Protestors gathered at the Society for Neuroscience Convention in San Diego Saturday the 13th to voice their discontent with the state of animal testing in the neuroscience community.
About 32,000 people attended the convention in San Diego. Protestors numbered around 30.
Among the protestors was a neuroscientist named Dr. Lawrence Hansen of UCSD. He stood outside of the convention center in his lab coat holding a sign showing a monkey with a probe attached to its brain.
Dr. Hansen is among a growing number of professionals in the medical and scientific fields with serious misgivings about the legitimacy of vivisection. A recent survey showed that 82% of European physicians worry that information from animal tests may not be applicable to humans.
Many, however, don’t see the whole picture. Many scientists may have misgivings, but they see the situation as a kind of balance between risk and reward, between the harm they do and the potential benefits for humanity they might achieve. Dr. Hansen wrote an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about vivisection wherein he condemns some animal tests, but says others aren’t so bad.
The truth is that vivisection isn’t a discussion about what is best for humans, and taking an ends-justifies-the-means approach to medical research leads us down a slippery slope. I can make myself richer by robbing another person, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
No more acceptable is the process of torturing animals in the hopes that eventually, if we kill enough of them, under the right circumstances, with the right tools, we will eventually learn something that might be relevant to animal medicine, which more often than not, doesn’t even correspond to human physiology.
It isn’t a matter of how much we have to gain, it’s a matter of right and wrong. We can no longer guide our scientific and medical policy solely on self-interest. The safeguards to secure animal welfare in laboratories are irrelevant. As long as we think that an animal’s life is expendable if it might possibly benefit us in the long term, we will be capable of greater and greater cruelty.
Scientists like Lawrence Hansen have already seen the scientific shortcomings of vivisection. What is needed however, is for the medical community to become moral vanguards by rejecting all animal testing unconditionally.
By refusing to torture animals we can not only augment the development of alternative methods of testing, which will prove to be more accurate in relation to human physiology because they don’t rely on biological information from non-humans, but we can begin to break away from the paradigm of self-interest and cruelty in our culture.