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ebitler's picture

Responsibiliy with Animal Research

This is somewhat repetitive of what I said in class, but these are the thoughts that I just keep coming back to…

When it comes to research with animals all of the debate seems to boil down to medial pros and moral cons. I (very personally) believe that extremism is highly problematic in every situation, if for no other reason than it promotes close-mindedness and an unwillingness to consider alternatives. I think that either extreme option (discontinuing the use of animals for moral reasons or promoting all animal research just because it’s research) is irresponsible. (Just a quick side note, one of the easiest ways to decrease the number of animals used would be to lower the criterion for publishable results; so many experiments with strong trends are repeated just to get from strong trend to statistically significant.)

In order to prevent the misuse of lab animals, lines have to be drawn. These lines may seem arbitrary and arguments can always be made for pushing the line one way or the other, but as I see it the line is necessary. Whether or not an individual feels comfortable participating in research is a very personal decision that should be made with a consideration of the ethical and moral issues.

That said I was a little surprised and upset at the notion raised in class that people participating in animal research can end up “using animals just to fit in.” That to me seems irresponsible of the individual performing the research. I very much appreciated that my PI encouraged us to think seriously about our feelings on animal research, and I know that this isn’t the case in all labs. At the same time we are all responsible for our own actions and to not think about what you’re doing but rather point fingers at the lab environment is negligent and immature.

I think it’s very natural to feel uneasy about participating in animal research at first, but most researchers in that position are there because they are interested in the research and find it worthwhile. It’s not easy to see a mouse cut open and perfused. (Saline is injected into the circulatory system to flush out the blood and then a fixative is injected to preserve tissues.) But there’s a difference between feeling uneasy about seeing all the blood and having to try something new on an animal despite believing it to be worthwhile, and feeling uneasy about killing an animal because you feel that is morally reprehensible. If you decide that you’re not comfortable with the moral implications and stop participating in the research that’s fine. If when coming under (inevitable) scrutiny for what they do with animals the researcher blames the lab environment, that just seems careless to me.

So to sum up, apparently irresponsibility with regards to animal research is a pet peeve of mine.

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