PeTA is morally blind

A recent OpEd by PeTA’s Justin Goodman makes a direct comparison between the work biomedical researchers do with animals with past instances where human patients were subjected to experimentation without explicit consent, such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.

The basis for such comparison can only on a philosophical position where there is no morally relevant differences between non-human and human animals.   None at all.  The way they see it is overly simplistic, and admittedly catchy : “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy“.    They live in a black and white moral universe.  This is the same universe that allows sexism and misogyny to be used to make a point, a practice that even other animal activists find repugnant.

Those that have followed PeTA cannot find these statements surprising.  After all, the moral equivalence between a chicken and a human was the basis for their “Holocaust in your Plate” campaign.   As part of their literature,  the creative media people at PeTA wrote:

Like the Jews murdered in concentration camps, animals are terrorized when they are housed in huge filthy warehouses and rounded up for shipment to slaughter. The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps.

Many groups reacted with outrage at such comparison, including the Anti-Defamation League, which responded:

The effort by PETA to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent. PETA’s effort to seek “approval” for their “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign is outrageous, offensive and takes chutzpah to new heights.

Later, Rabbi Cooper, Simon Wisenthal Center’s Associate Dean said:

“Did they know the impact this campaign would have when they started it two years ago? Absolutely,” Cooper said. “They leveraged the victims of the Shoah [the Hebrew word for the Holocaust] to promote their issue. The victims of the Shoah should not be leveraged to gain copy in a newspaper or airtime on TV.”

Even vegetarians protested the campaign by eating meat.

Mr. Goodman’s OpEd is the latest proof that PeTA is morally impaired.

PeTA sees no moral difference between Michael Vick abusing dogs with Albert Sabin working to rid the world of polio;  PeTA sees no moral difference between teenagers putting a cat in a microwave and scientists using animals to produce breakthrough treatments for breast cancer.

As Charles Darwin once wrote,

[…] I know that phhysiology cannot possible progress except by means of experiments on living animals, and I feel the deepest conviction that he who retards the progress of physiology commits a crime against mankind.

[…] No one, unless he is grossly ignorant of what science has done for mankind, can entertain any doubt of the incalculable benefits which will hereafter be derived from physiology, not only by man, but by the lower animals.

Given the multitude of opportunities to advance the well being of animals one cannot help but wonder why PeTA insists on attacking important medical research that will save the lives of uncountable humans and animals like.

Following Darwin’s thoughts, one can only conclude that PeTA is committing a crime against humanity.

PeTA is not just morally impaired; it is morally blind.

131 thoughts on “PeTA is morally blind

  1. Since we see animals and humans having the same disease in many cases. Why is it, I would donate my dog which has a disease to a research facility studying this in dogs, as it may help people and other dogs in the end. I would also donate a pig. I would not donate my “boy”! To even put these as equal in the same sentence seems extremely foreign to the majority of people. We see most people involved in the vegan animal rights movement state, ‘I love my animals and people can drop off the face of the earth or people are destroying the earth.” If one thinks these people will create a more “compassionate society”, I would beg to differ and call it “hog wash”.

  2. Dr Arnold L. Goldman, on March 18, 2011 at 9:53 said:

    “We see it differently. They regarded Jews beneath regard, less than we regard mice, but there was nothing honest about it. Those in power knew exactly what they were doing. We use mice, but treat them with some regard, just less than if they were human. Disagree we might, but please don’t accuse me of making your point.”

    YES Dr. Goldman you ARE making my point:
    Nazi scientists HONESTLY believed Jews were subhuman (just as much as you honestly believe, but can’t prove, that animals bear less moral status than humans; Nazi doctors acted with an intention of seeking scientific progress, improving the human species, and advancing German society — were those not noble goals? Their demonization derives NOT from their “intentions” or “sincerity” nor even “motivation,” but from their ACTIONS which were so beyond the pale that their ends (scientific/human progress), even if achieved and no matter how well-intended, could not justify their means (if they had merely experimented on 10 million Jews with fMRIs and word-surveys they would not be condemned today). YOU are employing a double-standard because it’s convenient for you, and you can’t escape your own entrenched species-prejudice. (I’m not saying, btw, that the treatment of lab animals is the same as the Nazi treatment of Jews, but am saying the logic used to defend it follows the same faulty ‘ends-justify-means’ pattern the Nazis deluded themselves with).
    And I’m curious, in your scheme, as members of the human species, do you and Adolf Eichmann share the same “moral status?”

    1. As long as we continue to disagree on the essential point of the value (to each of us) of the life of one of our own species, and the value (to each of us) of the value of the life of other species, indeed I would say lesser species, we will be talking past one another.

      I am not formally trained in ethics, nor am I an expert in moral debate. To me, advancing medical science to benefit our own species, even at the expense of other species, is a self evident good.
      If Martians come here one day and do the same to us, that is our misfortune. Until then, we focus on our own species

      The minority who would limit the direction of scientific inquiry because the means do not justify the ends, in their view, somehow do not see, or are unwilling to see in personal terms what it means to lose a parent, child or loved one to illness as yet unconquered. That’s not said to be a “scare tactic” as was earlier claimed, but a reality those of us who have lived awhile, and lost loved ones to disease, know too well.

