Posts Tagged ‘animals in science’

I have had nightmares before about animals. A while back, I wrote about my first “meat-mare” as my friend Al calls them. I thought it was pretty unusual considering I had never had such dreams prior to becoming vegan, but Al said he used to have them all the time.

More recently, I had a nightmare where I had to watch a man drown dolphins (yes, dolphins can – and do – drown). I wanted to stop the man, but I couldn’t. The people I was with, who also knew it was wrong, said that we’d be risking our own lives if we tried to stop him, and they pulled me away. I couldn’t stop watching, though – I kept going back, panicking the whole time about how I wasn’t doing anything to help them.

A while before that, I had a dream that I worked in a laboratory where we did experiments on small monkeys. The monkeys were very frightened and what was being done to them was clearly very painful. When we weren’t using them, they were put in little boxes with no windows all by themselves. It was awful. The whole time, I was trying to find ways to get them out of there, but in the meantime, I had to pretend that I didn’t mind doing these awful, painful things to them because I had to be secretive about my plan to free them. It felt so terrible, and I felt so helpless.

Again, I thought having dreams like this was unusual, but I’ve come to learn that it’s actually quite normal for animal advocates to have nightmares about either having to hurt animals, or having to watch animals being hurt and knowing there’s nothing you can do. Really, it sort of mirrors real life for those of us who abhor all the wrongs that are done to animals every day – we know it’s wrong, but often times it feels too overwhelming to do anything, or we feel helpless even if we are doing something.

Has anyone else had nightmares like this? Do they stop at some point?

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Scared monkeys in a lab

“Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is ‘Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.”

— Professor Charles R. Magel (1980)

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In the past few weeks, I’ve had a series of interviews with a medical device company. The open position is incredibly interesting and would be seriously challenging – both of which I find appealing. I like the idea of working in a professional capacity to improve the lives of others, and working to bring life-saving medical devices to market would surely do that.

There’s just one problem: they do animal testing. I finally asked about this in my last interview. I knew that the answer would probably be yes, as I think (and I might be wrong on this) that the FDA requires animal testing prior to doing human clinical trials. Well, as my interviewer explained the reasoning behind why they do it, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. Could I do this? Would this compromise my ethics? Would the good I could do outweigh the bad?

I got my answer when he said, “Part of your job would involve attending these animal tests, which are typically carried out on live pigs. After the device is tested, the animal is humanely euthanized and an autopsy is conducted.”

ATTEND an animal test?? I felt myself wanting to tear up – that feeling like there’s something caught in your throat, you know? I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. As he finished up his speech about how they don’t take these tests lightly and they don’t do any more than they absolutely are required to, he asked me if I could handle doing this. I knew the answer, but just said, “You know, I am going to have to sit on that for a little bit and see if I can square it up with how I choose to live my life. But thank you for explaining it all to me and for being open about it – I appreciate it.”

I left there disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to pursue a job that, ethics aside (which I can’t do – put my ethics aside), I find really interesting.

Am I overreacting? If any other animal advocates/vegans have anything to say on this, I’d be very interested. I think I just feel too conflicted to be able to take this job and really give it my all, you know?

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Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: “Because the animals are like us.” Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: “Because the animals are not like us.” Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.
~Charles R. Magel

Did you know that the United States is the largest user of chimpanzees in biomedical research in the entire world? New Zealand, England, Sweden, Austria, and a number of others have either banned or limited such use, and yet we continue to subject our closest living relatives to painful and unnecessary medical testing. And guess what? It’s our tax dollars funding this research. “The cost to U.S. taxpayers for chimpanzee research and maintenance is estimated at $20 – 25 million per year, money that many in the scientific community believe could be allocated to more effective research.”* Based on how little information scientists have obtained by subjecting so many innocent animals to unnecessary tests, the bar for “more effective research” isn’t very high. So if chimps are such good substitutes for humans, why is it that we’ve gotten so little information? The reason is that there are substantial differences between chimpanzees and humans when it comes to diseases like HIV/AIDS:Chimp in research

  • Humans become immunodeficient and do not maintain normal levels of critical immune factors, CD4 and Tlymphocytes. Chronically infected chimpanzees maintain normal levels and do not become immunodeficient.
  • In contrast to humans, HIV does not reproduce well in chimpanzees.
  • HIV infected humans contain the virus in their blood cells and plasma. Chimpanzees contain the virus only in their blood cells.
  • Virus particles are found in human saliva and spinal fluid. In chimpanzees they are not.
  • Humans develop opportunistic infections and cancers associated with HIV. Chimpanzees do not.
  • Humans drop their antibody count prior to systemic illness; chimpanzees do not.**

So, what a great use of our tax dollars! I mean, remember when the scientists found the cure for AIDS from all this research? No? Oh, that’s right BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T.

But, there’s potentially good news. The Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 5852) could end all the suffering for chimpanzees currently in labs. It would put an end to invasive research and testing on an estimated 1,200 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories. “The bill would also retire approximately 600 federally owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories — many for more than 40 years already — to permanent sanctuary.”*** Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? I know I’d rather have my tax dollars go toward almost anything else than the pointless use of these poor animals.

So, what can you do? Go to the HSUS website here and find out who your local representatives are. Then, make a quick phone call (or send an email), tell them you strongly support H.R. 5852 and tell all your friends to do the same! These chimps deserve better – help them live out the rest of their lives in sanctuaries.

Also, if you’d like to know more about alternatives to animal testing, check out this website. It has some great information and frequently asked questions and answers.
*Humane Society of the United States.
**Johnston MI. The role of nonhuman primate models in AIDS vaccine development. Mol Med Today. 2000 Jul;6(7):267-70 (as cited here).
***Humane Society of the United States.

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