Raising Voices: Animal Research Advocacy and Community Engagement

Animal rights groups and extremists have raised a very loud chorus against animal research. Well-funded, media-savvy campaigns and over-the-top publicity stunts ensure that the public receives a biased and negative message about the role and value of animal studies.  As a result of decades of investment in extensive campaigning, these groups have contributed to decreasing public understanding of, and support for, animal research. At the same time, frustration with failing their major goal—to end all use of animals in research—has contributed to an increase in harassment and violence directed against scientists by animal rights extremists.

Yet those of us who engage in scientific outreach and education efforts find that members of the community, including students, welcome opportunities to hear from us and to learn about other views of animal research. The great majority are interested in knowing more about why we believe animal research is essential, how we treat animals in our care, and how our studies may contribute to improvements in human and animal health.  There is no shortage of public interest in learning more about animal research. This is particularly true among the youth that are the targets for carefully crafted campaigns by groups like PeTA.

David Jentsch and Tom Holder give press conference

It is important for scientists to engage the public in the debate over animal testing

The question is not whether the public is interested and can be reached with “our” message, or whether there are ample opportunities to do so. Opportunities for scientists to engage in community outreach and education are not limited.  There are a large number of outstanding educational programs, including those with long histories as well as more recent initiatives, in which many scientists participate.  Interest in issues related to animal research and ARA activity is also reflected in active discussion in venues such as Science Blogs, where bloggers DrugMonkey, Isis the Scientist, and Janet D. Stemwedel have all  engaged their readership in posts and vigorous commentary on issues related to animal research.

The question really is whether more scientists will choose to commit time and energy to animal research advocacy efforts.  And underlying that question are others:  Among all of our obligations and competing pressures for time, why spend time on outreach and education?  What will it achieve?  Why can’t someone else do it?  Don’t animal rights people “win” if I take time away from science to speak out on animal rights issues?

The short answer to all of these questions is that the voices of scientists engaged in animal research are essential to challenge the loud chorus of misinformation rising from animal rights activists and dominating the discussion. In absence of challenge, it seems likely that the current trend towards decreasing public support of animal research will continue. It may well escalate as increasingly effective social media campaigns executed by ARA groups pervade elementary school and onward without effective counter.  The results of decreased public support are obvious, far-reaching, and—ultimately—damaging to public health.

Some people are philosophically committed to a position in which no use of animals, for food, entertainment, research, is morally acceptable. The majority of people, however, do not equate animals’ rights with those of humans.  Many times people confuse animal welfare with animal rights.  Many people do not understand how animal studies contribute to breakthroughs in medicine and why these studies are necessary for progress. People are also often not aware that animal research is conducted humanely and is well-regulated at federal and local levels.

All of these issues are complex.  The success of many animal rights groups’ campaigns depend heavily upon poor public understanding of animal research, uncountered misrepresentations of scientists and their work,  and exploitation of the misconceptions and negative perceptions that many people have of the use of animals in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Unfortunately, for the most part, animal rights groups have also been able to count on launching misinformation campaigns with very little threat of organized, public response from the scientific community.

Scientists can provide an effective counter to animal rights extremism by presenting accurate representation and information, by demonstrating visible and active support for their own and their colleagues’ work, and by engaging in respectful exchange of ideas with those who seek open discussion of the use of animals in research.


Speaking of Research
provides a venue for scientists to speak out in favor of lifesaving research developed with animals.  SR was founded by Tom Holder and inspired by the successful British student movement “Pro-test”. In the UK, Pro-Test’s experiences have shown that an informed public will rally together against animal rights extremism and come out to support scientists in their use of animals in lifesaving biomedical research.

SR aims to challenge animal rights dominance of the issue by participating in talks and debates on campuses across the country and by utilizing web-based communications tools to organize a network that can provide encouragement, information and support to all who care about medical progress. We also challenge ARA campaigns directly when they are based upon misrepresentation.
SR is run by a committee of people who believe that animal research remains crucial to the future of medicine.  Among its successes is the first mass pro-research demonstration in the US in April of 2009 at UCLA, site of a spate of attacks against researchers. Following a car fire attack by animal rights extremists, Professor David Jentsch, founded UCLA Pro-Test and held a rally that drew 700 supporters and demonstrated the strength of active and visible animal research advocacy.

There are many ways to serve as an advocate for animal research. Some are as easy as signing an online petition.  Coordinated efforts and vocal, concerted support is important to all of us and to the future of biomedical research that is essential to improvements in human health.

