When people discuss the use of animals in research, also called vivisection, there are those who defend animals and those who defend research.
Animal advocates point to the obvious suffering researchers often inflict on animals and claim that this cruelty is morally unjustifiable. Furthermore, they argue that human responses cannot necessarily be predicted on the basis of animal studies, making the best animal model nothing more than an unreliable analogy to human function. Finally, they promote the replacement of animal testing by non-animal research techniques. In short, this group would say that animal research is inaccurate, unnecessary, and cruel.
On the other hand, there are researchers who use animals and claim that such research is essential for science to advance and help cure diseases. They assure the public that they are doing everything possible to reduce animal suffering, as long as it is avoidable. And they firmly affirm that while they recognize the limitations of animal models, there is no better alternative. They insist that when it comes to fighting disease, it is better to first test medications and treatments on an animal, such as a dog, than on a human, such as your child. In short, this group would say that animal research is minimally cruel, essential to the advancement of medicine, and can save human lives.
Which position is correct? The answer depends on your mood.
I was trained in biochemistry and human medicine. In both fields, animal research is the standard, and the results of animal studies make up the bulk of medical knowledge. I would once have championed animal research, as my professors, who were animal researchers themselves, had told me over and over again how animal experiments save human lives. If the end justifies the means, they explained, then killing dogs to save children is acceptable and necessary, even if it is in bad taste. After all, we are dealing with human life and death. Animal sacrifice was a necessary evil.
But throughout my training and research, my soul cried silently every time an animal was “sacrificed” on the altar of medicine. How could a healing profession, presumably dedicated to ending human suffering, promote a methodology that causes suffering to animals? Can we trust that a healthcare system will treat us with compassion when it shows none for innocent and defenseless creatures?
In the end, I realized the essence of the animal research problem. Medicine is a field unlike any other because it deals with life and death. When people suffer, there are extreme feelings of urgency and anxiety that can lead to extreme conclusions about what is right and what is wrong. However, the ethics one uses for life and death decisions are not normal, everyday moral judgments. They are the ethics of lifeboats. And the conclusions reached in a lifeboat are not normal conclusions.
The classic example of lifeboat ethics is that you are in a boat with other people, presumably the survivors of an accident in the ocean, and there is a need for some people to be sacrificed to save others. For example, let’s say the ship can only carry 3 people without sinking, and there are 4 people on board. The lifeboat ethic asks how to decide who should be thrown overboard to save others. As another example, we’ve all heard of plane crash survivors who have had to resort to cannibalism to avoid starvation. For someone contemplating this lifeboat situation, the question is not whether someone should be eaten, but who should be eaten. Broadly speaking, lifeboat ethics address decisions about who to help and who to harm. The belief in impending disaster unless someone is sacrificed to save others is a basic assumption of lifeboat ethics.
Of course, if people can resort to cannibalism when faced with a life or death situation, then they will have no problem killing animals if it means saving themselves from some terrible disease. Once they believe that their lives are at stake, that they are in a lifeboat situation, then they are mentally prepared to make sacrifices in the name of survival. Animal researchers, who are the lifeboat captains of this disease, offer animal sacrifices as a substitute for humans.
But is it really a lifeboat situation? We all face the possibility of illness and death every day as part of the normal risks in life. Is it correct to call life itself a lifeboat situation?
The answer to this depends on who answers. Fearful, negative, and pessimistic people view life as a lifeboat fight against illness and death. Happy, positive and optimistic people see life as just … life.
Those in the business of medical research and treatment benefit most when people are fearful, anxious, and desperate. Animal researchers who argue that it is a dog or your child are selling in fear. The medical / pharmaceutical industry uses fear to keep people addicted to doctors and drugs, willing to obey medical authority and accept its practices, including the use of animals in research. Fearful and desperate people accept any cost, financial and moral. When you are convinced that you are in a lifeboat, you want salvation at any cost. Meanwhile, people are ignorant of how their body works and how to prevent disease, as ignorance keeps people fearful, bewildered, and sick.
Fortunately, not everyone sees life in terms of emergencies. And that’s a good thing, since the lifeboat ethic is a suspension of normal, decent moral behavior. Desperate people are dangerous. They are willing to kill if it means you or them. We don’t want a society where everyone runs around feeling this way. If you are not afraid to the point of being able to justify the slaughter, then animal research will clearly appear morally wrong. Anyone with any sensitivity who has ever befriended a dog, cat, bird, mouse, or even a rat will find that animals have feelings and can experience suffering. For any mentally healthy person, it is wrong to make others suffer. It shouldn’t matter what species they are. Of course, this assumes that he is not in a terrible panic, willing to do anything, even kill, if it means saving himself.
If we can all be decent human beings with some compassion for other creatures, then of course we should use non-animal research methods. Animal research is only considered a standard as it has historically been used as such. It is imperfect at best. And one of its greatest deficiencies is that it blinds us to the true cause of the disease, which has nothing to do with animals and with humans.
For years, the World Health Organization has said that the biggest cause of illness and death in modern times is our lifestyle. This means that our lifestyle and the culture that defines it are making us sick. Of course, you cannot model human culture on animals. It is a human phenomenon. Clearly, we can learn more about our problems by studying ourselves. By addressing our exposure to stress, chemical pollution, a toxic diet, legal and illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, tight clothing, electromagnetic radiation, and myriad other cultural factors that make us sick, we can better control our health and maintain ourselves. away from the disease. lifeboat. We could prevent disease by taking responsibility for healthy living, instead of feeling desperate and doing anything, even making a deal with the devil, to find a cure.
I left medicine to dedicate my life to finding human lifestyle solutions to human health problems. I look at the way we treat ourselves, the environment, and the creatures with whom we share the planet. And it is clear that we live in a sick culture. We are our worst enemy. And the only sacrifice we have to make is to be willing to give up our harmful lifestyle. Then we can lead a healthy and happy life as nature intended, even as we approach old age and ultimately death. For those who are cheerful, positive, and optimistic, all is well.
Life doesn’t need to feel like a lifeboat. But if it happens to some fearful people, that’s their problem. It does not give them any moral right to sacrifice others, humans or animals, as they go about their personal lifeboat nightmares.