Research must proceedBy Scott Tibbs
Should we use animals in medical research? I believe that not only should we use animals in medical research, but also we must. Simply, animal research saves lives. I know from experience. In March of 1997, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer; the same type of cancer figure skater Scott Hamilton was diagnosed with around the same time.
Animal "rights" extremists like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Defense League argue differently. They would argue it is immoral to use animals in such a way, and that experimenting on animals is similar to what Josef Mengele did to Jews in the Nazi concentration camps. While some reading this column may doubt AR activists would dare to compare the two, read the following quote from the "Animal Rights FAQ" at http://www.envirolink.org, explaining how they justify opposing research on animals that would save human lives: "The same way we justify not performing forcible research on unwilling humans! A lot of even more relevant information is currently foregone owing to our strictures against human experimentation."
But this argument falls apart under closer examination. First, it defies natural law. Predators stalk their prey with no regard to the "morality" of their actions, yet do not stalk members of its own species for food. Carried over to biomedical research, this would justify animal experimentation, but not experiments on humans. If morality is introduced, humans must necessarily be above animals, as our morality would be superior to the morality of our animal counterparts. However, this is inconsistent with the AR activists' belief that humans are NOT above the animal kingdom. Any moral argument the AR extremists make is also inconsistent with the Judeo-Christian value base, as evidenced in Genesis 1:28 "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
Why support biomedical research? It saves lives. Period. End of discussion. Animal research has led to vaccines for polio, smallpox, and measles. Even today, chicken eggs are used to incubate the influenza vaccine, saving lives every year. Animal experimentation was used to find insulin to control diabetes, and to develop chemotherapy and techniques for organ transplants. Animal research today at such places as Indiana University hopes to treat victims of stroke, nerve damage, epilepsy, and chemical dependency. Elsewhere, animal experimentation holds promising value in finding treatments for AIDS. But AR extremists oppose even this vital research. Ingrid Newkirk, the President of PETA, said in the September 1989 issue of Vogue that even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, "We'd be against it."
I have always had severe disagreements with the philosophy of the animal rights movement, but my experience with cancer has increased my dislike for them exponentially. I believe they are not just wrong, but that the entire foundation of the movement is immoral.
But pro-research forces have challenged the AR extremists. Orginizations such as ACT-UP, Americans for Medical Progress, and the Incurably Ill for Animal Research have consistently spoken the truth about the AR movement, challenging their anti-research ideology. I am the Vice-President of the Student Alliance for Responsible Research (SARR), a new student group at Indiana University. SARR was founded to counteract the extremism of the local animal rights organization, the Animal Defense League. SARR's ideological diversity was evidenced by our initial rally, which drew 50 people from all over the ideological spectrum after only two days of advertisement, compared to about 40 for the much-publicized ADL candlelight vigil. The demonstrators may have belonged to groups that disagreed on many other issues, on issues such as gay rights, abortion, environmental regulation, taxes, and welfare reform, but we all agreed that animal experimentation was essential to human health and must continue.
Animal rights extremists, unlike many other groups I have come into contact with, have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to disagreement. I have asked questions of many groups I am publicly on record as disagreeing with about their policies or events, but have always received courteous and helpful answers. When I asked a simple question of the ADL, though, they proceeded to attack my character and ability to reason, because of a column I had written opposing animal rights. Later, I subscribed to a public access majordomo news list of the ADL, but was taken off immediately. The list was then made into a closed list so I could not re-subscribe. Other groups I am on record as in disagreement with have not gone to such lengths to keep information from me.
The ADL seems to fear me, for what reason I do not know. After all, I am only one person. But it could also be an indication of a zero tolerance policy to those who disagree based in their extreme fanaticism.
But perhaps the way I have been dealt with, and the ways other supporters of biomedical research have been dealt with, is a good indication. The animal rights movement knows it has almost no support in the American public on issues of biomedical research designed to save human lives. They are rightly regarded as an extremist fringe, sometimes to be responded to but never to be taken seriously.
Biomedical research must proceed. Not just because it saved my life, but because of the millions of lives it will save in the future. I am not just fighting for myself: I am fighting for everyone who has ever had a disease or disorder which has been or will be cured through animal research.