What about poor Drosophilia?
October 29, 2010 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I am trained and experienced in animal testing, and I am not ashamed of this fact. There, I’m out.
posted by shiu mai baby (93 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Well I'm presently unemployed,"

That part made sense to me....
posted by HuronBob at 6:59 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can understand the opposition to cosmetics getting tested on animals, but not medicine. I think the general public feels that way. I'd like to see somebody who puts new shades lipstick in bunnies' eyes defend that.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2010


As a doctor of neuroscience who is also a comedian...

Jeez, I hope he doesn't test his comedy on animals, too.
posted by almostmanda at 7:08 AM on October 29, 2010 [18 favorites]


Animal Rights Protesters: Go F**K yourselves! (deliberately provocative title)
...
As a doctor of neuroscience who is also a comedian.

Oh my god I hope he is really, really good at neuroscience.

Seriously, he makes some points but holy shit is he absolutely not funny. Not even a little. He's trying to do a George Carlin offensive-but-socially-relevant bit and comes off like a guy whose only qualification for comedy is that he got ten of his friends to show up at a two-drink-minimum comedy club so he could get five minutes of stage time.

I think he has some good points to make, especially as he's been on the inside, but holy crap would that have been a much better article if he left his fallback career out of it.
posted by griphus at 7:08 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Does more to harm his case than make it for my money. Trying too hard with the writing (cliche-o-matic "yes I said beef, deal with it","tofu-based gluten free horse" - I hope his comedy is better), plus skips somewhat lightly over the prosecutions at Huntington and the various stringent standards now in place, which wouldn't have happened without previous generations of protestors/activists. Then rounds off with a load of "what aboutery" questions seemingly unaware that the sort of very hardcore activists like the lot just locked up certainly don't distinguish between cute or non-cute animals and so forth.
There certainly is a decent defence of animal testing that could be made, but given the gravity of the moral issues (in the eyes of those opposed at least) you'd want to set it out in a more sober fashion, unless your only intent is a feel-good rant for those who agree with you anyway.
posted by Abiezer at 7:11 AM on October 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I SAID BEEF WHILE TALKING ABOUT VEGANS I AM THE BLEEDING EDGE

hahaha i said blood too i am also ironic and wry
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:11 AM on October 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the comedy was undeniably crap; I linked it because it was the first time I've ever heard anyone candidly defend working in animal testing. I wish he had dropped the lousy attempts at humor in favor of more meat (YEAH I WENT THERE LOL).

Ugh.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:16 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


There certainly is a decent defence of animal testing that could be made, but given the gravity of the moral issues (in the eyes of those opposed at least) you'd want to set it out in a more sober fashion, unless your only intent is a feel-good rant for those who agree with you anyway.

Yeah. This is getting a bit too close to a criticism of tone, but it's not like his arguments are much better:
I've yet to meet anyone who, despite the accusations and implications, actually enjoys animal experimentation"
- umm... does anyone accuse scientists of this???
A suffering animal is, scientifically, pretty much useless in most cases. Pain or discomfort have a complex physical, biological basis, so an animal in distress is going to provide unreliable results and throw off the data obtained in any experiment that studies anything other than pain. Granted, the study of pain is medically very important, so is ongoing and uses animal subjects.
- !!!! We don't hurt animals... unless we are studying pain, in which case we hurt them. Awesome logic! It also ignores the fact that all studies have a risk of causing unanticipated "pain or discomfort" or yes, even death.
People opposed to animal testing often shout about how we should use alternatives. What alternatives? Where there's an option, we use it. Why wouldn't we?
-- Well, the alternative would presumably be human volunteers. In my experience, most animal rights activists don't want to end testing altogether, they want animals to be given similar rights to consent/non-consent as humans, or something.

After that it's pretty much "Poor me! Why dost everyone despise poor old me!"

Note that I'm scientifically-trained and do not oppose the use of animal subjects in medical testing - my sister-in-law does, and although I disagree with her, I respect her deeply-held belief in the equality of all animals. In a way it's much more rational than my humans-first stance.
posted by muddgirl at 7:23 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, the alternative would presumably be human volunteers.

I'm not sure if you're seriously suggesting this or not, but we're not remotely good at science yet to do this. Animal testing is pretty much a textbook definition of "necessary evil."
posted by griphus at 7:27 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ugh, I hate the presentation, but his points are completely valid. Main ones to my mind being

*animal research is done when there are no alternatives. You have to write a page-ish on why you aren't using alternatives in your ethics application. It's rarely a first option for anyone.
* you can't use data from sick/suffering animals. It's useless. It's in your own best interest to keep the animal as healthy/happy as possible.
* animal research is a pain in the ass. The amount of documentation, ethics approvals, courses you have to go to... All of those things are right and necessary, but they are also time consuming. Believe me, if there was another way to do the research that I did, I would have done it.

I say all this as someone with about 12 years of animal research under my belt as well. And no, it's not fun. I liked my rats. I spent hours playing with them (again, it was in my best interests to have them calm when I handled them, because stress hormones can throw your data out of whack). They were cute and furry and smart. Killing them sucked. But you know, not understanding mammalian biological systems and how they work sucks even more, IMO.
posted by gaspode at 7:29 AM on October 29, 2010 [27 favorites]


Well, the alternative would presumably be human volunteers.

You do know how toxicity testing works, right? What an LD50 (lethal dose for 50% dead) is? What teratogenic testing entails? Nobody goes into toxicology thinking Mengele had some good ideas, he just didn't take them far enough.

We can do a lot of testing with gene assays, and believe me, everyone who can switch is doing so as fast as they can. There's still nothing to replace live animal testing in many cases though. A gene plate can simulate some parts of biological sensitivity, but doesn't simulate the whole, complicated biological machinery. It pays to be conservative as possible in toxilogical studies. No one wants to miss something because they took shortcuts with testing.

Another problem is that humans aren't the only living things exposed to chemicals. Human toxicology doesn't really tell you much about falcon or frog or sea turtle risks. Consider the dispersant application in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. Multi-species, multi-chemical insults, with dynamic and periodic exposure cycles. Thess kind of complex exposure scenarios are really challenging to do with plates or models.

