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animal rights

Animal Rights, testing

I'm an animal researcher. I'm also a compassionate person, and have come to the conclusion that animal work is just wrong.
I'm an animal researcher. I'm also a compassionate person, and have come to the conclusion that animal work is just wrong.
Some of the arguments supporting animal research are very compelling. We really are curing diseases. We really are making incredibly important discoveries. We really are doing our best. But some of the practices (there are investigators who cut the heads off neonates, baby mice, with scissors as part of the experimental design, there are rat guillotines etc very puzzling stuff, can't we do better than this?!) are just barbaric, and the lowlier researchers who are pressured into undertaking these activities did into design these projects, and are doing the dirty work that, honestly, most of the study designers would have a great deal of trouble doing themselves. Most people get into this kind of research because they are compassionate, and because they want to have a positive impact. The reality is more complicated. My honest opinion is that it is burning itself out because there are few people who really *want* to do it, and the animal rights activism has made it quite a pain. It is also extremely expensive. I'm sorry, but I also DON'T believe in liberating these animals. They've all been bred and inbred in captivity, and as such they are completely unprepared to survive in the wild, they barely survive in the idealized conditions we've created. In many cases they are engineered to represent a disease model that heavily impairs its ability to fend for itself, not to mention they have no idea how to deal with predation.

I think this is a battle that should be fought in courts and with regulations and restrictions. We are honestly getting so good with alternative, computational models and cell culture work that there IS an expiration date on this kind of thing. But, I have to admit, I feel pretty bad at the end of the day, even though I make every effort to minimize pain and suffering, and keep the number of animals I use to a minimum. The real conflict is: if you want to work on really *important* science, especially pathology related research, you are going to have to use animals. The practice of CO2 euthanasia just doesn't seem all that humane, and I would feel a lot better if the animals we did not use could live out their lives or be donated to the Audobon (which is done with the non-genetically modified mice). I think part of the problem is the irrational fear of genetically modified animals; some modifications would be potentially deleterious, but most are pretty self limiting.

Anyway, I don't have a solution, but I do think that animal testing is pretty awful, having had a very personal relationship to it. I don't think that getting a different job would change things much, because I know other researchers who are quite insensitive to the mice and really take awful care of them. I'm doing the best I can in a bad situation, but I'm aware enough to know that the system itself needs changing. We are growing in empathy as a species, and I think that we are going to look back at these animal studies as truly barbaric. Too much pressure is put on scientists to be superior to the discussion at hand, we are granted a kind of ethical discretion that supersedes our humanity, and in a lot of ways I think investigators play into this role since it feels like objectivity. But it isn't objectivity, we are all biased, and I think we have to admit our biases before we can even begin to claim neutrality. Mouse work is expensive, and most sane people do not want to do it, and as such its lifetime in science is finite. Still, it needs to be made more and more uncomfortable so that complacent scientists use their ingenuity and innovation to come up with other model systems. The way to do this is not through animal liberation or protests, but through paperwork, regulation, and fortification of animal rights. I really needed to vent, I had to kill my favorite mouse the other day (blind from severe inbreeding), and I still feel really bad about it. I learned a lot from this experience, which will be over in a few months, and I will do my best to not be involved in animal work at any point in the future, be as compassionate to my animals as I can in the present, and to speak out against it to my colleagues whenever possible as I continue my career in science. That's the best I can come up with in a pretty uncivilized situation.