      In contrast to the above discussion, Nazi leaders wanted Jews for experiments to de-humanize the Jews, not because any valid line of scientific inquiry existed or was posited. Indeed the Nazi “scientists” themselves were serving violent masters who could not be disobeyed. The leaders directed the “research.”

      Allowing themselves to believe human beings were subhuman may have made the “scientists” work easier or not, I so not know. The comparison, in my mind, is not relevant. The entire world now knows and condemns what their leaders and their “scientists” did at those leaders behest. The enterprise was not expected nor intended to solve disease problems, but to serve political purposes. The animal research we do today is not of that nature and can’t be compared in any rational way.

      DVZ, I dont doubt the sincerity of your argument that the very premise of animal research is immoral. As I think Dario said earlier, morality is a human construct, of, by and for humanity, yet we may choose to extend principles of it to other species (do unto others…). In animal research, society has made the choice not to extend the same principles to all animals in all circumstances for a perceived greater good. Call it utilitarian, it is.

      Around the world developed societies do research to help their people. It comes down to one high school kid, perhaps with a sick grandparent, inspired to go into science, in the hope of helping someone else’s loved one, one day. To such a person, mice that may be used, do not carry the same weight. The student got to decide, but not he mice.

      Fortunately USDA, state agencies, IRBs and IACUCs exist to ensure an acceptable level of merit to studies and the conditions under which animals are kept are according to published regulation. It is a self correcting and self improving system.

      In perhaps 100 or 200 years, when African societies have developed to the same degree ours has, expect their universities to be doing meritorious research in animal models to solve the many unsolved disease problems of that troubled continent, all to benefit the people of African nations.

  3. “Perhaps you could stop by the nearest hospital and look at the eyes of these human patients too?”

    Dario (sorry to be dragging this out), but I’m glad you finally brought things down to this level (as you may sense I don’t have great patience for philosophical arguments, where words tend to be used tautologically to discuss other words)… I spend almost 10 hrs. every week in a major hospital, so yes, I witness much human suffering from burn patients to amputees to disfigurement to cardiac arrests, emergency situations etc. And that is indeed (I think) our fundamental difference: you see that human pain, and being human yourself, want us working overboard (in any legal way we can) to diminish it — I accept that as a perfectly legitimate emotional response (though arguments couching it in morality are more troublesome to me). I perceive that human pain in a larger context, and it makes me emotionally NOT want to be an agent of yet further pain and suffering in the wider world to any innocent life, if I can avoid it… even though I too want people working hard to alleviate human suffering in non-pain-creating, non-exploitative ways — your option is to put this veneer of ‘moral status’ onto things and then pass judgment who gets it and who doesn’t — I spent over 6 years in animal lab work (which by the way, I don’t think ended any human suffering in the world) and had to repress my instinctive emotions/conscience to get through it, while accepting human rationalizations, that in the end I couldn’t justify. Putting humans first and foremost is a natural, but I think ill-founded response, I’m no longer willing to do automatically.
    We all view the world through a human prism; but I try hard to see that world more broadly, beyond the human blinders put on me (never entirely possible). We can’t get beyond these different approaches.

    1. You see… I believe research does not increase suffering but reduces it. A lot. Again, I am not a utilitarian, so I don’t think the research can be justified merely because of the benefits.

      I think it is a noble goal to live your life without causing harm to others. I also think it is a noble goal to live your life by trying to reducing suffering and disease. I try to live by both principles. But these two goals sometimes conflict with each other as in the case of biomedical research. I never said human interests always trump those of animals. I do not believe that’s the case.

      But when human and animal life are in conflict, I think it is sometimes justified to pick the human. I do not believe all living beings have the same interest in life, but I accept you feel differently.

  4. The last time I read ‘moral philosophy’ was almost 25 yrs. ago, finding it so lax, subjective, and unempirical that, with the exception of some Peter Singer work, I’ve never returned to it (perhaps it’s improved in 25 yrs., though I doubt it). But I’ve thought about it A LOT, and don’t see how morality or “moral status” exist as anything other than subjective human mental creations (subject to constant change).

    Again, my stance is based on “ETHICS” — the code of behavior adopted by human groups/societies to promote stable peaceful existence. The fundamental ethic (found in virtually every religion and society throughout human history) is “do unto others as….” an obvious corollary of which is, do NOT deliberately and needlessly cause pain in others for your own benefit and against their will; and obviously the “others” must include whoever are capable of feeling pain/suffering (you don’t get to just summarily pick who’s included). I can’t make it anymore simple/basic than that. Are there exceptions, extreme cases, oddball scenarios, fine-lines, of course… but that’s the general operating premise that I can’t get around.
    But I probably can’t make the morality/ethics distinction clear enough for your understanding, anymore than you can define “moral status” in a way I’d find meaningful.
    Lastly, Dario, am I to assume that you have never looked into an animal’s eyes and been able to see fear, anxiety, pain, suffering? — if THAT is the case I pity you…

    1. “….do NOT deliberately and needlessly cause pain in others….”