Most regulators still want whole animal testing for these reasons. There's some interest in going to gene-plate assays, for example, or computer models, as rapid screening techniques, but live organism testing is still the only way to really be certain of dose and exposure levels.
posted by bonehead at 7:45 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


"My main beef (yes I said beef, deal with it) is with the violent protestors and campaigners "

I wasn't feeling particularly violent before, but now he's making me want to maybe knock that stupid pen out from behind his ear or something.
posted by orme at 7:45 AM on October 29, 2010


Well, I'm broadly with him on animal testing for medical reasons and I'm definitely with him on vegans but yes, that was not a good piece of writing.
posted by Decani at 7:47 AM on October 29, 2010


I'm definitely with him on vegans...

You're with him because you also have some sort of unsupported and self-imposed random derail quota?
posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why are battery farms and slaughterhouses generally let off the hook?

Yeah, he's real educated on the topic of animal rights.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:55 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


This must be the first time it has occurred to me that animal-rights protesters are basically identical to abortion protesters, what with their posters of mangled cute things (to the extent that a fetus can be considered "cute") and their ironic threats of violence.
posted by klanawa at 7:58 AM on October 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think it was a fine article that made good points.

I mean OH NO HE MADE A JOKE I DIDN'T FIND FUNNY@@!!!!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:00 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


gaspode, I find your account chilling. What gives us the right to kill creatures just because we want to understand them? Why not kill humans since we don't understand everything about them and it might be scientifically interesting to do?

Would you accept being captured, experimented on and killed if it benefited scientific knowledge? I much imagine your captors justifying their manipulation and ending of your life: "I say all this as someone with about 12 years of human research under my belt as well. And no, it's not fun. I liked my humans. I spent hours playing with them (again, it was in my best interests to have them calm when I handled them, because stress hormones can throw your data out of whack). They were cute and hairy and smart. Killing them sucked. But you know, not understanding human biological systems and how they work sucks even more, IMO."
posted by parrot_person at 8:06 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've yet to meet anyone who, despite the accusations and implications, actually enjoys animal experimentation"

- umm... does anyone accuse scientists of this???


When they're not busy setting fire to things, yeah, usually that and worse.

Full disclosure - someone I know very well works for a major university that does animal research and was assaulted a few years back when she caught some animal rights activists going through the dumpster looking for discarded paperwork. She's been harrassed and several of her co-workers have gotten threatening letters and phone calls.

Improving things for the animals with an eye towards someday not needing them is noble and worthy goal. I could get behind legitimate efforts towards that.

Conventional animal rights activists are terrorists and thugs.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:07 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why not kill humans since we don't understand everything about them and it might be scientifically interesting to do?

Scientifically interesting? Are you getting your ideas about science from 1950s science fiction? We experiment on them -- and, sadly, kill them -- to save ourselves. And we do not capture them. We breed them. In facilities where they are free from want and predation.
posted by griphus at 8:12 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Human toxicology doesn't really tell you much about falcon or frog or sea turtle risks."

Advocates for animal testing continually assure us that results from research done on animals are applicable to humans. Now you're saying data about humans aren't applicable to animals. Seems like whatever argument justifies animal testing is the one apologists reach for.
posted by parrot_person at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a feeling that we humans will think somewhat differently about this issue someday when we're the third or fourth species down in the relative power structure.

But yeah, for the time being, realities are realities, and all our relationships with other animals are quite an ethical quagmire. I'm sure I have six medications in my kitchen cabinet right now that were tested on animals, so nobody's hands are really "clean" here. But I tend to appreciate the scientists who think a little bit more carefully and solemnly about these topics than this fellow appears to. There was a really good AskMe thread on this some time ago that I can't seem to pull up in which some people really talked thoughtfully about how they handle it when they have to harm or kill a lab animal.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:15 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Advocates for animal testing continually assure us that results from research done on animals are applicable to humans. Now you're saying data about humans aren't applicable to animals. Seems like whatever argument justifies animal testing is the one apologists reach for.

Unfortunately, no amount of testing, animal or otherwise, will ever cure willful obtuseness.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:15 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Am I late? Have the fireworks started yet?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:18 AM on October 29, 2010


griphon: First, the "capturing" part would refer to the poster, not research animals. Second, when people make these claims that research animals are all wonderfully taken care of, I think of the sterile, unnatural, boring, lab environments I've seen intelligent animals placed in, as well as the extensive footage I recently watched of primates being intentionally brain-damaged while researchers laughed. And third, I again ask, would it be acceptable to place humans in supposedly humane facilities, against their will, for the purpose of experimenting on them? If not, what specifically makes it acceptable to do so to animals? Just the fact that we aren't them?
posted by parrot_person at 8:20 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I found his point about people failing to protest pest control compelling. Surely those companies are undeniably killing hundreds of thousands of naturally living creatures, but you don't see protests of those companies. Why is the killing of those creatures ok but not the medical testing that might likely result in far greater health benefits for human beings?
posted by shen1138 at 8:20 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The amount of sheer silliness from the anti-testing folks depresses me. I had this one gal, who is not dumb, by any means, say that all of the testing could be done via computer simulation. This was about a decade back. She actually works with computers and everything — no programming, mind you, but she's at least seen and used computers.

Computers could do it. As if there is Hamster V5.6 (Build 582) out there, waiting to be downloaded so you can run little simulations of novel chemistry being run upon its fuzzy virtual head.

If you don't support animal testing for medicine, vow never to use FDA-tested medications ever again. Might as well get serious and make it a tattoo.
posted by adipocere at 8:20 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're with him because you also have some sort of unsupported and self-imposed random derail quota?

Seriously. I realize the term "random" is nigh meaningless, but it's quite appropriate here. I have killed far more than my share of mice doing animal research, and while I did, I was vegan. (Or not, as some people told me.)

There's an interesting discussion here, but in plain terms, this article is bad.

