By Dr. Maidie Hilmo
Regarding motivation and ethics when it comes to using animals in medical research—the latter too often goes out the window not only because researchers soon lose “all respect for living things in a short while,” but because the whole system is self-perpetuating. Beginning academic researchers have to please established professors who were themselves trained to use animals, then they need to get grants to to fund research, which then gets published by prestigious medical journals whose editors and peer reviewers are part of the old system, then the researchers have the credentials to get jobs in the industry or universities, then they do more animal research and get advancements in their professions, which garners more grants from industrial and government agencies peopled by those who are part of the old establishment. In addition, charities also throw huge amounts of money at funding the same old methodologies. Even with a few technological updates things still seem to require animals as part of the process. That doesn’t even get into the political and legal systems which, especially in the case of drugs, too often requires animals to be tested to get approved.
It is encouraging that some universities are beginning to allow serious doctoral research into the ethics of animal experimentation, which is a good start, but getting to the point of creating enough cracks in the old system to break it wide open so that the invasive use of animals becomes illegal is still hugely challenging. As in the case of armaments, people still tend to view it as a case of preservation of the self as being “necessary.” Of course, in the case of the armaments, technology is taking over to the extent that, as just revealed, U.S. government agencies and major corporations were hacked in a major “global cyberspying bid.”
In my teaching days, I had Adams’s Plague Dogs on the English course list, and in my Philosophy classes, I dealt with the subject starting with Descartes and moving up to Peter Singer and beyond. There are many ways to approach the subject and to apply ethics in the attempt to improve life for all “animals.” We just need to reach the critical tipping point when real change is made. I remember horrible staff meetings when everyone smoked and I choked, but now people have to go outside to smoke (sorry if any of you are smokers). In one’s own lifetime suddenly things can change if people are committed.
Also see especially the March 11 article on “Researchers rush to test coronavirus vaccine in people without knowing how well it works in animals.” https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/11/researchers-rush-to-start-moderna-coronavirus-vaccine-trial-without-usual-animal-testing/ This one is interesting because there is some suggestion later that specially altered mice should be used after the fact.