I am, in general, a supporter of animal rights. Animal abuse sickens me, and I really believe Ghandi’s famous quote that “you can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members”. That said, while it’s disturbing to see a rabbit which has gone blind from exposure to a potential new shampoo, I’d rather have a rabbit go blind than a human child. More importantly, while it is troubling to infect a chimpanzee with a disease in order to study how to cure that disease, such research unquestionably saves human lives. That’s why I was surprised to learn about the Great Ape Protection Act.
This proposed law will ban all invasive medical tests on great apes. While some animal rights groups are cheering, medical researchers are concerned. There are many human diseases that are presently being studied in laboratory animals, including AIDS and malaria, and banning this research would set the search for a cure back immeasurably. More troubling is the effect that an ape research ban would have on Hepatitis C studies.
According to the CDC, 3.2 million Americans suffer from Hepatitis C. Though some diseases can be tested in other ways, chimpanzees are the primary model system for Hep C, (other model systems, such as mice, are very early in development) which means that banning great ape research is basically equivalent to saying that scientists aren’t allowed to cure Hep C for a long time.
A comparison between co-sponsors of the Great Ape Protection Act and the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2009 (which calls for increased Hep C vaccine research) shows that 16 congressman are simultaneously saying “You have to find a cure for Hepatitis C very quickly” and “You aren’t allowed to use the only functional model system to develop a cure for Hepatitis C”. All are Democrats. These represent only co-sponsors. It is likely that more people would be revealed as hypocrites if every member of congress actually voted on this bill- and many more can be revealed now by examining co-sponsors of other hepatitis C legislation.
Arguments made for the law imply that great ape research is the Wild West, and that mad scientists torture chimpanzees for their sociopathic pleasure. This is simply not the case. As an open letter to Congress signed by numerous scientific organizations states, “scientists take research using non-human primates extremely seriously, and multiple protections exist in law and through accreditation to ensure these animals are well-treated and used with respect.”
Here are some other facts about this proposed law.
-It not only bans the use of apes to find cures to deadly human diseases, but also the use of apes to find cures to deadly ape diseases. You can bet that many more gorillas will die from this strain of malaria than would die from research to cure it. The same is true of the chimpanzee strain of ebola.
–The phrasing of the law includes gibbons as great apes. This is news to primate biologists who have long considered them a separate group.
Though there are many excellent scientific organizations that oppose this law, I want to refer you specifically to the statement put out by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, one of the most prestigious scientific societies in the world.
I know that we have many animal rights activists among our readers, and I invite you (as always) to join in the discussion. However, I fervently believe that If the Great Ape Protection Act becomes law, it will be terrible news for humans as well as apes. Animal rights are extremely important, but human lives are more important.
Also, while this discussion is primarily about the ethics of saving human lives through research, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dr. Free Ride’s recent post about how the lives of human researchers are threatened more directly by animal rights activists, PZ Myers recent list of overzealous animal rights activists, and Orac’s description of a frightening new tactic used by some of them. Whatever our views are on the ethics of animal research, surely we can all agree that threatening researchers and their children is a completely unacceptable way of accomplishing goals… right?
Do you think that it is acceptable to protect animal rights at the expense of human lives?
Do you think that saving human lives justifies experimenting on animals?
Are rules that protect animals in laboratory studies good enough the way they are? Are they too powerful already?
Okay, I totally feel like a creeper commenting on a post right after it’s put up.
However, you nicked a nerve of something I’ve been kind of steaming about lately- politicians making laws on issues closely tied to science with no regard for science.
Just last week, the WI State Senate voted and approved a bill that would ban Salvia divinorum, an herb that, when smoked, causes very short term, powerful hallucinogenic effects. Studies about the short term effects of it have just shown that when you’re on it, you are in a really odd place for about 3 minutes. There have been no long-term studies. In addition, I don’t think there have been any salvia-related deaths. Ever. Granted, hallucinogens usually have negative side effects, but I’ve never heard of a salvia related death.
Anyways, on topic:
It really sounds just like the above bill. Unscientific, illogical (especially the part about banning great ape use for great ape disease research!) and really detrimental to progress.
I do have a question, though.
Is there any research going on in tissue synthesis? It would follow the three Rs of animal research and take up much less space (and presumably time, resources and eventually, money) and it might be possible to obtain similar results.
Also, would the Great Apes Protection Act protect synthesized Great Ape tissues? The writers of the bill seemed to think gibbons were apes, maybe they think tissues are species?
Come now, Sam. You’re a creeper for a lot of reasons, but not because you comment right after a post is put up.
I’m not sure about tissue synthesis. If such research is occurring at all, we’re probably years away at least from it being functional. Chimpanzee models work now.
I’ll look up papers tomorrow when I’m doing research for a lab report I’ll be writing (I don’t have access to Web of Knowledge unless I’m on campus) and pass any good ones along.
And I’m still grouchy about salvia. I’ll look that up, too.
Having needed animal ethics approval for all my studies I realise what a pain it is to get it but I would never say that it is too tough.
My main gripe is from a different perspective. Why do apes have more right to not be experimented on than other animals such as fish or rabbits. Surly pain is pain! It is pretty biased to save those that most resemble ourselves I think.
Sam, tissue cultures certainly have their place in research, though, as I understand, liver tissue is relatively difficult to maintain outside the body. Even if the difficulties of growing Petri-dish livers are overcome (as is being worked on here: http://www.hhmi.org/news/bhatia20100125.html), it would not be an alternative to animal studies so much as it would be an augmentation. They can’t tell us how drugs effect a system in its entirety. You can’t take the blood pressure of a cell culture. So as the three R’s go, tissue cultures are more of a “reduce” than a “replace”–we still need chimps.
I understand about using animals for disease research, what I don’t understand is using them for cosmetics and so on like that. I think that we have come far enough that cosmetics should not need to be tested as they all contain pretty much the same ingredients.
I don’t like to see animals suffering, but i also know that we do need to have ways to find cures and medicines for diseases.
i have to say i totally disagree with you because you seem to think it is ok to harm animals if it is beneficial to humans so
1 – who are we to decided if we can use animals (as much a mouse as a chimp) for our own benefit? i mean we evolved from apes so as far as i know testing on apes is like testing on a very far cousin of yours, would that be acceptable, no! we have been put on this planet like any other species, we don’t own this planet like so many people seem to think, this is just disgusting to see that people think like that (are we really the most clever specie on this planet cos the more i speak to people the more i am ashamed to belong to the human race)
2 – most people think they are good people if they help saving human life because it is more valuable than animal life, stop repeating things you learned in textbook at school and tell me why is that the case? in what aspect do you base your life more valuable than a gibbon life? i mean they don’t contribute to the destruction of this planet but we do so tell me what do we do that is more important then them?
3 – part of life is death, every person and animal on this planet will die one day because that’s the way nature work. To make sure this happen and to avoid the planet to be overpopulated there are disease that kill and you can’t cure, that has always been the case and always will be. so why do you want to try to cure them? you won’t succeed and if you do with one a new one will appear because that’s the way nature decided. so yes disease kill people and animals but that is normal and wanting to cure that is just foolish and prove people do not have a clue about nature and how it works.
4 – we are more than 6 billions people on this planet, all food and water resources are already diminishing, as well as gas, oil and anything else people think they can use with no consequences, we are already destroying this planet even tho millions of people are dying of disease, i am sorry to say but if you could cure all these dying people can you imagine what this world would look like? we are already destroying it enough and you want to cure more people to make it even worse
so to answer your question about animals suffering and being used for animal experimentation to save human life i say NO because humans are not worse being saved, if they could understand what they are doing and the consequences this will have for the planet this question would not even been raised!
(i should mention i have a cancer gene in my family and it is genetic so there is a big chance i will die of cancer, 4 members of my family already died of it yet i do not support cancer research!)
you want to use someone for experimentation, go in jail and use murderers, peadophiles, rapiste and all these kind of people for that, i am sorry to say but animals live are much more precious than theirs!
Point 1. We haven’t been “put” anywhere, that’s not how evolution works. We’ve evolved to function well in a given environment. The short answer is nature doesn’t care if you’re kind or cruel. All morality is a human construct and all ethical frameworks are a priori anthropocentric.
Point 2. A human life is more valuable to us than an animal life because our ethical framework is necessarily anthropocentric. I love when people throw out “Humans are the only species destroying the world!” It’s an absurd sentiment. All species are surviving for their own self interest. The real flip side to that is the Humans are the only species working to save and protect the environment. We are the only species capable of saving the environment. Humans are also one of the very few species that show altruism towards ‘other’ species without any clear benefit to us, does that make us more valuable?
