Friday, April 07, 2006

Anti-vivisection strategy: a suggestion

A strategy to obtain results in the area of animal experiments must have realistic goals.

If people continue to require billions of animals to be slaughtered at the end of lives spent in the concentration-camps-like conditions of intensive farming only to satisfy humans’ taste for these animals’ flesh, which is a very trivial purpose, people are much less likely to want a ban on animal experiments which, whether successful or not, have at least in theory a more important purpose.

I suggest a 2-stages approach, which will also reconcile the endless dispute/conflict between the anti-vivisection medical versus ethical arguments.

The ethical argument requires nothing less than a total abolition of all animal experimentation, unless we are prepared to accept experimenting on humans at the same level of capacities: if we are not, then justice demands the same about non-human animals. Continuing in this double standard is pure speciesism.

Total abolition, therefore, is our final goal, long term.

But we know that it will not be realized soon.

What we can do is to set a short and medium term goal of reducing the number of animals used in research, by gradually replacing them with different methods.

This will have two benefits: saving animals and getting us nearer the final objective, because the people we want to convince here are not so much the general public and consumers (who are crucial in other campaigns such as cruelty-free products and fur coats) or the politicians, but indeed the researchers themselves. They are the ones who decide what methods to use.

If we can demonstrate to the satisfaction of researchers that the number of animals used in experiments can indeed be greatly and progressively reduced by the deploy of other techniques, we will make moves towards abolition.

In fact, we do not even need the law to be changed, in practice.
All we need is for more and more research workers to shift from an animal-centred experimental approach to an alternative-methods-centred one.

What we should be careful about doing, therefore, is about making statements that are likely to make us lose credibility.

Statements which have been made in his books by Hans Ruesch, still in many respects a great anti-vivisection author, and which one can often hear echoed by animal organizations.
In a nutshell, Ruesch says that animal experimentation has led to many medical and pharmacological disasters, has given false results and has distracted from the right path of clinical observation, the only one on which a medical science can be based.
Ergo, animal experimentation as a method is a total failure and must be abandoned.

There is a prima facie logical fallacy in this argument.

The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

The premise is not strong enough to sustain such a far-reaching conclusion.

The premise can only support the conclusion that animal experimentation is not perfect and cannot be relied on as an absolute guide.

But this premise is still compatible with a statement saying that animal experiments have a relative, limited use that can be complemented by the use of other methods at the same time.

If we take Ruesch’s own examples, even the major ones, like penicillin being fatal to guinea pigs, it’s easy to see that, after all, despite animal experimentation being the fundamental method of medical research, penicillin has been introduced, so the continued use of animal experimentation is compatible with its results being mitigated and revised in the light of other methods’ results as well.

1 comment:

Gary said...

I think the animal model could be judged a failure if we argue that penicillin was introduced *despite* not because of the animal model, or even that it delayed the introduction of penicllin and thus cost lives. We can also argue more broadly that the animal model is a failure in terms of opportunity costs; lives would be saved if we abolished it. The standard for failure doesn't have to be that the animal model makes it impossible for medical discoveries to occur.

Aside from that, I like what you're saying. You make a lot of excellent points.