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Who's been cutting all these onions in the chimpanzee enclosure again?!
March 8, 2013 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Retired Lab Chimps Step Outside for the First Time [SLYT]
posted by slater (108 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw the same kind of thing on Project Nim. Regardless of the value of lab animals to science and medicine, it still makes part of me ashamed to be human.
posted by Rykey at 5:18 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seems kind of cruel actually.

"Wait, this was out here the whole time? WTF Dr. Franklin? I thought we were buds!"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:18 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I fear this has not warmed my heart so much as made me want to do violence to their keepers. No creature should be astonished to discover, near the end of its life, with grey hair on its head, that there is a sky. To characterize this as "giving back" to the chimps is... wow. I'm speechless.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [43 favorites]


The bit that brings me to tears every single time I watch this is about 1:30 in, where the one chimp is gently patting the other, like "Oh ... you're real ... and you're like me."

God, I need to not watch this at work.
posted by Myca at 5:28 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Better time for Bonzo. But I want to fling my own poo at every human face in that video.
posted by hal9k at 5:28 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I started crying when they got outside for the first time and just stood there looking at the immensity of the sky.
posted by arcticseal at 5:44 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The video is very touching, but anything with HSUS endorsement makes me wary. The HSUS is ....not what most people think it is. It is worth some research before ever donating to them.

Also senior chimps are pretty adorable.
posted by HermitDog at 5:56 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


SOMEBODY'S JEALOUS
posted by phaedon at 5:59 PM on March 8, 2013


As far as I can tell, Chimp Haven has nothing to do with the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS just did a slimy thing where they added their ad to the end of the video, probably without permission. See http://activistcash.com/organizations/136-humane-society-of-the-united-states/.
posted by Xoc at 6:07 PM on March 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Xoc, I watched the video with the sound off, but since the HSUS was the very last image on the thing, I wanted to warn about people going "awww, HSUS, let's donate to them!" The Chimp Haven looks like a pretty great place.
posted by HermitDog at 6:09 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really hope my field has progressed to the point where we never need to use primate models ever again.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:17 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Xoc: are there more evenhanded sources on HSUS than that one? I don't doubt there may be something wrong with HSUS, but that site was dripping with general anti-environmentalist and anti-animal rights bias.
posted by col_pogo at 6:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know, I hate to be a wet blanket here but I have to wonder if you introduced a hundred or so poorly socialized humans who had been raised in cages and used for experiments for a few decades to a nice pristine rural environment how there is any chance at all it wouldn't turn into a J.G. Ballard novel in about 15 minutes.
posted by localroger at 6:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have an image of them dozing in the sun in the summertime, happy at last.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:29 PM on March 8, 2013


If i were king of this chimp world, I'd give them each a kitten as they went out into the great big world.
posted by shockingbluamp at 6:43 PM on March 8, 2013


The FAQ page on the Chimpanzee Sanctuary website gives some interesting information. Like, these chimps have been helping us find treatments or cures for HIV and hepatitis, and funding for the place comes from the NIH per a federal law signed by Clinton in 2000, as well as private support.

The wishlist on that same site speaks to the kind of life they are enjoying now -- toys, nuts, cartoon shows on DVD, percussion musical instruments, children's books about Africa (I think that's a little much), and much more.

They also have a whole page of videos.

At least two chimps (Tracy and Valentina Rose) have been born in the sanctuary. Even though they give the males vasectomies, sometimes these have failed. Chimps born in the sanctuary will stay there their whole lives, even if/when their mother dies.
posted by Houstonian at 6:48 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Compares favorably to the caged ducks who were introduced to water for the first time.
posted by briank at 6:49 PM on March 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


This breaks my heart.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:53 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm all for science, but I don't think the good outweighs the bad on lab animals. Sure, they enable great discoveries, but we'll get there without them. It just might take longer. Sure, some people will die without treatments developed from their use, but as a species more people isn't exactly what we need. As humanity we need to treat animals better.

We're not better off for knowing how cosmetics react to a kitten's eye.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:00 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is NSFW if you don't want to be seen crying.
posted by crayz at 7:07 PM on March 8, 2013


I saw the FPP, read the comments, to be honest, I'm afraid to watch this.
posted by HuronBob at 7:07 PM on March 8, 2013


Those really floppy lower lips at 1:47 - those are the chimp equivalent of a goofy happy grin.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:13 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK... I watched it anyway... and about lost it when I heard "some of these chimps are over 50 years old".

There is absolutely no way this should happen...
posted by HuronBob at 7:16 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're not better off for knowing how cosmetics react to a kitten's eye.

That's a strawman, though. It isn't what scientific lab animals are used for. At all.
posted by Justinian at 7:20 PM on March 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


Instead, HSUS spends millions on programs that seek to economically cripple meat and dairy producers; eliminate the use of animals in biomedical research labs; phase out pet breeding, zoos, and circus animal acts; and demonize hunters as crazed lunatics.

Where do I donate?
posted by junco at 7:25 PM on March 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


In order to save taxpayer funds and reduce the deficit, Paul Ryan is introducing legislation that will delay all future chimpanzee retirements until the age of 72.

(Sorry, Bonzo.)
posted by markkraft at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the fact that we're/they're calling them 'retired' really pisses me off. You can only retire from something if you opted to do it in the first place.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:30 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm curious, though, what does a chimp do in a lab for fifty years? Surely it can't all be medical experiments, I can't imagine they'd survive that long.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:36 PM on March 8, 2013


You can only retire from something if you opted to do it in the first place

Exactly. It was hard to hear what the people were saying above the loud, triumphant music-from-heaven; but the whole thing just felt unbearably sad. Not like a happy ending at all. Just like, wow, everything sucks. Truman Show or something, but they don't get to leave at the end.
posted by chococat at 7:36 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


We're not better off for knowing how cosmetics react to a kitten's eye.

All of the chimps at this sanctuary have been used for medical research: HIV, hepatitis, and I think heart medication studies. The site says that more of them are HIV or hep positive. It's natural to recoil from the realities of medical research and say that we should absolutely never conduct this kind of research, but I would not take that viewpoint were it actually productive in the fight against AIDS. It's not, and thankfully the number of chimps used in studies is dramatically dropping (hence their availability for "retirement.")
posted by DarlingBri at 7:40 PM on March 8, 2013


As far as I can tell, Chimp Haven has nothing to do with the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS just did a slimy thing where they added their ad to the end of the video, probably without permission.

According to the Chimp Haven website, "The Humane Society of the United States has pledged $500,000 to the campaign."

This doesn't seem slimy to me.
posted by orme at 7:41 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Best watched with Coldplay's Paradise playing in the background.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:49 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


DarlingBri, a link to a site called "Project Release and Restitution" (for chimpanzees) as evidence that laboratory animal testing has not been productive in developing new HIV treatments? Come on.

You guys know that post the other day about the baby cured of HIV? How happy everyone was? How it was dancing in the streets time? Well, that was partly due to the use of laboratory animals. That would not have been possible without it. Do you have any friends with HIV who are still alive after many years? Again, in some part due to the use of laboratory animals.

Things have a cost. Some research is not worth that cost. But every time you see your friend or family member who is still alive today, consider if they were worth the cost.
posted by Justinian at 7:49 PM on March 8, 2013 [23 favorites]


That said, we're making huge strides in computer modeling and the entire debate may be rendered moot. Everyone can no doubt agree that would be a good thing.
posted by Justinian at 7:52 PM on March 8, 2013


Things have a cost. Some research is not worth that cost. But every time you see your friend or family member who is still alive today, consider if they were worth the cost.

