.