Can an animal rights activist accept medical treatment invented through animal testing?

In the comments to a recent post, Jenn asks:

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?

I have no idea what actual animal rights activists think about this question (speak up in the comments if you’re an animal rights activist reading this). I can only speak for myself — and as animal rights activists go, I’m a pretty sorry excuse for one, since I still occasionally eat meat when traveling or visiting. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s necessarily hypocritical for someone committed to animal rights to accept the use of a medical treatment whose development required animal experimentation.

The philosophical basis of animal rights is generally consequentialist — that is, what makes an act right or wrong is its effects on the welfare of humans and other animals*. Medical animal experiments offer a tradeoff: the decrease in the welfare of the animals used in the experiments developing the treatment, versus the decrease in the welfare of the sick humans (and animals) who could have been cured had the experiments been done. Animal rights activists typically conclude that the welfare reductions from refraining from the experiments are morally preferrable to those from doing them (after all, if they didn’t, Jenn would have no argument with them)**.

The key reason why it would make sense to accept medical treatment that has already been invented, while opposing the use of animals in the invention of new treatments, is that the harm to animals done in creating it is a sunk cost. Those same animals have been harmed regardless of how many or how few people later benefit from the treatment. Once the experiments have unfortunately been done, the tradeoff is not between harming animals to help people, or letting people suffer to save animals. It’s strictly a matter of helping people versus letting them suffer.

Imagine, as an analogy, that I have a car that you want. You offer me $10,000 for it, which is the accepted market value of the car. I refuse to sell it, because it’s worth more than ten thousand dollars. My refusal makes you angry, so out of spite you drive your truck full speed into my driveway, totalling the car in question. We go to court, and the judge orders you to pay restitution of $10,000 (assume that filing an appeal to try to get a better settlement is out of the question). Now, should I refuse to accept any restitution, since I didn’t think the loss of my car was worth $10,000 when you offered to buy it? Does my acceptance of the restitution entail that $10,000 for the car was a fair deal after all, and thus I was wrong not to have sold it to you? Of course not. The car is lost no matter what, so I might as well get whatever benefits I can out of the situation.

Another way to think of it is this: I imagine a situation in which medical experiments were being done on unwilling humans, and I was one of the unlucky victims. In that situation, I would hope that the research being done on me discovered a cure for a deadly disease, and that that cure would be widely used by people with that disease. And I can hold that hope while still believing that it would have been better, all things considered, for me and my fellow victims to have not been forced into the experiment, and therefore for the cure never to have been developed. If I’m going to die anyway, I’d rather give my life for some benefit (however small) to others, rather than giving it for nothing.

In a later comment, Jenn raises a contrast with buying leather goods. After all, they don’t wait for you to order the shoes before they go and kill the cow to make them. One important factor that distinguishes the two cases, of course, is the size of the benefits that come from using the animal product — a life-saving medical treatment certainly creates a greater and more important welfare increase than getting to wear leather instead of some other material.

The benefits of abstaining from leather come through a deterrence or boycott mechanism. The more shoes sit unsold on the shelf, the less incentive Nike has to produce additional pairs, and hence the fewer cows it will have killed. With medical treatments, the connection between taking what exists and producing more is not so close, and so the deterrent effect of a boycott is reduced. In the production of leather, the purchase of one good spurs the producer to produce another just like it, using the same animal-harming process. But accepting a medical treatment most directly incentivizes the provision of the same treatment to additional patients — which we’ve already established wouldn’t directly harm any animals. The incentive given to the development of a new product line is more diffuse. Things are further complicated because the leather industry is, from farm to retailer, purely a creature of the profit motive, closely integrated by market forces. The medical sector, on the other hand, includes institutions (hospitals and university research labs) which at least claim to serve higher goals (health and knowledge) alongside profit. For this reason the incentive that use of a treatment provides for development of additional treatments will not be as strong. The different institutions are also often less closely linked than in the case of leather. Much medical research is funded by the NIH, whose funding decisions are not connected directly to the rates of use of existing treatments, but rather are based on the review boards’ conceptions of what are important avenues of further research.

Thus the cost-benefit ratio for accepting a life-saving medical treatment invented through animal experimentation is more favorable than that for buying leather, so it’s not prima facie implausible that someone could say yes to the medical treatment but no to leather. Obviously one could dispute someone else’s decision of where to draw the line, or challenge the facts they’ve used to decide which side of their line a particular act falls on. But then we’re into the territory of analyzing specific people’s particular versions of animal rights, not animal rights activists in general. (My own unresolved feelings on this issue probably aren’t a particularly good test case, since I recently purchased a pair of leather shoes.)