Point 3. Nature doesn’t “decide” anything. I’m not sure you understand how nature “works” at all. We seem to be very successful at curing disease. The average life expectancy in developed nations has tripled in the last century and violent deaths have plummeted. Overpopulation is a real problem but not one that your proposal has any hope of solving. Here’s a clue – the countries with the lowest birthrates also have the highest standards of medical care. You want to fix overpopulation? make sure everyone has access to health care, education, birth control, and a long enough life-span that they care what happens to the next 5 generations.
Point 4. see above. You want to solve overpopulation invest in health, education, and birth control. There’s a reason the countries with the lowest life expectancies also have the highest birthrates.
I think you don’t really understand what’s happening in this world and what the consequences are. “People are bad and we should let them all die” is a weak ethical and philosophical framework to start from.
It’s wrong to use animals for research just because we think we’re more valuable than them, so lets use certain people for research because we’re more valuable than them? Really? That’s what you decided to close with? Pathetic.
i forgot to ask one question, when i did my thesis for my honour of zoology my subject was antibacterial defences in sharks, i was provided with 18 young sharks i had to kill at the end of the experiment (i was kindda trapped in it and didn’t know the sharks were going to be killed till the last minute when it was too late to back of) but i made sure they didn’t suffer, they were put to sleep in their tank, i was even holding them, so do you think this is ok to use and kill sharks for science?
after all you seem to say it is ok to use animals if we learn from them, so learning about antibacterial defences in shark might be beneficial to humans in some way so i take that as you agree killing sharks is ok, right?
That’s kind of comparing apples to oranges, and it’s not really what this post is about, but I’ll answer it.
I think in some circumstances, killing sharks for the purposes of research is acceptable (my research involves nonlethal, minimally invasive sampling). The reasons why killing sharks for research would be wrong in my eyes are:
1) The shark species in question is endangered or threatened
2) The information that those researchers are seeking can be gained through non-lethal means
3) The animal suffers needlessly
Which is exactly why you get approval from animal review boards before you get to do work on vertebrates and have to prove that there are no alternatives to the experiment first.
Indeed it is. Almost as if there are already strong rules governing humane treatment of laboratory animals.
The very reasons that it is illegal to experiment on humans are same reasons that it should be illegal to experiment on animals — the right to its own life, its ability to suffer are the same for both human and nonhuman animals.
If animal experimentation could cure every human disease and disability (and obviously it can’t), what will have been gained? The world would still be at war, its oceans and air polluted, with the human population still largely unhealthy due to poor lifestyle choices — over-fed, doped -up, under-exercised. How is science and its prestigious scientific societies successfully addressing these problems?
Want to improve the health of humans and the environment? Save more lives than would ever be possible by animal experimentation? End the exploitation of animals. It’s a failed experiment. Adopt a vegan lifestyle.
It’s a simple existential choice: either continue living in a world where animals suffer and die needlessly to meet our needs and whims, or choose to create and live in a world where they do not.
First off, it’s not illegal to experiment on humans, every new drug and therapy has to go through clinical trials before being released to the market.
I love this thought because it shows exactly where you’re coming from. The human race is not “largely unhealthy because of poor lifestyle choice”, a very small portion of the world is over-fed, doped-up, and under-exercised” and you know what? They also have the highest quality of life in the world. The rest of the world is just trying to survive.
While veganism is a strong and valid moral and ethical framework, it is not a solution to any of those problems. It doesn’t improve the health of you or the environment any more than being conscious of your diet and choosing food from sustainable sources does. It certainly doesn’t save more lives than animal experimentation has. It’s a solid personal choice, not a global solution. What you want is 100% global compliance with a vegan lifestyle.
Interesting debate! There are some of your replies that are at least arguable.
“First off, it’s not illegal to experiment on humans, every new drug and therapy has to go through clinical trials before being released to the market.”
Yes, but the laws for experimenting on humans are much more stringent than the laws for experimenting on animals.
“While veganism is a strong and valid moral and ethical framework, it is not a solution to any of those problems.”
There are an increasing number of scientific studies that show that vegan and vegetarian diets are more healthy, and that these diets increase longevity in humans:
Also, such diets are probably the greatest single way for an individual to reduce one’s carbon footprint, which is in line with the need to take action against anthropogenic global climate change, another environmental problem supported by a strong scientific consensus.
I totally support your vegan lifestyle, and I think the US culture has many improvements to make regarding the way we treat our environment. However, humans are the top of the food chain, so we need to accept the fact that it is okay for animals to die because of us; it is part of the natural cycle of life.
I have mixed feelings about the ape testing and animal testing in general. I love animals. I consider myself an animal activist. I’m a vegan. I do buy all my cosmetic type products and cleaning products that say they have not been tested on animals. But I don’t think they should stop testing on animals. I would love for science to advance to a point that animal testing was no longer needed. My father has Hep C from a blood transfusion he recieved in the Vietnam War. I want him to be around for a LONG time. If it means testing on animals to keep him here; I’m okay with that.
And that’s what it really comes done to, minimize suffering as much as possible. Look for alternatives. But where no alternatives exist, we use animal testing.
How did the animal testing research done on Thalidomide turn out? Let the scientists here please list some of the biggest failures of animal research — just to keep the discussion unbiased. Weigh both the pros and cons.
Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer all have significant lifestyle components — often controllable or preventable by lifestyle changes. Prevention should always be preferred over cure. These diseases are more common in developed nations, and as development is the direction the world is headed (at least until its timely demise), it’s better to take note and address their prevention first and foremost.
Again, an easy calculation for the scientists here, but the world cannot feed its entire population a sustainable meat-centered diet let alone a hormone-free, grain-fed one. Undeveloped countries are now having their own environments destroyed in an unscientific attempt to feed the “over-fed, doped -up, under-exercised” of the developed nations — which is referred to above as “highest quality of life in the world.” That’s a highly subjective and unscientific statement. No, the whole world doesn’t want to be like “us”.
“Quality of Life” is not a subjective nor unscientific term – it refers to the Human Development Index and is a measure of life expectancy, education, and gross domestic product.
Of course there have been some tremendous medical tragedies, just as there have been environmental disasters in the animal rights movement. So what? You’re throwing up a strawman because you’re unwilling to honestly enter the debate. The eradication of small pox alone vastly overshadows the many failures in medicine. You honestly think we should throw out an incredibly effective system just because it’s not 100% perfect?
The world can’t feed itself on a strictly non-meat system either. Please don’t conflate ‘eating meat’ with supporting the massive industrial farming that happens in the US. There are plenty of conscientious carnivores out there opposed to factory farming.
This blog post presumes that chimpanzee research is scientifically valid and relevant to and predictive of human biology and disease – and therein lays the major flaw. When one looks at the evidence, it is apparent that chimpanzee research, far from “unquestionably saving human lives”, produces data that confound our knowledge of human diseases and our search for treatments and cures. In contrast to unsubstantiated claims from advocates of chimpanzee research, peer-reviewed and comprehensive analyses have revealed:
• Half of all this “crucial” chimpanzee research has never been cited in subsequent scientific publications, such is its lack of importance (according to a citation analysis of 95 randomly selected chimpanzee papers). Less than 15% of these chimpanzee publications were cited with a direct human medical context, and crucially the cited chimpanzee studies did not contribute to the outcome of the citing papers reporting an advance in human clinical practice.
• More than 85 HIV vaccines (of many different types) have been tested in around 200 human trials. None works in people, despite most of the vaccines and vaccine types having exhibited prophylactic and/or therapeutic efficacy in prior chimpanzee experiments. This lack of predictability led to a decline in HIV/AIDS-related chimpanzee studies of 90% from 1998 to 2005 – hardly a resounding endorsement of an indispensable model.
• Chimps have barely been used to research one of mankind’s biggest killers, cancer. This is because chimpanzee tumors are rare, and are biologically very different to human tumors (carcinogenicity, cell growth, apoptosis, metastasis etc.) Further, chimpanzees are not necessary in preclinical testing of monoclonal antibody therapies for cancer treatment.