The cost of the forced confinement and subjection to unconsented medical experimentation of thousands upon thousands of sentient beings? You're right, that's a very difficult choice.
posted by junco at 8:01 PM on March 8, 2013


If you want to donate to chimp haven, their donation page is here: https://donationpay.org/chimphaven/.
posted by Xoc at 8:23 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's pretty easy to crap on the humans in this video - "animal researchers BAD". But this is a burden on ALL of us, whether we're aware or not, or agree or not, about animal testing. We all accept that animals are tested on for things like cosmetics, shampoos, cleaners, medicines - because we STILL use our money to vote for animal testing when we buy these products. If humans decided that this was absolutely unacceptable, we would make it a priority to buy products never tested on animals. Clearly at least some of the researchers in the video are overwhelmingly relieved not to be experimenting on these creatures any longer.
posted by andreapandrea at 8:28 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read this post as "who cut the cheese again in the chimp enclosure?" and thought to myself, "My goodness, that would be a horrible stench."
posted by KokuRyu at 8:32 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm all for science, but I don't think the good outweighs the bad on lab animals. Sure, they enable great discoveries, but we'll get there without them. It just might take longer. Sure, some people will die without treatments developed from their use, but as a species more people isn't exactly what we need. As humanity we need to treat animals better.

This shows staggering ignorance on the prominent and necessary roles animal models play in research. Go on and try to find one drug that has been developed without the use of animal models. You cannot mass-market pharmaceuticals without trying them out first--do you suggest we test new chemicals in their infancy on people? And where will we find these test subjects?

Animal models go far beyond drug testing as well. They play a role in our understanding of endocrinology, genetics, psychology, physiology . . . Biosciences would not exist without them unless we used humans instead. Which is not ideal.

I'm an animal lover. I used to worship PETA (many many years ago, thank God) and got into arguments with my toxicologist dad about animal testing. Now that I've had more science training I've come to accept animal models are the difference between the dark ages and today. Computer models can do some of the work but not all. If you are so committed to letting people die, then never ingest another drug--not even antibiotics--again. That's life without animal models.

It is a really, really hard topic. I mean, I believe in it, but I admit it is not something I could ever do myself. Hence my studies are in an area where I don't have to work with anything more complex than bacteria! For what it's worth, animal testing is highly regulated and becomes more regulated every day.


-------

This movie made me terribly sad. That first shot of the chimp looking at the sky was so heartbreakingly human-like, this was a harsh reminder of how close they are to us.
posted by schroedinger at 8:44 PM on March 8, 2013 [31 favorites]


I saw the same kind of thing on Project Nim. Regardless of the value of lab animals to science and medicine, it still makes part of me ashamed to be human.

I'm sure people in 1800 South Carolina justified slavery the same way. That's what (some) people are condoning here: slavery.

No way I'm watching this video. It screams heartbreak porn.

The HSUS is ....not what most people think it is. It is worth some research before ever donating to them.

Why not just come out and say what's wrong with them? It's awfully specious to allege wrongdoing and not even pick a wild-eyed claim. Here's at least a link to criticism of HSUS via Wikipedia. Indeed. Judge for yourself.

Feedstuffs, an agribusiness newspaper, has leveled the charge that HSUS is pursuing a vegetarianism and veganism agenda instead of animal welfare.

lol
posted by mrgrimm at 9:27 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


See http://activistcash.com/organizations/136-humane-society-of-the-united-states/.

Better yet, don't. Activistcash.com is a front of the "Center for Consumer Freedom," a corporate-libertarian lobbying group poorly disguised as a consumer advocacy organization. Because, you know, consumers should be free to die in the burning wreckage of their Corvairs.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


The criticism of HSUS on that libertarian Activistcash web site is pretty flimsy and basically boils down to: "They have a TON of money...and they are LIBERAL! HUGE PROBLEM!"
posted by jnnla at 10:00 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The criticism of HSUS on that libertarian Activistcash web site is pretty flimsy and basically boils down to: "They have a TON of money...and they are LIBERAL! HUGE PROBLEM!"

Criticism? "Six [far right Republican] congressmen recently called for an investigation of HSUS!" sounds like a ringing endorsement to me, actually.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:10 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Activistcash is a Rick Berman joint. So yeah, extra slimy.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:36 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quoth Richard Berman:

The CCF has argued against smoking bans and for keeping the legal blood-alcohol level for drivers at 0.10. It questions the dangers of red meat consumption and pesticides. [10][11][12][13]

In a 1999 interview with the Chain Leader, a trade publication for restaurant chains, Berman said his organization attacks activists more aggressively than other lobbyists. "We always have a knife in our teeth," he said. Claiming that activists "drive consumer behavior on meat, alcohol, fat, sugar, tobacco and caffeine," his strategy is "to shoot the messenger... We've got to attack their credibility as spokespersons."



So this is not the man you want to trust when looking for worthwhile animal welfare organizations to support.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:40 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


You guys know that post the other day about the baby cured of HIV? How happy everyone was? How it was dancing in the streets time? Well, that was partly due to the use of laboratory animals.

Sorry what does a cure for HIV have to do with keeping monkeys in a prison? Are they testing cures for HIV that would only work on human prisoners who were kept out of contact with each other? Is it an HIV cure for vampires that disintegrates upon the light of day?

I understand doing some research on some animals for some valuable purposes. This sort of torture over the course of apparently years to decades? What, because there wasn't enough money to buy the monkeys a yard to play in? Fuck and no.
posted by crayz at 10:52 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


That said, we're making huge strides in computer modeling and the entire debate may be rendered moot. Everyone can no doubt agree that would be a good thing.

Googling around it looks like tissue engineering approaches are being developed too. Here's a TED talk from last year where the speaker proposes that we could even produce engineered models from individual people, so drugs and other therapies could be tested ahead of time to see specifically how your body would react to them before you're given the treatment.
posted by XMLicious at 10:55 PM on March 8, 2013


You cannot mass-market pharmaceuticals without trying them out first--do you suggest we test new chemicals in their infancy on people?

schroedinger, there's a big problem with your argument here.

You recoil in horror at the thought that we could experiment on humans by locking in them in a cage and infecting them with them with HIV for the sake of science. But you're OK with doing to chimps because, after all, they're not human.

The problem is that the sentience and cognitive abilities of chimpanzees are sometimes *more* sophisticated than many categories of human -- including coma patients, some people with Alzheimer's and late-stage dementia, many people with severe intellectual disabilities, and millions of infants and young children.

Why, if you recoil at the thought of (say) a severely intellectually disabled child being subjected to these experiments, would you not equally recoil at the thought of one of these chimps suffering the same fate? (The answer to this, in my view, is speciesism: the belief that chimps are inherently less worthy of moral consideration solely on account of their species).

That, in a nutshell, and poorly expressed, is the argument for acknowledging the personhood of chimps and other great apes. They have many of the relevant capacities of humans, and they deserve at least some of the relevant rights. Including the right not to be locked in a cage for their whole life and experimented upon.
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:09 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


As someone who has read a large amount of research involving animal models, and has performed animal research myself, I wanted to weigh in on the debate. Whilst I agree that animal testing, especially on chimpanzees and near-human primates, is a negative thing I believe the benefits of this testing outweigh the negatives.

Some of you have mentioned alternatives, such as computer modelling, as a replacement for animal testing. Sadly computer models are nowhere near advanced enough to model a living organism, we can't come close to stimulating a single cell, let alone the billions of interacting cells in a human body. And the development of computer models will require animal research, as we currently don't know anywhere near enough to develop a model, even if computing power was sufficient to run it.

There is currently no viable alternative for the vast majority of animal testing performed, and indeed most countries require an alternative to be used if one exists. Essentially then animal testing reduces to a simple decision: does the development of new medicine, medical techniques, and improving understanding of human biology and illness justify the death and suffering of animals which occurs during animal research? Some may say yes, some may say no, but its crucial to realize that there's no 'third way' - either you perform animal research, or you stop almost all development in medicine and biology. Of course reducing the frequency and suffering of animal research is desirable, and indeed that occurs. Animal researchers aren't sadists who enjoy hurting animals, and using words like 'torture' is disingenuous, the suffering of animals in some animal research isn't the aim of animal research, but a regrettable and unavoidable consequence.