* Though there’s disagreement about whether we should focus on the overall welfare of all beings taken together (utilitarianism) or on securing a certain basic level of welfare to each individual being (a true “rights” view).

** Some do hold that certain experiments would be morally justifiable — if the amount of suffering caused in the experiment is small enough, if the experiment is fairly certain to contribute directly to the finding of a cure, and if the disease being cured is sufficiently painful and widespread (and for some, if the disease being cured substantially afflicts the species being used in the experiment). Utilitarians would typically be more likely to accept a wider set of experiments.

Cross-posted at debitage.

This entry posted in Environmental issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

37 Responses to Can an animal rights activist accept medical treatment invented through animal testing?

  1. 1
    Nella says:

    Animal tests aren’t 100% reliable in predicting what a drug will do to a human anyway, so i don’t consider it ‘tested’ until the first stage of clinical trials. (look at the big case in the UK a while back where five (?) men were hospitalised and at least one nearly died after taking a trial drug which had allegedly been proven safe in animals. Hence, any benefit a human gets from taking medication is in spite of animal tests having taken place. So the question of benefiting from animal suffering is kind of moot.

  2. 2
    Sailorman says:

    Your attempt to separate animal testing from leather is not actually that apt. Much animal testing is done on new procedures, with the assumption that the techniques or drugs which are developed will be profitable.

    So to the degree that you use a product derived from animal testing, you are showing that animal-tested products will sell. This encourages the use of additional testing. Or, to be more exact, by shirking an opportunity to boycott, it fails to discourage the use of animal testing.

    Your argument would be apposite only if (as in the car example) there was no likelihood of affecting future events by your current actions. Sure: If there was currently no animal testing going on, and none was planned, you would be ethically OK to use a product which was already developed. After all, your decision to accept a settlement does not increase the chances your neighbor will crash into your car in the future. But that is NOT the case here.

    Personally I am wholly in favor of animal testing–though some testing isn’t entirely useful, as a whole it is a crucial part of scientific development. I also think that if you’re going to suggest no testing should happen, you should realize that your protests–and financial threats–have little validity if you are unwilling to execute them. Stop using drugs derived from testing, stop using procedures derived from testing, and then people will take your desires into account. Of course, you’ll die sooner.

  3. 3
    Sailorman says:

    Sorry, hit post too soon by accident.

    You say “But accepting a medical treatment most directly incentivizes the provision of the same treatment to additional patients”

    Huh? Can you clarify exactly what you mean by that?

    Next, your comment that the “NIH funding decisions are not connected directly to the rates of use of existing treatments, but rather are based on the review boards’ conceptions of what are important avenues of further research” is way off target in terms of what it implies.

    How do you think the NIH decides what is important future research? Well, some of that decision process is pure science (yay!) but a depressing amount is what is politically OK, or what is “hot”. Which in fact often translates into public opinion, indirectly expressed. (E.g.: do you know the NIH budgets a fair bit of money for homeopathy research even though there are essentially no reputable scientists or good peer reviewed publications supporting homeopathy?) If there was a large successful movement lobbying against animal testing that would be reflected in the NIH. And similarly, no hospital is going to spend a lot of time and money to set up a treatment facility or method which they know nobody will use.

  4. 4
    Bill Hooker says:

    Sailorman beat me to most of what I was going to say. You (Stentor) argue for a boycott effect in re: leather, but ignore it when it comes to medical procedures derived from animal work. The more people accept such treatments, the greater incentive there is to continue their development.

    The car analogy fails because of the lack of future consequences. The “treatment derived from evil experiments on you” analogy fails both because you can, and animals cannot, give consent and find meaning in your own suffering or death, and (more importantly) because one would hope that use of the treatment would not encourage further experiments on humans.

    Obdisclosure: I am a research scientist and I work with an animal model (mice).

  5. 5
    Sailorman says:

    Hey, do we need to disclose any connection? My bad; I didn’t realise that.

    I also did that type of research for years (I don’t any more) at an unnamed pharmaceutical company in Connecticut. How ’bout you?

    let the ad hominem “animal killer” attacks begin! Ok, probably not on this blog….