      And we are not needlessly causing pain in others.

      I can easily see an animal is in distress, experiences fear, or anxiety by the behavior they show. And yes, I can see it in their eyes too. But no, I do not see the same fear, anxiety and psychological suffering I see in families and patients at the hospital, when a 12 year old child is told that half of her brain will be removed to treat her epileptic seizures, when someone is told their parent has Alzheimer’s, or when children are told their mother has breast cancer. Perhaps you could stop by the nearest hospital and look at the eyes of these human patients too?

  5. Dr. Goldman you have MADE MY point!: it is because Nazis honestly viewed Jews as subhuman vermin that they could (by your standards) be expected to experiment on them, and should not be condemned by your standards (in their minds they were basically experimenting on rats). If they had viewed Jews as humans, THEN you could condemn them (or if you shared my view that the creation of unnecessary pain is enough to castigate them).

    And yes, Dario, I agree we are at an impasse, because you keep talking about a concocted fiction called “moral status” that I contend doesn’t exist, and that you can’t seem to define or explain where it comes from, except in your imagination.

    1. We see it differently. They regarded Jews beneath regard, less than we regard mice, but there was nothing honest about it. Those in power knew exactly what they were doing. We use mice, but treat them with some regard, just less than if they were human. Disagree we might, but please don’t accuse me of making your point.

    2. I conjured up “moral status” in my imagination?! Please, don’t make me laugh:

      You just proved how little grasp of the moral philosophy literature you have.

      The reason we do not get anywhere is because you want to base your moral duties to other living beings by merely looking into their eyes.

      When it comes to rid the world from polio, cancer and AIDS, this is not good enough for me.

  6. DVZ your description of the motivations behind the Nazi medical experiments is flawed. The Nazi’s justified their experiments on the grounds that Jews were not human, in fact they were regarded as animals, no more morally elevated than that. Indeed, that is what allowed the experiments. Had the Jews been regarded as human, the experiments could not have been justified, even by them. But they conjured an atmosphere and culture in which Jews and others were seen as subhuman, humans. The Nazis made no pretense of alleviating these individuals pain and their experimental designs, if they could be called that were not rigorous or overseen, in any way. These were instead designed to cause pain, more than to elucidate knowledge. Thus the Nazi experiments comparison here holds no water, in fact it strengthens Dario’s point regarding the morality of not using our own species in basic research. The Nazi’s were not sick or mentally ill. They were just evil. To your other point, we alleviate animal pain because we can and because its the right thing to do. We can do that and still get the knowledge we seek.That’s not a justification not to do the work at all. It clarifies what humanity is, being capable of making a choice based upon a greater good.

  7. Dario, first (on a positive note) I respect that you are willing to stay engaged in a discussion where you must know no minds are going to be changed….

    You ask “what other “variables” I think are morally relevant” — so here are a few, but again pain/discomfort/death is the overriding one in most instances:

    …levels of pain
    …level of animal freedom/restraint/incarceration
    …certainty of death
    …levels of sentience
    …number and kind of animals used
    …positive consequences of the experiment & degree of certainty of those pos. consequences
    …validity/reliability and precision of the scientific methodology used (…often QUITE low in my experience)
    …level of informed consent
    …honesty of the researcher
    …knowledge/competency/training of the researcher
    …full disclosure of methods and data

    Dario, if only humans have moral status, then why we even grant so-called “humane care” to research animals; pretty over-the-top and unnecessary isn’t it? just tokenism I s’pose (and obviously we have no way of knowing if the animals even appreciate it). And is our moral status based on superior intellect, in which case I surely have higher moral status than any 3-yr-old I know; or is some other magical quality from the gods involved… and does a superior being, a million years higher evolved than us from another galaxy, have more moral status that we do; surely it must. (these are rhetorical, no need to answer)

    Your whole argument (which you have to make to ethically validate your work) is concocted out of self-interest, and ad hoc mental furniture tossed in whenever needed to justify actions. Meanwhile we condemn Nazi doctors who operated with the very same scientific intentions others possess, but did so on human subjects. Either the Nazis were sick/mentally ill people who are thus (from a western view) not responsible for their actions, and ought not be demonized, or if they genuinely believed they were doing good work for both the German state and Mankind, than too how can they be condemned… UNLESS the doing of good work/science is NOT ethically justifiable by the creation of large-scale pain/death.

    To those involved in animal work, who want to pretend you can’t know what animals are thinking/feeling, I would simply ask that while experimenting, look into their eyes…. really… really… look… into… their… eyes. (It just may change you forever…).

    1. Much of what you list are not inherent properties that apply to a living animal to determine if they are part of your moral community.

      I never said that humans are the only one to have moral status. I believe that moral status is not binary, but graded. Animal life is of moral concern to me, but their moral status is not equal to that of humans. I am not sure how many times I have to repeat this.

      Looking into the eyes of a living being seems hardly a good way to determine moral status.