My two cents:

1) While I was performing animal research, a common refrain from participants or those staging the experiment was that the standards for the treatment of the animals were far higher than what we require for prisoners or the indigent or _____ group of humans.

That's conveniently ignoring that lots of animals die, sometimes with pain.

2) There is a wide range of animal testing, even in medical research. I was working on a fairly promising drug to fight septic shock. I believe the progression of trials goes mice > rats > dogs > monkeys > humans. There are different ethical issues all along the way.

I'm still conflicted about both medical research and (some) animal rights activists.

HOROSCOPES!

Is this guy a Dr? It seems like he is a PhD candidate?
posted by mrgrimm at 8:21 AM on October 29, 2010


...extensive footage I recently watched of primates being intentionally brain-damaged while researchers laughed.

I want to see this extensive footage.
posted by griphus at 8:22 AM on October 29, 2010


Ah, here's the AskMe.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:23 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


parrot_person: I didn't say anything about wanting to understand rats per se. I said mammalian biological systems. Insofar as cell biology goes (and I was a reproductive neuroendocrinologist who looked at cellular signaling in the brain as it pertained to fertility and reproduction) small mammals and humans are far, far more similar than different. It's humans that I was interested in, and last time I looked, if I wanted to do research that would ultimately lead to understanding how reproductive hormones work in the brain to time ovulation, I couldn't go out and ovariectomize a bunch of women, give them HRT and then remove their brains to look at signal transduction in neurons in the hypothalamus.

You may find that chilling. I find that the research I have done ultimately leads to better understanding of how contraceptives work, developement of new fertility agents (both control and promoting) etc. etc. And yes, it holds humans up above other animals. I am ethically comfortable with that.
posted by gaspode at 8:23 AM on October 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Why are battery farms and slaughterhouses generally let off the hook?

Dude, skinny 20-somethings are not going to attack a place where burly men are wielding large implements designed to gut and flay 2-ton animals.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:24 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just want to say that rats are not evil. I've owned rats as pets. They are incredibly intelligent furry balls of love. The only reason I no longer keep them is their short life span. It's hard to watch a friend die every three years.

BTW, they are incredible poop engines as well. I sincerely believe that they magically poop out more mass than they take in by a factor of 3.
posted by Splunge at 8:26 AM on October 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


-- Well, the alternative would presumably be human volunteers. In my experience, most animal rights activists don't want to end testing altogether, they want animals to be given similar rights to consent/non-consent as humans, or something.
That's not really realistic. If you're studying cancer you have to give the animals cancer and then try to cure it -- or just see how it progresses. If you're studying re-growing spines you have to paralyze the animals first.
Advocates for animal testing continually assure us that results from research done on animals are applicable to humans. Now you're saying data about humans aren't applicable to animals. Seems like whatever argument justifies animal testing is the one apologists reach for.
Maybe not all testing has the same goals or broad spectrum applicability. But beyond that what scientists have been saying is that tests on mammals (like mice and guneypigs) are applicable to humans but that those same tests may not apply to a fish or sea turtles.

But beyond that, if you don't think animal testing is applicable to humans, why do you think it's being done? Just for fun?

Your comment is like someone saying "You told me cars have 4 wheels, now you're telling me bicycles have two wheels!??!?!? Well which is it!?!? Whatever justifies your accelerated lifestyle I guess!!1111"
posted by delmoi at 8:27 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dude, skinny 20-somethings are not going to attack a place where burly men are wielding large implements designed to gut and flay 2-ton animals.

Oh, man, 28 Days Later would have been so much better if the Infected were cows and chickens.
posted by griphus at 8:30 AM on October 29, 2010


Why not kill humans since we don't understand everything about them and it might be scientifically interesting to do?

Well, there's a pant-load coded into that phrase "scientifically interesting." One of the outcomes of satisfying that idle scientific interest is figuring out how to prevent or delay death and illness. As in all morality issues, decisions regarding sacrifice of animals for such research depends upon a calculus that, in this case, includes not only the real, present suffering of the animals, but also the speculative but inevitable human suffering that could be prevented. And, yes, most humans count their kind's suffering with substantially higher valence than that of other species. This is one reason for not using human subjects for research without their explicit consent. Even with consent, there is some research that is not allowable. This is true for both human and non-human subjects, which shows that animal rights activists have raised the bar. It is sad that they have had to resort to violence in order to get the attention necessary to evolve our thinking, but this is often true of human progress.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:36 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


You do know how toxicity testing works, right? What an LD50 (lethal dose for 50% dead) is? What teratogenic testing entails? Nobody goes into toxicology thinking Mengele had some good ideas, he just didn't take them far enough.

Just to clarify (I thought I was already clear): You don't need to argue with me or convince me. I was presenting the common arguments I hear from my sister-in-law and her friends. To some of them, it is equally immoral to kill a human as it is to kill a dog or a cow or even a fish. I don't agree, but I recognize the rationality behind their conclusions and I don't think their arguments should be dismissed as quickly or as sloppily as the Dean Burnett wants to.
posted by muddgirl at 8:40 AM on October 29, 2010


Or rather the other way around: It is as immoral to kill a dog or a fish as it is to kill a human. It is as immoral to cause pain and suffering to a fish as it is to cause pain and suffering to a human.

In the calculus of science, I accept that a human life is worth more than the life of a drosophilia. My sister-in-law disagrees. That doesn't make her stupid.
posted by muddgirl at 8:42 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not kill humans since we don't understand everything about them and it might be scientifically interesting to do?

You know what? This is pretty obtuse. Does a line really need to be drawn between "increasing scientific knowledge" and "betterment of human (AND, by the way) veterinary care"? Because that's what it is all about. I, of course can't speak for the whole scientific community. I can tell you that for the hundreds of scientists with whom i have interacted, ZERO have indicated to me that they do what they do out of sheer curiosity. Sure, they find their work interesting (you'd have to, given the shit pay and lousy hours), but their primary motivation is to you know, cure diseases, improve the world, all that sort of big picture stuff.