• The blog post is dismissive of the contribution of non-chimpanzee studies of hepatitis C (epidemiology; clinical studies; human-specific in vitro systems such as primary culture, molecular clones, replicons, virus-like particles/pseudoparticles and full life-cycle cellular clones) to the advancement of our knowledge of it, and the foundation this has created on which to build further research towards a treatment/cure. Also, the claimed necessity of chimpanzee contributions in historical research is greatly exaggerated. In short, chimpanzees are not needed for superior and effective hepatitis C research now and in the future.
These points address most of the claims in the blog post.
It is imperative to gauge the cost/benefit balance of any animal research. We are now discovering that the postulated benefits of chimpanzee research are minimal/non-existent, while the costs, both ethical costs to the chimpanzees (complex post-traumatic stress disorders, self-harm & other serious psychological problems) and financial costs to the taxpayer, are substantial. We know that around 80% of the 1000 or so chimpanzees in U.S. labs are being “warehoused” at great expense, and aren’t even in active research protocols: and the U.S. is the only country in the world in which any significant invasive chimpanzee research occurs, as many countries have banned or at least severely limited it. These facts alone betray claims of the essential nature of chimpanzee experimentation for treating human diseases. And, as scientists are ultimately accountable to the public that funds their research, it is worth highlighting that twice as many Americans support a ban on chimpanzee research as oppose one. It is time for cruel and useless chimpanzee research in the U.S. to be consigned to history, as it has been all over the rest of the world. Not only the chimpanzees will benefit, but also the funds freed up for superior, more effective human-specific research will lead to greater and quicker scientific and medical advancement.
“Half of all this “crucial” chimpanzee research has never been cited in subsequent scientific publications,”
Assuming those statistics are valid, that still means that half of it is cited in future publications. Sure, research doesn’t always generate the exact results we want…but not doing research means you will never generate results.
For heaven’s sake, Mr. Bailey, what utopian world do you live in? At least half of ALL scientific publications are never cited, except by their own authors. So what? You don’t know whether it’s going to be important until you do it.
Been there, done that, as has our host. (To whose short message I am replying because it bears directly on the point I am making.)
“superior, more effective human-specific research will lead to greater and quicker scientific and medical advancement.”
I assume you have some sort of evidence that this is the case? You wouldn’t just be throwing around buzzwords that make your cause sound good without basing them on facts?
All this information is based on published literature, and is summarised at the “Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories” website:
Please don’t interpret this as anything other than academic curiosity and is no way meant to be dismissive, but, other than the PTSD papers, do you have any primary sources that weren’t produced by you?
“superior, more effective human-specific research will lead to greater and quicker scientific and medical advancement.”
Um… the whole reason great apes are used is to be more “human-specific” than mice or other models without using people.
“This blog post presumes that chimpanzee research is scientifically valid and relevant to and predictive of human biology and disease”
I will freely admit that I assumed that when writing the post- because it’s completely true. Doctors and medical researchers say it’s the case.
I’m still not sure what your point is about citation rate. As I understand it, considerably less than half of global warming publications are ever cited again. By your logic, are you saying that global warming isn’t happening?
please forgive the fact that I have not read the other comments — so this might already have been addressed, but
I can’t help note what may be a linguistic issue — David, do you distinguish between animal “rights” and animal “welfare”? This is an important distinction.
Humans are the only moral animal, all others are amoral — for example, if I eat David while he is still alive and kicking, you would rightly consider me a “monster”. However, if an orca eats a trainer, the orca is just doing what orcas do and has no concept of right vs wrong. I think a sound reasoning and philosophical/ethical argument leads one to conclude that animals do not have “rights” per say.
Note: I do very strongly believe that we [humans] should do everything we can to protect and promote animal “welfare”
BTW: I heard about a new book that may be of interest to you and your blog readers:
Amazon.com: A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement (9781594033469): Wesley J. Smith: Books http://ow.ly/1biWz
Enjoy the rest of your discussion/commenting — I’ve got to get back to work. I love your blog.
Peace — Ed
That’s a very important and often overlook distinction.
This is a can of worms. The problem is that we simply do not know if the vast majority of animals have a moral system or not. Orcas DO NOT eat humans. In captivity, we have no evidence that they do anything other than play too rough. Attacks on humans by wild orcas are so rare as to be virtually non-existant, and are almost certainly examples of an accident on the part of the whale of confusing humans with prey. Many of the very rare examples of intraspecific altruism have been exhibited by cetaceans, not only with many examples of dolphins saving human lives, but with a recent and fascinating account of humpback whales altruistically saving seals from orcas:
There is evidence from the long-term communication dialogs with Koko the lowland gorilla that gorillas, at least, have a moral compass. (See the Gorilla Society at Gorilla.org, the lifetime work of Dr. Penny Patterson).
Since this is a science blog, I feel it necessary to point out that conclusively calling all animals “amoral” has not been supported by any evidence other than assumption, and there are some tantalizing and well-documented indications that, at least in some animals, the opposite may be true.
My own varied and extensive experience with animals leads me to believe that some animals most definitely will place an amazing amount of trust in specific human individuals.
I have not read the book that is mentioned, but we do not compare human lives to “cost,” because we assume that a human life is not measurable in those terms (to do so would be considered amoral), yet we make this comparison all the time with animals. Upon what logic is this dichotomy based? As a matter of fact, upon what logical, scientific or moral principle is placing a human life ahead of the life of every other living thing on the planet earth based? This assumption is certainly not based on science. If we wanted to do millions of creatures and even species a real favor at this point, we could probably not do much better than banning humans from the planet earth, from the viewpoint of non-human life.
That may be the weakest link in this whole argument.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said: “A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives.” And that is a statement from a medical doctor.
I worked for seven years at a primate research facility and co-authored publications that involved primate use. That experience opened my eyes and drove me to advocate for desperately needed changes.
I too believed that is was a choice between child and chimpanzee at the start of my career. But the fact is—ending chimpanzee research could very well help the child and continuing to waste time and money on chimpanzee research will prevent progress. The United States is the only remaining country that continues the large-scale use of chimpanzees for invasive research and testing.
The Great Ape Protection Act would phase out invasive research on great apes and retire the 500 government-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary. There are many reasons to support GAPA, but the four main ones are:
1. Chimpanzee research is a scientific failure and there are alternatives: The government has strongly signaled that the chimpanzee model isn’t as valuable as some claim. The National Center for Research Resources ended breeding of government-owned chimpanzees in 1995 and there has been a 50 percent decline in the number government grants involving invasive chimpanzee research in the past decade and many laboratories have shut down.
There are exaggerated claims of effectiveness about hepatitis C studies using chimpanzees (seehttp://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2009/12/hepatitis_c_research_using_chimps_121509.html). There are proven effective alternatives to chimpanzee use for hepatitis C and other areas of research.
2. Keeping chimpanzees in laboratories wastes taxpayer dollars: Approximately 80-90% of the estimated 1000 chimpanzees currently warehoused in US laboratories cost taxpayers approximately $25 million per year. The government bred hundreds of chimpanzees in the 1980’s for HIV research but the model was a failure and the government ended up with a surplus.
3. There are serious ethical concerns: Chimpanzees are self-aware, make tools, lead complex social lives and can live 60 years. The Humane Society of the United States conducted an undercover investigation last year at the New Iberia Research Center in LA., the world’s largest chimp research facility, and revealed gross mistreatment of the primates at that facility (see http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/chimpanzee_research/)
4. The public supports the goals of GAPA: 90% of Americans believe it is unacceptable to confine chimpanzees in standard cages (5 ft x 5 ft x 7 ft) and 54% believe that it is unacceptable for chimpanzees to “undergo research which causes them to suffer for human benefit.”
Declarations about invasive great ape research being important to wild populations are far out of line with reality. I am unaware of any invasive study in a laboratory today that seeks to solely help wild chimpanzees. As a matter of fact, using chimpanzees in invasive research undermines conservation of this endangered species.
It is time for the US to catch up with the rest of the world in ending invasive research on great apes. We urge everyone to support the Great Ape Protection Act. If you are a scientist with a higher degree and want to add your name to a list of over 600 scientists who support ending invasive research on chimpanzees, feel free to contact us at [email protected]
The Humane Society of the United States
I tend to be in agreement with you that there is needed change. Most studies can be done with other vertebrates or human cell lines, but for some studies there is a need for primates, and an outright ban will certainly not help medical progress.
I would like to take exception to point 2, simply because it’s irrational rhetoric. Even if we halted all great apes studies in the US, we still have an obligation to care for chimpanzees that were once used in experiments, which means there “wasted dollars” would still have to be spent, unless you propose we euthanize all research animals.