  6. 6
    Bill Hooker says:

    Hey, do we need to disclose any connection?

    I dunno; as always, an argument should stand on its own, but then context is important, so I prefer to provide all the relevant information.

    I work at a Shriner’s hospital; the focus of the lab is Myc/Max and related transcription factors in cancer and embryonic development.

  7. 7
    Bill Hooker says:

    all the relevant information

    I should say: all the information that might be relevant, and let everyone sort out for themselves what’s important and what’s not.

  8. 8
    Margaret says:

    I would respond to Jenn by asking how many people refuse any treatment or medication that was developed out of or influenced by experiments that were done on people. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is not the only time in medical history when medication has been given or withheld to ‘aid science.’

    As things stand today I would actually be more inclined to accept treatment that came out of human experimentation than animal as long as the human experimentation was done on consenting well-informed adults. Animals cannot give consent.

  9. 9
    Dianne says:

    I’m a medical researcher who occasionally works with animals. I’m also a vegetarian and avoid leather when I can (I admit to having leather in my running shoes, but that’s about it). Here’s my rationale/rationalization: I don’t need to eat meat or wear leather to live and be healthy. On the other hand, sometimes the only way to find out what something does is to test it in a living system and I’d rather go with animals before humans. Nella correctly points out that testing in animals does not guarentee safety in humans, but it does improve the odds considerably. You hear about cases where the testing fails, but not about cases where it works–man bites dog phenomenon.

    My other rationalization is that while meat industry animals are abused I do not allow my animals to be abused. I’ve only ever worked with mice and rats and have always made sure that they had food, water, space, and companionship. And no pain beyond minimal during procedures. I don’t really mind killing them, but I always anesthetize them first. It’s a lot nicer than what happens to the average mouse found in a kitchen or a subway.


  10. 10
    Hugo says:

    Diane’s approach is the best I think we can ask for from medical researchers in the current climate. I’m with Stentor, and I am a vegetarian. I do have many fine old leather shoes I bought before I made this change in my life; I still wear them because to toss them would be wasteful. I also have leather in my running shoes.

    Procedures which cause animals pain or discomfort are unacceptable to me; if it is possible to perform procedures and tests in a way that causes no significant pain or loss of socialization opportunities for lab mice (or other creatures), I’m reluctantly prepared to countenance it.

    The “sunk cost” analogy works for me, Stentor.

  11. 11
    Sailorman says:

    Hugo: If the “sunk cost” analogy works for you, I am curious as to what would make it not work for you? What type of link, evidence, statement, or assurance that a connection existed (between use and testing) would you demand, before you would either start to support testing, or stop using tested products?

  12. 12
    Elena says:

    I actually think that the hunters I know have a healthy attitude toward the paradox of ethically living in this world with animals, while using them for food, clothes, etc. The animals hunted humanely and in accordance to DNR rules probably have it better than animals slaugthered down at the abbatoir, and the effort to get that meat makes the consumer more repsectful of the sacrifice made, if you can call what prey does a sacrifice.

    There is no way to exist as a mammal or probably as any living being without killing another living being in one way or another. The trick is to do it ethically if possible. I think these are the same type of moral compromises we are obliged to make when it comes to right to die, right to choose, etc. Not to make them only brings up more moral quandries- do you withhold treatment for your child becasue of animal testing? – and can be a sort of cowardice that hides behind absolutism.

    It seems to me that the danger with the necessary evil of animal testing is that it would be too easy for sadists to needlessly torture the animals or neglect them. I hope there is oversight to avoid this.

  13. 13
    Hugo says:

    Sailorman, if the testing or research were ongoing, I wouldn’t accept it. My father just died of cancer, so disease is much on my mind. I would not accept treatment for myself that was based on an ongoing series of experiments. If, on the other hand, the treatment was a result of an old experiment unconnected to anything currently taking place, I wouldn’t have a problem.

  14. 14
    Les says:

    I’m a vegetarian. I do not buy leather shoes or any product which contains within it dead animals (as far as I’m aware). I used to be vegan. When I buy my hippie soaps and toothpastes, usually I get stuff that hasn’t been tested on animals.

    When I take drugs, I hope they’ve been tested adequately, even if animals were involved. Killing cows for leather skirts is incredibly wasteful. It’s a poor use of resources and directly impacts the environment in terms of grazing land, land use for growing feed, pesticide use and disposal of animal waste. I doubt that the same can really be said of animal testing. It just doesn’t happen (as far as I know) on the same scale as factory farms. The environmental harm brought about by testing is likely negligible in comparison.