If you're too caught up in your own shit to see how you need to first understand how a healthy system works to then go on and work out how to fix it when it goes wrong, then I don't know what to say to you.
posted by gaspode at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2010


Ahh I love the smell of cognitive dissonance in the morning!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:55 AM on October 29, 2010


My main beef (yes I said beef, deal with it)

Yep. That's exactly where I stopped expecting to learn something.
posted by applemeat at 9:12 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would you accept being captured, experimented on and killed if it benefited scientific knowledge? I much imagine your captors justifying their manipulation and ending of your life: "I say all this as someone with about 12 years of human research under my belt as well. And no, it's not fun. I liked my humans. I spent hours playing with them (again, it was in my best interests to have them calm when I handled them, because stress hormones can throw your data out of whack). They were cute and hairy and smart. Killing them sucked. But you know, not understanding human biological systems and how they work sucks even more, IMO."

World of grar headed this way.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:16 AM on October 29, 2010


Or rather the other way around: It is as immoral to kill a dog or a fish as it is to kill a human. It is as immoral to cause pain and suffering to a fish as it is to cause pain and suffering to a human.

In the calculus of science, I accept that a human life is worth more than the life of a drosophilia. My sister-in-law disagrees. That doesn't make her stupid.


Not stupid, but very, very different.

I admit I have never met your sister-in-law, but I daresay you must be misrepresenting her position, unless she is Jain. The "life of a rat = life of a human" position is a straw man in most animal-rights discussions.

I have known some hardcore vegans and vegetarians, but I've never met a single one who equates the life of a cow or chicken with the life of a human.

And I've never heard of anyone (again, outside of the Jains) who equates the life of a fruit fly with the life of a human.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:17 AM on October 29, 2010


Maybe she is a Jain - I've never asked.
posted by muddgirl at 9:21 AM on October 29, 2010


What gives us the right to kill creatures just because we want to understand them? Why not kill humans since we don't understand everything about them and it might be scientifically interesting to do?

I have very compelling answers to these questions, but I refuse to share them with you because I object to your gratuitous abuse of strawmen.
posted by gompa at 9:25 AM on October 29, 2010



I found his point about people failing to protest pest control compelling. Surely those companies are undeniably killing hundreds of thousands of naturally living creatures, but you don't see protests of those companies. Why is the killing of those creatures ok but not the medical testing that might likely result in far greater health benefits for human beings?


Castle doctrine.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:26 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyway, I don't expect anyone to be 100% morally consistent, which is often demanded from both sides in discussions such as this one. Moral consistency would support the violent actions of groups such as the ALF, actions that would repulse me even if I did not believe in the necessity of animal research.
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on October 29, 2010


And yes, it holds humans up above other animals. I am ethically comfortable with that.

If you are "ethically comfortable" with valuing the lives of humans over animals, will you be ethically comfortable if/when the super-intelligent extra-terrestrials come in 2012 or whenever and perform the same experiments on you?

I will be ethically comfortable with that.
posted by ReWayne at 9:30 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they can, I guess there's not much I can do about it, is there?
posted by gaspode at 9:33 AM on October 29, 2010


If you are "ethically comfortable" with valuing the lives of humans over animals, will you be ethically comfortable if/when the super-intelligent extra-terrestrials come in 2012 or whenever and perform the same experiments on you?

Yes.

I mean, you're trying to call scientists out on their hypocrisy, I guess, but what if I see that as morally okay? Yeah it's going to suck. But morally I don't have a problem with it. I figure that every species is species-ist and I'm okay with that. I've seen nature - it's not pretty. Animals seem to be pretty fine with killing other species (in horrible, painful ways sometimes) and even with killing other members of the same species.

I am a biologist but I don't do animal experiments currently. However, I did work on my university's Animal Care Committee and have sacrificed animals for study.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:38 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


He makes some excellent arguments, though his presentation needs work. But speaking as an animal rights type (though never, ever willing to support harassment or property destruction or similar behavior toward researchers), a couple of arguments bother me:

very recently a cat placed in a bin received more sympathy than the masses of potentially innocent people killed in the floods in Pakistan. I wonder if I'm alone in thinking this was somewhat worrying? For as much as I love animals myself, I think people should come first. Hundreds of animal subjects being sacrificed to obtain information that could alleviate the suffering of thousands or millions of humans is, I think, a fair trade

One could argue that the cat bin incident higlights one of the best qualities in people, and also one of the points that is bothersome about this argument. First, it is good that people think that an affectionate, trusting animal, human or animal, shouldn't be harmed. It is problematic that a particular example is more vivid than mass suffering, but that doesn't take away from the goodness of the impulse toward protectiveness and compassion that most people have. I've known my share of non-human animals that display that trait, too, which brings me to the problem I have with the "people are worth more than animals" calculus. Should people's vanity (cosmetics, perfumes, similar toiletires) come ahead of animal welfare? How about people's cultural mores (whale hunting, dolphin hunting)? Assuming, and I'm not arguing with the scientists, that we have to do some animal testing to understand physiology or develop important medications, are animals worth enough that we need not repeat this testing on live animals (medical school training) or that we can look hard for other means to test first?

Leaving this issue, which is not an easy one at all, I also had problems with this point:

Why are battery farms and slaughterhouses generally let off the hook? . . .

Why not protest tanneries, where animals are killed so that people have nice things to wear or durable wallets? Why not protest the companies that cut down trees
?

Here the gentleman doesn't seem to know his opponent. People who are serious about animal rights, and animal rights groups, are actually also focused on these places and issues.
posted by bearwife at 9:39 AM on October 29, 2010


If you are "ethically comfortable" with valuing the lives of humans over animals

Plus, there's no need for scare quotes. You obviously don't agree, but most of humanity values the lives of humans over animals, otherwise vegetarians would be the majority. Add up the Jains plus the Buddhists and Hindus who practice vegetarianism, plus all the other people who are vegetarians for their own religion or non-religious grounds, you still don't have that big a percentage of the population.
posted by gaspode at 9:39 AM on October 29, 2010


I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't like this way of agreeing on our behaviour. There may not be a question that's going to make me look at this issue in a way that animal rights activists want me to. I feel like they want me to make humans and other animals equal and I don't think that. Not because I haven't thought about the issue, but because I have a different set of values/morals/whatever. And I think that we're, as a species, never going to agree on one set.