A member of the SR Committee, I have recently founded the North Carolina Chapter of Speaking of Research (NCSR). NCSR seeks to support scientists in active and visible efforts to provide the public with accurate information and resources about the importance of animal research in medical science. It also serves as a local exchange for news about issues related to advocacy and about local animal rights extremism.  Please join our facebook group or email me at NCSpeakingofResearch@gmail.com for more information.

Allyson J. Bennett, Ph.D.

The views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

33 responses to “Raising Voices: Animal Research Advocacy and Community Engagement

  1. Jack, a billion people are starving. Billions of animals are murdered every year by those who eat meat and fish. The holocaust never ended, it continued in Stalin’s USSR, in Mao’s China, in Burma (recognised by even the UN as the Union of Myanma the army’s name), accross Africa, Pinochet’s Chile, Cambodia, the list is endless and not the result of a few bad people! Even a multitude of pacifists could have stopped our rapid demise if the capacity to commit atrocities was limited to a few wayward characters. The truth is that ordinary people are more than capable of doing evil things, it is part of our nature. Recently on TV some spoilt brats from all over the UK who thought nothing of putting on brand new clothes every day were sent to sweat shops in India. One brat even commented that she just did not care if children were forced to make her garments, as long as she got clothes she really did not care that a small, vulnerable innocent was beaten into submission. Sums it up really “don’t care” complements cruelty.

    I do not believe that it is necessary to test anything on animals.

  2. Lynn,

    There’s no question that humans have comitted horendous acts, although they are in the minority. It’s easy to only see the evil in the world if that’s what you look for. I understand and appreciate your stance on laboratoy animals. I think it’s a huge misrepresntation by many animal rights activits though to assume that those of us caring for the animals don’t care about them. We do, but we also understand the important work that is being done. Some of it is ugly, like cancer research. I once worked on a study that was looking at the genetics of aging. All the mice had to do was grow old. Nothing was done to them, they lived in a barrier supplied with cleaner air than you and I breath normally, fed food that was nutritionally balanced than most of my meals and the water was autoclaved and so probably better than your tap water. That was it. So not all research, or even most now, involves what you might define as torture. A lot of research is conducted to study molecular activity such as the function of a particular protein or gene. However, we need the mice to get the cells to study.

    Lets also not forget that there is a large portion of research that involves veterianary work. I’m sure you’ve had your rescued animals to a vet for shots to preven disease. Well maybe not the mice. :-) By the way, mice bought at a pet store are notoriously “dirty” in regards to diseases. People that work in research aren’t usually allowed to have pet rodents because the chances of bringing a disease into the facility is very high. But I digress. Before your dog or cat or whatever could be given it’s shots someone had to test it on animals to make sure it worked.

    Currently there is no better way of conducting research that excludes animal models. We just aren’t there yet. I’m sure many researchers will welcome the day if it ever comes because maintaining a colony of research animals, even mice, is incredibly expensive and researchers are notoriously cheap.

  3. Lynn,

    Before we go on I do want to thank you for making your points in a reasoned and non-confrontational manner. While we obviously disagree on the issue, I’m glad we can discuss it without the conversation degrading into name calling (by either side) or ridiculous personal attacks.

    • Jack I am glad to hear that you have rescue animals and are opposed to the pet trade. I have known many visectors and hunters who love, respect and adore their domestic charges but are almost programmed to think nothing of those who they abuse in the labs and in the fields and forests. This is not a consistant or logical moral approach. I will always remember the look of utter horror on Chris Brown’s (owner of Hillgrove cat farm which used to sell cats for experiments) face when I pointed out that there was no moral difference between sending the cats to a horrible death and sending his beloved labrador Nellie to the same fate. You may do your best for the animals in the labs but they are still abused and they still end up dead. If you put yourself in their situation and ask whether or not your rights were being violated I think that you would find that they were!

      This moral schitzophrenia that one non human is a member of the family (loved above most or even all other humans) and another (just as intelligent and capable of suffering) is just a thing whose throat can be slit for meat or whose body can be mutilated in an experiment is quite frankly astonishing. Dr Mengele actually played with the gypsy children in Autchwitz and then experimented on other children. Police officers in South America torture and shoot street children, then go home to their own children. Personally I try to be consistant, I love my dog but do not consider him to be more important than any other dog morally. If I had children yes they would be my priority but they would not be any more important than any other child morally.