The fact that we’re talking about 1000 animals really puts the scale of things in perspective. If 1001 lives have been saved as a result of this research, would that be a net benefit to society?
Kathleen’s point number 2 is only irrational if you deny our financial responsibility for taking these animals out of the wild and breeding them for human use in the first place. I would argue that, having done this, we are absolutely responsible for these animals’ lives and well-being. Are you trying to say that, having a surplus of captive chimpanzees, we might as well use them for some research anyway and get our money’s worth? As a taxpayer, if my tax dollars are spent in an unethical way, then I would consider that a waste of my tax dollars, whether research is done or not. If this mistake costs money, then there will be some incentive not to take on morally dubious projects like this in the future. Remember, we took on the responsibility for caring for these animals in an ethical way when we bred them in captivity.
I have read that the research on HIV done with chimpanzees has been considered scientifically invalid because of the subtle differences in the way chimpanzees react to the human HIV virus. As a matter of fact, HIV vaccines have worked on chimpanzees that have been totally ineffective on humans. It is interesting to note that Jane Goodall, who has extensively studied chimpanzees and who has nothing to gain or lose by ending this type of research, does not believe that chimps should be used in such experiments, while the proponents of chimpanzee testing are almost invariably the doctors who run these facilities, and who would lose their well-paying jobs if such testing was prohibited.
Just down the road from me in Bastrop, Texas, there is a chimpanzee medical research facility where they had done a lot of this HIV testing. Not too long ago, two chimpanzees escaped from this facility within a three-month period. The second chimpanzee ended up being very unnecessarily shot dead by the police. The lab was fined for violations of federal codes for maintaining chimpanzees in captivity. No one went to jail, because it was a chimpanzee that was unnecessarily killed.
Chimpanzees share 99% of their coding DNA sequences with humans. There is conjecture that chimpanzees may even have been crossbred with humans in the past. We are very closely related, and scientists believe that interbreeding would be possible. Now, imagine yourself in the position of a chimpanzee undergoing medical experiments. If this bothers you morally, or if you even resist doing that particular “thought experiment,” what does that tell you?
The only defense is that human life is somehow more significant than chimpanzee life; that human suffering is somehow less acceptable than chimpanzee suffering. Is this idea really based on science, or is it based on morals? So, this being an ethical debate, why do you feel that a chimpanzee’s suffering is subordinate to human suffering?
I want to ask you about a couple of points you raised.
“The public supports the goals of GAPA”.
Sorry to be harsh, but I’m more interested in what medical researchers think is important for medical research than I am in what the average person thinks is important for medical research. Science is not decided by what non-scientists think is best.
“It is time for the US to catch up with the rest of the world in ending invasive research on great apes.”
Again, what difference do the research policies of the rest of the world make? We should do what works best, not what other countries feel is appropriate.
I can’t help but notice that the overwhelming majority of medical breakthroughs occur in the United States. Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to adapt our medical research policies to those of the rest of the world?
your answer to my previous post said:
“The reasons why killing sharks for research would be wrong in my eyes are:
1) The shark species in question is endangered or threatened
2) The information that those researchers are seeking can be gained through non-lethal means
3) The animal suffers needlessly”
well i am sorry to say but most gibbons are now an endangered species like sharks, the fact they are used in labs mean they suffer needlessly for the only satisfaction of humans and so far none of the diseases tested on gibbons have seen a cure, and it might never happen. so what is the difference between sharks and gibbons? 2 different kind of animals but both being tested on for the same purpose, serve humans.
you also said previously that having a better way of life would reduce overpopulation and the planet destruction, well in uk for example, education is available to anyone and is mandatory to the age of 16, i would like to see that as a cultivated country aslo contraception is a free to anyone who ask for it, yet the number of single mum under the age of 25 is one of the highest in the world so what this tells you about way of life? people are lazy and don’t care about the rest of the world, being cultivated and living in a country that give you the possibilities to have a better way of life is not changing the fact the people are selfish. also you say that controlled birth is a way to reduce overpopulation, well let’s take china as example here, they are only allowed to one child but most families want their name to stay alive after they die so what do they do to their first child if it is a girl, they abandon them to try for another one hoping it will be a boy. orphanage in china are full of girls families don’t want, is that a success in overpopulation, i don’t think so, it is the opposite, the only effective way to control human population is by disease and that’s exactly why they exist, simple as that!
The key word is “needlessly”. If there is no way to avoid it and it serves an important goal (i.e. curing human diseases), the suffering isn’t needless.
The animals aren’t suffering for the “satisfaction” of humans, it is to save human lives. That’s really not the same thing at all.
“the only effective way to control human population is by disease and that’s exactly why they exist, simple as that!”
Are you really arguing that we shouldn’t research cures for diseases because it is good for the environment when humans die from diseases? Really?
UK Birth Rate – 10.65 births/1,000 population
France Birth Rate – 12.73 births/1,000 population
China Birth Rate – 13.71 births/1,000 population
India Birth Rate – 22.22 births/1,000 population
Nigeria Birth Rate – 37.23 births/1,000 population
Somalia Birth Rate – 44.12 births/1,000 population
All freely available from http://www.CIA.gov
Number of single mothers just means Brits don’t marry as young (another common occurrence in well-educated countries). Birth control means contraceptives. Your analogy to China is completely irrelevant.
I presume all those on this blog who have argued that animals should be used in research would agree with the claim that both scientists and animal advocates share a wish not to use animals in research that cause them (the animals) suffering and/or harm. Therefore, we all share that goal. Where we disagree is how fast we can reach the stage where we will no longer be using animals and how much effort (i.e. time and money) should be put into achieving such a goal.
To invest the discussion with some actual facts on animal use, it should be noted that the number of animals used in biomedical laboratories appears to have peaked around 1975 and that the number has fallen by about 50% since then. Where we have data on research productivity, it indicates that, despite the explosion of GM mice in laboratory animal facilities in the past decade and a half, the amount of research data produced per animal continues to climb. I would also refer readers to the NRC Report on Toxicology in the 21st Century. This report, produced by an expert panel convened by the National Research Council, concluded that toxicology should move away from animal use and instead rely on human cell systems and in silico analyses to predict human toxicity and risk. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11970
Sir Peter Medawar, the Nobel prize winning immunologist and philosopher of science, noted as far back as 1969 that biological science would not forever rely on the use of animals but that, for the moment, only through the use of animals would we one day be able to dispense with their use altogether. He was remarkably prescient. As the biological sciences continue to decrease their reliance on the use of animals, we at The Humane Society of the United States are now proposing that we no longer need to rely on the harmful use of Great Apes to continue to progress biomedical science!
“both scientists and animal advocates share a wish not to use animals in research that cause them (the animals) suffering and/or harm… Where we disagree is how fast we can reach the stage where we will no longer be using animals”
I’d say that’s a fair assessment of the situation.
Scientists are saying that while we should be actively working on the development of different model systems, we should use the ones we have that work (i.e. laboratory animals) until that time because to simply stop using the best model system we have before a new one is created will cost human lives.
The animal rights crowd seems to be saying that we need to stop using laboratory animals now, before we have another functional model system. The reasoning seems to vary from vague claims that better model systems exist already but aren’t being used…all the way to stating that we shouldn’t do medical research at all because the environment is better off when diseases kill lots of humans.
However, we do all share the same goal of not having to use laboratory animals for medical research eventually.
I think we’re pretty much on the page with you, Andrew. Eventually as medical models get better we phase out more and more animal research, as is currently happening. Most testing can be done without great apes (as was stated above there’s only 1000 chimps currently in the US for experiments, most of which are warehoused). The question is whether we’re there yet or not.