What I do think is important is that we treat animals well when we are using them for experiments or when we are sacrificing them.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:44 AM on October 29, 2010


And because I always hit post too soon.

Hydrobatidae says it better than me. Nope, no moral issues with being tested on by the aliens. If they've evolved to be bigger, smarter, stronger, and they want to do that to us well I guess that's just survival of the fittest.
posted by gaspode at 9:51 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nope, no moral issues with being tested on by the aliens. If they've evolved to be bigger, smarter, stronger, and they want to do that to us well I guess that's just survival of the fittest.

So, what about people who aren't as big, or as strong, or as smart, as other people? There are mentally disabled people who almost certainly aren't as smart (however you want to operationally define that) as a chimpanzee. Should we be able to do medical testing on them? If not, why not?
posted by IjonTichy at 10:06 AM on October 29, 2010


Advocates for animal testing continually assure us that results from research done on animals are applicable to humans. Now you're saying data about humans aren't applicable to animals.

The work I do has more to do with ecological toxicology than human. Broadly, you want test organisms like the one you're interested and one that can be housed easily. For humans, rats are a great choice because they have a very similar diet to us and so are pretty good models for human biology. A frog or a sea turtle is less relevant to human biology and vice-versa. Human testing won't tell us if new fish fry will get blue-sac disease, for instance. Human embryos don't get blue-sac disease or gill-malformations as far as I'm aware. It's a big problem for fish though.

This is all beside the point. Even if they were prefect models for animal behaviour, human trials aren't even vaguely possible anyway. I doubt you could find any pregnant woman who would want a few millilitres of potential endocrine disruptors injected into her womb every day for two weeks, but you never know, I guess.
posted by bonehead at 10:11 AM on October 29, 2010


It isn't a strawman if someone actually holds that position:

There’s no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They’re all animals.
- Ingrid Newkirk, Washingtonian magazine (August 1, 1986)

You know, from PETA? Well, "from" is the wrong word. "President of" is a bit better.
posted by adipocere at 10:24 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


people who have no qualm with aliens experimenting on us have a very chilling might makes right mentality. Is there no threshold to stop experimentation? What if the aliens we met were closer to the ones in district 9, naturally servile but obviously intelligent and able to consciously suffer, would it be alright to use live specimens to further elucidate the differences between human and alien biology?

It used to be that humans did not recognize the similarities of one another because of their skin color or other certain physical traits, and people who are advocating might makes right would be, if we continued not recognizing certain peoples humanness, experimenting on them. Human experimentation has happened and part of the reason it could was because the scientists did not view their subjects with more compassion than utility. Also, we today use the information they gleaned.

Here in the United States we used to sterilize people who were considered too stupid to breed, should we continue along these lines and experiment on them too? I am not going to argue today for the abolishment of all animal testing but to hear people not to suggest any limit beyond the ability to subjugate the subject being tested is barbaric. It is true that the vast majority of the animal kingdom live in a brutal world, we used to too, but one of admirable qualities of mankind is our ability to live a life of our choosing, and we need not continue living in a Hobbesian state of war. Knowledge and truth are not the ultimate achievement with all other considerations being optional, but such thinking is part of the problem.
posted by Shit Parade at 10:30 AM on October 29, 2010


So, what about people who aren't as big, or as strong, or as smart, as other people? There are mentally disabled people who almost certainly aren't as smart (however you want to operationally define that) as a chimpanzee. Should we be able to do medical testing on them? If not, why not?

Look, slavery is wrong. Owning hunting dogs and pack animals is not.

If you are having trouble with the distinction, I'm not real sure how to help you.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:35 AM on October 29, 2010


Hey pogo,

way to take IjonTichy's quote out of context but you know,"Unfortunately, no amount of testing, animal or otherwise, will ever cure willful obtuseness." I can do it too
posted by Shit Parade at 10:49 AM on October 29, 2010


Add up the Jains plus the Buddhists and Hindus...

Really? The strength in numbers argument?

I mean, you're trying to call scientists out on their hypocrisy...

Well, wouldn't all of them piss their pants if put in that situation with some super-intelligent beings with which communication was impossible? So this lofty, "ethical" stance is just a faux-justification after the fact and its doubtful that its even remotely ethical.
posted by ReWayne at 10:52 AM on October 29, 2010


Yes, we would piss our pants. But that doesn't mean it's not ethical (for whatever form of ethics we've decided on).

A bear attacking me in the woods would also cause me great personal suffering but I won't say it's not ethical or moral for her to eat me.
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:01 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


yeah, the strength in numbers argument.

Because your use of scare quotes around "ethically comfortable" conveys that it's out there to be a meat-eater, or to use meds that are govt approved, or anything else that has involved animals in its regulation, production, etc. So pointing out that more people are comfortable than not about, for example, meat-eating merely points out that "ethically comfortable" is not that strange of a position.

Again, it's obviously not one you agree with, if there were an objective standard of ethics who knows, it may not be the right one, but it's the prevalent one. I don't think it's a controversial or fallacious point to make.
posted by gaspode at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2010


You're with him because you also have some sort of unsupported and self-imposed random derail quota?
posted by griphus at 3:49 PM on October 29


Sorry mate, I don't understand your comment. I was referring to something in the link. Is that not okay?
posted by Decani at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2010


"Look, slavery is wrong. Owning hunting dogs and pack animals is not.

If you are having trouble with the distinction, I'm not real sure how to help you."

If you are having trouble addressing my actual point, I'm not real sure how to help you.
posted by IjonTichy at 11:04 AM on October 29, 2010


people who have no qualm with aliens experimenting on us have a very chilling might makes right mentality...

...Knowledge and truth are not the ultimate achievement with all other considerations being optional, but such thinking is part of the problem.