      Finally, you might not be aware I am not currently doing any animal research. My only interest in this is that I believe I am morally obliged to save the lives of our children and our grandchildren, which is what is at stake if the research were to stop.

      It is funny that activists always have to find an ulterior motive for others to support the research.

      In any case, we seem to be talking past each other by now…

      I guess we can safely say this is as far as we can get this conversation to go.

  8. Dario, that is nonsensical utter rationalization; a “human point of view” what B.S.! as if there are things that all humans even agree on???
    Of course I am able to comprehend that animals don’t want to suffer (do I also need a mouse brain in order to know that a mouse wants food or oxygen?)… even more easily than I know that Jews may have suffered at the hands of Nazis — humans lie and exaggerate all the time, so how do I know that the Holocaust isn’t a lie and exaggeration (as indeed some humans contend) — technically, I don’t know, but I presume the truth of certain compelling evidence.
    So do you feel it’s okay to kick your dog but not your child, because, afterall you can’t truly know your dog’s point-of-view (and do you really know the point-of-view of a 6-month-old, or for that matter a 96-yr.-old)? What arrogant rubbish! “Speciesism” doesn’t have to be an exact analogy to racism or sexism (which also aren’t exact analogies) to have meaning and pertinence. Are greed, prejudice, hate, selfishness, inherent parts of the “human point of view” (and thus to be respected) since we all possess them in some degree?

    You know the money you spend on your research, if re-distributed, could probably save the lives of more starving and dehydrating children around the globe (who don’t even require research) than you will save in your lifetime, if helping humans is truly your immediate goal, there are millions awaiting.
    Anyway, you’re employing mushy-headed philosophers who are attempting to alleviate their own cognitive dissonance, where common sense will do just fine.

    1. I think I can assess the interests of living beings from a human point of view.

      I know about their biology and physiological well-being, from a human point of view.

      I can infer what their minds may look using our knowledge of animal cognition, form a human point of view.

      This is all we can do from a rational point of view.

      When you ask me to “put yourself in their shoes” I am not sure exactly what this means. I can put myself in the shoes of other human beings under the assumption that we share much of the same cognitive abilities, emotions and feelings.

      Finally, I do not understand why people insist on distributing money from biomedical research for other purposes.

      I am all for prevention of disease as I said many times…

      But why don’t we distribute the money that mathematicians use to solve abstract (useless?) theorems instead? Why don’t we distribute the money that cosmologists use to study the (useless?) events that occurred during the first few seconds of the universe instead?

      1. Mathematicians and cosmologists are not killing innocent beings, and claiming that if they stopped killing innocent beings, millions and millions of people will die. If vivisectors stopped killing innocent beings, it doesn’t necessarily mean that human health will suffer *because* those resources can be redirected to better uses.

        1. Doris,

          The US spends about $1.5 billion on oil daily. What about if we stop driving 20 days of the year (one day every other week) to get $30 billion back, which is about the entire budget of the NIH for one full year. Then you can use the $30 billion to find alternatives for animal research that you are convinced can be developed. In the meantime, animal research saves lives will continue to save lives and society will not stop the work any time soon… certainly, not sooner than they would decide to stop eating meat.

      2. Again, we are at an impasse, because I believe that vivisection is inherently immoral while you do not. Regardless of how much funding there is, we would not perform experiments on unconsenting humans, and, I believe, we should not perform those experiments on unconsenting nonhuman animals.

        The funding merely addresses the issue you raise about millions of people dying without vivisection.

        1. “I believe that vivisection is inherently immoral while you do not”

          True. So this is where the discussion should be… Lets stop pretending that what you want to do is rebalance the research budget.

    2. Also, the common sense of 92% of scientists is that we should do the research.

  9. Yes, we disagree… and I submit that for you to look at matters from the point of view of the mouse you will need… well, the brain of a mouse.

    Here is a relevant passage from Bernard Williams “Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy”:

    The word “speiciesism” has been used for an attitude some regard as our ultimate prejudice, that in favor of humanity. It is more revealingly called “humanism,” and its is not a prejudice. To see the world from a human point of view is not an absurd thing for human beings to do. It is sometimes said that such a view implies that we regard human beings as the most important or valuable creatures in the universe. This would be an absurd thing to do, but it is not implied. To suppose that it is, is to make the mistake of identifying the point of view of the universe and the human point of view.
    No one should make any claims about the importance of human beings to the universe: the point is about the importance of human beings to human beings.

    A concern for nonhuman animals is indeed a proper part of human life, but we can acquire it, cultivate it, and teach it only in terms or our understanding of ourselves. Human beings both have that understanding and are the objects of it, and this is one of the basic respects in which our ethical relations to each other must always be different from our relations to other animals. Before one gets to the question of how animals should be treated, there is the fundamental point that this is the only question there can be: how they should be treated. The choice can only be whether animals benefit from our practices or are harmed by them. This is why speciesism is falsely modeled on racism and sexism, which really are prejudices. To suppose that there is an ineliminable white or male understanding of the world, and to think that the only choice is whether blacks or women should benefit from “our” (white, male) practices or be shared by them: this is already to be prejudiced. But in the case of human relations to animals, the analogues to such thoughts are simply correct.