I’d make the perhaps radical prediction that we’ll see maybe one more generation of research chimps before they’re no longer needed. Beyond any law that could be passed, the expense involved in animal care is what will drive the demand for more effective models.
i love how you just speak about the facts you don’t agree with in my comments, please don’t just ignore the important ones like what about gibbons being used in labs when they are now on the endangered species list made by the IUCN? is that ok to you? is it ok to catch illegally primates in Asia and transport them, still illegally in labs in civilised countries to test on them. Animals do not deserve their freedom?
my previous comment about young girl giving birth was not at all about birth rate in uk, it was about young people giving birth to babies because the government give them money and a flat and everything they want if they are young mums, so many of these babies are unwanted and so many of them end up in care within the first few years of their lives, and this increase the world population for no reason. the comment about china is also relevant because it also increase the world population. now nigeria and somalia have the highest birth rates in your list, i won’t deny it but you forgot to mention their death rate as well, mostly due to disease? it is also the highest one so yes people over there have a lot of childrens but a lot of them don’t make it, the ones born in uk or china have a good chance to live because they have good health care in their countries.
also when i say that people die of disease, well yeah this deaths control the world population, why do people want to find cure to humans disease but not to animals disease then? if we need to cure everything why are disease killing animals not investigated as much? (i am speaking here about diseases in animals that doesn’t affect humans). once again humans are so important they deserve this but not the animals i guess.
i don’t understand why you put this subject on a blog for people to speak about it because obviously you both have your idea on the matter and you are not speaking about it, you are trying to convince people writing on this blog you are right and they are wrong, this is not speaking openly to me, this is forcing your opinion on other people!
Please provide any source that gibbons are currently being used in animal testing. Gibbons are protected in the US under the endangered species act. Why would you assume that we’d support medical test on endangered species when it’s clearly been stated that we don’t support medical testing on endangered species?
So your comments about how many are people being born aren’t about birth rate? Odd.
Human diseases affect humans, so humans are trying to cure them. Why is that a problem?
“i don’t understand why you put this subject on a blog for people to speak about it because obviously you both have your idea on the matter and you are not speaking about it, you are trying to convince people writing on this blog you are right and they are wrong”
In your case, yeah, because we think you’re wrong. Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing?
“this is not speaking openly to me, this is forcing your opinion on other people!”
Because we dragged you out of your house, sat you at a computer, and forced you to read and comment on the blog. Are people only speaking openly if they agree with you?
“why do people want to find cure to humans disease but not to animals disease then? if we need to cure everything why are disease killing animals not investigated as much?…once again humans are so important they deserve this but not the animals i guess. ”
Lana, you are a human, right? One weird thing about blog conversations is that I can’t actually know that for sure, but I’m assuming that you and I are both human. (Actually, if a chimpanzee was capable of participating in a blog conversation, it might affect my opinion on chimpanzee research)
Assuming that you are a human, I really find it difficult to believe that you think the life of a chimpanzee and the life of a human are morally equivalent. I certainly think that the life of a chimpanzee has value, but the life of a human has a much, much greater value. Why do I think that? Because I’m a human. I’m sure that if chimpanzees were capable of thought on this level (which they are most definitely not), they would think that chimpanzee lives were more important than human lives.
Actually, what the PUBLIC thinks is acceptable IS a critical aspect of research. All progress is a balance between science (what’s possible) and ethics (what is reasonable or right). Science also depends on public funding and therefore needs to be in line with acceptable ethical standards, which boils down to what a broad consensus of society thinks is acceptable. Animal rights activist play a critical role in getting issues discussed and moving society’s ethical standards forward. But they don’t have the last word. So, no, “science” should not have the final say about what science pursues or how it is pursued. That said, most people support research, but want it done as humanely as possible. The research industry continues to drag its feet on a number of issues, including the pursuit of alternatives to animals and reducing or eliminating duplicative research. As long as lots of animals are used, there will always be pressure to reduce it or stop it. That is appropriate.
Fair enough, Gwen. The issue is when people use inaccurate polling (or just make numbers up) to justify “public support” of their position. For example, I find it amazing how the overwhelming majority of the American public supports a public option in the health care reform bill, while, at the same time, the overwhelming majority of the American public opposes a public option in the health care reform bill.
I am not against animals being used for research. I am a big proponent of animal welfare and the present 3Rsystem of research. reduce # of subjects used, eliminate unnecessary redundancy, and remedy any paid for animals.
What bugs me is that many of the legal meausre related to animal wefare in studies is only aimed at university and government researchers. Private companies (like cosmetics are not subject to the hoop jumping of IACUC). No fair, and more often than not, university researchers are very sympathetic to animal wefare issues.
But to fully disclose – I am not at all comfortable doing invasive research on animals – for human research or even to learn more about the animals…because another important point to be made is that not all animal research is designed to figure out how disease/injury/malady works in animals. I observe animals as the subject of interest, not just as an incubator of a disease.
But these same welfare issues affect me, because all animal research (and researchers) are thrown into the same bag.
Animals shouldn’t be punished for the human race’s own stupid choices.
What are you talking about, friend? It was stupid of us to decide to get sick?
‘i don’t understand why you put this subject on a blog for people to speak about it because obviously you both have your idea on the matter and you are not speaking about it, you are trying to convince people writing on this blog you are right and they are wrong” In your case, yeah, because we think you’re wrong. Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing?’
thanks for telling me i am wrong…that is your opinion, i have some very strong believe about animal experiment and i have some believes about why it is wrong and i am writing them here because i want people to know my believes, i am not telling people they are wrong… at the opposite you you!
also if i had the choice between saving my neighbour who is an alcoholic, doesn’t work, live on benefits, beat his dogs and annoy the whole building and saving a chimp, the choice would be very clear to me, not all people are worse being saved i am sorry to tell but i am not a liar!
this is my last comment cos i really don’t appreciate your attitude toward people who disagree with you, i think it is pathetic to try to convince everyone you are right and they are wrong. maybe you should open up more to other people believes and let them have a different opinion. it’s not because you have a phd that you know better than everybody else!
Methinks someone doesn’t quite grasp the concept of a debate. Get over yourself, you won’t be missed.
Why not use prisoners? Those that have commited murder deserve the same in return… How is it any different than harming an innocent animal regardless of the resons?
Because prisoners are humans?
Well, for one thing you can’t study developmental effects on someone who’s done developing.
Here’s an interesting point from the Twitter discussion on this post.
“Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals and they say, “Because the animals are like us.” …..Ask the experimenters why it’s morally OK to experiment on animals: “Because the animals are not like us.””
I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s an interesting point. Thoughts?
Could that not be rephrased as “they’re the closest thing to us that’s not us?”
Actually, that probably was the original phrasing before my Twitter friend changed it. Yeah, I’d say that’s a totally correct assessment of the situation.
Would you have consider Ted Bundy human?
Genetically and legally, yes I would. I don’t think he’s a particularly nice human, and he certainly isn’t a well-adjusted productive member of society. That doesn’t mean that we should perform medical experiments on him. There’s a little thing called the Constitution that governs how we treat prisoners.
Genetically, yes he is a human being. The point I was trying to make is that animals are innocent, and we need to draw the line somewhere. Do you think it is fair that we have a Constitution because we we’re smart enough to make one? Animals have rights too, and just because they can’t articulate their feelings doensnt mean we should assume they are expendable. We need to be the voice for those who cant speak for themselves… just like sharks…
No one is saying that animals have no value and are expendable. We are saying that animal research is the best way (as of right now) to cure several human diseases and save many human lives.
Actually animals aren’t capable of being “innocent” because anthropocentric legal and moral framework applies a priori to humans exclusively. Animals can’t be ‘moral’ as we understand it because morality is a human construction. Part of our moral framework applies to animal welfare – treating animals with respect, not being unnecessarily cruel, etc. but animals can’t be active participants in that framework.
I.E. a chimpanzee killing the offspring of a less dominant male (which is not uncommon) is not a ‘murderer’ or ‘amoral’, while a human who does the same would be a monster.
Iana24 is obviously not a parent of an ill child. My daughter has HepC and I have a chronic immune system condition that works a lot like HIV and I am an adamant supporter of protecting animal welfare. I am sickened and confounded by people like Michael Vick and cosmetic companies that continue to use animal research for non-medical things. However, I do believe that fanaticism is always dangerous, even if understandable. I am not a scientist, so when many scientists tell me that animal testing, done as humanely as possible, is needed to cure my 5 year old, and the research will also help animals, I say, the lesser of the two evils is the proper course. Part of me wants to scream, “Who gives a crap about a couple of apes when it ‘s my baby’s life on the line??!” but reasoning always takes over before I yell and I think: even if my kid wasn’t sick, even if the writing wasn’t on the wall for me, a single mom, I would still have to capitulate. Disease must be cured and that over-population answer is bs, Iana24; if you really felt that way, then why have you gotten any vaccinations? You had better only take herbs, picked out of your own garden when you feel unwell, because anything else would be hypocritical.
People who feel that overpopulation is a problem never seem to see themselves as part of that problem. It’s always other people who are taking up too many resources.