All three paragraphs miss the point of what was said previously. The first talks about us experimenting on intelligent aliens who are able to communicate with us on a sophisticated level, not super aliens, who don't even recognize our intelligence, experimenting on us, so that's kind of out of left field. The second is something about racism and mistakenly says that we routinely use data from unethically done studies (we don't, at least in the countries that signed on to the Helsinki Accords). The third gets into eugenics for some reason, which I don't believe has any relevance here, since we all agree that they're bad, unkay? And "Hobbesian state of war"? Caucasian, please.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:13 AM on October 29, 2010



We use people for medical experimentation all of the time.

However, people, no matter how profound the disability, are not animals. They are people. And although it hasn't always been the case (mengele, tuskeegee, etc.) this is a pretty bright line distinction.

This hypothetical "what if aliens did research on humans" is crap. Presuming that the aliens were sufficiently advanced, we couldn't stop them anyway and the ethics don't much matter. If we were capable of stopping them, they they'd have to get our consent and the ethics are obviated.

How this is supposed to be instructive as to whether using animals for research is ethical, I don't know. We use animals for all sorts of purposes - from the gut flora that helps you digest that gluten free tofu quiche you had for breakfast to the hunting dogs I'm going use to harvest a couple pheasant this weekend - the ethics aren't so much about using them as they are about using them well.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:20 AM on October 29, 2010


We all draw a line somewhere.

Everyone thinks it's ethically acceptable to kill bacteria or germs.

Nearly everyone thinks it's ethically acceptable to kill insects.

Most everyone thinks it's ethically acceptable to kill plants.

Many people think it's ethically acceptable to kill animals.

Plenty of people think it's ethically acceptable to kill humans.

There are plenty of gradations within those categories, depending on circumstances (e.g. killing animals is ok for food or science but not for sport, or the death penalty is ok but murder is not, unless it's a war in which case it's ok again). And it gets complicated even further when you start talking about levels of harm other than killing -- temporary pain, exploitation, or experimentation. (Which is morally superior: catch-and-release for sport, or fishing for food?)

Ethics is hard. There is no absolute morally correct position, because it is physically impossible to live in our bodies without harming something. If you think that your particular point on the spectrum is magically the one true correct one, and everyone else is just evil or hypocritical or stupid, maybe you ought to check your assumptions.
posted by ook at 11:20 AM on October 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


("You" meaning everyone, not one poster in particular.)
posted by ook at 11:22 AM on October 29, 2010


Nope, no moral issues with being tested on by the aliens. If they've evolved to be bigger, smarter, stronger, and they want to do that to us well I guess that's just survival of the fittest.
also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_human_experimentation and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_experimentation_in_the_United_States
We have used results from unethical studies and we will again.

Multiple people in this thread are advocating a might makes right ethical outlook when it comes to animal testing.

It is amazing when people actually go to great lengths to warp and spin what was said to discredit the speaker instead of actually responding in a genuine way. Little wonder people get upset over certain issues.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:31 AM on October 29, 2010


However, people, no matter how profound the disability, are not animals. They are people. And although it hasn't always been the case (mengele, tuskeegee, etc.) this is a pretty bright line distinction

Um, humans are animals. That aside, yes, humans are a different species than dogs and rats and chimpanzees and gut flora. Is that really the distinction that matters? If, due to geographic isolation, there were a splinter group of humans--let's call them Oms--that evolved into a different species, with whom we could not successfully mate, could we persecute them without worrying about the ethical qualms? Why is the species concept more important here than, say, ability to suffer?
posted by IjonTichy at 11:46 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


An interesting thought experiment: if you knew that god was going to randomly permute consciousnesses, so that you had an equal chance of ending up as any conscious being, would you be happy with the current (or proposed) state of affairs?
posted by Pyry at 12:09 PM on October 29, 2010


parrot_person wrote "What gives us the right to kill creatures just because we want to understand them?"

In the United States, that would be the USDA. Here. Read the regulations for yourself before you decide what you think. There has been a hell of a lot of work put into ensuring that any use of animals in research is strictly to benefit humans and animals, to ensure that experimentation is ethically sound and scientifically necessary, and that alternatives that replace, reduce, or refine the numbers of animals use are considered and adhered to. The blind assertion that scientists do this kind of thing just out of idle curiosity is an asinine, uninformed and blatantly outrageous thing to say. To assume that people who work in animal research don't wrestle with these issues on a DAILY basis is an insult to everyone who works in the field as well as to those who help set the rules and regulations, ensure compliance, and care for the animals involved.

If you dislike the idea of animal research then stop living your life as a beneficiary of said research. Stop taking medications or vaccinations, stop taking insulin for your diabetes or plavix for your clots or viagra for your flaccid penis, stop going to the doctor, optometrist and dentist, stop using cleaning products you haven't personally tested, stop worrying about how safe the radio waves coming from your cell phone are, stop checking for early signs of cancer, stop taking vitamins, stop enjoying the 20+ years animals research has added to the average human lifespan. Oh, and stop caring for your pet, too. No more flea meds, no more vaccinations, no more heartworm pills, and let the little bugger fend for itself as far as food goes. No more meat you didn't personally raise and butcher, either - veterinary medical science again. If you do all these things, you can safely say without hypocrisy that you are against animal research and refuse to benefit from it. You win, and hey, enjoy having polio.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some rat brains in the fridge that require my attention.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:12 PM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry mate, I don't understand your comment. I was referring to something in the link. Is that not okay?

His derail about vegans -- which you took side with -- in his article about animal testing (and not dietary choices) was a bunch of ignorant fuckity-lol. It was little more than a mean-spirited derail based around the conflation of vegans with terrorism and backed up with nothing more than profanity.
posted by griphus at 12:25 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If, due to geographic isolation, there were a splinter group of humans--let's call them Oms--that evolved into a different species, with whom we could not successfully mate, could we persecute them without worrying about the ethical qualms?