    Our arguments have to be grounded in a human point of view; they cannot be derived from a point of view that is no one’s point of view at all. It is not, as the strongest forms of ethical theory would have it, that reason drives us to get beyond humanity. The most urgent requirements of humanity are, as they always have been, that we should assemble as many resources as we can to help us to respect it.

  10. Dario:

    We’re talking a bit at cross-purposes here… and internet postings aren’t very good for nuanced or in-depth discussion of matters… also, I’d rather not have Prof. Francione’s views brought into it, since I’m ONLY giving MY view here, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with others’ views. Indeed, we are partially into semantics at this point….

    First, I don’t even accept the term “moral status” — I don’t believe such a thing exists, other than by arbitrary fiat; if you think it does exist, where does it derive from: God? from humans themselves? from Martians? is it just inherent in the Universe? or just a human invention? or what??? Nor do I even like the term “rights” — it is strictly a legal term to me — I have NO inherent rights other than what a governing body bequeaths to me.
    What I am interested in, is what I can only term “ethics,” a strictly man-made code created for societal purposes (…with no humans in existence there is no such thing as ethics OR morality; when humans come on the scene and form groups/societies then ethics comes to bear). But once humans create ethics, then they have a responsibility to apply those ethics consistently across all who can be affected (and not play favorites), including especially those who can’t speak or defend themselves, and who are most vulnerable to exploitation; babies, children, handicapped, the weak, disabled, minorities, and yes, animals, that are capable of suffering — exploitation (using others for your own benefit), especially when it includes physical discomfort, pain, and/or death is a significant category of ethical concern. Just to keep things simple, one can view “ethics” as grounded in the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as….”). And yes, of course there are “gradations” in the practical application of ethics, and specific contexts may change things (…I may generally oppose torture, yet concoct unusual, improbable scenarios in which I’d support torture; or generally oppose war, but sometimes find it necessary… although ‘necessary’ and ‘ethical’ are certainly not the same thing). And BTW I take a very strict view of “ethics” — such that little I do in my own typical and practical American middle-class life is “ethical” (but I suspect you think much of what you do is ethical).
    Finally, you wish to believe that humans have gradually evolved from animals over millions of years, yet simultaneously are so far removed from them as to take on special “moral status” setting them sharply apart — we disagree on that. You see human “progress” as trumping what I term “ethics” — again, we simply disagree. We can go ’round and ’round on these decades-old arguments, but won’t likely change either of our views — and I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but you’re looking at matters through the eyes of the exploiter; I’m looking at matters through the eyes of the exploited.

  11. “You previously said that the ability to feel pain is all that matters.”

    ohhh, puhh-leeeze… I said it was “an overriding concern,” that means, of many variables, it gets the greatest weight, but is not the sole variable.

    And you said all humans have equal moral status, so I suppose I should ask you how you stand on abortion, capital punishment, soldiers sent in to war, criminals given life imprisonment, or even juries sitting in judgment of other people, or parents having control over their children.
    Like that child, animals are innocent (and very child-like) victims in the process, but their innocence doesn’t concern you.
    I’ll throw the question back at you: would you invasively experiment on a masochist who WANTS to be experimented on? Or let’s even make it more realistic — suppose it’s a murderer who is consigned to the electric chair, and out of his remorse wants to pay something back to society by being a subject in a very important/useful, but painful medical experiment before being put to death… okay to experiment on him?

    1. Ok… Can you please spell out all the variables you think are morally relevant and their weights?

      I presume that if variables have weights the end result must be a framework where moral status is not equal among living beings. It cannot lead to moral status being all or none, which is what Francione and others argue.

      Do you believe in binary moral status or in graded moral status? Do you believe that the ability to feel pain endows living beings with a “right” not to harmed by others?

      I wil be glad to share my thoughts on the other scenarios you brought up… In fact, I answer many of these during the debate with Prof. Francione.

  12. “Are you saying you find permissible to experiment on this child?!?!”

    no, not on a child, on an adult who gives informed consent (…even though “informed consent” is itself problematic and rarely exists in a true form — those who are subjects in fMRI studies can’t know with certainty what the long, or even short-term, effects of fMRI may be, though they will be “informed” it is harmless).

    1. I am sorry, but you seem to be unable to follow the consequences of your premises.

      You previously said that the ability to feel pain is all that matters.

      If so, you should be willing to accept this child as a subject in experimentation.

      If not, the only possible conclusion is that there is more needed to establish moral status.

      Is it not?

  13. Dario writes:
    “Would then be Ok in your view to experiment on a human that has congenitial insenstivity to pain?”

    I can imagine scenarios in which I’d find this ethically ok, though it would probably be difficult to construct such an experiment with adequate sample size and controls, and measurement of variables, to be very scientifically meaningful. A tougher philosophical question would be about doing such an experiment on a ‘masochist’ who enjoys pain!!