I recommend reading “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins followed by a Bicentennial Malthusian Essay by John Rohe.
Excellent debate here, kudos.
Surely the reasonable solution is to experiment on mentally handicapped humans. I say “reasonable” because the refusal to do so is mere sentimental bias (assuming we believe experimentation on some living individuals is necessary). After all, humans make the perfect models for research designed to benefit humans. And to discriminate in favour of humans whose cognitive and sensitive capacities are no greater, and possible lower, than the animals in question, cannot be rationally justified. It is a prerequisite of rational argument that one may not discriminate in favour of some individuals and against others where no morally relevant difference exists, and species membership per se is not a morally relevant difference between individuals, any more than sex or race is a morally relevant difference. Of course, one may always resort to the “We protect members of our own kind” response, so long as one bears in mind that this is a purely emotional position, not a rational one — even if one wants to claim that this emotion is “natural”. The fact that it’s natural (if that’s what it is) doesn’t make it rationally defensible.
I can almost understand (though I entirely disagree with) the claim that prisoners who have harmed society in some way have less moral value than animals. However, the claim that innocent people with developmental diseases have less moral value than animals is pretty far from “reasonable”, Taylor.
With respect: I have presented a coherent argument, giving reasons at each step of the way. You have merely asserted that my position is not reasonable, but have presented no argument, no reasons. I suggest you have a sentimental bias in favour of humans. Perhaps that’s okay, but as such your bias is not a matter of reason. To be reasonable, one has to give reasons and engage (reasonably) with contrary arguments.
My argument in my earlier post implicitly invokes what is known in philosophy as “the argument from marginal cases”. This argument (which can be found even in Ancient Greece) is not easy to refute, as debate among philosophers over the past thirty years has shown. There are one or two ways around it (such as using a contract theory of morality), but they have implications that many will find abhorrent (e.g., that there is no intrinsic reason — merely prudential, revocable reasons — why we should protect mentally handicapped humans).
Not so much rational as fundamentally flawed, actually.
“It is a prerequisite of rational argument that one may not discriminate in favour of some individuals and against others where no morally relevant difference exists, and species membership per se is not a morally relevant difference between individuals, any more than sex or race is a morally relevant difference.”
Read a few comments above where this has already been addressed. Morality is necessarily anthropocentric, non-humans cannot be active participants.
“Animals aren’t capable of being “innocent” because anthropocentric legal and moral framework applies a priori to humans exclusively. Animals can’t be ‘moral’ as we understand it because morality is a human construction. Part of our moral framework applies to animal welfare – treating animals with respect, not being unnecessarily cruel, etc. but animals can’t be active participants in that framework.
I.E. a chimpanzee killing the offspring of a less dominant male (which is not uncommon) is not a ‘murderer’ or ‘amoral’, while a human who does the same would be a monster.”
To put it more simply – membership comes with benefits (and dues)
And of course, the more relevant issue which has also been addressed – “humans make the perfect models for research designed to benefit humans”.
No, actually they don’t. A ‘perfect’ model organism is cheap to maintain, reproduces often and quickly, has a short lifespan, and is taxonomically close enough to allow generalizable results. For the vast majority of medical studies, a mammal is basically a mammal, and despite absurd claims to the contrary, huge medical advances have been made using rodents, which is why mice and rats make a much better model organism than people.
Taylor, throwing around philosophy terms and big words does not mean that your arguments are correct.
“membership comes with benefits (and dues)”… I like this. Well said as always, Andrew.
“Taylor, throwing around philosophy terms and big words does not mean that your arguments are correct.”
What big words are we talking about? “Coherent”? “Marginal”? “Intrinsic”?
My basic point was simply that you have made no plausible argument to support your position. At least Southern Fried Scientist makes an attempt. However, statements like “Morality is necessarily anthropocentric, non-humans cannot be active participants” are either (warning: big word) tautological or (warning: philosophical term) question-begging.
Over the past three or four decades philosophers have devoted hundreds of published books and articles to the issue of the moral status of animals. The issue is fascinating, complex, and multi-faceted. If anyone wants to dive in, here’s an incomplete bibliography:
I have mixed feelings about this issue. I do oppose to animal cruelty and maltreatment of animals. However, I dont feel that with this debate that is the issue at hand. While I must agree that I would rather have a chimpanzee die from a disease while trying to find a cure for it than millions of human lives being lost because scientist are not allowed to conduct experiments to find a cure. I must honestly say that in this situation, humans are the superior beings, so yes, a few chimps lost are better than lets just say, thousands of people in Africa dieing from AIDS. In response to SFriend Scientist, I agree, humans are one of the few species that actually care about the well-being of other species. Just thinking about all the efforts to save animals that are on the verge of extinction is one of the main sacrifices that humans make and without any benefit to ourselves. So the answer to your question, is yes. I do believe that humans are more valuable. I do think that we must protect animal rights but not to the extent that human lives are being put in jeopardy. Saving human lives does justify experimenting on animals. Not dismissing the facts that humans have contributed to the harsh exposure and pollution of our enviroment, however humans are the only species that have the knowlege necessary to prevent and protect the enviroment from exposure to further harsh exposure.
I am a huge proponent of animal rights. However, like the article states I believe it would be better to test a product on an animal than to release a product that could have harmful effects or test a product on a human that could have damaging outcomes. One point that should be brought up is the Living conditions of animals that are used in experiments. In most case these animals are treated better than some animals are treated by owners who neglect them or in situation where the animal ends up in the pound. The standard of care for animals that are used in experiments is higher because there are fewer chances of variables affecting the experiments. Whereas the standard of care for animals in the pound is bare minimum and in a case were the animal is neglected by its owner the living conditions could be horrendous. Animals are a huge part of our daily lives, such as pets and entertainment (i.e. the zoo or the circus). I believe that more infractions of animal rights occur in some of these other areas than in medical experiments. The idea of medical experimentation on animals is a horrible thought, however in the end is an animal’s life more valuable than a humans.
This sure is a debate, I can imagine that a lot of people have different opinions. I think that people should be able to continue to test on Apes, if we look at the opportunity costs, the answer is pretty clear in my eyes. Human diseases such as AIDS and malaria and hepatitisis C are being researched for a cure. Also the testing helps with curing diseases associated with the Apes. All of this is important, saving lives all across the board. As the article described, the animals that are being tested are being treated kindly and with respect.
I think that they should be able to continue to test on these apes, because it will help in the long run, if we can find answer to these diseases, it would be amazing
Whether or not human life is inherently more valuable than the life of an exotic fish or developed chimpanzee is up to personal subjectivity. One comfort of animal testing arises as one realizes the safety of our medications, for example, as result of previous animal testing. Animal protection acts and scientific advances are maintain an inverse relationship. There is no ideal situation.
With respect to the controversy over the Great Ape Protection Act, do we want to ensure the utmost safety of the Great Apes or Human population?
Of course alternative methods should be sought out for experimenting and finding cures, but the fact of the matter is this is the best we can do as of now. We are getting immediate results and information from animal research and until a more “humane” method is created that is even close to as accurate as this, animal research is absolutely necessary. I am an animal lover, but I’m also a fan of cures to deadly diseases. It may sound harsh, but this is the only way at this point in time.
I agree with meaydlet on this subject. I myself, cannot stand even the thought of abusing animals and so the thought of testing various products and vaccines on animals is one that is hard for me to think about. Scientist are working hard to find cures for various diseases like malaria, cancer, AIDS, and Hep C. By putting the Great Ape Protection Act in to place we will be setting ourselves back when it comes to finding cures for various diseases. I genuinely hope that one day we can find a better way to test vaccines and potential cures but for right now animals are all that we have. We have made great strides to do our best to protect animals the best we can with laws regarding laboratory studies and that doing much else will set scientists back on finding many important cures.
Wow! Heated debate up there. At this time, I do feel that saving human lives justifies experimenting on animals. If doing legitimate testing on an animal will eliminate a disease that is affect millions of humans than PLEASE continue doing what we have to do. Rules that protect animals in the laboratory are already “nit-picky” as it is. I feel like they protect animals and research done on them more than enough.
I think it’s right to protect animals to the extent of extinction but not to human medical research that can possibly save millions of lives. More animals will die more by the disease they have than the research team killing them. Why not they die for a good cause as being research to save the rest of their generation of species and a deadly human disease. Experimenting on animals to save human lives is a justify reason if they not torture them and only using them for medical research. Soon as we find a cure for whatever diseas such as Malaria and HIV then we wont have to experiment on that specie of animals. Experimenting on animal less emotional than experimenting on humans it’s less controversy. They should keep the medical research up to find cures for disease for animals and especially humans.