    So I have no problem taking drugs tested on animals, however, drugs made out of animals I’d be concerned about. Dubious treatments like shark cartilage are a definite no.

    I also feed meat products to my dog and I’m not an animal rights activist, although I think their goals of reducing suffering are admirable and worthwhile, they’re not my primary motivation in being a vegetarian. And I think a human is more valuable than a mouse. (It takes a lot more resources to produce a well-adjusted adult human than it does to produce a well-adjusted adult mouse. Ergo, the human is more valuable. Plus, I like them more.)

  15. 15
    Sailorman says:

    But Hugo, that means you’ll pretty much NEVER reject using anything. After all, the testing is done before a drug gets to market. So, wowee, you won’t serve as a clinical subject for something where animal testing is still ongoing. Not only is this unlikely to be an option (clinical trials happen after animal trials) but it’s probably a good survival tacic.

    Forgive me for saying it, but it does sort of seem like you have adopted a highly convenient view of how the whole animal testing/development process works. That view seems to be the only one which allows you simultaneously to claim the moral authority of opposing animal testing and also get the physical benefits of the continued testing which DOES occur. Unsurprisingly, this is the most common view of no-test folks. They can lobby against testing, and lobby for new anti-AIDS drugs, in the same breath.

    It’s not really a valid view though. Perhaps it stems from this error: “an old experiment unconnected to anything currently taking place” That’s not how science works. Old experiments serve as the basis for new ones. Current ones lead to future ones. Everything IS connected.

    Then again, I realize I may be misreading you. Perhaps you are actually only concerned about future issues. And you really do believe the ‘sunk costs’ argument.

    Well, in that case I advise you to widely publicize the fact that you will not participate in any FUTURE developments which are based on animal testing. You will not buy drugs; you will not pay for treatments. Then follow through on this. Try to get others who share your beliefs to join you in your proclamation; try to get them to stand by it in the future. That will (no doubt) have the largest possible effect on animal testing that you could have through personal action, outside lobbying. And you’ll be morally consistent to boot.

    Since testing occurs, oh, let’s say no more than 5 years before market, and all drugs and the vast majority of treatments are tested on animals…. that means that (for example) starting in 5 years and from that point on you should avoid all newly released drugs, irrespective of whether or not they are superior.

    Similarly, you should not use any newly developed treatments (though you may get lucky and find a non animal one). It is important that you follow through on it, because otherwise the NIH and drug companies will think you are a person who will use their stuff even if you say you won’t, and they won’t listen to you any more.

  16. 16
    Sailorman says:

    It seems to me that the danger with the necessary evil of animal testing is that it would be too easy for sadists to needlessly torture the animals or neglect them. I hope there is oversight to avoid this.

    Well, there’s sort of oversight, and sort of self limiting.

    Limits first: The person running the experiment is usually a PhD or MD, which means somewhere upwards of 6 years of training, minimum. They supervise the researchers, whoc usually have a MS or BS–again, fairly specialized training. So right off the bat, the truth is that if you’ve got a yen to act nasty towards animals, there’s a lot of easier ways to go about doing so than by researching. You get animal HANDLERS (who clean cages, etc) as well. They don’t do research though.

    Oversight next: Everyone in the lab watches out for problems. If you treat the animals wrong, you don’t get results, and you lose your job. You’ll also get fired for delberate mistreatment (not a pretty result after the aformentioned 6+ years of postgraduate training). So the “group” watches out for things. Most companies also have compliance folks who watch out for things as well. The rules, and oversight, are much more stringent than those applied to (for example) house pets–who are commonly abused.

    There are standards, of course, and everyone tries to adhere to them both for moral and legal grounds. But really, who WANTS to be mean to animals? The working with animals is generally the least pleasant part. You may have to do it, but nobody likes to kill things, be they mice or what have you. The standards aren’t really necessary.

  17. 17
    nolo says:

    My questions are where do you draw the line, and what is your goal? If it’s to avoid benefiting from animal experimentation and testing, you may as well give up most of modern medicine, given how much modern medical and pharmaceutical knowledge is built in some way on animal experimentation. If it’s to avoid encouraging businesses that rely on animal testing, then maybe that’s another thing.

