Animal Rights


Animals have been used in medical research for centuries. In a recent count, it was determined that 8,815 animals were being used for research at MSU, 8,503 of them rodents - rats, mice, hamsters and gerbils. There were 18 dogs, three cats and a variety of goats, ferrets, pigeons and rabbits. The struggle against this tyranny is a struggle as important as any of the moral and social issues that have been fought over in recent years." Animal rights are an emotional issue-second only, perhaps, to the bitter abortion debate." For decades the value of animal research has been grossly overrated. Although researchers have depended on animal test data to achieve medical advances, there should be other means of research because testing on animals is cruel and inhumane and often unnecessary.

The American Medical Association believes that research involving animals is absolutely essential to maintaining and improving the health of the American people. They point out, that virtually every advance in medical science in the 20th century, from antibiotics to organ transplants, has been achieved either directly or indirectly through the use of animals in laboratory experiments. They also emphasize that animal research holds the key for solutions to AIDS, cancer, heart disease, aging and congenital defects. Lastly they insist that, the result of these experiments has been the elimination or control of many infectious diseases. This has meant a longer, healthier , better life with much less pain and suffering. For many patients, it has meant life it self.

However, there should be other means of research because the whole process of animal research remains cruel and inhumane. Animal rights activists have gathered much information that has closed down laboratories that violate anti- cruelty statutes. "This includes a 1984 videotape stolen from the University of Pennsylvania Head Injury Clinic. The research subsequently suspended, reportedly involved inadequately anesthetized baboons receiving blows to the head to break their necks and cause brain damage." Alex Pacheo gives a first-person account of the conditions he witnessed in a primate laboratory. He is horrified by the painful experiments these monkeys endure. "On May 11,1981 I began work[at the Institute for Behavioral Research] and was given a tour.... I saw filth caked on the wires of the cages, faces piled in the bottom of the cages, urine and rust encrusting every surface. There, amid this rotting stench, sat sixteen crab-eating macaques and one rhesus monkey, their liv limited to metal boxes just 17 3/4 inches wide.... [An old refrigerator] had been converted into a chamber containing a plexiglass immobilizing chair. A monkey would be placed in a chamber, and electrodes attached to his body. The monkey would be forced to try to squeeze a bottle of fluid with his surgically crippled arm in order to stop the painful electric shock that coursed through his body. The ceiling and walls of the chamber were covered with blood. I remember Dr. Taub's assistant, John Kunz, telling me that some monkeys would break their arms in desperate attempts to escape the chair and the intense electric shocks." Young chimpanzees, 3 or 4 years old, were crammed, two together, into tiny cages. They could hardly turn around. Not yet part of any experiment , they had been confined in these cages for more than three months. The chimps had each other for comfort, but they would not remain together for long. Once they are infected, probably with hepatitis, they will be s eparated and placed in another cage. And there they will remain, living in conditions of severe sensory deprivation, for the next several years. During that time, they will become insane. From the capture of primates in the wild, to the "factory-like" breeding of mice and dogs, to the confinement and isolation of cages - research is inherently cruel.

History has shown that many important medical advances have been made by clinical research and close observations of human patients, not animal research, which is often unnecessary. "There are whole countries that don't use healthy animals to train veterinarians or teach surgical techniques," said Liska, who's been researching the issue since 1974. In England they use only sick or injured animals and do much work on animal cadavers. "Humans can give informed consent. Monkeys and dogs can't." Many AIDS patients have said they are willing to try out new drugs. "Instead, we use Rhesus monkeys." "I actually have