Although experimenting on animals sounds horrible, I think that saving human lives is important. Obviously, it would be wrong for scientists to use humans as their subjects, so in order to find cures to diseases, scientists need animals that are closely related to humans. Because I think that human lives are important, I think that people should be more focused on human rights rather than on animal rights. I do not think that animal rights should be protected to the point that human lives are at stake. First, we need to protect our human race, and then we can protect animals. While saving human lives does not justify experimenting on animals, it is necessary to find cures. I think that rules that protect animals in laboratory studies are fine the way they are now, but if animal activists continue to push for more extreme protection laws, humans and other animals may lose their lives.
I have very mixed feelings on this issue. I feel like animals should be treated humanly, but when we use them for science it gets on the line. Sometimes this is necessary but it should not always be us that treats these animals like this. As a biology student, I want to study these animals, not abuse them for our purposes.
While following the comment before mine, I feel that we do not abuse these animals for our personal purpose to survive but that we use their genetical similarities to our advantage and by this we are allowing our species to be better understood so that we can become a stronger species. However I do see this only happening if we continue to use these animals in our studies and therefore I am against the passing of this new law to protect the apes. If not these animals the next genetically similar subject would be ourselves. I’m sure any sane being would view this as more of a cruel act for science and more likely support scientist using the animals for the cost of their lives being protected. I feel we must use the ability to use these animals for understanding the deadly diseases both species face to our advantage.
I believe that animal cruelty is wrong and under no circumstances should be done (which is clearly not the case in this article). However, I believe that if the animals are treated with respect and it is for a cause to find cures that could benefit humans and the animals in question, then it is ok to use them in laboratory studies. As far as human life being more important than animals, I think it depends on each individual. I believe that if more humans can be saved at the cost of one apes life who helped find a cure, then in that instance the human lives are more important.
I am a little concerned that in your opening statement, you identify 16 congressmen as hypocrites. You then further say “all are Democrats.” Is this a political statement or a discussion about the validity of Big Ape research? Have you found a statistically relevant association between “hypocrites” and “democrats”?
I’d rather talk about the ape research.
It is a shame that some people do not believe that the quality of human life is more important than an animal’s life. I, also, am not a proponent of animal cruelty. I do not like to think of the suffering of animals, but the suffering of a human is much more heart-wrenching, especially when you think of the chance that that human can become a family member.
In certain research, Great Apes are the animals most like animals biologically. In my opinion, initial testing on animals is preferred to initial testing on humans. As long as pains are taken to meet the animals’ needs and we are not using animals at risk of extinction, testing on animals should be allowed. The fact that the Great Ape Protection Act prevents experimentation on apes puts the future of many human lives on hold, as well as the lives of other animals.
Now, if one disagrees with this point of view, human lives should not be threatened. No matter what point of view one takes, human lives should always be valued.
I am a strong supporter of animal rights, and the proper treatment of animals, although I also support experimenting on animals with reference to the letter to Congress which you showed that stated; “scientists take research using non-human primates extremely seriously, and multiple protections exist in law and through accreditation to ensure these animals are well-treated and used with respect.” If animals are being treated properly, and human lives, along with apes and other animals lives can be saved, then it makes no sense to even consider the great ape protection act.
On the other hand, animals do have rights as well. It is hard to be for or against this proposed law because on one hand, scientists claim to be treating these animals well, but on the other hand, animals do have rights as well, so what gives us as humans the right to experiment on animals?
Although, the medical experimentation on animals has been successful in saving thousands of human lives. Obviously, animal rights groups are going to argue against this in saying that animals have rights to, except many argue that rights are only applicable to those who have the ability between reason and choice; those being humans.
Unfortunately, there is no right answer to whether or not animal experimentation is right or wrong, it is solely based on ones own personal principles.
Stating that the ban on great ape research is equivalent to saying scientists are not allowed to work towards a cure for hepatitis C is a bit drastic. Ethics are what get in the way of animal research and when this ban was placed people only wanted to see improvement in animal treatment. I am very grateful that research has been done to keep humans healthy and safe but I do not think it should be said that human lives are more important. It seems egotistical. Even though animals are, well, animals and we are humans it says a lot about society when we rank ourselves as being the most important or better. Clearly research needs to be done because as stated in the reading, I too do not want to see a child go blind because of a shampoo. Animal testing is necessary to ensure our safety and well being as a human race but I just cannot get over how horrible it sounds saying we are most important.
“I do not think it should be said that human lives are more important”
You don’t think it’s reasonable that as a human, I think human lives are more important than chimpanzee lives?
“Even though animals are, well, animals and we are humans ”
Humans are animals, too.
I love animals, and I think that using animals for medical testing is harsh, but I see why it is necessary for the advancement of human medicine. I am curious to know exactly how many apes it takes to properly test a medication, and I wonder how many die from medical testing each year? I think a few apes being subjected to testing is okay, but if too many are dying, I think testing should be at least regulated to a certain extent. Also, I am curious as to how many apes do not actually die from medical testing, but suffer for the rest of their lives from the drug’s side effects. Even though animals do not have the emotional brain capacity that humans have, they can still suffer physical pain and discomfort that no living creature should have to endure in their life. I think that ape medical testing should not be banned altogether, but it should be carefully regulated in the future.
Sure, it probably isn’t right for animals to be tested on. But, sometimes it is necessary. As you stated, some of these tests have been helpful for both humans and animals. Not to be cold hearted but it makes sense to sacrifice a few animals to benefit the animal kingdom as a whole. There could be a law as to how many animals are allowed to be tested on per year, which could help this problem. People who are pro animal rights are still using products that have been tested on animals, in a way, they are hypocrites.
“People who are pro animal rights are still using products that have been tested on animals”
Actually, most animal rights people do not use animal-tested products.
I will have to agree with CeltGirl1974 who previously stated that there is a significant difference between testing products on animals for cosmetic reasons versus health related reasons. I believe there is no justification for animal suffering for frivolous concerns such as make up products. However, I completely agree with the author in the fact that it would be completely absurd to not use these apes to potentially find a cure to Hepatitis C. We are, as misfortune for other creatures as this fact may be, the dominant species and we should utilize our knowledge and resources accordingly.
For reasons scientific and invaluable to humans it does seem sensible to do research on animals. The wealth of knowledge we can attain from such research and the cancers that can be cured is undeniable. It would be nothing less than logical to find ways of curing our neighbors and our family from ailments and diseases that bother us regularly. However, does it seem right to put defenseless animals through treatments that could harm them without their consent? Morally, that is only a question because humans created the framework for moral objectives because we hold ourselves so high and mighty. It is only because we see ourselves as the pinnacle of evolution and so anthropocentric that we do justify so much ruthless and morally diminishing research. If the research is to be done which seems inevitable as it is, then it should be done in ways that do not harm or diminish the population and the overall gene pool of the animals being researched. If we were to eat the animal whose benefits were to last a few days at the most then why not use one animal for research where the benefits could last decades and more?
I am a strong supporter of animal rights, however, a blind rabbit is much easier to deal with than a human child. When we look towards medicine, we hope to see human health improving. We have achieved this so far through the testing of animals, and it would seem counter-productive to test medicines on humans if the aim is to cure them.
Simply put, our society is a twisted one. After the whole Michael Vick dog beating bit, I became more and more pro-life and less protective of animals; this to, if nothing else, offset insanity. The same voices that say, “it’s not human unless you want it” are the very same who so vehemently oppose dog fighting. Think about it. So, with regards to testing, I would insist that we exercise a bit of common sense, but it seems that might just be a problem.
“. The same voices that say, “it’s not human unless you want it” are the very same who so vehemently oppose dog fighting. Think about it.”
What? What do animal rights have to do with the abortion debate?
As much as I completely understand both sides, I personally agree with the laws of preventing numerous testing on various chimps and gorillas. Though it is understood that they are the closest to human being characteristics and internal functioning, there still is an overwhelming degree of testing. As much as there is a need for testing various diseases, there are still lives at risk regardless of it being animals. I agree with there being a strict regulation. Though the lives of the chimps are at risk, I’d rather it be a risk due to natural causes rather than experimental testing. There should be a better sense of consideration rather than the lack there of.