  18. 18
    Bill Hooker says:

    Procedures which cause animals pain or discomfort are unacceptable to me

    Let’s not kid ourselves: virtually every experiment in virtually every animal model is “unacceptable” by this standard. So, what do you mean by “unacceptable”? As Sailorman points out, accepting treatment based on past experiments but refusing treatment based on current work is a convenient way not to have to refuse any effective treatment, or reduce the future use of animal models.

  19. 19
    Jenn says:

    Thanks for the link and comments, Stetnor. I appreciate the fair treatment that you have given my post and am looking forward to following this comments thread as it will open my eyes to a variety of animal rights positions.

    I did however just want to add a third “oversight” to Sailorman’s comment above me (#16) [incidentally, I agree heavily with Sailorman and he has articulated many points I would have said, but in the spirit of disclosure, if you couldn’t already tell, I also am working with a mouse model. However, unlike Sailorman and Bill, I am a graduate student, so I don’t yet hold a graduate degree].

    Most university animal care facilities have extremely rigorous animal care protocols, developed specifically to maintain ethical treatment of animal models. It is recognized by these boards that in vitro (outside of living creatures) work is not feasible for many techniques especially when it comes to the final stages of developing a new drug treatment. We simply don’t know how a living body will react with a given drug or therapy, because physiology is so complex, and so frequently something unexpected will occur when we transition from in vitro to in vivo (in a living creature) work.

    Aside from experimenters having advanced research degrees and your labmates watching out for your behaviour, Animal Care has several federally mandated guidelines for working with animals. Each protocol must be approved, each technique justified to minimize pain or discomfort. The gold standard (as far as I understand) is basically that anything that would be unethical to do to a person, we cannot do to an animal — this means that we must satisfactorily anesthetize before any procedure and we can only use the minimum number of animals as needed to establish statistical significance for our experiments. Every step is heavily reviewed by administrators, and each lab is privy to an annual surprise review (i.e., we know they’re coming, we don’t know when) by a group of veterinarians and Animal Care administrators to ensure that we are following approved protocols. If we are found in violation (ranging from improper anesthesia to allowing an unapproved person to perform a protocol technique), we risk losing the privilege of working with an animal model entirely. This can and has ruined a researcher’s career.

    Perhaps it’s too trusting, but I don’t think there’s room for a sadist to operate. And I guess I just don’t think most researchers are out to enjoy an animal’s pain… because of the hassles with animal work, most of us would rather avoid working with animals altogether, if we could. My P.I., for example, let her protocol lapse because she simply couldn’t handle the paperwork and extra cost of working with animals, preferring instead to focus on cellular level questions — consequently, it’s been tough for me to transition back into tissue-level experiments because I’ve had to basically re-do the paperwork from scratch.

    Lastly, I just wanted to say to Hugo that my belief is that there’s no way to divorce “old techniques” and “new techniques”. At least as far as I understand it, all techniques are constantly being re-evaluated, improved upon and researched. Even if the original technique was discovered a long time ago, we are still working on ways to improve efficiency, cost, or applicability (for every drug therapy, there’s a subsect of people for whom it is ineffective or inapplicable). Surprisingly, there are even some established techniques for which we don’t even know *why* it works.

  20. 20
    Stentor says:

    Jenn and Sailorman: Thanks for your comments. I admit that I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about exactly how medical testing works, so I may have overestimated the weakness of the boycott effect with respect to testing (though I still think it’s weaker than in the case of leather). On the other hand, I neglected to talk about the degree of suffering experienced by animals, which sounds like it’s far less in the case of medical test animals than in factory farming for leather or meat, thus making testing more acceptable.

  21. 21
    Jenn says:

    Stentor, I think something to consider regarding disclosure of animal treatment in testing is that it’s still considered taboo to talk in great detail about animal experimentation. From my own experiences talking to people in the field, we don’t/can’t talk about the regulations imposed upon our animal work (or even the animal work itself) for fear of security problems when extremist animal rights activists invade our labs, for example, and burn our life’s work.

    I think the taboo creates this sort of information vacuum that makes most people largely unaware of how scientists are required to treat the animal models. I spoke with one P.I. who just this year decided that she would stop hiding what her animal model was because it was hurting the publicity of her research more than it was helping.

    I agree about the problems of the leather/experimentation analogy, too. It’s certainly not a perfect parallel, and I should probably have noted that when alluding to it.

