Animal testing necessary for research

While animal rights activists, including the Students for Animal Liberation, make a valid point that animals should not be subjected to cruel forms of research testing, a differentiation needs to be made between the various forms of animal testing currently practiced in the laboratories at UCLA, other universities and research corporations.

The student animal rights activists who participated in the World Week for Animals in Laboratories last week concerned themselves more with appealing to people’s sentimentality about animal suffering, rather than logic or informed debate about whether alternative strategies as effective as animal testing exist. Protesters held signs showing mutilated animals with inflammatory assertions, such as “Tax dollars down the drain, UCLA is to blame,” or, “Why should innocent animals die, vivisection is a lie.”

Their actions are understandable — even the most avid supporter of animal testing would be disgusted by the images of suffering or dead animals the protesters flashed. But the larger point is being missed. No differentiation was made between animal testing that’s truly cruel and unnecessary and that which must happen, even when we know it will involve animals suffering. Scientists use animals because they don’t want human subjects to be exposed to the dangers of experimental tests. Today’s current technology is not sufficiently advanced in all fields to fully model the physiological and psychological responses of living creatures to drugs, disease and injury.

When possible, researchers do use human subjects. But there are many procedures that simply cannot be conducted on a living human being; some experimental drug tests, vaccinations and surgeries are simply too dangerous to try on humans before more is known about their side effects. Although animals are not identical to humans, many do exhibit similar response because of genetic similarities — thus they efficiently serve to differentiate between medical procedures which might be valuable and those without promise or with too many risks involved.

Many activists ethically and philosophically equate humans with animals: Why should one suffer at the expense of the other? Does not every living thing have an equal right to live? Unfortunately, this belittles the problem to a black and white issue of right or wrong — it’s more complicated. It may seem archaic to argue that life is hierarchically structured such that human life is more valuable than animal life, but it’s a decision we have to make.