      I think that you have explained what Raid is now. I do not use any pesticides and would not conciously kill an insect or arachnid unless the creature was suffering or if in self defence e.g a great big spider like Shelob was trying to eat me (which is a bit unlikely).Inevitably just by walking around let alone driving we kill thousands but I and I think I can talk for every other animal liberationist on this matter I would not even think of spraying a highly toxic pesticide on any living thing, not even a plant. Notwithstanding the fact that I would be causing immense suffering I would rather avoid the cancer risk thankyou very much!

      Yes it is certainly worthwhile to discuss these matters without name calling. I think (and I am guilty of this as well ) that many of us are so appalled by the way in which sentient beings are abused in their billions by our sick species does inevitably lead to emotions running high.

  4. To James, so other creatures are involved in the rape of the very young, that was something of which I was not aware. Incest of course is modern legal construct, I understand that the Pharoahs married their sisters. I would not expect that non human animals would differentiate between realtives and non relatives when it comes to breeding but so what? In fact it is more evidence that we are just another ape.
    Yes of course predators are violent and torment their victims who usually tend to be from another species, it is something way beyond my remit to interfere with natural law. My point was that no animal sets up a concentration camp, or sets fire to a houseful of people, or systematically enslaves whole populations, or actively enjoys devising new ways to torment and murder , proof that we are no more moral than the cat of whom you speak.

    To Jack,
    I cannot proove either way what a mother’s love for her child is instinct, a chemical/hormonal surge or something much deeper and spiritual. Whatever it is it is probable that other mammals are the same and that both mother and baby suffer if their bond is violated. Pain can be explained mechanically but it is still pain and the recipient still suffers.

  5. Lynn,

    You fight against the oppression of all? Do you target Raid for its crusade against insects? Is it wrong for local SPCA’s to keep stray animals in cages while awaiting adoption? Have you set up a picket line at local pet shops to protest keeping their animals in cages? What do you think happens to the hamsters that don’t sell? Most mice sold at a pet store are used as food for pet snakes, is it wrong to buy the mouse to feed the snake? Is the snake violating the rights of the mouse by eating it? If someone has pets are they being held against their will? How would you know, have you asked them if they want to be your pet?

    • Jack, Sorry can you elaborate about Raid, I am not sure what you are talking about. No it is not wrong for SPCAs to keep animals temporarily in cages for their own protection just as it is not unethical to restrain someone who is psychotic. Which brings me to your next point I am totally and utterly opposed to the pet industry for several reasons:
      1. Animals are not toys and the pet industry churns them out as though they were. No sentient being should be bought and sold and treated as property for human gratification.
      2. Animals as pets are routinely abused and neglected.
      3. “Suplus” animals are killed.
      4. Other unwanted animals are abandoned on the streets which primarily is barbaric and causes problems for humans and wild creatures, for example a stray dog could attack a deer.
      5. Cats decimate the bird population.
      6. Dog mess infests the streets and parks thanks to lazy owners causing a risk to children.
      7. Countless animals are killed and abused for pet food.
      8. Vivisectors use pets as an excuse to carry on vivisecting saying they are pro animal welfare.
      9. The carbon footprint of someone with a pet is considerably higher.
      10. People who take on pets then selfishly dump them on other people when they get bored.

      I could go on but hopefully you have got the message. I and every other animal liberationist want the pet industry dead and buried. I want to spay and neuter every dog and cat. For the record I do have 3 mice and a dog all of whom are rescued from pet owners who could no longer look after them. Their quality of life is far from perfect but without me offering them somewhere to stay they would be dead.

      • At one time I had a rescued Greyhound. Now I have two rescued cats, indoor only. I think too that you would find a lot of people in animal research that are against the pet trade as well. I think you’d be surprised how much we actually care about our laboratory animals. Do I hope that someday we can do research without using animals? Of course, but we’re not there yet and won’t be for a long time. But we keep working at improving our methods. With imaging we can use fewer animals than before. Computer modeling has decreased the numbers and so has in vitro work.

        My comment about Raid was that by using it, you (and I mean you as in everyone) are killing animals. Raid is a commercially available pesticide (ants and such) in case you aren’t in this country and not familiar with it.

  6. isisthescientist

    I am happy to engage. You all are doing tremendous work!

  7. Animal research is absolutely necessary to sustain human and animal health, and the animals used in research are well treated. Dr. Bennett’s call for the scientific community and its supporters to speak up is essential. The majority of people do not deny the absolute necessity of animal-based research. They value it for the lives it saves. Yet, this majority position is tenuous. Misinformation is shifting attitudes, unless accurate information is placed in the minds of the undecided.