  22. 22
    Jenn says:

    At the risk of spamming this comment thread, I had one more thing to add:

    Hugo wrote: “Procedures which cause animals pain or discomfort are unacceptable to me; if it is possible to perform procedures and tests in a way that causes no significant pain or loss of socialization opportunities for lab mice (or other creatures), I’m reluctantly prepared to countenance it.”

    While it’s not perfect, most researchers spend a great deal of time researching ways to improve treatment of animal models. I recently attended a talk in which a researcher had spent her considerable career researching improved housing and sound conditions for research mice, to improve their living conditions. She had developed larger, two-story cages that are significantly more interesting than most commerically-available housing for pet rodents, and has done research showing that conventional air-conditioning produces a level of stress for mice that renders them unhappy. And there’s rationalization for such research: I’d argue that most, if not all, animal experimentation is carried out to minimize pain and prevent loss of socialization for the mice. Remember that a stressed-out, unhappy mouse makes for a poor animal model, because it is not physiologically “normal”, jeopardizing the relevancy of the resulting data. So we have great incentive, in relation to our own research, to treat our animals well.

    That being said, I agree with Bill — depending on how you define “pain and discomfort”, you might end up excluding all medical techniques developed through experimentation that caused either of those things.

  23. 23
    Bill Hooker says:

    The gold standard (as far as I understand) is basically that anything that would be unethical to do to a person, we cannot do to an animal

    That can’t be right, or else we’d do the experiments on humans instead, or not do them at all — at least those protocols for which a short generation time is not needed.

    My understanding of the “gold standard” is continuous application of the “3R’s” of animal experimentation: Reduce (pain/discomfort, number of animals), Refine (techniques, housing) and Replace (animal with in vitro models) in every way possible.

  24. 24
    Dianne says:

    Look, if people are going to behave reasonably, how are we possibly going to get into a good animal killer/luddite flame war over this;-)?

    Jenn: Has the work on A/C’s effects on mice been published? I am planning to do some mouse work later in the year and do NOT want to be doing it on mice that are stressed and have out of kilter immune systems so any info on how to reduce the stress on them could be helpful.

  25. 25
    Jenn says:

    Hey Dianne —

    this was a few months back — I don’t think the preliminary sound findings were published when it was presented, but I can’t be sure. Unfortunately, like an idiot, I didn’t take notes during the talk so I can’t remember her name. Let me try and figure out who she was I’ll get back to you in this thread with that information…


  26. 26
    Diane says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I am an animal rights activist and am as near-vegan as I can be, given some circumstances that are beyond my control. In our consumerist society, it is difficult to avoid animal products (someone pointed out to me once that unless you grow your own food, you are probably not vegan because organic farmers often use killing to control garden pests).

    I have thought about this question before. If I were pure, 100% vegan, I would be much more deeply conflicted about it than I am now. But since I am, to some degree, already participating in some animal exploitation, I suppose I would simply accept the procedure and feel bad that our culture has not progressed any farther.

    Someone once asked Jane Goodall if she would want to deny someone a surgical procedure because animal experimentation was used to develop it, and she said of course not; she just worked toward the day when animals would not be used. One of the nation’s most articulate animal rights activists, Peter Singer, says that he is vegan at home and vegetarian when he eats out because it is so extremely limiting to try to dine out as a vegan.

    I do not believe that any advances we make can be thought of as totally “good” is they are made by causing other living creatures to suffer or by taking away the lives of other living creatures.

  27. 27
    Sailorman says:

    I’m not a phd, actually. But anyway:

    The thing which animal rights folks ignore is that NOBODY who uses animals likes it.

    They animals themselves are expensive. (this is huge from a corporate standpoint). VERY expensive. not incidentally, this is one of the reasons to treat them well, so it’s not a bad thing.

    They are smelly.

    They are dangerous; they can bite/scratch you. Depending on what you’re doing and how infections it/the animal is, this can be reasonably serious.

    They require a significant capital investment in housing/cages, and maintenance of that housing/cages.

    They requires strict compliance with a variety of regulatoins, violation of which can shut you down or get you heavily fined.

    Now….. Cells? Cells in tubes (or on agar) are great. No guilt. No special training. Keep them in the freezer. Free if you grow your own. No supervision.

    Same with computers.

    Everyone would happily trade their animals in a second for a nice reliable computer or in vitro equivalent. But the equivalent is not there. If it was we’d use it.

