On experiments and animals, big and small

Written on October 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm
Filed under: Personal

I attend a university that has a fairly large Faculty of Science. I should know, I’m doing my undergraduate degree in sciences and I do a lot of lab work that has involved both plants and animals.

People get really riled up and overly upset over the thought of animal testing. People strip down and put on bunny ears to protest against the very idea of testing medications or cosmetics on animals. People cry over the thought of dogs and cats and birds and rabbits and mice all getting tested on.

I can think of every single time I’ve had to interact with live test material in a lab – none of it has ever been a fuzzy wittle mammal. I interact with plants, things with exoskeletons, things with no skeletons. Does anyone bat an eye at the idea of you seeing how a crab reacts to changes in light? I wrote a term paper on how a specific species of crab reacts when you lower or increase light intensity. Did anyone protest or dress themselves up as a dead crab to draw attention to how damn awful I was? No, of course not.

No one ever protests to fruit flies being used in experiments. They grow fast, they reproduce fast, they have a relatively small genome.

No one ever protests against the use of worms. One could argue that worms are far more important to the ecosystem than a rabbit. But does anyone dress up as a worm and argue for the rights of worms? Of course not.

Clearly, in the eyes of the protesters for animal rights, either worms and fruit flies and crabs aren’t animals, or their lives are not worth the same.

Is it because they’re not conventionally “cute”? Is it because they don’t have a body covered in fur? Is it because their skeleton is on the outside rather than the in? Is it because they can lack legs?

If you protest the use of a single rabbit in a single experiment in a single lab, shouldn’t you also protest the use of hundreds of fruit flies in dozens of experiments in dozens of labs?

Or is a rabbit’s life just worth more in the grand scheme of things than fruit fly?

Is a mouse more important than an earthworm?

If you’re going to argue for the stop of animal testing* at least argue for the stop of all animal testing and not just what you think is “cute” and “worth” saving.

* I’m not against animal testing. I’m against frivolous animal testing. I’m for the use of animals to educate people, to learn more. New medications for treating cancers, allergies, mental ailments are all tested on animals that best relate to humans. Those includes rats, pigs, monkeys. It’s only until the later stages of testing that human subjects are used – and not everyone wants to be the figurative guinea pig. Would you want to be Test Subject 0 for a new cancer treatment? Probably not. There’s frivolous animal testing, and there’s animal testing that’s done in order to save lives. But I am against people who believe that one type of animal is worth representing or saving.

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