I just wanted to write this to make the decision more transparent, either you have animal research, or you have no more improvements in medicine, because without animal testing you can't even develop the models which will one day replace the animals.
posted by DrRotcod at 12:25 AM on March 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


Of course reducing the frequency and suffering of animal research is desirable, and indeed that occurs. Animal researchers aren't sadists who enjoy hurting animals, and using words like 'torture' is disingenuous, the suffering of animals in some animal research isn't the aim of animal research, but a regrettable and unavoidable consequence.

I'm with you on the research being necessary but to me it's the claim you've made here that seems disingenuous. These are things that would in be called torture if done to a human: U.S. military torturers would not get away with claiming "the suffering was a regrettable and unavoidable consequence of the procedure but the real goal here was simply to gather information, not to cause suffering." The whole point of the animal testing is to cause the injury and suffering in the animals to obviate the same injury and suffering occurring to humans.

And as crayz points out, apart from the frequency and magnitude of the suffering, why the duration? Why decades and decades, until they're old and grey, and why never let them see the sky their entire lives? If those details from the OP are incorrect you would be more persuasive to make that case rather than simply arguing the necessity of animal testing, which at least some of the people in the thread appear to already accept.
posted by XMLicious at 12:52 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


What are the living conditions like for animals being tested?

Are there any organisations that recognise the need for animal testing but promote improved living conditions wherever possible?

It would be great if it were possible for animals to lead a life close to normal where testing could still take place. For social animals like chimps maybe nothing like a normal life would be possible. If there are any organisations promoting animal welfare within testing, please let me know as I would be interested in donating.
posted by mnfn at 4:47 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


XMLicious: I think the difference is that in torture the aim of the action is to cause pain, whereas in animal testing pain is nearly always undesired and often avoided. My knowledge is of the UK's animal testing law, where anesthetic and analgesic must be used unless there is a specific reason not to, and all animal experiments must be approved by an ethical review board and the suffering the animal experience must be as little as possible. I disagree that "The whole point of the animal testing is to cause the injury and suffering in the animals to obviate the same injury and suffering occurring to humans", a large amount of animal testing is completely painless and the animals live in arguably better conditions than the wild, they're well fed, warm and safe.

I agree that the long duration of the use of the chimps seems cruel, but as I understand they were studying HIV infection, a disease which modern drug treatment can prolong death from for many decades. Perhaps they were being used to study the progression of HIV in treated primates over many years.

Mnfn: Conditions (in the UK, where I have more experience) are incredibly tightly regulated. In the UK all animal research needs a licence from the Home Office for the specific experiment, the housing conditions of animals are closely regulated, everything from what they're fed to the humidity, temperature and size of their housing. Compared to the meat industry, animal research kills fewer animals, is much better regulated, and causes much less suffering.

A lot of this is defined in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which includes the restriction:

(4) In determining whether and on what terms to grant a project licence the Secretary of State shall weigh the likely adverse effects on the animals concerned against the benefit likely to accrue as a result of the programme to be specified in the licence.

(5) The Secretary of State shall not grant a project licence unless he is satisfied -

(a) that the purpose of the programme to be specified in the licence cannot be achieved satisfactorily by any other reasonably practicable method not entailing the use of protected animals; and

(b) that the regulated procedures to be used are those which use the minimum number of animals, involve animals with the lowest degree of neurophysiological sensitivity, cause the least pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm, and are most likely to produce satisfactory results.

(6) The Secretary of State shall not grant a project licence authorising the use of cats, dogs, primates or equidæ unless he is satisfied that animals of no other species are suitable for the purposes of the programme to be specified in the licence or that it is not practicable to obtain animals of any other species that are suitable for those purposes


PS: The RSPCA do a lot of good work in the animal research field, promoting better alternatives and advising scientists on how to reduce suffering: RSPC Website
posted by DrRotcod at 5:11 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I fear this has not warmed my heart so much as made me want to do violence to their keepers. No creature should be astonished to discover, near the end of its life, with grey hair on its head, that there is a sky. To characterize this as "giving back" to the chimps is... wow. I'm speechless."

The value that mankind has gotten out of non-human primate models is immense, incalculable, and largely invisible to or forgotten by laymen - honestly I find this as viscerally offensive as you seem to find their use to begin with.

We have all collectively nearly forgotten the ravages of Pellagra, whose trivially preventable cause was discovered with non-human primates, and what it would do to people who suffered from it or the crushing poverty it would bring to communities. We don't remember the way Typhoid fever, whose diagnosis and treatment was developed with non-human primates, would sweep through nurseries, neighborhoods, and cities - just emptying them. Our cultural memory of what Mumps, discovered with non-human primates, would do to pregnant women has all but disappeared. Even doctors can't really imagine what life must have been like before the ability to perform blood transfusions, made possible by the discovery of the Rh factor in non-human primates, and the surgeries that allows us to safely perform as well as the injuries we can now just treat. Stories of Civil War style amputations and surgeries with patients strapped down by leather crops and whiskey are just that now, stories, because of modern anesthetics developed on non-human primates. I once had an old virology professor who could not describe the polio wards he worked in that were filled with children spending their short childhoods and often short lives hooked up to an iron lung without being moved to tears even in front of a class full of undergrads, made obsolete by the polio virus developed using non-human primates - without whom those would have still been filled with rich children, poor children, your children. If you know anyone with schizophrenia who is not spending a short life in institutions whose scale of brutality we are slowly forgetting, you have non-human primates to thank for the development of drugs capable of managing the condition. We don't really remember anymore what cancer was like before we had effective chemotherapeutic treatments for many of them, but all of the original ones in the 50s and many modern ones were developed with non-human primates. Non-human primates brought us the therapeutic use of cortisone and Ciclosporin, making the treatment of many auto-immune disorders as well as things like organ transplants possible. It might be easy for laymen to scoff at the confusing mass of bullshit that is media coverage of things like depression, anxiety and phobias but we now have pretty reasonable models for how these things work that inform effective treatments because of non-human primates just like the ones in the youtube video. Because of them, we know a hell of a lot more about tumor causing viruses, leading to the cancer vaccines and many of the cancer treatments we have today - we know to add taurine to infant formula, we know how to more accurately treat and research Parkinson's, and we know just how incalculably bad lead is - particularly for children. Just about everything of value that we know about AIDS either came from non-human primate research or is based directly on it, imagine a world where the AIDS epidemic continued - unabated - and the immense human, cultural, and social destruction that the late 80s were a preview to just didn't stop. Imagine a world where we did not have non-human primates as an alternative to the banal profound evil that was the foundation of gynecology.

This is just a slice of the forgotten debt that you and the rest of mankind - rich and poor, privileged and not - owes to both those non-human primates and the keepers you want to do violence to who did research on them.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:24 AM on March 9, 2013 [45 favorites]


Nothing has made me want to be a crazy activist more than seeing that second chimp step out and just pause to look around, and then standing up to full height and gaping at the sky.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:45 AM on March 9, 2013


Animal testing is just another item on a long list of things that mankind deems necessary for its survival. Most of our everyday needs have a negative impact on animals and the environment. We are almost entirely focused on living our lives to the fullest extent possible, much to the detriment of the world around us.
posted by orme at 5:47 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fortunately for everyone in this debate, the NIH has been seeking input from a number of experts on both animal testing and chimpanzee behavior and moved to retire all chimpanzees from medical research and stop breeding more chimpanzees. And the conditions for primates in biomedical research have vastly improved. The Yerkes National Primate Research Center is a good example of changes in biomedical and behavioral research on captive nonhuman primates.

As a primatologist, biomedical research on primates makes me unbelievably sad. Having been brushed past by wild chimpanzees, and then watching this video is incredibly, incredibly heart-rending. But as a scientist in general, I recognize that very very rarely (and really, it's comparatively very rare now that researchers can justify using nonhuman primates), nonhuman primates are the best available model for research which has the capacity to save lives and alleviate human suffering.

