I agree that animal testing of cosmetics is uneccessary, and some medical testing, most notably that lunatic in the 1980s who performed head transplants on live macaques, and a lot of research on primates in general, is ethically very shady. However, use of lab mice, including GM "knockout" mice in medical research is a field where the benefits can be reasonably stated to outweigh the costs. Much of the research being done on such animals is aiming to produce more specific drugs using natural cell mechanisms, avoiding the toxicity found in chemotherapy and other such delightful current medical treatments.
I must now come forward and state that I currently work in a laboratory that uses rats in a lot of our experiments. During my time there so far, every scientist and animal house worker I have met or worked with has loved animals, cared deeply about their welfare and treated them with the kindness and affection that one would show to a pet. It's not a den of sadists or cold, indifferent psychopaths of the type so frequently portrayed by animal rights campaigners. In addition, the research they are working on is motivated by scientific curiosity but also often plain and simple idealism to improve medical treatment, and save or improve people's lives. They're not all drones of pharmaceutical companies, driven to add new drugs to the market to fuel the fires of capitalism and enhance shareholder value. Every one I have ever met is a compassionate human being who wants to create things to solve problems and help others, and this shouldn't be forgotten in loud proclamations of the evils and cruelties of Western capitalist science.
Anyway, the following appeared in Nature in May 2001. A number of medical research labs using mice were facing trouble with banking. HSBC refused to handle shares of Huntington Life Sciences, and refused to confirm it would stand by customers should the bank be targetted by animal rights activists as a consequence. Indignation in the medical research community ensued, with the patients' group 'The Seriously Ill for Medical Research' sending the following cards to prominent activists. Interesting statement that made a lot of people very unhappy, as often happens when you treat their position with perfect and unsentimental logic.
ANIMAL RESEARCH ABOLITION CARD
I wish to see all animal research abolished and agree to live without treatments developed using animal reseach and testing.
Compliments of the Seriously ill for medical reseach.
To honour my belief that animal research sould be abolished, I hereby pledge that:
- In the event of an accident or emergency, I will refuse all treatments developed or tested on animals, including, but not limited to, blood transfusions, anaesthetics, anticoagulants, antibiotics, sutures, open heart and other types of surgery
- If my child suffers from a genetic illness or other serious condition, I will not allow them to have life saving treatment developed through animal research
- None of my pets shall receive any veterinary medicine or vaccine that has been developed and tested on animals
Incidentally, Jaez, I'm not sure where the line about rat biochemistry being "less sophisticated" than ours came from. It may be different, sure, but just because something is smaller and hairier than us does not mean its biology is less complex. How do you judge the level of "sophistication" of biochemistry, anyway? Having more and more steps and pathways? Having less, and still being able to run an organism? Amoebae far more genetic information than humans. Are they more sophisticated for their vast reams of genetic data, or less, because of their relative incompetence at editing, condensing and encrypting it?