With President Reagan, budget director David Stockman and Congress looking for ways to cut government spending, I am glad to offer some thoughts on an area where a few billion might be saved.
Included within the budgets of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other federal agencies is an aggregate sum of about $4 billion (according to congressional sources) for experimentation on live animals. The president could be $4 billion closer to his goal of a balanced budget if he would simply cut out those funds immediately and stop all experimentation on live animals.
Of course, the president cannot cut out all experiments on live animals. Some of those experiments offer crucially valuable data to mankind for prolonging and safeguarding human-- and animal--life. But no medical practitioner, no matter how devoted to live experimentation on animals, would insist that all of the billions of federal dollars going for experiments on live animals are crucial. From what I have read and seen at government hearings, no medical researcher would argue that there was not immense duplication, supererogation and just plain grantsmanship involved in the great mass of animal experimentation. In a word, in the federal government's enormous ventures into experiments on live animals, there is a jackpot of waste and fraud just begging for the sharpshooters at OMB to stop.
For most persons who object to the federal government's experimenting on live animals, the objections are far more moral and emotional than budgetary. Why, such people ask, are helpless puppies subjected to having their brains resected without anaesthetic so that a graduate student can write a thesis about something that has already been discussed ad infinitum in scholarly journals? Why should trusting dogs have their bones broken without anaesthesia and then become subjects of observation on healing issues long since proved or disproved? Why should dogs or cats that might be at home offering love and comfort to children be subjected to anthrax germs over and over again when we already know that anthrax is poisonous? Why should animals with sensitive, feeling natures become the living toys of "researchers" who just needed a grant so that they could take their girlfriends to Europe?
Why should the tax dollars of persons who love animals and appreciate their fine qualities be used to torture animals by having ground glass put into their urethras without anaesthesia? We already know that ground glass in urethras is harmful. Yet all of these experiments are now going on, funded by federal dollars.
But even if we leave aside the issue of cruelty to innocent creatures, why should the federal government allow itself to spend continuing billions on wasteful and duplicative animal experimentation when the ax is falling on food stamps and heating fuel assistance for the elderly and community development in the inner cities? I do not understand what special claim "researchers" have on tax money that allows them to continue their cruel, unnecessary work when U. S. soldiers are on the 38th parallel freezing in the Korean winter and learning that their pay has been frozen.
Again, anyone would grant that there is some need for animal experimentation. But the same red pencils that have been going through budget requests in other areas have apparently been dulled in reviewing programs for animal experimentation. According to congressional sources, the budgets keep rising--or at least not falling-- and the selfless dogs in cramped cages keep getting tortured and killed for no reason.
The president and the OMB chief are constantly saying that they are looking for new and better ways to run the government. Well, many researchers say that computer modeling can replace live experimentation at a fraction of the cost. Others say that experiments on cellular material at a pre- conscious phase can replace cutting into dogs or cats at a far lower cost. Most of all there can be an end to "research" whose only benefit is the income of the researcher.
At one time, resistance to unnecessary experimentation on live animals was considered a crank cause. But then, at one time women's suffrage, abolition of Negro slavery and Social Security were considered crank causes. Until quite recently, citizen concern about nuclear war was considered a crank cause.
I suggest that the day for the government to stop paying for experimentation on live animals except when absolutely necessary is at hand. This is not an issue for astrologers and little old ladies in sneakers. It is an issue first of all for people who hate suffering, and, now, for those who hate to see the waste of federal money.