Speciesism and animal testing
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
Several months ago my mum was accepted by a new doctor and required to go in for a routine physical. During the ultrasound, a lump was detected on her ovaries which the doctor was unable to identify. She was informed that she needed major surgery, both to identify and remove the lump. Naturally, anyone in this situation would be very concerned: What if it was something serious?
Until this point I (Rebecca) had not considered the reality of something like cancer affecting my immediate family. For myself, I had always believed that animals were not ours to experiment on for any reason, be it the triviality of cosmetics or the severity of potentially human-life-saving medical research. However, when the question of medical research involving animals affects those I care about, the choice becomes less clear.
I value and respect the lives of all sentient beings, but when it comes down to a choice between the life of my mum and that of a lab rat, ethical decisions become more difficult.
For someone who cares about animals, but who also wants to save the lives of loved ones, the debate on animal research brings up challenging questions.
What is it that makes most humans view their lives as more valuable than an animal's life? Is it morally acceptable to test on animals because they are not as closely genetically related to us as other humans are? If this is true, is it therefore morally acceptable to test on people of another race than yours? Is favouring your own species any different from favouring your own race? One is racism, one is speciesism, though different are they not rooted in a similar injustice?
Obviously, it would be morally reprehensible to conduct tests on humans without their consent. So what is it that gives us the right to test on animals or to take the lives of animals for research? If animals can indeed suffer and feel pain - which they can - then it is our moral responsibility to seriously consider the ethics of testing on them.
Unfortunately, for most people, sacrificing the life of an animal to save the life of a human is not an issue. Obviously most would choose the life of a human over that of an animal, (though vegan, we recognize that most people eat animals for pleasure, so is there really anything wrong with testing on animals or killing animals to save a human's life in their view?) Yet, is it really a question of choosing between human life and animal life? Or is this just what researchers want us to believe?
Thankfully, with modern technological advances, there are more and more feasible alternatives to animal testing becoming available every year, including sophisticated in vitro, genomic, and computer-modeling techniques. These alternatives to animal testing not only save animal lives, but are efficient, cost-effective and reliable as well - perhaps more so than animal based testing as the synthetic methods can work to mirror a human body more accurately than an animal's ever could. Unfortunately, many labs still choose to test on animals. So long as animals are a cheap resource, then humans will continue to exploit them.
So, what can you do?
If donating to charities (which is often popular this time of year), then really check out where your money is going and choose ones that do not test on animals
Buy cruelty-free cosmetics and household products: it's easy, they're readily available, and the choice saves millions of animals' lives and reduce their suffering.
Write a letter: Virtually all federally funded research is paid for with your tax dollars. Two of the main funders of animal-based research in North America, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, need to hear that you don't want your tax dollars used to underwrite animal experiments, whatever their purpose.
Write to the heads of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Toxicology Program, and Health Canada and urge them to stop requiring cruel and obsolete animal tests for pharmaceuticals and allow companies to substitute with in vitro tests.