    We simply have a fundamental difference of opinion over what is ethically allowable to decrease human suffering and increase human lifespan (assuming these are even valuable goals, which I would defy any of you to empirically demonstrate).
    And if you truly are only interested in helping human beings than don’t watch basketball when you could be working in a soup kitchen, don’t watch a movie when you could be working at a suicide-prevention line, don’t play tennis when you could help the local rape-crisis center… don’t center your life around yourself, your money, material things, and immediate family, when you can work for Mother Teresa’s group….

    1. Are you saying you find permissible to experiment on this child?!?!

      I simple couldn’t do it, under no cirucmstances… and this tells me there is something beyond the ability to feel pain that is morally relevant to moral status. The ability to suffer is certainly part of it, but not the only thing.

      Just to clarify — our work is not aimed exclusively at increasing human lifespan, but to allow humans to live long enough to attain its potential.

      I do what I can to better the world. In many cases, I’d agree with many campaigns by animal rights activists.

      However, when it comes to medical research, they are criminally wrong.

  14. The point is, that scientific research is conducted in a variety of different ways, always with the primary aim of helping people. I, Dr. Ringach and others who support or conduct research, make no bones about working to maintain scientific freedom to help mankind, however that may legally be done. Sometimes, the research primarily helps veterinary patients or wildlife, but mostly primarily mankind. I believe that is as it should be. We are on mankinds team.

    Feel free, those who oppose animal use in research, to continue to make your case in media, in the voting booth and by legal public demonstration. Going beyond that to heated hyperbole, threats or actual violence puts you beyond the pale, however, and turns off potential converts. No one listens to a loud bully.

    Imagine this: we conduct a national poll, one in which the vast majority of eligible US voters turned out, say 200 million people. During the lead up to this hypothetical referendum you would have the opportunity over months to make your best arguments against animal research, and the opposition would also make theirs. And then suppose after the vote, and by a hugely lopsided margin the electorate voted to allow animal research to continue, would you then accept that? Do I already know your answer?

    1. I’m sure a poll in 1850 would have validated human slavery, too. Sometimes the law is wrong, and there is a moral obligation to violate it. Much as John Brown did to battle human slavery. Much as the ALF does to battle non-human animal oppression.

      1. Dr. Vlasek, we will not be able to agree on a framework that values animal life equal to human life. I understand there are a significant number of people that do not agree with that premise. Equating slavery, Nazi medical experiments and other intentional abuses of people by people, with the measured, intentional, IACUC overseen use of animals for people doesn’t change my view. We have a loyalty to our species first, understanding that wanton cruelty is not tolerable, nor is it tolerated. We define research use differently, as I do not see it in the terms of cruelty, torture and other words used by some vitriolic opponents.

        I wish a fair hearing for all viewpoints in the court of public opinion.

  15. A peek into preeclampsia
    The discovery that the placentas of women who suffer preeclampsia during pregnancy have too much of a gene associated with the regulation of the body’s immune system may lead to improved screening and prenatal care for pregnant women and their babies. The finding by researchers at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine comes after they examined the genetic makeup of placentas from women with preeclampsia and compared them to those from normal pregnancies. What they found was that higher gene levels in the preeclampsic placentas disrupted the immune system, leading to the development of preeclampsia and the complications that come with it. Researchers hope that the findings will lead to better prevention and improved treatment of the condition.

  16. @DVZ,

    As I said “all full moral agents have the same moral status”. This is my version of “all men are created equal”.

    As for the other marginal cases you cite, they are protected via special relations to full moral agents.

    Regarding suffering….

    Would then be Ok in your view to experiment on a human that has congenitial insenstivity to pain?

  17. Slowing multiple sclerosis
    Researchers at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine have found evidence that an environmental pollutant may play a vital role in causing multiple sclerosis – and they have found that a drug used for hypertension might also be able to treat MS. The toxic substance – acrolein – is found in air pollutants and may help cause MS by degrading the myelin sheath around nerve cells, the researchers report. When they studied the effects of acrolein in mice with MS, the researchers discovered that the hypertension drug hydralazine cut the harmful acrolein levels in half. The drug, they say, may represent a potential long-term therapy to slow the disease’s progress.

  18. Stem cells and asthma
    Stem cell therapy, according to researchers at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, may soon offer the promise of a treatment for asthma. Veterinarian Steven Dow and his colleagues are using the mouse as a model for asthma in humans. So far, the results are promising, showing that stem cells derived from fat and injected into mice are dramatically reducing inflammation associated with the condition. As their studies continue, the researchers hope their efforts will one day help prevent the disease – and save lives.

  19. Dario says:

    “Correct… and isn’t that curious that it is us doing the judging and not them?”

    so why don’t men get to judge women, or pedophiles get to judge children, or whites, blacks? why this ad hoc demarcation that one species, with a supposed moral code, can exploit another, but one group within that species cannot automatically exploit another group?
    And is a baby a full-moral agent, a fetus, a retarded individual, a senile individual, a pedophile, a comatose person, a person on LSD, a drunk driver; just everybody ad hoc, with human DNA, is a “full moral agent,” as if the term even carries any empirical meaning!?