I think it has happened in history, and we killed them all. Except for Bigfoot.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:35 PM on October 29, 2010


but one of admirable qualities of mankind is our ability to live a life of our choosing

Yes. And I think that's exactly what much of the testing on animals is meant to do. Could you really walk into a pediatric cancer ward and say, "Sorry kids...we could cure you, but it might hurt some rats so..."
posted by jrossi4r at 12:39 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


live frogs, you're still missing the point. No one here has said that there are no beneficiaries to animal research. Obviously we have benefited greatly from said research. But is that a justification? Maybe so, but it's not one I'm willing to accept. Sorry to bring up slavery again, but didn't countries that kept slaves benefit greatly from all that free labor? Yes, that is no justification.

And I think the hypothetical super-intelligent aliens doing research on humans I proposed is a fair thought experiment.
posted by ReWayne at 1:02 PM on October 29, 2010



What if insufferable hyperbolic hypotheticals had feelings ? Would it be wrong to use them for research ? Is it OK if they are alien insufferable hyperbolic hypotheticals ? What if an alien insufferable hyperbolic hypothetical impregnated your mom and when the offspring was born it was almost totally human except for these enormous alien insufferable hyperbolic hypothetical lizard feet. Would it be OK to make it go barefoot, or would experimentation to find appropriate footwear for the alien insufferable hyperbolic hypothetical offspring lizard feet be unethical ? What if the shoes were made of leather ? What if the leather wasn't taken, but the cows donated the leather because they empathized with the alien insufferable hyperbolic hypothetical offspring with the enormous lizard feet ? What if the shoes didn't have polycarbonate soles, but soles made of rubber ? Would Rubber harvested from alien insufferable hyperbolic hypothetical rubber trees be ethical to use ? Is it ethical if the alien insufferable hyperbolic hypothetical rubber trees parents gave consent because the little baby alien insufferable hyperbolic hypothetical rubber tree was born without a mouth (a rare congenital disorder that because of the ethics of research a cure has never been found for) ?


More to the point, this sort of hypothetical whack-a-mole is pointless and stupid.

In the world we inhabit now, the ethical thing to do is to use animals as humanely as possible while we develop the technologies that obviate that usage.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:31 PM on October 29, 2010


No one here has said that there are no beneficiaries to animal research. Obviously we have benefited greatly from said research. But is that a justification? Maybe so, but it's not one I'm willing to accept.

If you're not willing to accept it, then you're not willing to live in modern technological society. There really is no way to maintain the way we live, knowing that the food we eat will not kill or sicken us, knowing that medicine is effective; and trying to minimize the damage our wastes and industries do to the environment, without animal (and plant!) testing. Testing revealed recently that BPA and phthalates are problems. Animal testing is why all of the CCA-treated lumber play structures have been torn out by cities in Ontario in the past couple of years. Testing has revealed that amphibian die-offs are often lined to anthropogenic endocrine disruptors.

Reject that and you must accept a shorter lifespan and a larger ecological foot print, more dead infants, more extinct species. Both the human cost and ecological cost of halting animal testing would be unconscionable.

As there's no reasonable way to do that, I echo Pogo_Fuzzybutt's comment: In the world we inhabit now, the ethical thing to do is to use animals as humanely as possible while we develop the technologies that obviate that usage.
posted by bonehead at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not agreeing with a practice doesn't mean refusing all of the benefits no matter how tangential. For example, I may not agree with our wide-spread reliance on fossil fuels but I still eat food fertilized by petroleum products. I also use products that have plastic in them, hell everything I have ever bought was almost certainly brought to the store via some sort of fuel-guzzling vehicle, in fact multiple vehicles be they ships, trains, planes, and automobiles. Values exist on a continuum and are competitive with each other.

People here are refusing to actually engage in substantive debate because their reaction is overly emotional which is little different from PETA purists who demand equal rights for everything alive.

One thing I am realizing at this moment is that people who hold to a naive scientism naturally disagree with any appeal to ethics. The center cannot hold etc.

depressing
posted by Shit Parade at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2010


"In the world we inhabit now, the ethical thing to do is to use animals as humanely as possible while we develop the technologies that obviate that usage."

This statement is far, far too simplistic. Surely there's some research which is too trivial to justify the use of animal subjects, where should the line be drawn? Perhaps there are some animals that should never be used in scientific research, regardless of the benefit to human society--chimpanzees, for example. And, if animal suffering doesn't deserve consideration, should we really be developing the technologies that obviate the use of animals in research, given the scarcity of research funding and the other uses to which those funds could be put?

It's a complicated, troubling subject, and deserves to be addressed as such.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:55 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely there's some research which is too trivial to justify the use of animal subjects, where should the line be drawn?

Absolutely. Research projects get rejected for haveing too msall a benefit for the cost in animal suffering all the time. Every animal research program in the OECD has to go in front of an ethics panel who makes this exact value judgement. Similar panels are increasingly being used for environmental impact too, btw. Actually, this often happens twice, once at the granting stage, then later in the implementation stage at the facility level.

Animal care bioethics is a big complicated field, and I'm not an expert, but decisions appear to me to be farily utilitarian: what's the most benefit for the least suffering. In practice, this translates into minimum standards of care when handling the animals. Like any big complicated system, it has it's breakdowns and shady corners, but most working scientists I'm aware of take this quite seriously.
posted by bonehead at 2:09 PM on October 29, 2010


"Animal care bioethics is a big complicated field, and I'm not an expert, but decisions appear to me to be farily utilitarian: what's the most benefit for the least suffering"

...out of curiosity, do you know how the particular species involved enters the discussion? That is, would more suffering be allowable for a rat than a chimpanzee? Can you do basically anything you want to a sea squirt?
posted by IjonTichy at 2:17 PM on October 29, 2010


As I said, I'm not an expert on bioethics. I do know that species is a considertion. An LD50 trial on on a primate would be unimaginable, for example, yet thousands of D. magna die every day for such ends.
posted by bonehead at 2:21 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, if animal suffering doesn't deserve consideration, should we really be developing the technologies that obviate the use of animals in research, given the scarcity of research funding and the other uses to which those funds could be put?

This is a valid point. However, I disagree because my ethics require us to treat all living things well (and for me to fight for this). That's where I personally draw the line with animal research. You obviously draw it somewhere differently (and I know that's not what you were arguing earlier - I just decided to run with your strawman). I don't think anyone can say either of us is right or wrong, just that they agree or disagree.

