The Mermaid’s TaleOn by
Animal research is purportedly safeguarded by college or university and broader review and approval requirements. Well, what I have seen over many years, is not that ‘anything will go’, but lots of bending to allow scientists to act like Frankensteins so long as the victims–and that’s what they are–can’t protest. We define what’s ‘humane’ on their behalf.
That makes it ‘moral’ research. And, no real surprise, it does not require that whatever be approved is something we’d voluntarily undergo ourselves (for knowledge’s sake!). I am writing this to express my own very deep regrets for my a long time of research on mice. Mice were almost my only victims (no guinea pigs, etc., baboons once or twice briefly), however they were many. And they did not have to sign any informed consent!
We do to them what our purportedly safeguarding IACUC approved, and deemed ‘humane’ and ‘justified’ for the new knowledge we would gain. Note the ‘we’ here. This was selfish entirely. And, dare one ask: what fraction of the data gained by animal research is actually of any substantial value to humans (none, of course, to the animals’ own species)? With what ‘right’ do we enslave and torment (if not, often, horrify and torture) innocent animals, to develop our careers?
Well, they’re ‘just pets’, we rationalize (I believe, a rationale easily provided by Descartes, who judged basically we soul-bearers to be only autonomous machines). IACUC limitations imply that we don’t torture them (well, we pretend so, at least, using our not their definition; and we certainly do do things to them we’d be jailed, or even executed, for doing to humans). Animal research is, in the end, for our very own good (note, again, the ‘our’ in this excuse). What’s the truth of the IACUC protection system? Because, he said, their Committee sometimes rejected faculty proposals that might, if funded, have brought in significant overhead money to the University.
There is a poignant, indeed deeply disquieting article in The Atlantic (“Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition”, Ross Andersen, March, 2019). Animals of all types, including even invertebrates, have self-awareness of 1 kind or another, essentially a sense of ‘me’. They presumably generally have no idea about the inevitable finiteness of life, including their lives, so can be kept from at least a few of the abstract fears and fearful knowledge we humans may exclusively understand. But they are not just things, cellular machines, plus they do have fears, experience pain, and so forth. So, to the mice (and the ones insects I’ve knowingly destroyed, and countless animals that I’ve eaten), I offer my mea culpa! Sometimes, one must kill.
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Life can be an evolutionary phenomenon most of whose stars must, for their evolutionary background, dine on objects of similar makeup. Meat is one form, but do we too easily dismiss plants? A couple of recent reports showing that plants are more social, sentient, and aware than is convenient for all of us to think about with ease, as we munch away on our day to day salad or vegetables and fruit. Darwin saw in his way what’s at fault. Life progressed as a self-renewing chemical substance phenomenon, and species evolved to because dine on each other, in a sense, we’re all manufactured from the same stuff.
It is a cruel truth of living lifetime, and that is one reason Darwin’s work was controversial and is still resisted by those who want for comforting theological accounts of actuality and a joyful forever-after. But we know–even they know–some of the harsh realities of life here and today. We researchers will have some kind of justifying rationale for what we should do to animals. We’ve the approval of a committee, in the end! We’re carrying it out for the good of humanity, to understand life, or for some other self-advancing careerist reason, including bringing in money to the college or university.
But, the end result is: we do, in reality, do it. So, you countless mice, whose lives I terminated so I could get forward, even if doing so as ‘humanely’ as possible after selfishly with them as I did so, here’s my apology. I can’t get back what I did so to you, all in your acceptable research standards (be aware, mice, I said ‘our’, not ‘your’ appropriate standards). Where I could find Even, or build, some rationale for might work, such as health-related finding, basic knowledge, etc, the payoff for us is small, and the price for you, mice, was involuntary and total.