What folks outside of the research world should take some comfort in is the fact that every single piece of research done on any vertebrate must be rigorously justified to institutional animal care and use committees which comprise of ethicists, researchers, and veterinarians who scrutinize every single piece of research design for its humane-ness and its justifiability. Because I do research on nonhuman primates (though it is only observational research on wild primates), I have to pass my own research design through the same process. Researchers have to justify that the research is serving a broader scientific purpose that will provide a tangible benefit. Researchers have to give statistical proof that they are using the minimum number of animals, that they have done everything possible to minimize pain, that they have an endpoint both for the study, and for removing organisms from the study who are suffering. They have to justify the design, the housing, the standards of care, and so on and so forth. Researchers recognize that invasive research done on any animal has serious ethical implications, and that the burden is on us to make this research as humane as possible, as minimal as possible, and to work towards using non-primate, and ultimately non-animal models.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:56 AM on March 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


(sorry, they don't have to justify removing animals from the study; they have to show that they have criteria and a plan for doing so).
posted by ChuraChura at 6:12 AM on March 9, 2013


As a computer science professional as well as a professional photographer, artist and essayist, I just want to say how glad I am that decisions I make in my life and career do not marshal the weights of definite suffering against unknown benefit on their scales, and how much respect I have for the people who do use those weights on their scales with as much wisdom and kindness and compassion for all living creatures that they can muster.

Thanks, if this is you, I couldn't do it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:42 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The cost of the forced confinement and subjection to unconsented medical experimentation of thousands upon thousands of sentient beings? You're right, that's a very difficult choice."

I can see how this would be awfully easy to say from a position isolated from human suffering by layers of privilege, but I'd dare you to go into any gay bar that serves the 40+ crowd and tell them how you feel that not only are the friends, lovers, and family they survived less important to you than a chimpanzee but that the choice was not a difficult one.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:21 AM on March 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


This shows staggering ignorance on the prominent and necessary roles animal models play in research. Go on and try to find one drug that has been developed without the use of animal models. You cannot mass-market pharmaceuticals without trying them out first--do you suggest we test new chemicals in their infancy on people? And where will we find these test subjects?
That's exactly what I would suggest. We do test drugs on people. Finding test subjects may be difficult. Hell, it may even be impossible in some cases, but that's not an argument for testing on animals. I think we have different definitions of both necessary and ignorant. In my mind testing is unnecessary and ignorant. You're welcome to disagree.
Animal models go far beyond drug testing as well. They play a role in our understanding of endocrinology, genetics, psychology, physiology . . . Biosciences would not exist without them unless we used humans instead. Which is not ideal.
Actually, I think it's the definition of ideal. How a drug reacts in a mouse or monkey or pig is not a guarantee of how it will react in a person.

As a species we need to strive for preservation. We also need to strive to be worth preserving. At the end of the day it's human trials that decide whether or not a drug gets produced, so let's start there. Even if you run animal trials this doesn't mean you are making something that is safe for people. I know anecdotes are not science, but I had an acquaintance that was a test subject for an alzheimer medicine. He was in his 20 and the drug gave him permanent grand mal seizures. He can never drive again for the rest of his life. I'm sure that drug was run through a chimp or two.

A lot of people would be willing to sign up to be a test subject. I'd do it if someone could explain the benefit I am supposed to receive and who it is meant to help (I'd also want compensated). Chimps can't tell you how a drug makes them feel. I can.

People generally make it into that second handful of decades. Some don't. We're pretty good at finding ways to fix problems. It might be slower without animals, but I'm fine with that.

In 200 years there isn't a person alive today that will be then. I'd rather people look back and believe we've had an ethical run.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:41 AM on March 9, 2013


it's pretty easy to crap on the humans in this video - "animal researchers BAD". But this is a burden on ALL of us, whether we're aware or not, or agree or not, about animal testing. We all accept that animals are tested on for things like cosmetics, shampoos, cleaners, medicines - because we STILL use our money to vote for animal testing when we buy these products. If humans decided that this was absolutely unacceptable, we would make it a priority to buy products never tested on animals. Clearly at least some of the researchers in the video are overwhelmingly relieved not to be experimenting on these creatures any longer.
The testing of cosmetics on animals has been banned for some years. Morally, medical testing and research is a wholly different thing.
posted by Jehan at 7:43 AM on March 9, 2013


"Retired Lab Chimps Step Outside for the First Time": Yet another MeFi post that sounds like a Guided By Voices title.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:03 AM on March 9, 2013


Unfortunately, you do need enough of a sample size to do statistics on your research, a lot of which can be dangerous, painful, and often has to end in death so you can see what the actual effects of your medication/intervention/vaccine/surgical technique/etc. are on the experimental subjects. Not to mention that paying human subjects for dangerous experimental techniques opens up a HUGE ethical can of worms. Unless you'd prefer to go from lab rats and monkeys and dogs to lab working poor.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:18 AM on March 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm all for science, but I don't think the good outweighs the bad on lab animals. Sure, they enable great discoveries, but we'll get there without them.
How, exactly, would that happen?
Sorry what does a cure for HIV have to do with keeping monkeys in a prison?
You give the chemical to a monkey, and then you infect it with the HIV virus. If it doesn't become HIV+, congrats, you have an AIDS vaccine. I would imagine if they let them run around, they might infect eachother.
You recoil in horror at the thought that we could experiment on humans by locking in them in a cage and infecting them with them with HIV for the sake of science. But you're OK with doing to chimps because, after all, they're not human.
Right.
The problem is that the sentience and cognitive abilities of chimpanzees are sometimes *more* sophisticated than many categories of human
So?
Why, if you recoil at the thought of (say) a severely intellectually disabled child being subjected to these experiments, would you not equally recoil at the thought of one of these chimps suffering the same fate? (The answer to this, in my view, is speciesism: the belief that chimps are inherently less worthy of moral consideration solely on account of their species).
Yes, it's "speciesim". I'm a human and I care about other humans. The end. I don't see why I should care about other animals. Obviously if we can treat these animals well there isn't anything wrong with doing that - but not at the expense of letting people suffer and die from diseases that could have been cured.
Actually, I think it's the definition of ideal. How a drug reacts in a mouse or monkey or pig is not a guarantee of how it will react in a person.
So you're OK with giving people potentially lethal drugs? One thing you can discover through animal testing is whether or not a drug will kill a mammal. Once you know it won't, you can move on.
I'd do it if someone could explain the benefit I am supposed to receive and who it is meant to help (I'd also want compensated). Chimps can't tell you how a drug makes them feel. I can.
That's why you also do human testing. First you test on animals, then you move on to testing on humans once you know it's safe for them.

Seriously, do you think we are testing on chimps instead of testing on humans? The difference is you can't do testing on humans where you actually infect them with something.
posted by delmoi at 8:37 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


"That's exactly what I would suggest. We do test drugs on people. Finding test subjects may be difficult. Hell, it may even be impossible in some cases, but that's not an argument for testing on animals. I think we have different definitions of both necessary and ignorant. In my mind testing is unnecessary and ignorant. You're welcome to disagree."

So how this currently works.

Drug testing in people gets done in three phases. A Phase I trail involves giving the drug to a small number of people, usually healthy, and monitoring them very closely to make sure that it doesn't hurt them. Phase II trials involve giving the drug to a larger number of people and then monitoring them very closely in much the same way but with a more statistically significant population that could detect more rare side effects. Phase III trials usually involve an even larger number of people who are also monitored for side-effects but but in a study primarily designed to assess efficacy, to make sure the damn thing actually works. None of this ever gets off the ground unless there is a reasonable expectation that the drug will not hurt the Phase I participants, or that if it could then those bad effects are predictable and can be alleviated through treatment or screening. For most drugs this can only really be done with animal models, and for some conditions the only models that are close enough to human to mean anything are non-human primates.

