There was a documentary on the BBC last night, Monkeys, Rats and Me, a programme on animal testing. I’m a bleeding heart at the best and worst of times, I like to hold on to my ideals and dream of a better world, if only, if only. Watching the animal activists’ antics, however, left me cold.
It’s fair enough that people want to demonstrate against animal testing. They should have the right to be heard, to gather, and shout this, that, and the other. I would probably join in, EXCEPT that I also know people in these groups value animals’ lives so much that they don’t value their own species’ in turn. NOTHING can justify vandalism and sending letter bombs and putting scientists on hit lists. All that tells me is that these people who participate in ‘direct action’ have a completely warped sense of morality.
Do you think I want to come down on the side of scientists who test on, then put down animals? Fuck no! But I look at these crazy, unreasonable protesters who want to shut down anyone who disagrees with them, and I start to think, Who’s more open-minded here? Who is more likely to discuss differing opinions with calm and reason?
Medical science has advanced to a stage that many things don’t need to be tested on animals any more, true. We still don’t know so much, though. I think it’s very clear that Tipu Aziz (one of the scientists willing to be identified on the programme, the other was Colin Blakemore, there was also a female but I forget if she was named) and his colleagues wouldn’t do their experiments on animals if they could avoid it, but they simply feel they have no choice. And the best they can do is make the experience for animals as painless and comfortable as possible. Labs wouldn’t test on subjects if there was strong and recurring evidence that it was useless — it would make no financial sense. It sucks to high heaven that animal testing has to be done, but it does. That’s the practical reality.
Very few drugs on the market today would exist if it weren’t for some form of animal testing, IMHO (directly or indirectly). If an anti-vivisectionist or someone close to them was dying and only a procedure such as Prof Aziz’s could save them, I do highly doubt they would say no. When it comes down to it, we have a survival instinct, and it’s Do All It Takes.
Which leads me to my next point. We have the fortune of being self-aware, sentient, whatever (I did read some Peter Singer at university, in my philosophy classes). And the law of the jungle says, Kill or be killed. It’s natural to use our abilities and technology to get ahead, even (and especially) if it means killing those judged to be more vulnerable than us.
Animal rights activists say other animals have every right to exist as much as we do. Sure, I agree 100 percent. Has anyone seen a nature documentary lately? Has anyone seen the one about puffins on Craigleath? Gulls are killing the puffins — not to eat them, but to ROB them of the fish they catch. I think what humans, a species of animal, do when it comes to animal experiments (i.e. something necessary to survival), is an extension of that.