    • mansbestfriends

      you folks remind me of the gun lobby the NRA. Just dont care what anyone else thinks and not even willing to try to compromise for the good of everyone. I hopefully have 25 good years left in me. I am sure you will hear from me often over the years. I will do everything within my limits to end animal research before I go out. It is a sick attitude you have towards other intelligent creatures of this planet. If your life is difficult now it could be because of all the bad kharma you generate everytime you spray hairspray for 30 seconds at a time into the eyes of a lab monkey with its eyes taped open so you can find out if it will affect human eyes….FN ridiculous! There are so many stories like this and all you have to say is we dont consider their pain as valid…ITS NEVER RIGHT TO DO WRONG IN ORDER TO DO RIGHT!

      • Mansbestfriend:

        If you get sick withing the next 25 years, do you plan to forgo medical treatment? If at the end of those 25 years you need medications or operations to keep you from dying will you say, “No thanks.”? God forbid you develop cancer, diabetes or heat disease, but if you do would you refuse medications or treatments for these? All of these scenarios require medication and/or treatments developed through animal research.

        It’s funny but every time the question is posed to an animal rights activist about forgoing any medical treatment developed through animal research they suddenly come up with some lame reason why it’s OK.

  8. Lynn,

    The fact that certain groups did not have rights and now do have rights cannot be extrapolated to suggest that BECAUSE animals don’t currently have rights that they should or will. We do not think flies or bacteria have rights – should I analogise to the plight of women to suggest that even bacteria deserve rights? Would a minority be justified in taking direct action to ensure the rights of bacteria?

    Animals do not have responsibilities in the sense that we do not judge a lion that eats its young, or a bird who leaves its young to starve in the nest. I assume by responsibilities you mean duties? Since the only other place where we talk of responsibilities related to the idea that animals are morally responsible for their own actions – something they have no capacity for, and no system to enforce it by.

    mansbestfriends,

    All life on earth has rights? That is extreme! What about the rights of plants, bacteria and other non-animals? If you want to change to all animal life, how about tapeworms – they can live in your stomach without being life threatening? Is it against the animals’ “rights” for your to take antibiotics to kill it.

    • Dr. Bennett has done an excellent job of covering the waterfront on the serious threat that animal activists with broad agendas but a very limited perspective are causing to lifesaving animal research. The support of all research scientists is essential.

      I encourage anyone who wishes to respond negatively to first THOROUGHLY examine the issues and look at the full picture of animal research, not just the limited and biased arguments of animal activists, most of whom are merely going through the charade of engaging in peripheral issues to try to legitimize themselves — especially with younger audiences — when their real agenda is no use of animals for ANY purpose, including essential research.

      TO mansbestfriends:
      Animal “welfare” is not the same as animal “rights.” Animal researchers who work in controlled academic settings are all very much concerned with animal welfare. Research animals are well cared for — much better than many people’s pets — and the researchers do have a great deal of respect for their animals. They are well aware of the responsibility they have to be good stewards of the animal resources they have. I am not a researcher, but I have seen a lot of animal research firsthand and have been impressed with the care and precautions taken with research animals.

      • Mark you are absolutely right. If higher welafre is achieved that is better than nothing but we in the animal rights movement simply do not believe that other species exist to be used by us. We therefore fight to stop the oppression and enslavement of all regardless or sex, colour, ability or species. Imagine yourself in a laboratory, a welfarist would campaign for you to maybe have a TV, better food a more “humane” murder. A rightist would do what they could to get you out and not be experimented on at all ( unless you decided that you wanted to be experimented on).
        Which would you prefer?

    • I would say that it is pretty obvious that all animals are complex lifeforms capable of suffering. No human can live without some degree of killing whether that is through cultivating crops or just walking when we inadvertantly crush for example snails. As a vegan my aim is simply to as far as is practicable to avoid killing others. I am no saint but I know very well that many non human animals I know possess the capacity to feel a full range of emotions and to suffer. This is obvious to all but a few religious or cartesian nutters. Indeed why would any vivisector torment primates in maternal deprivation experiments if it were otherwise?
      It is highly disingenious to compare bacteria to for example a dog, we know that dogs are complex, intelligent and suffer immensely if neglected or abused, as yet to my knowledge there is no evidence which could compare a single cell organism with a mammal, an insect or a bird.

