when anti-research groups get violent

October 11, 2009

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.

lab mouse cartoonAt 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 ]

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  • Jypson

    “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?”

    Exactly right Greg! I can empathize with their frustration; I’m an animal lover to. But to resort to fire bombing some ones home because you don’t agree with what you THINK is going on in a lab, is completely unacceptable.

    I found a FAQ on the Environmental Working Group website from just over a year ago that helps answer a lot of concerns people might have with animal testing.
    http://www.ewg.org/Animal-Testing-FAQ

    Also, here’s another site from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services worth looking at regarding alternatives to animal testing. I’m completely onboard with the “3R” approach. Refine, Reduce, Replace!
    http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/media/questions/sya-iccvam.cfm#9

    PS. Awesome picture choice!

    (Disclaimer: No animals were hurt in the making of this comment)

  • http://intepid.com/ intepid

    “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.”

    I don’t think you really need to characterize animals as such total bastards to make your point here. Although some animals exhibit cruelty most kill as quickly as possible, because they are doing it for survival; not sport. Also many animals will work together to warn of predators or ward them away. Better to say “Nature doesn’t care about your feelings or the welfare of small furry animals”

  • OregonMJW

    As a former lab assistant in Electron Microscopy at a California research institution in Duarte, I have personally inserted countless glass pipettes into the abdomen of pregnant mice to withdraw ammonic fluid; drawn blood from the veins of terrified simians, strapped to a table without even a muscle relaxant; and stood idly by at the dog kennels, while an extraordinarily overweight German Shepard was led in, lifted to a slanted table, had its jugular expertly slashed and, after they died from loss of blood (usually under a minute) watched while their still pulsing heart was removed and placed in a cooler, which I would dutifully return to the lab for preparation as microscopy slides.

    It didn’t bother me then. Birth defects; Hodgkin’s Disease, and early research into the effects of obesity on the heart seemed much more important and, in the scheme of things, seem to have actually been more important. But the experience still haunts me. Not from guilt at my participation (PETA wasn’t even a gleam in its parents eyes at the time) but because I personally saw that the animals being used as experimental models for human beings were not being treated with even casual respect for their “persona,” as opposed to their healthful utility – until it was deemed necessary to kill them.
    I am not against animal research. I am against the failure of the scientific community and the legislative bodies throughout this country, for not paying adequate heed to the physical and emotional conditions in which our animal servants are forced to exist.

    Sometimes you can’t give a sedative, because it will skew the results. But perhaps a calmative will work. May be its not economically feasible to build mall-sized recreational facilities for apes; but keeping them separated from each other, in the solitary confinement of a wire cage with no recreational activity for their very active minds, causes tremendous pain and suffering and, guess what, constant anxiety can also skew the result of all sorts of blood and brain chemistry experiments.

    The animal rights terrorists are completely wrong because their focus is not animal rights, it’s sort of a form of whacked out antiestablishmentarianism. Fetal alcohol syndrome, probably. There’s been animal research done on that. –>It’s not helping, guys!

    There has to be a middle ground. Let’s work together to find it.

  • Greg Fish

    “I don’t think you really need to characterize animals as such total bastards to make your point here.”

    Intepid, all I meant was the animals do what it takes to survive and generally don’t try to settle their differences by sitting down, having a beer and talking about how they see the situation from their point of view with a mediator. Instead, the claws come out, territory is set by fights and intimidation and they very rarely have use for the kind of altruistic empathy we humans hold as our ideal but hardly ever practice.

    Then again, humans are animals too and we can be just as bad as any predator out there, if not worse.

  • http://sqt-fantasy-sci-fi-girl.blogspot.com/ SQT

    OregonMJW– Excellent post. I don’t know enough about the topic to make an informed comment. But it sure sounds like you do. I’ve never objected to animal research but then I’ve never been in the lab. I have no idea if the animals receive compassionate treatment during the research process and it sounds as if there could be more care put into that aspect. That said. I have no compassion for terrorists no matter what cause they claim to support. But then, I think some people are predisposed to violent acts and simply look for a “cause” that suits them.

  • OregonMJW

    “….I have no compassion for terrorists no matter what cause they claim to support. But then, I think some people are predisposed to violent acts and simply look for a “cause” that suits them.”

    Thank you, SQT; and I agree with you! Compassionate concern for others, humans and animals, does not diminish us, it elevates us. :~)

  • Ravina

    Funny that one never sees PETA and ALF protest halal slaughter that carried out without stunning, which is far more cruel and also totally pointless, since there has long been a fatwa that allows stunning.

  • Bill

    ‘There has to be a middle ground. Let’s work together to find it.’

    I think scientists are continually trying to do that and there have been, and continue to be, great advances in the handling of laboratory animals. The system is not, and will never, be perfect, but it is constantly improving.

    The animal rights activists flatly refust to participate in this process.