Would you voluntarily commit to having holes drilled into your head, your eyelids sewn shut or chemicals pumped into your stomach (all without the benefit of pain relief)?   I assume not, yet we deem it acceptable to impose that type of suffering upon other creatures who feel pain and fear, all in the name of a “justifiable” end.

Millions of animals are caused unimaginable suffering in experiments that are mostly pointless and sometimes harmful to us.  Laboratories researching the latest cosmetics or government establishments focused upon developing the most state-of-the-art weapons for us to kill one another; organizations, such as March-of-Dimes, that devote millions of dollars to experiments that torture animals and are not essential to humans. . .these are some ways of justifying our capacity for moral degeneracy.

Animals are not biologically similar to humans to justify experimenting upon them for medical reasons; they don’t necessarily respond the same.  No medical model can adequately duplicate human anatomy and physiology.  Animal experimentation is inaccurate, inconclusive and misleading and can be detrimental to humans.  Cancer, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., is still on the rise. Cosmetic and other companies that test their products on animals cannot guarantee that their products would have the same effect upon humans.  Roughly, 92% of drugs that pass preclinical testing on animals have failed in human clinical trials.  Yet, the FDA continues to permit animal testing.  Many people believe that animal experimentation is necessary for the progress of medicine; yet, there is growing concensus among professionals that it is preferable to utilize research methods that do not harm animals.  Equally signficant, they see negative consequences of using one species to provide information about another.  After years of failed experiments and with modern technology affording us excellent non-animal methods of testing and scientific research, some researchers STILL try to justify the senseless torture of animals.  What does this say about our society and its indifference towards cruelty?  It is highly disturbing that anyone can choose to inflict pain, without any sympathy or empathy, while having the means to prevent it.

I recall reading a report about one past laboratory in Port Royal, where scientists nailed dogs’ paws to boards before vivisecting them alive, without the benefit of an anesthetic.

In another New York-based research laboratory, a postdoctoral vivisector placed a rat in a small box, immobilizing his head by a vise.  He then proceeded to drill into his skull as the rat began to struggle. When the rat’s struggling increased, making it difficult to continue drilling, the vivisector stopped to inject him with an anesthetic.  Before it even took effect, he resumed drilling and the rat struggled again until after ten minutes into the vivisection, when the anesthetic took effect.  

At still another laboratory, negligent workers left a monkey in a cage as it went through a cleaning process, resulting in the monkey being scalded to death.  At this same laboratory, twelve monkeys were left in an over-heated room and consequently were cooked to death.

Stephen Lisberger of UCSF is known for his allegedly cruel treatment of monkeys for the past 25 years. He begins by slicing open their eyes so that wire coils can be placed inside.  Screws and bolts are drilled into their skulls, metal plates are inserted under their scalps and electrodes are driven into their brains. His victims are then restrained in chairs for up to eight hours a day.  He has access to non-invasive human scanning technology, but prefers to continue perpetrating his archaic methods on live beings.  If the monkeys don’t perform, they are denied fluids until the next day.  Dr. Lawrence Hansen (UCSD neuroscientist) has stated, “I’ve had many years of experience in neuroscience research, but I have never previously encountered experiments which would deliver quite so much suffering to higher primates for so comparatively little scientific gain.”

One of the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act is to ensure that animals intended for use in research facilities are provided humane care and treatment.  One would assume that pain prevention is part of “humane treatment.”  The AWA also states that it is necessary for “animal care, treatment, and practices in experimental procedures to ensure that animal pain and distress are minimized, including adequate veterinary care with the appropriate use of anesthetic, analgesic, tranquilizing drugs, or euthanasia.”  An exception is provided, however, to the use of anesthesia when scientifically necessary and “that the withholding of tranquilizers. . .or euthanasia when scientifically necessary shall continue for only the necessary period of time.”  Through this “loophole,” many of the procedures that laboratories utilize involve unrelieved pain.  Some of this is attributed to finances, time, lack of compassion, and an overflow of paperwork that workers wish to avoid.  Ironically (and tragically for the animals involved), in the AWA, the research industry succeeds in defining “animal” to exclude mice, rats and birds, who happen to make up 95 percent of all animals used in research. . .just to spare themselves the responsibility of compliance with even minimal standards of care.

Another issue is the fact that several of the top 20 animal experimentation facilities are owned by the Department of Defense.  The AWA does not presently give the USDA authority to inspect facilities owned by other branches of the federal government.  Thus, there is no oversight regarding the use of animals in labs owned by the DOF or any other federal agency.  Many of the most painful experiments are performed within military facilities, and involve the use of chemical and biological weapons.

With social media, networking, and the hard work of animal welfare advocates, information is being brought to the public’s attention about how animals are being treated in experimental facilities.  Many laboratories have been shut down; others have lost funding, been penalized, or have otherwise been held accountable.  But we have a long way to go and the public’s help is needed.

If we are to be the caretakers of the earth and its inhabitants, then we cannot selectively overlook, tolerate or condone abuses upon other creatures.  What is the difference between our beloved companion animals, whom we treat like family, and those who are trying to peacefully exist elsewhere?  Let us not be hypocrites and hold contradictory views towards those with whom we share the earth.  They value their lives and well being just as we value our own and that of our dog, cat or other pet.

Those wishing to look further into this topic can visit the sites of In Defense of Animals, the Anti-Vivisection Society, PCRM, HSUS, PETA and other animal welfare groups who are working towards ending animal experimentation.  Their sites will provide information about their campaigns and offer suggestions as to how you can help in various ways such as spreading the word, learning about alternative non-animal testing methods and sharing that knowledge, boycotting companies that test on animals, not supporting charities that utilize animal experimentation; and letting your university or college know that you will not donate to the alumni fund as long as they engage in animal experimentation. Together, in a unified effort, we can change the world for other species and preserve our humanity.
(references: awic.nal.usda.gov/government-and-professional-resources/federal-laws/animal-welfare-act)

– Annoula Wylderich