      Chanting the mantra “humans are more important” has no scientific or moral basis as no-one as yet has come up with any kind of argument as to why this is the case. The same old nonsense was said about women and different racial groups. Marion Simms the gynaecologist experimented on slaves and poor immigrants in the USA and is still hailed as a hero, I think that he was a monster and what he did (although even today we still have the Simms speculum) was an atrocity regardless of his achievements. At the time women and especially black women were regarded as inferior for no other reason than that it was convenient to use and abuse them. The same is true when other species are slashed, maimed, burned, raped, tortured and murdered. There is no logic in where you draw the line of who should be protected from abuse as many humans do not take on any responsibilities. We may judge a person who kills a child, or even just refuses to take any responsibility for their own lives but they still have no responsibilities. We should not judge, in my opinion, indigenous tribes who live autonomously from our consumer culture but of course if our paths cross they should be afforded the right not to be abused.
      Giving animals the right to not be vivisected on, enslaved or farmed does not mean that we have to police the wild, that is not our remit (although I would like to think that we would always help others in distress rather like dophins and turtles have helped mariners in trouble). What we are talking about is quite simply accepting the consequence of the theory of evolution which is that we are merely one species of many, we are not more important, we are not the reason the world exists and in time we will become extinct or evolve into another life form. The simplistic attitude of human supremacy can be blamed on the Judeo/Chrisian/Islamic belief that God created the world for us. You are supposed to be scientists where is the proof that humans are more important?
      ” All life on earth has rights?” you ask, I will answer that we should have respect and reverence for all life but that rights are a human legal construct which could not apply to nature. The notion of animal rights concerns our relationships with other beings with whom we co-exist, because they are not inferior to us and because we know they suffer we should not use them and we should stop violating them and halt our suicidal habit of wrecking havoc on the environment. Personally I think that crowning humans as little gods when our species is the dirtiest, most violent, most arrogant and most harmful creature ever spawned on the earth is not only extreme but delusional.

    • speakingofresearch.

      I’m not sure if you are aware but bacteria isn’t an animal, take a look at a biological chart and you’ll realise this. Bacteria cannot feel pain, happiness, suffering or have social relationships for example.

      The point Lynn was trying to make is that not having responsibilites is no reason to exclude rights from individuals, such as children or the severely disabled, who do not have a moral obligation to duties.

      • That’s irrelevant – Lynn argued than any LIVING thing should have rights – I was simply showing that this was a ridiculous concept because then bacteria (which is living) would have it.

        I accept most AR folk argue that being “alive” isn’t the important factor – but being able to feel pain. We argue that pain is no more arbitrary than life – the fact we can reason and consider these types of issue is the very thing which allows us to create and have rights.

        Tom

      • I’m not saying that being able to feel pain is what makes people deserving of rights, as people with paralysis or dysfunctional nervous systems would therefore not be granted rights

        You say that it is the ability to reason and consider these types of issues is what grants people rights. If this is the case, then most children and severely disabled people would be excluded by this thesis.

        You say rights by pain is no more arbitrary than life, I agree. If you are against the arbitary nature of granting rights, then why exclude non-human animals?

        Take note. Here’s how evolution has been going:

        “I am black, I want rights for black people.
        I am a women, I want rights for women.
        I am a human, I want rights for humans.
        I am an animal, I want rights for animals.”

        I believe in rights according to each individuals needs. Unsurprisingly our needs as humans are similar to those of non-humans: To be free from pain, imprisonment, oppression, etc.

    • mansbestfriends

      Comeon Lynn, lets be serious here. I dont consider plants as feeling pain. The researchers dont consider pain as something to be an issue. I would expect that any organism with a brain should be the focus here.

      BTW I boycott Procter and Gamble who make many good products out there that I will never use, like Folger’s, Tide, and a host of household cleaning products. But there are plenty of alternatives and there is with animal testing in general.

      I dont expect any of you people to ever have compassion for animals but I will stand up for my furry fdriends every chance I get.

  9. mansbestfriends

    Being against animal research is not at all a position of extremism as you put it. This is a basic core rights that all life has on earth. You need to understand it is finally now mainstream to treat animals with respect. We all know its no more necessary to test a lab monkey than it is to throw good recycling in the trash. Its nice to see the public becoming more aware and taking a stand on this issue.

    • mansbestfriend: First, I believe the less than 1% of research currently involves primates. Somewhere around 90% IS conducted using rodent models. I would like you to tell me how biomedical research should be conducted without using animal models. I’m curious, what’s your alternative?

      • Why is it animal research advocates provide minority statistics to justify research? I think it’s because a lot of these individuals suffer from moral schizophrenia, therefore need to remind themselves (and others) that it’s only a small minority of animals – that they care about – are experimented on and killed.

