Science isn’t always about walking around in lab coats, stirring beakers or sitting around and working with a blackboard full of complex equations. Sometimes it involves rolling up your sleeves and doing experiments on animals to find out more about the origins of intelligence, the inner workings of brains and the mechanics of various genes and possible treatments for diseases. If you stick to fruit flies, nematodes or various bugs and spiders, you have little to fear. But mess with something cute and furry like mice or monkeys and get ready to have your house firebombed or your car smashed by furious animal right activists bragging about their latest acts of terrorism against scientists out of a misguided sense of self-righteousness. In their world, monkeys, mice, and any other mammals that can be put on a poster with a sad face come first, and if a certain area of knowledge requires scientists to do something invasive to them, that line of inquiry will have to be off limits.
At any time you find yourself committing acts of violence against someone, you better have a very good reason for it and animal rights groups who resort ot terrorist tactics think they have one. To them, using lab animals for a multitude of experiments is the equivalent of research on humans and the scientists who do it are like the evil doctors at Nazi death camps, randomly chopping up animals just for the hell of it. The reason why scientists actually do any invasive experiments or even keep lab animals around doesn’t matter to them. And do facts really count when righteous rage is your only guide?
It’s one thing to talk about the ethics of animal research to urge scientists to host their subjects in the most humane conditions possible, and question the validity of the research being done. But to somehow justify harm to humans because you think you feel the pain of your furry friends? Two wrongs have yet to make a right and comparing the fate of lab rats to the international civil rights movements, as the ALF like to do in their interviews, isn’t only totally groundless, but downright insulting to the actual civil rights movements. Who made them moral authorities? How do they feel justified trying to hunt down scientists from whose research they benefit on a daily basis? Why should other animals have the same rights as us? It’s not like they’re the top of the planet’s food chain. We are. Plus, we have to note that in nature, all those fluffy little things have full blown wars, maul each other to death and couldn’t care less about our kindness.
Violent animal rights activists seem to live with this idealized version of the animal world that’s far more like a saccharine Disney cartoon than a nature documentary. Nature is harsh and most creatures survive by being as mean and cruel as possible, or by outrunning their relatives, leaving them as a predator’s snack. Do they think that when they walk into the jungle a leopard will really care about how much they respect it as a part of nature? Or that an angry chimp will stop from tearing their faces off because they firebombed the house of a doctor trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and worked on primate brains to test her approach? Yes, I know that nature is pretty but we have to be realistic here. Humans experiment on animals to acquire knowledge, put it to good use and help us survive as a species, not because they just want to play Operation with rodents.
I also find it rather interesting that animal rights groups don’t attack geneticists working with fruit flies and little nematodes. Same goes for research on arachnids or any other creature that’s not a picture of doe-eyed, fuzzy cuteness. And let’s say that they succeed and intimidate enough scientists to abandon research on animals. What happens next? Will they sacrifice their own bodies to help continue scientific inquiry into the evolution of complex organs, diseases and biomedical treatments? Something tells me that we shouldn’t wait for that with bated breath. Then again, I could always be wrong about how far they’ll go for their animal friends…
[ thanks to WOWT reader Jypson for the story tip and suggestion ]