In order to have that most basic of reasonable expectations of safety we need to perform experiments that necessarily result in the death of the organisms being experimented on, which I suspect even you would not volunteer for. Indeed the Median lethal dose, also known as LD50, is both essential for our understanding of toxicity for most everything and not possible to calculate without killing some critters - the closer to us the more valuable but generally mice. Its not like you could ever really get human volunteers to take the place of even the experiments currently done with animals that aren't just lets see how much of this will kill us anyway because that would be some crazy shit. We're talking things like vaccine trails for diseases that are incurable or cause permanent damage, promising drugs that are fundamentally new enough that we have no idea how safe they are, and chemotherapeutics that we know are toxic and are just hoping are more toxic to cancer or parasites. These things would necessarily been done on the volunteered, whether thats the working poor who have no other options, or prisoners, or people in developing countries with governments eager to sell them out. Its also not like this biomedical research is some luxury we can afford to go without so that some privileged people can feel vaguely better about them selves, infectious disease kills millions and is one of the primary sources of poverty which kills millions more, research into primate biology specifically will give us insight into what the next AIDS might be and how we might stop it before it starts, and look deeply into the kinds of compounds that hurt us.

"Actually, I think it's the definition of ideal. How a drug reacts in a mouse or monkey or pig is not a guarantee of how it will react in a person."

You say this as if researchers who work with animals are not aware of it, but if anything the largest share of research done with animal models is performed to see just how useful the models are and in what specific ways.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:58 AM on March 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes, it's "speciesim". I'm a human and I care about other humans. The end. I don't see why I should care about other animals.

As dontjumplarry says above, there are easily millions of humans alive today that have far less ability to perform cognitive tasks, recognize other sentient beings, feel empathy, etc than these "animals" that you care nothing about. There are humans who will never communicate an idea or feel or express love while these "animals" can and do.

If you're saying you care about another being based on what, an ability to fog a mirror and % of DNA its cells share with your cells?, then I'd say the chimps have you beat on empathy as well.
posted by crayz at 10:05 AM on March 9, 2013


Yes, it's "speciesim". I'm a human and I care about other humans. The end. I don't see why I should care about other animals.

And I don't really care about people that don't care about animals, but even if you want to take your position I can give you hundreds of reasons to care about animals, since without a lot of them you wouldn't be alive.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:13 AM on March 9, 2013


Yep. This made me cry. Happy mixed with sad, angry cry.
posted by ericb at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2013


As dontjumplarry says above, there are easily millions of humans alive today that have far less ability to perform cognitive tasks, recognize other sentient beings, feel empathy, etc than these "animals" that you care nothing about.
Why does this matter?
If you're saying you care about another being based on what, an ability to fog a mirror and % of DNA its cells share with your cells?, then I'd say the chimps have you beat on empathy as well.
Well, without empathy - meaning the ability to understand how other animals will feel - it wouldn't occur to them to go for the testicles when attacking people (and other chimps) they don't like, right?

Chimps are a lot more brutal to eachother then scientists are to them, since there are a ton of rules in place to prevent unnecessary harm - in fact it's likely that the chimps in that place are going to experience physical violence and certainly threats for the first time in their lives, or at least since they were taken from the wild. You can even see the start of that in the video, where they talk about "establishing dominance hierarchies" or whatever. (Maybe it will be less of an issue since they are all old, but we don't really know)


Anyway, as far as people who are cognitively impaired, they likely have families who would suffer if something happened to them. People in a coma may come out, and if there's no chance then we do sometimes 'unplug' them if that's what the family wants.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2013


And I don't really care about people that don't care about animals, but even if you want to take your position I can give you hundreds of reasons to care about animals, since without a lot of them you wouldn't be alive.
I'm not really sure what you're talking about - do you mean we evolved from animals? Or that we have some around to do things for us? Obviously we need "animals" in aggregate, but there's no reason to care about specific animals as opposed to the species as a whole. Pretty much all animals in the wild are going to die pretty terrible deaths. If they don't get killed by another wild animal they'll die from exposure or reach old age with zero support riddled with arthritis and until they can't move and are picked apart by vultures.

It makes no sense to get upset about (specific, individual) wild animals, because they are all going to die horrible deaths. That's how nature works.

I mean, supposedly house cats kill like two billion birds in the US each year. Should we get rid of house cats to protect the birds?
posted by delmoi at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2013


As dontjumplarry says above, there are easily millions of humans alive today that have far less ability to perform cognitive tasks, recognize other sentient beings, feel empathy, etc than these "animals" that you care nothing about. There are humans who will never communicate an idea or feel or express love while these "animals" can and do.

And I don't really care about people that don't care about animals, but even if you want to take your position I can give you hundreds of reasons to care about animals, since without a lot of them you wouldn't be alive.


How I feel about humans vs. other animals does not really matter here. The point is, you are not going to convince people that it is OK to breed human test subjects or coerce the poor, prisoners, or disabled to be involved in basic, life-ending drug trials.

crayz, cjorgensen, I would very much like you to address the points Bladsdelb made. It is pretty clear you don't know much about the details of drug and pharmaceutical testing, but, for kicks, please explain how you propose to ethically garner the tens of millions of people a year necessary to test the LD50 of the many, many pharmaceutical compounds in development.

Or perhaps we throw out LD50 tests altogether. Say I have a compound that could lead to the development of a new antibiotic, one that we could use on the superbug strains out there. I know it kills my bacteria. I don't know if it kills my mammallian host. We can't use already sick subjects as that introduces too many confounding factors into the tests. So: where do we get the hundreds of people we're going to infect with the superbug then give this drug in varying dosage and see what happens? Keep in mind that we're going to need to vivisect even the ones that live to examine for unanticipated effects.
posted by schroedinger at 12:29 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It made me happy to see the monkeys 'retire.' As for the whole laboratory animals argument, I find I can only have compassion for all the beings (human and otherwise) who have shouldered a burden so that I need never pick it up. The difficulty, it seems, is in recognizing the existence of the burden, when you've never carried it yourself.
posted by Mooski at 12:57 PM on March 9, 2013


I can see how this would be awfully easy to say from a position isolated from human suffering by layers of privilege, but I'd dare you to go into any gay bar that serves the 40+ crowd and tell them how you feel that not only are the friends, lovers, and family they survived less important to you than a chimpanzee but that the choice was not a difficult one.

First: I explicitly said it was a very difficult choice. I wasn't being facetious. I was pointing out that the choice involves imprisoning sentient beings and subjecting them to medical experimentation without their consent, which you seem to want people not to think about.

Second: Don't let your emotional involvement in this make you into an asshole. Your implication is ugly, and you don't know anything about me, my "privilege", or whom I know.

Third: Explain to me why it is okay to experiment on chimpanzees, which have a greater cognitive capacity than small children and some mentally disabled humans, but not those humans. No one has answered that question except for delmoi, who explicitly said he doesn't care about sentient higher primates as much as humans.
posted by junco at 12:59 PM on March 9, 2013


explicitly said he doesn't care about sentient higher primates as much as humans.

What is there to explain? Most people think what delmoi expressed-- it's a biological and moral imperative. We care about everything as best we can, but as a society we make hard choices and one of those is to favor our own species when we have to. Nature is cruel and human society is built on eliminating cruelty. One day we'll get to a place where we don't need animal testing but it will be built on hundreds (thousands) of years of cruel but necessary experimentation, done by researchers. If you care that much about it, fund better computer models and do what you can for former experimental animals, don't denigrate medical science. Geez louise.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Explain to me why it is okay to experiment on chimpanzees, which have a greater cognitive capacity than small children and some mentally disabled humans, but not those humans.

Because ... humans are humans. I know that's tautological, but the small children and mentally disabled humans are our family members and chimpanzees are not, no matter how much DNA and cognitive ability we share. The children are mostly going to grow up into functioning members of society. Chimpanzees are not members of our society and they almost certainly never will be unless we start domesticating them, at which point they're pets, not equals.