        If less than 1% of humans were unethically researched on, would this be ok too?

      • Reader,

        It’s fine if you are against animal research. Just remember to reject everything ever gained through it and I’ll be fine with your convictions. Are you willing to do that? If not you have no credibility. If you are I’ll send you a list of everything you know have to forgo. You’re choice.

      • On the flipside.

        It’s fine if you are against slavery and racism. Just remember to reject everything ever gained through it and I’ll be fine with your convictions. Are you willing to do that? If not you have no credibility. If you are I’ll send you a list of everything you know have to forgo. Your choice. Start with boycotting roads, houses, even civilisation itself. Are you doing that? If not you support slavery and racism by your own standards.

      • However we would happily boycott a road that was built yesterday with slave labour. You are happy to use every new invention that animal research creates.

      • Reader,

        Ok, go ahead and give me a list of all the current roads built by slave labor. Last I heard construction workers make pretty good money building roads, but hey, if you can name a road built by slave labor I’ll be happy to avoid it. My house was only built 10 years ago so I think I’m safe there.

        I’ll tell you what, I’ll even go first. Here’s my list of things you have to give up:

        Cold medicines, decongestants, anit-inflammatory medications, allergy medications, vaccines, anti-coagulants, anti-depressants, chemotherapy, CT scans, MRI’s , insulin for diabetes, kidney dialysis, migraine medications, cholesterol medications, transplant rejection medications. Those are just a few. I realize you may not need some or any of these now, but you might and are you willing to say no thanks?

        If you can name one thing I’m using now that was build by slave labor, list it and I’ll not use it.

  10. Alyson, you say that most people do not equate non-human rights with human rights. I think that you are correct in your assumption but is it not also true that in many societies that women’s rights are considered by the majority to be less than men’s rights? Therefore would it be morally acceptable in a patriachal society to experiment on women? I would think not personally but throughout history the powerful have used those weaker for all manner of abuses and slavery it is considered “normal” by the majority until the minority at great risk to themselves instigate change.

    Others exist or themselves not for you. They are not pieces of equipment.

    Another question. I read on this site the assumption that animals have no responsibilities and therefore should not have rights. This is interesting because other species do feed themselves, clean themselves, bring up their young etc which to my mind shows responsibility. It is also interesting because many people slit the throats of other people, abuse their children and live parisitically off of the backs of others to my mind showing no responsibility at all.
    Should therefore a couple of birds who lovingly build their nest and bring up their babies bestowing welcome bird song to the street be afforded rights and a pimp who trafficks young women for profit not be afforded rights? If so is it OK to experiment on the pimp and at what level would a human have to prove themselves responsible enough to have the right not to be killed in an experiment for the greater good?

    (by the way I would not support anyone being experimented on without inormed consent and I am opposed to the death penalty)

    • Lynn,

      The birds aren’t doing any of those things because they feel a moral obligation to do so. That same bird will abandon her nest if threatened and start again. If you touch the baby she’ll abandon it. Where’s the responsibility there? What you term responsibility is simply instinct.

      • Jack, Many humans abandon their own children for all sorts of selfish reasons. To my knowledge no other species exists in which the father rapes very young offspring (correct me if I am wrong). No other species systematically tortures other individuals, no other species has brought the planet to the brink of catastophre. Where is the responsiblity there?
        As for instinct how do you know that other animals simply respond to instinct and that we do not? Where does a human mother’s love or her child come from, could that just be instinct too? From the evolutional point of view you are asking us to believe that hey presto a completely moral creature was born from amoral parentage.

      • Lynn,

        Moles, Hyenas, Stoats and Bonobos (I expect there are many more) all have shown cases where the father has raped the infant animals. Rape itself is very common in the animal kingdom – fortunately humans have evolved, and so has their capacity for ethics. Nearly all of us beliebe both rape and incest are morally wrong – only a tiny number of people have broken those moral rules – and we, as society, condemn them.

        Torture is also existent in the animal kingdom – cats will essentially torture a mouse (playing with its prey) – this is true of many animals, especially when they’re learning to

      • Lynn,

        Mice commit incest given the opportunity. I think you spent way too much time watching Saturday morning cartoons and are anthropomorphizing. Your example of the humans abandoning their children for selfish reasons is true, but they know it’s wrong. I don’t think I would be out of line to say most animals don’t. As for a mother’s love for her child, yes it could be just instinct. Can you prove otherwise?

      • James.

        Rape, as well as torture and murder, is very common in the animal kingdom. But we haven’t yet evolved past this have we?