    Then Dario says:

    “You seem to be arguing that it should only be based on the ability to suffer. Is this so? If this is the case, I think you are being overly simplistic in your position.”

    yes, the ability to suffer is an overriding concern; again, if it isn’t, than why are the Nazi doctors simplistically condemned for doing what they sincerely believed was right, and good, and scientific for the progress of their nation and Mankind? If they had simply done fMRIs on their subjects while reading sentences, there would be no condemnation — the suffering is what it’s all about.

  20. Dario writes:
    “The point is simple — despite their remarkable abilities (which sometimes emerge without reason, as Dan correctly points out), animal cognition is exaggerated everywhere…”

    well, human cognition, human morals, and human value, is likely exaggerated everywhere as well, especially if only humans are doing the judging,(…would space aliens value us??)
    Look, it is perfectly ethical to experiment on humans — we experiment on 10s of 1000s every year in this country alone, so WHY were Nazi experiments viewed as unethical? NOT because they were done on humans, NOT even because they were done without consent, and NOT because they wouldn’t result in a wealth of scientific/medical knowledge (they would’ve if continued), but BECAUSE they caused pain, discomfort, and death — THAT IS the obligatory concern and factor! “The ends justify the means” argument doesn’t hold in ethics… or Nazi experiments would certainly continue on.
    Like Dennett, you want to critique others’ untested assumptions while conveniently not acknowledging, or even recognizing, your own massive ones.

    1. “… especially if only humans are doing the judging”

      Correct… and isn’t that curious that it is us doing the judging and not them? Isn’t it curious that it is us asking how we should treat them? The only reason we are even discussing this is precisely becasue we are different.

      This does not mean we should treat animals in any way we please. It does not mean that they have no moral standing.

      Experimenting in non-consenting full moral agents is wrong becasue, in my view, all full moral agents have the same moral status.

      Moral status is based on the interests of living beings, which in term is reflected in their ability to have desires, beliefs and act to achive these goals.

      If you want to suggest the interest of living beings must be assessed in some other way you ought to put forward a specific idea. You seem to be arguing that it should only be based on the ability to suffer. Is this so? If this is the case, I think you are being overly simplistic in your position.

  21. Dario wrote:

    “In turn, I’d then recommend:

    Click to access Harris_Fiske_2008.pdf

    Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion

    Stewart Elliott Guthrie

    Especially the first few chapters on anthropomorphism.

    I also suggest looking Dennett’s lecture here:

    As is so often the case, the Fiske piece uses a nonrandom, unrepresentative, and inadequate sample size to draw any conclusions generalizable to a wider population (it may be suggestive, but certainly not conclusive of anything). The use of fMRI as a measurement tool in such research is also controversial, though I’m not qualified to judge how precise or appropriate it was in this particular instance.

    I’ll look for the Guthrie book in a library, although anthropological writing generally doesn’t much interest me. And the Dennett video is too garbly to sit through; I consider Dan completely overrated as a philosopher (especially on consciousness) and not very knowledgeable on the underpinnings of science, so doubt I’d draw much from it other than his usual sophistry.

    1. @DVZ,

      The point is simple — despite their remarkable abilities (which sometimes emerge without reason, as Dan correctly points out), animal cognition is exaggerated everywhere: in the simple Disney cartoon, in Hollywood movies, in the media (Animal Planet, National Geographic), and by animal rights groups.

      Sadly, it appears that what some of these activists know about animals has been acquired exclusively via these channels.

  22. The general tone of those opposed to biomedical research involving animals is so angry, so dismissive of opposing points of view, so self righteous, so sure of itself that one wonders what sort of society they would prefer. Are they saying by their anger and intimations of violence to achieve their ends that they would prefer a command society, one in which someone sympathetic to their views would enforce their rules through the power of the state? If so, then they must be opposed at all costs. If instead, they are willing to continue working through the democratic process to achieve compromises that approach, but do not quite achieve all their goals, as all compromise entails, then they are at least worthy of respect for their views. Of course I hope with all my being that research opponents do not prevail, for the good of the human relatives of every American. I am not prepared to oppose them with violence and I will listen, but once the debate and voting is done, they should do the same, respect the will of the majority. We have our health, and we intend to keep it.

    1. Rught now, we have a society where vivisectors enforce their rules against nonhuman animals, through the power of the state, killing them by the millions. Animal activists are already working through the democratic process, with the ultimate goal of ending animal exploitation. The debate and voting may never be done, as long as we have a society where some people believe in animal rights and others believe in animal exploitation.

      I hope that all of us around the world who are fighting for peace and justice never rest, and are never content to let the will of those in power trample the rights of the disenfranchised.

      1. I applaud your social activism. That’s what democracy is about. Buy with ~0.5% vegans in the US I think you have a long road ahead of you. As I said, perhaps you should follow up on Francione’s advise, step back, look at the big picture, and concentrate your work on the obvious cases where animals are mistreated and abused (and I will personally join you in these causes… as I did when signing the petition after the debate). There is so much you can do to help the animals that it baffles the mind why activists decide biomedical research should be a priority to them.

