Millions of animals are used as experimental subjects every
year, but billions of animals are raised and slaughtered for food
every year, in an industry in which the humane problems are even more serious
than in the case of animals used for research and education.
A Letter from Jane Goodall
Dear fellow scholar,
This is an invitation to participate in a dialogue.
I am writing to you on behalf of the millions of animals each year who are subjects of laboratory experiments conducted at universities in the United States and Canada.
These experiments, some of which cause severe and protracted pain, are subjected to little public scrutiny, but the way animals are treated is a matter of public concern.
In the past, when great national and international issues arose, forums on college campuses played an important role in setting forth the issues, educating the public, and defining the national debate.
Accompanying this letter is A Call For Public Forums On The Use Of Animals In Research And Education. It asks people, especially at colleges and universities, to learn about and discuss animal experimentation and its actual practice in your own community, and to take part in or to set up educational forums on the broad range of issues regarding the use of animals in research and education.
These broad aims of this initiative have been endorsed by the American Humane Association, the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States.
Researchers state that animal experiments are conducted for reasons such as advancing knowledge and curing disease. But treating our fellow creatures as we do, on the scale we do, raises critical questions. Failure to examine them honestly is a failure of our own humanity.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated." By this measure, what can we say about our own nations?
Would you play a part in helping to organize a forum concerning animals in laboratories? Or would you make it a point, if you are not already knowledgeable about the subject, to learn about the actual use of animals in experiments on your own campus, and to share what you learn with others? Or would you at least take it upon yourself to learn more about the issues raised in the Call For Public Forums?
One immediate way you can help is by copying and circulating to others this letter and the Call for Public Forums especially to students in the many relevant fields, such as medicine, veterinary medicine, biology, philosophy, and theology; to members of environmental committees, animal protection committees, and student government; to concerned members of the faculty; and to any special friends of animals.
Another way you can help is by phoning or visiting the editorial office of your campus newspaper, and requesting them to publish the Call.
And please bear in mind: One of the greatest barriers to social change is the confrontational approach. When entering into a dialogue with someone holding a view opposed to one's own, it is important --hard as it may be-- to listen to the other with an open mind. We must understand the other's point of view, and we must respect facts. Many areas of discussion do not resolve neatly into black and white. Learning from and reasoning with those who do not share our views is one way we grow as people.
The use of nonhuman animals for the purposes of humans has long been taken for granted in our culture, and has been institutionalized by entire industries. In recent years, however, a new awareness of animals has been developing, and new attitudes and practices have come into being.
Over the last two decades, the ethical and broad scientific implications of the use of animals in laboratory experiments have come to be examined more and more critically, and new research methods have been developed. There may now be some consensus among scientists, as well as among the public, that the use of animals raises ethical questions that must be dealt with.
However, discussion of the use of animals in general and as experimental subjects in particular has been polarized and contentious. Research scientists and animal rights advocates have regarded each other with distrust, and constructive dialogue has been scarce. Stereotypes of the researcher as unfeeling, and of the animal advocate as fanatical, have been persistent.
It is time for the ethical, scientific, and practical issues raised by the use of animals in research and education to be aired anew, with a fresh measure of good will.
Since so much animal experimentation is conducted at universities, we urge members of college and university communities, and other concerned citizens, to learn about, examine, and discuss these issues and the actual practice of animal experimentation in your own community.
The way animals are treated is a matter of public concern.
By and large institutions of higher learning have not paid enough attention to the status and treatment of animals in society and in the institutions themselves. We therefore urge that educational programs and public forums, such as conferences, symposia, debates, film showings and seminars, be organized to consider the full range of questions raised by animal experimentation and by the use of animals in academic settings.
* What are the ethics of using animals as tools for human purposes, and of invasive or otherwise harmful experimentation on animals? Do animals have a right to be treated as ends in themselves and not as means only?
* What are the practical limits on the pain and suffering to which nonhuman animals in laboratories can be subjected? What kind of protection is given by existing laws and institutions? Why are the guidelines regarding pain and well being of animals in laboratories in the United States so much less specific and stringent than those in Canada? How common are practices that involve unalleviated pain? Are such experiments ever justified? Is there a conflict between limits on pain and suffering and the advancement of science or academic freedom?
* What animals are subjected to what experiments at your school? What are the experiments most harmful to animals? Do any involve causing pain without administering pain killers?
* What policies govern the use and care of animals at your school? How do these policies compare with policies in Canada, Sweden, Australia, and elsewhere? How effective a voice of animal advocacy is there within the system?