No one is going to volunteer their small children for medical experiments that could kill them (and as schroedinger notes, the ones that live get vivisected anyway). So, we'd have to kidnap or breed children for this purpose, or pay poor people exorbitant amounts of money. I don't know how anyone can seriously say that's better for society than experimenting on chimps.
posted by desjardins at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2013


it's a biological and moral imperative.

Sorry, can you explain what you mean by that?

No one is going to volunteer their small children for medical experiments that could kill them (and as schroedinger notes, the ones that live get vivisected anyway).

Right, because they can't consent to it, and parents wouldn't subject them to such horrific treatment. That's the point: chimps can't consent either but have more cognitive capacity than those same children. But we force them to undergo such treatment in our stead, because we find it too distasteful to subject "our own kind" to.
posted by junco at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2013


But we force them to undergo such treatment in our stead, because we find it too distasteful to subject "our own kind" to.

Yup. So is your point that no one should be experimented upon? I feel that Blasdelb et al have adequately addressed that above, and I can't add any more since I am not a scientist.
posted by desjardins at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2013


Pick One: There is no fourth choice. There is no metasolution. This is the world we have been living in for about a hundred and fifty years. Maybe in fifty more we'll have the computer models up to snuff or we'll be able to learn more from animal models simpler and more different than ourselves. But we aren't there yet and probably won't be for decades.
posted by localroger at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pick One:

Kill a few hundred animals
Kill a few hundred human beings
Let millions and millions of human beings die because the drug that might save them couldn't be developed

There is no fourth choice.


I'm entirely aware of that. The question that no one will answer is why it is acceptable to force animals -- animals that have greater mental abilities than many humans -- to undergo experimentation, but not acceptable to force those humans to do so.
posted by junco at 1:37 PM on March 9, 2013


And also the first two choices should be amended to read "kill a few hundred non-human primates" and "kill a few hundred human primates". What do you see as the differentiating factor between non-human animals and human animals that makes it acceptable to perform forced medical experimentation on the former but not the latter?
posted by junco at 1:39 PM on March 9, 2013


What do you see as the differentiating factor between non-human animals and human animals that makes it acceptable to perform forced medical experimentation on the former but not the latter?

It's human animals doing the deciding. If the doctors were chimps and they had the power, hey I saw that movie once didn't it end with the buried Statue of Liberty or something?
posted by localroger at 2:03 PM on March 9, 2013


It's human animals doing the deciding. If the doctors were chimps and they had the power, hey I saw that movie once didn't it end with the buried Statue of Liberty or something?

Chimps don't have doctors, or science, or the power to imprison humans. They also don't have as much capacity for ethical reasoning as we do. Statements like "They would do it to us" or "they are hurtful and cruel to each other" (as someone said upthread) don't address the issue at hand, which is whether it is ethical or unethical to exploit them in the manner that we do.

Saying that "it is wrong to force an individual of the species Homo sapiens to forced confinement and experimentation" on the one hand and "it is acceptable to force an individual of the species Pan troglodytes to forced confinement and experimentation" on the other requires some essential difference in ethical position between members of those species. As I've been pointing out, relative cognitive capacity isn't sufficient, because some humans have less cognitive capacity than healthy adult chimps. So, again, what is the differentiating factor between humans and chimps that makes one position acceptable and not the other?
posted by junco at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2013


Your definition of ethical is wrong. Animal research is ethical because it helps humans.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:23 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, again, what is the differentiating factor between humans and chimps that makes one position acceptable and not the other?

I already answered this. Humans are a part of human society. Chimps are not.
posted by desjardins at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2013


See the fun thing about this situation is that none of the choices is "acceptable." They're all bad. None of them are good. You can only go with the least of the evils, which will of course still be evil.

My version of the calculus of suffering requires me to strike the last choice, allowing millions to die, off first. (Cue Mr. Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.") That leaves us with "kill some people" or "kill some animals" to save millions of both. (Animals benefit from surgical technique and antibiotics too, after all.)

Most humans will go with the latter choice, and even those unusual individuals who might personally be inclined otherwise will too for practical reasons. We don't do it because it's "right." We do it because it's the least of the wrongs available to us at the current state of our art.

You do not get a world without polio without making this hard alternate choice.
posted by localroger at 2:30 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


localroger, I really appreciate you discussing this thoughtfully with me. I'm not even really arguing with you, in that you're correct -- it is basically an intractable choice. What I'm interested in is your clear delineation of "humans" as something apart from "animals". Why is it permissible to experiment on a chimpanzee, but impermissible to experiment on a human being who is less cognitively capable than that very same chimpanzee? What is it about the human-being-ness of the second case that makes this difference? Answering, as the two posters above you did, that humans are humans and animals are not human is begging the question.
posted by junco at 6:52 PM on March 9, 2013


Junco, what you're asking for; and unlikely to receive, is some sort of moral absolutism; a thing which does not exist in ethics, especially in bioethics. As well, you're making an argument which has been much discussed in the ethics journals, and you may find some of them enlightening.

To start; you are somewhat treading the same ground as utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham; who, in Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, said:
...the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?... The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes...
"Speciesism", has become a term bandied about and used against on anyone who believes that humans are due more moral concern than other creatures. For example; if we move to consider animals as our moral equals, where do we draw the line? Technically, any living thing that is not a plant is an animal. Are viruses also to be the objects of our moral concern?


Also arguing from a utilitarian ground; people who believe animal testing still has a modality useful to research might argue that society has an obligation to maximize the opportunities to produce beneficial consequences for the greater good, even at the cost of inflicting some pain on animals. The argument is that while we may have a duty to not cause animals needless suffering, when we are faced with a choice between the welfare of humans and the welfare of animals, it is with humans that our moral obligation lies.

Some further argue that morality is a creation of social processes in which animals do not participate. Moral rights and moral principles apply only to those who are part of the moral community created by these social processes. Ergo; moral concerns do not apply. (Again, this is the extreme end of the argument, and you would not believe how much I've simplified it so as to avoid a thesis.)

Basically, what I'm saying is that this is an argument that has been ongoing for hundreds of years, and you are unlikely to resolve your questions in this thread.

For further reading, I recommend:

Jerrold Tannenbaum and Andrew N. Rowan, "Rethinking the Morality of Animal Research," Hastings Center Report, Volume 1; (October 1985)

Michael Allen Fox, The Case for Animal Experimentation (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986)

While you're waiting for your library to get you copies of those articles, you might also take a look at Stanford's site about the ethics of animal testing. It has some more resources at the bottom of their content.
posted by dejah420 at 7:26 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dejah, I'm well aware of the utilitarian tradition, but thank you for bringing it up explicitly.

I don't think "speciesism" is anything other than an accurate description of the position that human animals have inherent worth beyond that of non-human animals.

Obviously there is a "line" at some point. I don't know what that line is -- people who have studied the question much more deeply than I have and in all likelihood are far smarter than I aren't close to an agreement on what it might be. I am completely certain that the line is far, far below where we currently place it. Primates and other higher mammals that we exploit for our purposes (cattle, pigs, etc.) are deserving of more protection and more recognition of their status as creatures capable of emotion, thought, and suffering.

What I'm trying to get at in my questioning is that, to my understanding, you can't draw a categorical distinction separating "humans" from "animals" without positing to humans the possession of an immortal soul, or something very like it. Which is a belief I doubt many people here would espouse.

I'm very sceptical of arguments that only those who are capable of participating within human-constructed moral systems are to be afforded moral consideration.

Thank you for the recommendation of Fox's book; I've not read it, and look forward to looking into it when I have some time.

It's not clear from your response how familiar you are with the arguments on the "other side" (for want of more precise words), but if you are interested and haven't read them you might be interested in Tom Regan's Animal Sacrifices and of course the work of Peter Singer; this paper by Emile Hache and Bruno Latour (as well as their other work), and Giorgio Agamben's The Open: Man and Animal.
posted by junco at 8:08 PM on March 9, 2013


you can't draw a categorical distinction separating "humans" from "animals" without positing to humans the possession of an immortal soul, or something very like it.

