In yesterday's Health section, Donald J. Barnes, director of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, was incorrectly described as holding a PhD in clinical psychology. He has a master's degree in clinical psychology.
I spent 16 years as a research psychologist working with nonhuman primates in a vain attempt to define their post-irradiation behavior. Due to early promotion to an administrative position, my office was far removed from the laboratory, from the pain and suffering of the nonhuman animals; I did not have to hear their screams, to see them struggle against the bonds of restraint, to watch them languish in the spotlessly clean stainless steel cages, separated from their fellows as well as from their natural environment.
I could routinely sign the assurance of compliance with the Animal Welfare Act; just one more signature in a series of bureaucratic procedures. I had no reason to admit to causing the animals pain, so I did not.
As a scientist long committed to the understanding, prediction and control of biological, physiological and behavioral events, I have no objection to the animal as a legitimate focus of science. As a parent, a son and a sibling, I am vitally interested in matters of health and in the most ethically efficient use of available resources.
As a member of a species that has evolved sufficiently to understand the relatively broad perspective of a "web of life" and at least a rudimentary concept of altruism, I have laboriously struggled against my individual egoism in an attempt to meet greater responsibilities, to my fellow humans, to other animals and to the planet that gives sustenance to us all.
Although I regard the animal as a legitimate focus of research, I am irrevocably opposed to vivisection, the practice of inducing disease or trauma in a healthy animal for the hypothetical sake of another animal or another species of animal, for there is but one rationalization for such research: "The ends justify the means."
The National Anti-Vivisection Society takes the position that vivisection is both immoral and scientifically futile. Our charter is to convey this message to the public through responsible and accepted channels.
The immorality of imposing pain and suffering upon sentient beings in the hope of relieving human suffering is itself a disease, the potential of which may prove more devastating than the original disease for which cures are being sought.
Our opponents insist that the use of nonhuman animals in medical and biomedical research is absolutely necessary . . . for humans. There was a time, not very long ago, when the slave owners in America insisted that the institution of slavery was an absolute necessity for the economic viability of our country.
Perhaps more to the point, even though the World Health Organization tells us there are 210 drugs required for a nation to sustain its citizens' health and we now have ready access to more than 20,000 drugs, we are told of the absolute necessity of using nonhuman animals to develop even more drugs.
My opponents sputter, "You can't do research on blindness in a test tube. We need intact functioning systems to be able to understand the interactions of the components of those systems."
What a presumptuous statement. Such pronouncements assume we understand the underlying mechanisms of physiological systems. We do not.
"Nonsense!" we are told. "All major medical advances have come through the use of animals in research!" Keeping firmly in mind that all humans are animals, this statement is irrefutable, for the human is always the definitive subject of any experiement.
Once again, the vivisector is relying on an "ends justify the means" argument to rationalize his use of nonhuman animals as "models" of humans. If honest and scientifically consistent, he must grant that 100 human subjects would be more efficient than thousands of nonhuman subjects. If the ends do, indeed, justify the means, the conclusion is as obvious as it is untenable: Use humans in our experiments to avoid falling into the inextricable morass of trying to draw conclusions from experiments on one species and applying it to another.
Our ultimate goal is to improve human health, a goal that cannot be equated with making medical progress. Medical treatment is a relatively unimportant factor in the equation of human health, trailing far behind heredity, life style and environmental influences. For example, a significant number of respected critics have recently published data denying that we are winning the war against the most serious and widespread forms of cancer.
Analyses of (human) patient files and routine autopsies are extremely valuable sources of information about humans. These data are seldom utilized even as the biomedical community steadfastly maintains that no alternatives to the use of nonhuman animals exist. This is simply not true.
Only a few short years ago, a rabbit had to die to confirm human pregnancy; a simple test is now readily available without prescription. Further, the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing has demonstrated in its few short years of existence that alternatives to specific procedures can readily be developed.
The philosophy of the larger animal rights movement is radical by definition, for we ask more than simple prudence or improved housekeeping, or even more stringent controls over the approval and implementation of research projects. We ask for a shift in attitude, the adoption of a humane ethic, a major revision of conditioned thoughts and behaviors. We ask for a peaceful ethic toward all life forms. We ask for ecological, environmental and personal respect, and we'll accept no less from ourselves and, eventually, from all human animals who survive the pollution of our shared planet by our own species.