  28. 28
    roberta robinson says:

    I find it amazing that many people, see nothing wrong with a predator killing another animal well maybe some do, I don’t know (which by the way is far from humane) for survival purposes but humans are not supposed to be able to kill or otherwise use another animal for survival purposes?

    I mean if animal testings were disallowed (until a better way is found) then how many of us would even be here? How many would of already died from infections, and cancer or diebetes etc? How long do you think we would be alive, at 40 you would be considered old. I agree that humane methods should be priority, but personally if something will save me or someone I love yes I would use it.

    If you believe that we are just animals, evolved from so called lower forms of life then this using animals for survival purposes shouldn’t be a problem, but if you believe otherwise then you are still trumped, as in the bible animals were used for all kinds of purposes and not just for food, tho they were supposed to do it humanely, and even if you only believe in god but not necessarily the bible then you are trumped again, as animals also kill one another for survival. and if god created them then they are the way they are because of god created them that way. Animals even use animals for entertainment, when not hungry they still play with their food, which is cruel for the targeted animal.

    I know that cats will kill just for sport and not even eat the animals they kill. I have seen the cats I have owned, and others do this.

    And if you drive a car you contribute to animals dying, as if no one drove a vehicle how many dead animals would you see on the side of the road? And if you buy a house in a new allottment do we even consider how many animals died or are displaced by that? I remember how many ground hogs entered my yard when they developed a 100 acre woodland behind me, the poor things had no where to go and I must have had 10 or more in my yard, and they couldnt’ compete with each other, too many in a small area and many got pushed into the streets and got hit by cars. They also had very cute babies. After that there must of been a dozen ground hogs in the road for a couple of months afterward. And skunks galore, on the side of the road. But as time went on the numbers dropped to almost zero, showing that their numbers had dwindled considerably.

    Deer had the same problem now I have deer living in my yard, my neighbors and across the steet because of developement. I have one deer that has been hanging around for two years she is so tame I can talk to her and even stand outside near her. I think this year she had a baby nearby. she was pretty. across the street there is sometimes a dozen deer grazing. And sometimes I walk upon one everyonce in a while that was sleeping or resting in some brush near my home.

    Anyway so what is needed is balance, there is balance between need and want. If you are hunting just for the thrill of killing because it makes you feel good, then I think that is wrong, if for survival and needing food clothing etc, then no, I don’t think it is wrong, you don’t have to enjoy it, and if you use animals for experimention and get some kind of thrill out of the suffering of the animal, then that is wrong, but if you really do care and do you best to minimize as much as possible the suffering of your charges that I agree with.

    Tho personally I wish there was a better way, poor animals, I love all animals, except maybe crocidiles, and mosquitos, and biting flies. I like the animals hanging around my yard, but see I am not trying to grow crops or whatnot and see no need to push them out, as my survival is not at stake,I just go to the grocery store, but if they were a serious threat to my livlihood, such as being a farmer or whatever then I would try the most humane methods of keeping them out and use only severe methods as a last resort. And as for meat I love my meat, but I don’t like that sometimes animals are kill inhumanly, but not all meat animals are killed inhumanly, some are killed the way they are supposed to be, so how do you determine which package of meat at the store was from a humanly killed animal or not? You can’t. Where I get most of my meat the guy is an old time butcher, he gets one that walks into his store and he kills it there, the difference is that on an assembly line in a factory the stunner has to move so fast that he can’t make sure the animal is really unconcious, but this guy can take his time to aim the gun properly and do it right he is not being pushed to go extremely fast. in fact in some factories they move so fast that many of the animals are improperly stunned, sometimes they have to move over 400 animals through in an hour that leaves only a few seconds per animal for proper stunning.

    I have tried to eat alot of vegies and fruits and such and limited meat considerably, I found I couldn’t get satiated that way no matter how much I ate, in fact it just made my insulin resistance worse. I found myself eating all day, which I hated. I like it whan I can eat a meal and not be hungry for hours that way I can concentrate on the projects I want to get done.

    Then I only eat 2 or three times at the most on average, and one meal is usually a large one the other two are small, because that is how hungry I am not because of any attempts at controling food quantity. but eating non meat doesn’t allow me to do that.


  29. 29
    Dianne says:

    Cells? Cells in tubes (or on agar) are great. No guilt. No special training. Keep them in the freezer. Free if you grow your own. No supervision.

