Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Read an Analysis of Slate's Animal Research Series

Animal Person, someone who is clearly smarter than me, has a great analysis about the recent "Pepper" series in Slate about animal research. I have to admit that I wasn't as critical of it as others. Perhaps I was blinded by the brutal honesty of the writer. At least he didn't try to make me feel happy or warm and fuzzy about animal research. I'm not saying he was the most compassionate person in the world, and I'm not saying that I admire or like him, but at least there was some self-criticism and, yes, some guilt there that I find lacking in the animal researchers I've encountered. I think that people who are pro-animal research would come away with something to ponder, definitely the sense that this is not a pretty or sanitized practice.

Animal Person points out this comment made by Daniel Engber, the author...
Bring on the PETA hotties! Actually, I didn't quit neuroscience as a result of the experiences described, but I did quit working with animals. By the end of my time as researcher, I was performing behavioral experiments on humans. But that's neither here nor there -- I'm very supportive of animal research in principle. The point of my series was to introduce some of the difficult questions that don't often get asked within science, precisely because of what Alina has so aptly described as the "climate of fear" that pervades the lab. It's one that's brought on, no doubt, by the acts of vandalism and intimidation of radical animal-rights groups, but I think it also serves to insulate the research community from any responsibility it might otherwise have to increase transparency and public engagement with the work. I'm sure we could do a much better job of ensuring the humane treatment of our laboratory animals--but at this point it's very difficult even to start the discussion.

It's the last line that grabs me. At least he admits that a better job of humane treatment could be done and that there should be a discussion about it. I don't agree that lack of discussion is due to "animal terrorism" though. As in any field, it's due to established hierarchy, conventional wisdom, and fear of rocking the boat.

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