* To what degree have animal experiments been useful and valuable? What role have they played in the history of medicine? With respect to the future: would human health suffer if medical research were guided by a new vision in which animal experiments had no place? Would it benefit?
* There is an array of research methods, including clinical study, epidemiology, in vitro tissue culture research and computer modeling, that do not use animals. What is the adequacy and scope of these methods?
* Animal experiments are funded in large part by taxpayers and by contributors to medical charities. How cost-effective is animal experimentation compared with nonanimal research methods? Is capital spending to support infrastructure for animal experimentation a wise use of resources?
* Animal experiments generally begin not with sick animals in need of healing, but with healthy animals, who may then be innoculated with approximations of human diseases, or exposed to toxic substances, or subjected to a variety of surgical or other procedures. Psychological experiments have included work on such themes as "maternal deprivation" of primates and "learned helplessness," and military experimenters subject animals to wounds and burns. What would be the effect on medical science if experiments were limited to attempts to heal already sick or injured animals?
* Clinical and epidemiological studies have shown that a large proportion of deaths caused by the three major killers of Americans --heart disease, strokes, and cancer-- are preventable by changes in people's diet and behavior; yet the quantity of dollars spent on research on the prevention of diseases is a small fraction of what is spent on research on "animal models" for treatment of them. Is this an imbalance that should be corrected? How should medical science deal with ingrained social and cultural causes of disease?
* Is the elimination of animal experiments a worthwhile goal? What about reduction in numbers of animals used, replacement of animals with nonanimal methods, and "refinement" of experimental procedures? If such goals are worthwhile, how should they best be achieved? What is being done toward these ends today, and what is not being done that could be? How much room for improvement is there?
* Are there institutional, bureaucratic, or financial motivations, pressures, and biases in favor of, or opposed to, animal experiments, at your school and elsewhere?
* What is the degree of dependence of your school on grants from the National Institutes of Health? On the pharmaceutical, agribusiness, and chemical industries? On the Department of Defense? Are such school-government-industry relationships healthy? Do they facilitate or impede free scientific inquiry? If the latter, should they be limited, and if so, how? Can they be limited without infringing on academic freedom?
* Should university policy favor nonanimal alternatives in any way? What are the possibilities for affirmative action in favor of alternatives to animal experiments?
* Under what conditions are the animals at your school housed and cared for? Are their cages kept clean? Are their physical needs cared for adequately? Do they have veterinary care? Are their psychological and social needs met? How does the disruption of normal family life affect them? Do they receive loving attention? Can they be visited by members of the community? If not, why not?
* A study ( *M.T. Phillips, "Savages, drugs, and lab animals: The researcher's perception of pain," in Society and Animals 1993; 1:61-81) suggests that laboratories often do not alleviate post-surgical pain in animal experimental subjects with analgesia. Is this a serious a problem at your school and if so, how might it be corrected?
* Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees are mandated to monitor the care and use of laboratory animals. Members of the committees, numbering at least five, are appointed by medical research administrators. Is the role of these committees in protecting animals compatible with the assumption on which they are based: that the use of animals in research is ethically and morally acceptable? Do the committees have adequate authority to limit the pain to which animals are subjected, and do they exercise what authority they have? Should their oversight role be strengthened? Should committee proceedings be open to the public, as in Sweden, or should animal advocates be required to serve on all committees, as in Australia?
* Millions of animals each year are killed for dissection to teach students life sciences. Is dissection necessary as an educational tool? What options are in use at your school for students who conscientiously object to dissection?
* Who are the suppliers of animals for dissection at your school? How many animals are killed each year for dissection? How much is paid for them? What are the conditions under which these animals are bred or captured and under which they are maintained and killed? Are visits to the suppliers' premises possible?
* What sorts of means are and aren't appropriate to change policy with respect to animal experimentation? Is the withholding of financial contributions by alumni or others an appropriate way to seek to guide university policy? Are drastic measures, such as civil disobedience or direct action, ever justified?
Ph.D. and Walter Miale, Ph.D.
This article appeared in Current Science, the journal
of the Indian Academy of Science
For Help Organizing a Forum The Green World Center will provide consultation, advice, and resources concerning: a) organizing forums, film showings, educational activities and events; b) educating yourself and others about the issues related to animal experimentation; c) learning about animal experimentation on your campus. Resources include speakers, literature, and a Canadian Broadcasting Company video on animal research with David Suzuki. If you think you might like to help in any capacity, or if you just want to learn more about animal experimentation, please contact us.