    Of course, if they’re embryonic stem cells or even fetal derived human diploid cells you’re going to get into trouble with the forced childbirth people…Actually, the dirty little secret of cell culture is that most cells are grown in solutions that contain fetal calf serum. I’m not sure how it is obtained, but I’m 100% certain that it is not vegetarian. So a radical anti-animal testing person should also be opposed to the use of cell culture.

    Oh #$%^*^%#^@! Speaking of cells, I’ve got to get over to the ATCC web site…Excuse me. I knew I was forgetting something today…

  30. 30
    Bill Hooker says:

    most cells are grown in solutions that contain fetal calf serum. I’m not sure how it is obtained

    Cows found to be pregnant at slaughter are the source of the calves, which are removed along with the uterus during evisceration. The uterus/fetus is then transferred to a separate facility where the fetal blood is collected by cardiac puncture, using a vacuum line and without anaesthesia. It is not clear whether the majority of fetuses are dead before blood collection as a result of anoxia; death from exsanguination is rapid but not instantaneous. There is a chance that the fetuses are alive and even that they have sufficient brain function to suffer during the collection procedure.

    If you’re going to do this stuff, I think you have a certain obligation to know what you’re doing and make fully informed decisions. I’ve been looking into FCS alternatives for some years now; the short version is that no really good ones are yet available for the vast majority of cell types.

  31. Pingback: Open Reading Frame

  32. 31
    Dianne says:

    I’ve been looking into FCS alternatives for some years now; the short version is that no really good ones are yet available for the vast majority of cell types.

    If you’re doing short term experiments with small amounts of primary hematopoietic cells, autologous serum can be a good substitute. In some cases, it’s even better (ie trying to keep CLL cells alive in culture.) Of course, this isn’t applicable to all or even most situations, but thought I’d mention it just in case it might help.

  33. 32
    Jenn says:

    Hey Dianne, I found that name for you. Email me at jenn [at] reappropriate [dot] com and I will forward you her name and email address. It turns out that this is her side project so she’s unpublished on her findings, so I don’t want to publicize her name until she chooses to publish the information herself.

  34. 33
    Jenn says:

    As far as cell culture and animal rights (re: discussion above for FCS or FBS), would an animal rights activist find such use of animals inappropriate as well? Because FCS isn’t by far the only material that we use that is derived from animals. For example, antibodies for immunostaining work is derived from a variety of different animals — and although these are rather gentle, survival procedures, we’re still talking about an animal being used to further scientific research.

    I wonder if that is acceptable?

    Oh yeah, and cells come from animals, so even though we’d all love to work with cells only, it’s not like we’re completely side-stepping the moral quandry here. :)

  35. 34
    Bill Hooker says:

    small amounts of primary hematopoietic cells, autologous serum can be a good substitute

    Hmmm, that might come in handy — although, for the project I’m thinking of, we’ll be working with mouse T cells so it might not work, and we won’t have a lot of serum even if it does. Still, I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks.

    these are rather gentle, survival procedures

    Huh? Rabbits used to raise polyclonal Ab are nearly always exsanguinated at the final bleed, and anything used to make monoclonals is sacrificed as part of the procedure. Large animals, like sheep/goats/donkeys, may well survive Ab production — I don’t actually know, I’m only familiar with small animal work. I’ll find out though, because if I have a choice I’ll take the large-animal antibody if it means the donor animal survived. Unfortunately, primary antibodies are not usually made in large animals for some reason (maybe cost vs quantities expected to sell — seeing as how secondary antibodies are often sheep, goat or donkey).

    I doubt that animal rights activists would accept antibody production even if the animal survives. For myself, I have few qualms if the donor survives — in most cases, the total discomfort to the donor would be on par with a handful of tetanus shots over a month or two, no fun but no big either — but I don’t like the small animal procedures any more than I like any animal model work. As per the three R’s, I’m looking into this, which is a system to raise human antibodies in yeast and might eventually replace many animal antibody production methods. My boss has already said he’ll buy it if I can show evidence that it will work for our purposes. (Note to self: get on that already.)

    cells come from animals

    But when the animals in question are humans, one can at least get informed consent. (Well, sometimes… HeLa cells anyone?)

  36. 35
    Jenn says:

    well, i was more pointing to the fact that you can draw blood from the animal repeatedly until the final exsanguination.

    not too bad as far as research animals go… it’s a pretty low stress situation for the rabbit.

  37. 36
    R Moshki says:

    Vivisection is the utimate fraud.