Why not? We're making the categories, we can draw whatever distinctions make sense to us as a species or individual.
posted by Justinian at 8:27 PM on March 9, 2013


Why not? We're making the categories, we can draw whatever distinctions make sense to us as a species or individual.

"Making sense" implies to me logical consistency, and none of the arguments for doing so that I've heard in this thread are logical. They all reduce to "humans are human and animals are not human, therefore it's permissible to treat (non-human) animals in ways it is not permissible to treat humans." That isn't a very good criteria, because, like I said, it's begging the question. What sets humans apart from animals? Traditionally, the answer was that humans have immortal souls endowed to them by a supernatural creator which animals lack. When science rejected that idea, for some the answer became that humans are more sentient than animals, therefore it's better to inflict what is viewed as necessary suffering upon "animals" because they have less capacity for suffering than humans. But that can't be correct, because it is still wrong to inflict suffering on humans that have less cognitive capacity than animals which it is acceptable to inflict that suffering upon, so there must be something else that makes humans worthy of moral consideration that animals don't have. The other alternative is that it is permissible because we are capable of doing so -- i.e., might makes right -- which some have argued is the case in this thread, but is abhorrent.
posted by junco at 8:44 PM on March 9, 2013


I was looking something of Kant's up, and I realized that this Stanford Philosophy encyclopedia article: The Moral Status of Animals says everything I was going to say, only it's better sourced and probably significantly better written than I'm likely to do late at night.
posted by dejah420 at 8:49 PM on March 9, 2013


They all reduce to "humans are human and animals are not human, therefore it's permissible to treat (non-human) animals in ways it is not permissible to treat humans.

But it's impossible - not hard, impossible - to go through life without treating animals in ways it not permissible to treat humans. So if you're alive, you're treating animals in ways we don't treat humans. So that point is moot. The question becomes "in what ways is it permissible to treat animals and humans differently, and in what ways is it permissible to treat some animals better than other animals."
posted by Justinian at 8:52 PM on March 9, 2013


But it's impossible - not hard, impossible - to go through life without treating animals in ways it not permissible to treat humans.

Given, for the sake of argument, that this is true (and I'm not entirely sure it is), that doesn't mean that it isn't immoral and shouldn't be reduced at every possibility. We can't just throw our hands up in the air and say, because I live in a city that has displaced the native ecology, or because sometimes I step on bugs, it's also okay for me to eat factory beef or for animal experimentation to take place.

The question becomes "in what ways is it permissible to treat animals and humans differently, and in what ways is it permissible to treat some animals better than other animals."

No, the question for me is still "why is moral consideration to be afforded to humans and not to animals", or "why are humans placed in a different category of moral consideration from animals".
posted by junco at 9:03 PM on March 9, 2013


Yeah - along the lines of what Justinian says it does not appear possible to generally and seamlessly integrate all practical, societal, emotional, ethical, and moral concerns into a single, logically-consistent division between "permissible" and "impermissible" the way you appear to be attempting to, junco.

As with most physics, you basically can only come up with a perfect solution for the hypothetical frictionless-perfect-sphere-in-an-infinite-empty-space case where you reduce human nature and/or chimpanzee nature down to something that doesn't fit with the experiential world or mandate impossible behaviors like what J describes.
posted by XMLicious at 9:06 PM on March 9, 2013


dejah, from your link: In sum, the animal rights position takes the significance of morally considerable claims to be absolute. Thus, any use of animals that involves a disregard for their moral claims is problematic. The significance of an animal's morally considerable interests according to a utilitarian is variable. Whether an action is morally justified or permissible will depend on a number of factors. The utilitarian position on animals would condemn a large number of practices that involve the suffering and death of billions of animals, but there are cases in which some use of non-human animals, and perhaps even human animals, may be morally justified.

Yeah, I mean, that's what I'm saying. The first part of the page goes into some detail about how every single category we've ever used to set humans apart from non-human animals has been found to apply to some animals, including self-identification and existing-for-oneself, which if I understand correctly was Kant's distinction.
posted by junco at 9:06 PM on March 9, 2013


Given, for the sake of argument, that this is true (and I'm not entirely sure it is)

Are you using an extremely strict definition of animal which excludes many members of family Animalia or Metazoa? Because things like tapeworms, flatworms, locusts, mosquitos, ticks, fleas and so on are all animals.
posted by Justinian at 9:12 PM on March 9, 2013


To put it another way, you think it is immoral to treat a flea or tick in a way you wouldn't treat a human? Or is it only the cute animals you want to protect?
posted by Justinian at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2013


Yeah - along the lines of what Justinian says it does not appear possible to generally and seamlessly integrate all practical, societal, emotional, ethical, and moral concerns into a single, logically-consistent division between "permissible" and "impermissible" the way you appear to be attempting to, junco.

I'm not interested in "practical, social, [or] emotional" concerns. Just ethical and moral ones. Why do we (as a society), as the paper I linked to several comments up asks, demand an a priori distinction of category between "human animal" and "non-human animal"? Is there, in fact, any basis for that distinction other than our society's desire to exploit the non-human sort for our own ends?
posted by junco at 9:14 PM on March 9, 2013


Are you using an extremely strict definition of animal which excludes many members of family Animalia or Metazoa? Because things like tapeworms, flatworms, locusts, mosquitos, ticks, fleas and so on are all animals.

I addressed this several comments ago. At some point down the scale of cognitive complexity the "animal" doesn't have any sense of self and only a very small capacity for things like "fear". I don't know where that line is. But this is a misdirection anyway, because I'm not talking about squishing or otherwise killing an insect. I'm talking about primates and mammals with nervous systems that are more like ours than they are different.

To put it another way, you think it is immoral to treat a flea or tick in a way you wouldn't treat a human? Or is it only the cute animals you want to protect?

If you don't want to have a serious discussion about this, I'll be happy to stop replying.
posted by junco at 9:18 PM on March 9, 2013


It is a serious discussion and it is exactly on point. You admit you draw a completely arbitrary distinction between mammals and other animals. So you already understand how people can draw a line between humans and mammals; it's exactly the line you draw between mammals and other animals, only in a slightly different spot.

I honestly don't see the disconnect. You agree some animals are not and should not be treated exactly as we treat humans. And yet you're baffled when people draw the line slightly differently than you might. It's exactly the same.
posted by Justinian at 9:43 PM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


(That is not to say these aren't difficult questions to answer. Where one draws the line is a question which requires thought and sensitivity. But that doesn't make the fact that people might draw the line in a slightly different place than you, junco, somehow hard to comprehend.)
posted by Justinian at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2013


I'm not interested in "practical, social, [or] emotional" concerns. Just ethical and moral ones. Why do we (as a society)...

If you are essentially asking "as a society, is morality the ultimate overriding concern in shaping our rules and mores, beyond even practicality?" then the answer is no.

I did note that you mentioned the "step on bugs" ultrabuddhist thing before Justinian asked that question, but given how you responded to him I have to point out that if you regard it as logically consistent to formulate your question in such a way that "more like us than they are different" is sufficient to divide us and the rest of the primates from animals you don't have to take into account, it seems like you ought to also accept as logically consistent the answers above that categorize the examples of comatose humans, etc. as more like us than chimpanzees are different.

Unless there's reasoning supporting it you haven't presented yet, if you aren't including any practical, social, or emotional factors it seems like your avowed certainty that "the line is far, far below where we currently place it" isn't any more logical or consistent than the other answers that have been given; you're just selecting a greater degree of "different from us" to base the categorization on.

