ANIMALS MUST DIE SO PEOPLE CAN LIVE (reprinted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune) Demonstr

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ANIMALS MUST DIE SO PEOPLE CAN LIVE (reprinted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune) Demonstrations against the use of animals in medical research bring out some interesting personalities. The demonstrators are all vegetarians, because one cannot object to killing animals for medical research while continuing to eat them. And since more than 90% of animals used in medical research are mice or rats, animal rights zealots should never use mousetraps. Demonstrators wear rubber-soled canvas shoes, and if the weather is cold, woolen, not leather, gloves. And since research on contraception medication involves the use of rabbits, most of the women in the groups probably are pregnant. None of these demonstrators would have been immunized against polio-myelitis, diptheria, whooping cough or other childhood diseases, or cured of potentially fatal infections by antibiotics. Accident victims, salvaged from death by blood transfusions, are disqualified from participation, as are diabetics who depend on insulin for their continued existence. Responses to these medical situations required animal research. Anyone with a prosthetic joint, a transplanted kidney or a cardiac pacemaker, or a history of heart surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer or of successful treatment of glaucoma, could not, in good conscience, represent him or herself as an opponent of the use of animals in biomedical research. Relatives of those with Alzheimer's disease must disqualify themselves as marchers, since current research on monkeys may eventually suggest effective ways to treat this disorder. One would not expect protesters to bring along their pet animals, since most domestic pets are protected against distemper, infectious hepatitis, parasites and even rabies by medications perfected through animal experimentation. And since the 100 million cats and dogs in North America are carnivores, requiring food obtained by killing other animals, pets must keep a low profile to avoid the charge of hypocrisy. For consistency, one would expect animal rights groups picketing rodeos, where animals are mistreated for entertainment. And why not release cattle from slaughter houses where they are killed without general anesthesia? The conscientious objector must also refrain from eating animal flesh, but must also protest against others eating it. Fourteen million dogs, more than one third of the total dog population in North America, are destroyed in public pounds and animal shelters. Animal pounds and humane societies engaged in animal control kill more than 50 cats and dogs for every one that is sacrificed for research purposes. Although computer simulation, test-tube experimentation and tissue cultures are gradually supplanting some types of animal research, it would be a serious error to suppose that such alternative techniques will soon be available for all research that now uses live animal subjects. No other method can fully replace the testing of a drug, a procedure or a vaccine in a living organism. Successful alternatives to some types of animal-related research have indeed been developed in the last decade, with a 40% drop in the number of animals used in research between 1968 and 1978, with still further reductions since that time. The human body, however, is far more complex than a tissue culture, with physical and chemical interactions that cannot be reduced to a computer programme. Just as a new type of aircraft can be tested in a wind tunnel but must eventually be tried out by a test pilot, a new surgical operation, a new drug or new treatment must be tried on the first human being. Who among healthy protesters would volunteer as a subject for the study of AIDS? This disease must be studied in an environment that provides for an immune system found only in a living animal. The dispute regarding the use of laboratory animals has heightened the research community's sensitivity to the need for strict safeguards against pain and suffering when conducting experiments. Let us hope that reason will prevail, and that these well-intentioned efforts will not bring biomedical research to a state of virtual paralysis as it has in England. John A. Kirchener Ph.D.


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