Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Animal Care

Forgive me whilst I bitch. It annoys me that those who strongly advocate animal rights and have taken an extreme stance against scientists who use animals as models for research have made it so that it's terribly inconvenient to work with animals. Sometimes, the animal model is the best model to use -- the level of scientific understanding we have of physiological systems is inadequate for development of in vitro models, and the best way to test in vitro findings is by returning to live animal systems. And I am a firm believer in ethical animal care in science. But, in fact, I believe that scientists have done as much as we can to ensure proper treatment of our animal models. By regulation we are required to justify the number of animals we need and ensure proper anesthesetics and surgical procedures to minimize pain and discomfort for the animal. We spend money on blankets, painkillers, eye ointment and a host of other materials which (though I think are necessary) can make animal work even more difficult. And the price of housing and feeding animals make it a costly proposition, encouraging many investigators from seeking alternative experimentaiton practices. It makes animal work extremely inefficient in the scientific field. Paperwork can take weeks, even months, to go through before an animal can be experimented on. A project that could be finished over the course of three months (for example, the project I'm currently working on this summer) is being held up by seemingly endless paperwork and bureaucracy. And then there are the animal rights activists who insist that animals should never be experimented on, and feel the best way to prove this point is to break into animal care facilities, release animals into the desert (where they are usually eaten by predators within their first night since they've been born and raised in a cage or spread disease to the native animal populations since, y'know, these are research animals and many strains carry some diseases). The animal rights activists have been known to burn and destroy a lifetime's worth of research, effectively ruining a person's career. After the great monkey outbreak sometime in the last several years, security is extremely tight at my local animal care facility. To the point of ridiculousness. I've needed to register for keycards, keycodes, keys, id cards, and written authorization to access maybe five of six different doors (and one elevator) between the lab and the room where the mice are. Each door basically requires a week's worth of paperwork and a different person to do the paper-pushing. It's July 4th. I haven't started my project yet. I'm still waiting for someone to approve my purchasing two mice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm at Oxford University, where animal rights protestors have declared war on the university and all its students and supporters. They even dug up and stole the corpse of a family's dead grandmother in order to force them to stop their business of breeding rodents for sale to research facilities.

They are waging a little war of domestic terrorism - setting buildings on fire, damaging historic colleges - and I have no patience with them. I eat meat. I wear leather. I prioritise human life over animal.

7/06/2006 07:00:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

stole the CORPSE of a DEAD GRANDMOTHER?!?!?!?

That is just WRONG. What the HELL is that supposed to do???

Whether you agree with animal rights or not, these tactics are wrong and don't resolve anything. I don't understand how someone could wake up in the morning and say: "I hate the fact that animals are involved in scientific research. I know, I'm gonna steal the CORPSE OF A DEAD GRANDMOTHER to make them stop!"

And I've always wondered -- if you're an animal rights activist who hates any research that has involved animals, do you ever go to the doctor? If you or someone you loved had terminal cancer would you refuse treatment in favour of death? Or does protest only go up to a point?

7/06/2006 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger catswym said...

"sometimes the animal model is the best model to use"

so, why not use humans? because, for those very same experiments, that would be un-ethical, no matter how much you could minimize pain, etc.

for animal rights folks, it's the same thing. whether or not animals are the best (non-human) model, it is unacceptable to use them (first and foremost because they cannot give their consent).

and not all animal rights supporters are of the type that break into facilities to release animals and/or desecrate corpses.

7/06/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Catswym, I agree that not animal rights supporters are the type that break into the facilities or graverob, but as we all have to deal with the most extreme of those within our communities, the moderate animal rights activists should address the problem to their cause that extremists introduce.

The problem is that while I think it is important to minimize pain to the animal model, the pursuit of a better world for people necessitates that such experiments be conducted. Experiments conducted on animals benefit all life, including animal life -- treatments are found for treating animals as well as humans. To me, it is part of nature -- one animal preys upon another in order to benefit its own survival, within reason, I find similar justification for animal experimentation. No scientist WANTS to kill animals -- from personal experience, it's never pleasant.

The problem of consent is a valid one (granted), but the alternative is hard to contemplate. Would we rather let disease and starvation destroy massively more lives instead? Personally, I think this is a valid compromise -- we use as few animals as possible to further research in exchange for saving countless more.

We must also keep in mind that scientists are not allowed to experiment using many forms of human tissue -- many experiments could be designed in vitro (at least starting out) if we had better access to human tissue for experimentation. Unfortunately, this is hard to come by since donations are so scarce.

And I'm still curious to know how many animal rights activsts refuse medical treatment for themselves or someone they love based on its history in animal experimentation?

7/06/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Stentor said...

I don't see why animal rights activists would be obligated to refuse to use a treatment that was developed through animal experimentation. Once the treatment exists, it doesn't hurt any additional animals to continue using it.

7/10/2006 01:41:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

It justifies continued usage of animal experimentation. If you agree that the scientific findings that could have only been made possible through animal experimentation is valid, than you say that despite cares for animal rights, there is some experimentaiton that is necessary and acceptable for the betterment of humanity, which defends current animal experimentation which is used to develop or improve on existing medical treatment.

In other words, by accepting treatment, you are logically sanctioning some form of animal experimentation. That's why animal rights activists would probably want to refuse treatment -- just like they would want to refuse to wear leather. In both cases, though the animal has already given up their life, to "reap the benefits" is to sanction that loss of life.

7/10/2006 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger catswym said...

by accepting the treatment they are NOT agreeing that that treatment could only have been made possible through animal experimentation. just because it was done so, doesn't mean that was the only way.

7/11/2006 07:00:00 PM  

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