For more about the ethics of animal research there's also the Adventures in Ethics and Science blog. From her first entry on the subject of Impediments to Dialogues about Animal Research: "...if you’re serious about a dialogue, you need to embrace the idea that it is possible that the people who hold the opposing view are not evil, stupid, or unable to tell the truth"
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:25 PM on October 29, 2010



...out of curiosity, do you know how the particular species involved enters the discussion? That is, would more suffering be allowable for a rat than a chimpanzee? Can you do basically anything you want to a sea squirt?

Pretty much, yeah.
posted by gaspode at 2:36 PM on October 29, 2010


Specific taxa definitely get treated differently in research. The requirements around primate research are very strict. Mammals generally have very strict rules (including keeping them entertained). Then in varies for other stuff but you'd have to check out country specific requirements for them (e.g. Canada).

Sea squirts probably would get treated similarly to fish but don't quote me on that because they might be classified as invertebrates and then requirements are very different.
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:37 PM on October 29, 2010


And, if animal suffering doesn't deserve consideration, should we really be developing the technologies that obviate the use of animals in research, given the scarcity of research funding and the other uses to which those funds could be put?

Yes, but animal research is expensive, too, and finding more cost-efficient as well as human research methods will pay for itself.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:56 PM on October 29, 2010


That would be "humane" not "human", you clod.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:21 PM on October 29, 2010


Ok so I'm new here (hello) and as a risky first comment, I'd like to expand on the point that IjonTichy made - I somehow manage to find myself in discussions of this type on a regular basis and I find myself wondering why 'species' matters. As gaspode put it, people often
"hold humans up above animals".
Why is that? because of their species? Does the context of their suffering not matter? There are humans who are born with (or have through accidents) such debilitating metal and physical illnesses that they are to all intents and purposes less intelligent, less aware and less understanding of what is happening to them than say, your average primate. Would it be ok to test on them?

Why is it generally accepted that 'humans' are above other animals regardless of intelligence/awareness? If it is okay to test on an intelligent, aware primate, is it okay to test on a severely mentally disabled human that is completely unaware of their surroundings provided that their laboratory surroundings are classified by a government panel as 'humane', and if not why not?

I don't know where I stand on the scale of ethics, I take antibiotics and I will take action against a swarm of ants taking over my kitchen, but I fundamentally disagree with the idea that humans as a race are superior to animals without exception. To my mind, the conscious experience of the being/animal involved matters.
posted by rubyrudy at 6:17 PM on October 29, 2010


...out of curiosity, do you know how the particular species involved enters the discussion? That is, would more suffering be allowable for a rat than a chimpanzee?

By and large, yes. That is to say that you could more easily do a terminal study on rat than on a chimpanzee. The specifics matter, however, and there are studies that would be deemed too inhumane for even live rat research. There are ton of factors involved, and getting a particular study approved is months and months of work if not more.

I don't know where people get the idea that you can just order 76 apes from a catalog and then go all Mengele on them three days later, but with any public money there is no way you get to do any research without all of many oversight groups signing off on it. They check your work before, during, and after. They do surprise inspections, and climb through your records and interview your staff, and all that other nonsense. I will grant that there should be even more oversight of the private sector, but that isn't where the bulk of non-human research happens anyway (well, with primates anyhow), and the minute a dollar of public money ends up there, all the rules come with it. But that's in America. Other countries have different standards.

So yes, here in America, there is a strong sense of trying to be as humane as possible to the animal subjects. I won't deny that there is still some very trying research that happens. Even stuff that I agree should not be done.

But look. Hundreds of species have been saved from extinction because of captive breeding programs. Most good expertise on veterinary care comes from animal research institutions. Millions have been saved from Polio and other diseases because of animal research. It sucks for the individual animals, no question.

But the alternatives suck more.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:19 PM on October 29, 2010


Surely those companies are undeniably killing hundreds of thousands of naturally living creatures, but you don't see protests of those companies.

Or the grain farms that use combines to turn mice, voles, shrews, birds, frogs toads and snakes into hamburger by the billions. Or the trucks and trains that mangle millions of deer, rabbits and opossums (and people, often enough) on the way to a vegan market near you.

Life implies death. It's simply not avoidable. There's no need to be wanton about the killing, but there's also no need for anyone to have their heads up their asses with regards to the cost of life.
posted by klanawa at 10:23 PM on October 29, 2010


Why is the species concept more important here than, say, ability to suffer?

Because nature is practical. We can build ethics on top of that foundation, but that remains the foundation we're building on.

For every life that this planet can support, there are a thousand lifeforms vying for that position and those resources, meaning 999 die for each and every thing that lives. Given that our existence entails the death and suffering of others, if we are so fortunate to end up in such a position of power that we can decide to some extent which others live and which die, how should we decide who dies?
In nature, it's "whatever works". We (and other species) tend to choose who lives and who dies based on whatever seems to serve our best survival interests and the survival of those that matter to us. We (humans) are at our strongest as social animals (in fact, we cannot even survive any other way) thus valuing the lives of fellow humans above most others has direct and enormous payoff in terms of survival and prosperity at a scale that simply doesn't apply with other species, except under unusual circumstances.

In this light, ethics looks suspiciously like the art of maintaining a strong and prosperous and unified society, and the benefits for all members that flow from that (at the expense of the 999 outside that membership). In that light, valuing animal life as equal to human is an act of charity, whereas valuing human life is an act of practical necessity.

There are a lot of animals that can slaughter humans easily. Easily! Yet we need fear none of them because we can trust each other and work together.

This discussion of our treatment of animals would never arise if we were too desperately struggling and scrabbling for our own survival to have any charity to give, yet that very prosperity comes directly from putting our fellow species ahead of others. (And from the looks of things, our success might also become our ruin)

So the regular rules of charity apply: We view those who give generously as virtuous people going above and beyond, and by the same token, we generally avoid criticizing those who do not. We don't presume to know their circumstance or tell them how to distribute any prosperity they have accumulated.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:18 PM on November 1, 2010


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