It amazes me how these animal rights activists and politicians can make all of there decisions based solely on their own supposed “moral fiber”. It is truly not a large percent of animals that are subjected to these studies and at least when they are, they are kept in excellent and standard conditions, that are checked on. They do not realize how far back they would be setting our society at large if they allow this ban. We haven’t just made great strides in diseases but so much more including neurological studies, cognitive and behavioral studies and genetics just to name a few. Sperry’s split-brain experiments jump-started our understanding of how the brain works and therefore provided all sorts of insight into neurological disorders and behavioral as well as mental problems due to contusions. Deep Brain stimulation is used as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and approximately 20,000 patients have received this treatment. It has nothing to do with whether a human or animal life is more important to me, what has more significance is the amazing leaps in science that are taken from this research and the many lives that are bettered because of it.
“All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals.”
This quote has always struck an interesting chord with me. Whose suffering is more important though? Even though I’m sympathetic to animal suffering, I’m a bit of a speciesist and tend to put human interests above others. This would put me on the animal welfare side rather than the animal rights side of the argument.
As a moral and rational animal, we have an expressed interest in keeping a balance in our ecosystem, and finding ways to progress science without having to harm animals in the process. We just don’t have the technology yet to fully abandon animal testing.
“You can bet that many more gorillas will die from this strain of malaria than would die from research to cure it.” This is a logical reason to oppose the Great Ape Protection Act, for their sake and for ours. I definitely feel as though a human life is more valuable than an animal. Many animals are dependent on human protection and without it would be extinct. I think that animal abuse and cruelty among lab testing is stereotyped. This may be the case for animals trained for movies but science is not Hollywood. If you have ever seen the movie “Outbreak”, this is why we use animals and keep them in captivity to try and prevent diseases. I think the words captivity carry a pejorative meaning which is unfortunate because these animals are not physically abused, they are injected with a certain disease and cared for like a sick patient. It may be immoral to inject a disease but that is not abuse. If this law passes, would you want a possibly curable disease to take the life of someone you know when it could have been avoided?
Hey all, I read most of this thread (and skimmed the rest… it’s long). Sorry I’m jumping on with my question.
I’m in an animal ethics course right now, and one thing I can’t find is any kind of history of the evolution of animal ethics boards.
It makes it really hard to have this sort of debate or discussion because people will say “but that sort of treatment of animals is from 25 years ago!” — implying that there’s some kind of new and improved ethics boards. But, what has changed? I’ve tried searching through Google Scholar and, zip, nothing.
Someone really ought to do a history about it. If there have been huge advances and tighter oversight in ethics approval procedures, you’d think it would help the case of animal researchers, and this history should be out there.
For the record, I’m undecided about medical research, but I am definitely against blinding rabbits for some new shampoo. To me that kind of trivializes the whole notion of animal rights: if an animal can die for a new cosmetic product, we can put it to death for any reason at all.
just one question for those who support animal testing….would u n ur family and/or relatives like to be experimented upon for the benefit of whole human race ?
Humans and animals are not morally equivalent.
I am amazed to see people writing something supportive towards animal testing…..
One question for u all. These animal testing is done on behalf of human disease. and
we dont test on animals coz its illeagl..so wat if its legal? wud u go ahead?
why dont u go ahead and test ur own kind the results of which will be more accurate!
The same is felt by animals. sacrifice some human life in order to benefit all mankind…?hmm..?
Talking about superior …. say if your boss is superior in your office and expect [or force] you to do something which is beyond ur capacity? Will you accept it just coz he is superior??
if past govtof the world were superior then why were there any rebels n revolutions? Britishers were considered superior and established slave trading… why is it illegal now…just coz some stood up to speak for underprivileged… just coz animals dont have powers dont mean that u can control their life for benefit of any race even if its for their own good..
there are tests done on humans after they agree to it.. use those guys… im ready to take place of the chimp for testing if i feel that its ok to test for entire human race.. thou im dont feel ok..im still ready to take place of that innocent chimp..
Humans are superior cos they have freakin brains, it doesn’t mean they r the CEASERS of whole earth and have powers on every living being.
Now comes about ABUSE …. Abuse means doing some action against one’s will , which hurts them mentally and physically? Now tell me do you think animals are so happily sacrificing their bodies for so called “advancement studies in SCIENCE”. Its brutal cos we r not even thinking that they too have a neurological structure and have to undergo the worst pain which they r not supposed to get into….
Now stop supporting OWN RACE. Jus think if u r in first place to undergo testing , how horrible the situation will be???
Please show compassion…. We dont need to save our lives by a medicine which takes lots of innocent lives for us to live!…. if the only option u have is to kill ur life partner in order to survive..? will u?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t want to die when I could instead take life-saving medicine that was derived from animal testing. I don’t want my loved ones to die when they could instead take life-saving medicine that was derived from animal testing. You can do whatever you want, but please don’t ask other people to die in the name of your particular beliefs.
exactly…wen u cant see ur loved ones die..u dont have any right to take other living beings life…they too are loved by others.. and im not asking anyone to die.. im just questioning the whole “it ok to kill others for human benefit” notion here..if the whole of human race benefits..r u ready to be tested upon?
(and small correction first para of mine in the second post)…if human testing is made legal at large..wud u go ahead?*
living by sacrificing others…wat kinda life is that??
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I agree that animal testing should not be used for cosmetic products. If we can use it for cosmetics that’s not setting a very high standard for when it’s necessary to put animals through pain. However, animal testing for medicines that can save human lives as well as animals is completely a different story. Personally, if someone I loved was dying of a disease that could have been cured had scientists been allowed to experiment on animals I would be furious. I understand people’s concerns when it comes to this issue because I am sympathetic towards animal testing, but when it comes down to it i would just much rather have an animal die then a human. It is not “uncompassionate” to believe that humans are superior to animals it is just being realistic.
The topic has re-surfaced. Yesterday Rep. Roscoe Bartlett wrote an op-ed in the NYT entitled “Stop Using Chimps as Guinea Pigs:” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/11/opinion/stop-using-chimps-as-guinea-pigs.html
This thread has been, by far, one of the better discussions on this issue I’ve seen online. Here’s how I look at it.
I think the pragmatic argument against animal testing is baseless. Simply, there are not currently cheaper, more effective testing techniques. Computer modeling always gets tossed around as an alternative. But computer models are built on real world data, which requires testing in real systems, like animals. Also, no scientist is going to take the results of a computer model as the final word on a problem. Any result spit out by the computer has to be tested in the real world.
If these cheaper, better methods existed, wouldn’t scientists, who are often worrying about research budgets, have explored them and used them? The fact that researchers still rely on animal testing suggests that the alternatives aren’t ready for broad use.
So once dismissing the pragmatic argument against animal testing, there’s the stickier ethical argument. Essentially, this issue boils down to a two-part question: Does ameliorating human suffering ever justify causing animal suffering? And if so, is there a line at which the animal suffering outweighs the human suffering?
Some animal rights advocates on here seem to imply the answer to the first part is never. But I seriously doubt anyone actually follows the moral edict: Do no harm to animals, even if it means preventing human harm. What about finding rats in your apartment building? Is it immoral for the landlord to exterminate those rats? (Let’s consider for a moment that any “humane” method of trapping the rats has failed repeatedly and the manager has to just kill them.) The animals will surely suffer, but if you allow them to run wild, they could spread disease.
I’ll assume most people won’t balk at exterminating rats. (I know there are some who would, but they are so extreme that it’s not worth debating with them.) So if rats are OK to kill to prevent the spread of disease, why is it wrong to use mice in studies designed to cure disease?
Then comes the final part: What about animals that seem to have higher cognitive functions, like apes? Some people call them human-like in their cognitive abilities. I’d say that’s a stretch. To steal from Noam Chomsky, would you say that a high-jumper who leaps 30 ft into the air is bird-like? Yes apes seem to be closer to us in brain power than rats, but there is still an large gap.
But people would argue that they experience suffering fundamentally differently than mice do, a human-like level of suffering. So they get special consideration. I don’t deny that ape testing should have additional regulations compared to testing on mice. But to ban it outright doesn’t make sense.
If the whole point that apes are different from mice is that they experience suffering at a greater, more human-like way, then we’re still left with considering the human suffering that could be eased by the research. Those people experience actual human suffering, which is greater than human-like suffering. Given that tests on a lab-full of apes could help thousands, maybe millions of people, doesn’t the human suffering side of the equation outweigh the ape suffering end?
I’d say yes.