“The Parliament has produced a charter for the multibillion pound animal research industry to carry on business as usual, with scant regard either for animal welfare or public opinion…”
Michelle Thew, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection
“Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances social knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.”
George Bernard Shaw
Last year, the Executive Commission of the European Union proposed a range of measures to ‘lessen the suffering’ of the 12 million vertebrate animals used in experiments each year. The proposed amendments to the EU’s 20-year-old animal experiments law included important protection measures regarding our closest animal relatives, the Great Apes.
This year, on May 5th, Members of the European Parliament voted on the amendments proposed by the commission. What was the result? Aside from a few crumbs scattered at the feet of animal advocates, the MEPs voted with industry lobbyists, and the animals lost… again.
According to Reuters UK,
“Researchers can continue most experiments on mankind’s closest relatives — chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans — after European Union lawmakers watered down proposals to restrict testing.”
As stated by Stephanie Ernst on Change.org,
“The European Parliament has voted to allow millions of animal ‘procedures’ to go ahead throughout the EU each year without the need to seek formal approval… Despite MEPs having voted last year to phase out all primate experiments, months of intense lobbying weakened their resolve.“
According to the American Anti-Vivisection Society, wild populations of primates all across the world are being devastated to supply the research community.
On Mauritius, primates who are endangered or under threat of extinction are caught in the wild for the sole purpose of being exported for vivisection. Suffering in cages during captivity and in transit, they are often mistreated, beaten, and sometimes deprived of sufficient food. They are also transported in such dire conditions that many of them die of shock or hunger.
The Commission had proposed scaling back experiments on the 12,000 primates used each year, suggesting that they only be used ‘if the survival of their species was at stake or during an unexpected outbreak of life-threatening disease in humans’.
But according to a press release from the campaign ‘Make Animal Testing History’, “MEPs voted to continue to allow scientists the freedom to use primates in experiments with no direct application to improving human health…”
There were a few minor improvements to the law that were approved, including the decision to establish centers for developing non-animal alternatives. However, even if this does happen, and even if the meager ‘improvements’ are actually enforced (and I am not at all confident that they will be), these ‘victories’ appear to me to be little more than an opiate for the animal advocates and for the public.
Simply put, the lawmakers, at the bidding of industry lobbyists, have provided just enough positive movement to make the outcome appear balanced.
A press release from Make Animal Testing History states, “Sustained lobbying by the animal research industry has been intense, at times deeply disingenuous and certainly alarmist… “
As stated by Reuters UK, “one politician involved in drafting the laws took the unusual step of resigning her role in February, blaming excessive industry interference.”
As far as I can tell, the overall result is that animals used for experimentation are in virtually the same position as before: desperate and helpless in the unfeeling hands of those who view them as property, as tools of the industry to be used however ‘science’ deems fit. In other words, they have been betrayed, yet again, by those who have the power to protect them.
This leads me to question whether there is any point at all to advocating for animal protection at the legislative level. This defeat seems to be a perfect demonstration of the futility of fighting the animal industry where they are extremely strong and powerful. Industry lobbyists, with much to lose from the passage of tougher animal protection laws, will do everything in their power to make sure they remain free to obtain grants and funding for these procedures.
Meanwhile, our society remains in the dark ages about an issue of serious ethical concern. The individuals who carry out these procedures are, necessarily, indifferent to the suffering of non-human animals. Along with everyone who supports this practice, they must force themselves to believe in the fallacy that animals are not entitled to the basic right of a life free from unthinkable suffering. In this delusion, they are blind to the obvious truth that the eyes of these beautiful creatures are the windows into a soul that is pleading for mercy.
In order to keep the industry of vivisection going, we, as a society, demand that certain individuals desensitize themselves to a practice that most of us would experience as nothing short of a nightmare. In the name of science, barbaric practices are deemed not just acceptable, but necessary, ‘for the advancement of humanity’. Aside from demonstrating a very misguided understanding of ‘humanity’, this also indicates something deeply troubling about the ethical condition of our society.
If a person without a scientific agenda committed acts that even came close in brutality to the procedures that scientists and researchers do regularly, we would be rightfully concerned about their mental stability – specifically, about their ability to discern between right and wrong, and to empathize with others, the very qualities that differentiate a person of sanity from a psychopath.
For those readers who are under the impression that opposition to vivisection is a cause championed only by the animal-rights movement, consider the following quotes. These are but a few of many, which clearly indicate that vivisection has been opposed, throughout history, by many great minds, including some of the more enlightened individuals in the scientific community.
“Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research.”
~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
“During my medical education … I found vivisection horrible, barbarous and above all unnecessary.”
~ Carl Jung, MD (1875 – 1961)
“I abhor vivisection…. I know of no achievement through vivisection, no scientific discovery that could not have been obtained without such barbarism and cruelty.”
~ Charles W. Mayo, MD (1961), son of the co-founder of the Mayo Clinic. (The Mayo Clinic is consistently ranked among the top three U.S. hospitals.)
Experimentation on live, fully-conscious animals exemplifies the callous disregard that we humans have for the suffering of others, which is the root cause of many of our most serious problems. The continued legality of this practice serves to reinforce the hardhearted attitude we hold toward non-human animals, and thereby serves to reinforce the hardhearted attitude we hold toward our fellow humans.
For this reason, the continuation of vivisection acts as an impediment to our evolution as a society. Maintaining that such horrifically barbaric practices are socially acceptable serves to keep us in the dark about the true nature of our fellow animals. That is exactly the opposite of what we need as a civilization.
As the EU animal testing defeat shows, it is disheartening to see the results of the attempts to change legislation that regulates torture. As long as animals are viewed as property, their protection will always be less important to society than the perceived rights of the humans who own them and who profit from their use.
In short, new legislation will not fix the situation, unless it comes as a result of a crucial change in perception.
As Albert Schweitzer so eloquently said,
“Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
Image: In Defense of Animals
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