And, of course, societies where "from our tribe" receives a more privileged, humane treatment than outsiders do (maybe we only cannibalize the other) peg it at a much smaller degree of difference from themselves.
posted by XMLicious at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we should keep in mind that not all "Animal testing" is the same. We don't do the same experiments on Chimps that we do on, for example, mice or guinea pigs or ferrets (which we use for studying respiratory diseases since they tend to be infected by the same viruses).
Right, because they can't consent to it, and parents wouldn't subject them to such horrific treatment. That's the point: chimps can't consent either but have more cognitive capacity than those same children. But we force them to undergo such treatment in our stead, because we find it too distasteful to subject "our own kind" to.
Right, that is what people think. You can phrase it in a really negative sounding way, but it doesn't change anything.
I'm entirely aware of that. The question that no one will answer is why it is acceptable to force animals -- animals that have greater mental abilities than many humans -- to undergo experimentation, but not acceptable to force those humans to do so.
It's been explained. Animals are not a part of the "human family", obviously chimps are very similar to humans, but most of the animal testing we do is on mice, guinea pigs, and so on.

The only reason people care so much about chimps is because they remind us so much about humans.

There is also another reason, which I said earlier - that wild animals are going to have a short, miserable and painful life in the wild. Humans are the only animals that have developed the technology to avoid the harshness of nature - In fact, this has really only been true for the past couple hundred years. So in that sense it doesn't seem like we're really doing them that big of a favor letting them stay in the wild.
requires some essential difference in ethical position between members of those species ...
Except you said yourself:
They also don't have as much capacity for ethical reasoning as we do.
That is one difference. Yes, some humans lack that but most of the ones without that ability are either to incapacitated to cause any harm, or are in fact locked into confinement themselves.

Also, one problem here is that you're not defining the logical premises of your ethical system. You state that we need to do X (find 'some essential difference in ethical position') to justify experimenting on chimps, but you don't explain why that's the case in the first place.

Part of the problem is that no ones ever really come up with an ethical system that doesn't lead to contradictions or conflicts with innate morality.

If you simply posit as a premise to an ethical system that it only applies to actions that affect humans, then animal testing isn't going to be unethical.
What I'm interested in is your clear delineation of "humans" as something apart from "animals". Why is it permissible to experiment on a chimpanzee
Because human can be an axiomatic concept in the ethical system. You start with a premises like "don't cause human suffering" and work from there.
"Making sense" implies to me logical consistency, and none of the arguments for doing so that I've heard in this thread are logical. They all reduce to "humans are human and animals are not human, therefore it's permissible to treat (non-human) animals in ways it is not permissible to treat humans."
That is an almost completely logical statement. The first two sentences are premises. Those two premises taken together do not exclude harm to either animals or human, but additional premises, like "humans should not harm other humans" could be added that would exclude harm to other humans without excluding harm to other animals.

You seem kind of confused about how logic works.

You start with a set of premises, and work from there. You haven't explained what logical premises you're using, but you seem to be saying that other people are wrong because their views contradict something but you don't explicitly state what that something is.

You seem to be saying we need some kind of "rational" reason to exclude chimps based on some scientific fact. But why is that the case? What's the reason why ethical rules need to have scientific bases?

You can use science to find out if the effects of actions are ethical or not given a certain standard (i.e. we experimented on rats, and no we know that this substance is safe to give to humans, therefore it's ethical to give it to them)
The first part of the page goes into some detail about how every single category we've ever used to set humans apart from non-human animals has been found to apply to some animals
You can define humans having been given birth by another human, (with some exceptions for the very first humans)
posted by delmoi at 3:31 AM on March 10, 2013


If you want to look at the specifics of what people will have to do to justify biomedical research on chimpanzees, the NIH has released the report from their working group on chimps in biomedical research (pdf) with the recommendations which will guide further research. For comparison, here is the American Zoological Association's Chimpanzee Care Guide (pdf). There are some interesting things in it - for example, prior to the release of this report there were only 461 chimps being used for research. That number will drop to a colony of 50 individuals so that, in the event that there is an immediate need (new emergent disease causing immediate threats, or something), there will be an available colony of known genetics and geneology that won't be wild-caught. But here are a few of the NIH's recommendations, which I believe will have to be followed completely within the next 5 years:

- Chimpanzees must have the opportunity to live in sufficiently large, complex, multi-male, multi-female social groupings, ideally consisting of at least 7 individuals. Unless dictated by clearly documented medical or social circumstances, no chimpanzee should be required to live alone for extended periods of time. Pairs, trios, and even small groups of 4 to 6 individuals do not provide the social complexity required to meet the social needs of this cognitively advanced species. When chimpanzees need to be housed in groupings that are smaller than ideal for longer than necessary, for example, during routine veterinary examinations or when they are introduced to a new social group, this need should be regularly reviewed and documented by a veterinarian and a primate behaviorist.

- The density of the primary living space of chimpanzees should be at least 1,000 ft2 (93 m2) per individual. Therefore, the minimum outdoor enclosure size for a group of 7 animals should be 7,000 ft2 (651 m2). Chimpanzees must be housed in environments that provide outdoor access year round. They should have access to natural substrates, such as grass, dirt, and mulch, to enhance environmental complexity. Chimpanzees should have the opportunity to climb at least 20 ft (6.1 m) vertically. Moreover, their environment must provide enough climbing opportunities and space to allow all members of larger groups to travel, feed, and rest in elevated spaces.

- Progressive and ethologically appropriate management of chimpanzees must include provision of foraging opportunities and of diets that are varied, nutritious, and challenging to obtain and process. Chimpanzees must be provided with materials to construct new nests on a daily basis. The environmental enrichment program developed for chimpanzees must provide relevant opportunities for choice and self-determination.

- Chimpanzee management staff must include experienced and trained behaviorists, animal trainers, and enrichment specialists to foster positive human–animal relationships and provide cognitive stimulation. Given the importance of trainer/animal ratios in maintaining trained behaviors, a chimpanzee population of 50 should have at least 2 dedicated staff members with this type of expertise. Positive reinforcement training is the only acceptable method of modifying behaviors to facilitate animal care and fulfillment of management needs. Training plans should be developed for each animal, and progress toward achieving established benchmarks should be documented.

- All personnel working with chimpanzees must receive training in core institutional values promoting psychological and behavioral well-being of chimpanzees in their care. These institutional core values should be publicly accessible. Chimpanzee records must document detailed individual animal social, physical, behavioral, and psychological requirements and these requirements should be used to design appropriate individualized chimpanzee management in the captive research environment.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:01 AM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The footage is really amazing, and touching. I feel like use in medical research is a worthwhile tradeoff, assuming that we are doing what we can to minimize it (and I think the cost of keeping chimps in captivity probably goes a long way towards doing that even aside from ethical concerns). I also think a future where it isn't necessary would/will be much better.

On the other hand, it does seem incredibly cruel. Why can't we use other non-human primates for this research? Like, investment bankers or something.
posted by snofoam at 6:48 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


here are a few of the NIH's recommendations

I used to perform biochemical research on mice and rats and my boss always used to complain that the rules for taking care of the animals meant that they had better lives that most people.

Right.

You can define humans having been given birth by another human, (with some exceptions for the very first humans)

Well, if some people want to jump from objecting to experimenting on primates to sweeping the sweet in front of you to save fleas and ticks, I'd say the very first humans (when where they again?) are very germane to this discussion.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:37 AM on March 11, 2013


The human race is the set of all individuals which are capable of bearing fertile offspring with myself or one of my parents, or who were born to such an individual.

Although there is a continuous lineage from ourselves back to single-celled organisms, at some point in the past the differences would be too great for our ancestors to bear fertile offspring with a modern human.

Cognitive ability has nothing to do with it.

P.S. The situation is actually much more complicated for birds, which have more numerous and smaller chromosomes than mammals and can in some cases hatch fertile hybrids. But mammal speciation is pretty straightforward.
posted by localroger at 8:49 AM on March 11, 2013


"On the other hand, it does seem incredibly cruel. Why can't we use other non-human primates for this research? Like, investment bankers or something."

While I'm sure investment bankers are really quite safe, there is a long and terrible history of this kind of thinking.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:25 AM on March 15, 2013


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