  23. Prof. Ringach, why do you so thoroughly discount the value and contributions of in vitro research and studies on consenting human volunteers? It is scientifically dishonest to claim that stopping vivisection will lead to millions of human deaths, because no one is asking for all biomedical research to stop. The resources that would have gone into vivisection could go into more ethical research as well as public health initiatives.

    How many millions of people are you condemning to death by taking billions of dollars away from public health intiatives, for a mere chance at a cure – especially for diseases that can be prevented through lifestyle changes? Haven’t you heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

    Furthermore, you continue to argue that humans are so intellectually and emotionally unique, yet perform (or used to perform?) neurological experiments on nonhuman animals. Why is it that when animal rights activists point out the intellectual and emotional similarities between humans and nonhumans, you call it “anthropomorphizing,” but when a vivisector does the same, it’s called “extrapolation”?

    1. Do animal researchers oppose lifestyle changes? Threaten to kill everyone who eat less then 2000 calories a day? Urging government to forbid walking more then 10km a day? Have someone ever tried to force you to smoke? Unfortunately the worst diseases can’t be prevented in easy way. Sure they will never affect you?

    2. Doris, no-one at Speaking of Research discounts the contribution of in-vitro studies and studies on human volunteers to medical progress, indeed we could add quite a few more techniques to that list, including the computational modeling of biological systems that is Dario Ringach’s speciality.

      Our point is that animal research is one of several approaches (there is are a vast number of animal research techniques) that are all crucial to medical progress. These techniques are not in competition, it is the synergy between them that advances science.

      Animal rights activists often like to give the impression that scientists who work on animals are somehow separate from scientists who use other non-animal approaches. The reality couldn’t be more different. For a start most scientists who undertake animal research also use other non-animal approaches in their work, there are a lot of clinician scientists who undertake animal research, and those who do specialise in animal-based techniques – and every scientific technique has its specialists – work closely with colleagues who use other approaches.

      If you attend any medical research conference you will find animal researchers listening with great attention to talks on the latest in-vitro or clinical research, while scientists who have never done any animal research themselves listen to talks on animal research and discuss the implications for their own work. The introduction and discussion/conclusion sections of scientific papers are often filled with references and discussion of a wide variety of study types.

      To conclude, all these approaches – in vitro, animal, clinical, genetic, computational etc.etc. – are crucial to medical progress, none are by themselves sufficient.

      That is why we support and defend animal research!

      1. Prof. Ringach seems to discount any research that is not animal-based. Ringach is using scare tactics, telling the public that millions of people will die without animal research. Billions of people have already died, and we’ve had centuries of animal research. Dr. Goldman writes below, ” We have our health, and we intend to keep it.” Another scare tactic. Even we ended all biomedical research today, we would still have all of the pharmaceutical, surgical and other medical tools at our disposal that we now have.

        And the fact is that ending vivisection would not end biomedical research. As you point out, Paul, there is a wide variety of approaches available. The resources that go into vivisection could be redirected toward more ethical research and public health initiatives. It could even go toward universal health care! How many millions of people would live longer, more healthy lives if everyone had health care?!

        1. I guess you have not read my reply, but it seems clear we have difficulty having a two-way communication. So I will now stop.
          As for using “scare tactics”… please, there is only one group here using scare-tacticts and it is not the scientists.

      2. Doris, my comment is not a tactic, nor is it intended to scare anyone. It is something I believe, and further the results of medical research speak for themselves, res ipsa loquitor.

        The tools of tomorrow, cannot be relied upon for the future. Drugs become ineffective, new diseases emerge, old diseases change. What you call vivisection is a phase of research, not an option to choose. Dr. Ringach happens to utilize and develop a different option, a useful one indeed, but one not capable of replacing animal use.

        Interesting that you digress to “universal health care” and helping millions who have none. How will we help them without research? Ebola from Africa is not solved and will require animal research to solve. There are many other examples. It’s easy in the developed world to make judgments based on our comfortable current situation, indeed its arrogant to do so. In Africa, India, South America and elsewhere they do not have the luxury. We have yet to fully understand or solve malaria for example, and it has changed and is continuing to change. Animal based research is one component of we learn about such diseases and cannot be replaced.

        You have every right to oppose animal research and I will fight for your right to do so, through peaceful, democratic means, only. The only winning strategy that exists to end animal research is by publicizing your beliefs and philosophy, by educating people, by convincing people and then voting for those who share your beliefs. Then, when the process is done, accepting the will of the majority, peacefully, is required, until the next election, the process for which begins immediately.

        If you are unable to convince society to abandon animal research willingly, by peaceful means, there must your efforts stop and your co-philosophists must agree to disagree, again peacefully.

        Overheated rhetoric equating animal rights with variations on the human rights theme, simply will not resonate. Tormenting the personal lives of scientists, makes your side look ugly. Ordinary people then fear you and mistrust you. You become more revolting than your opinion of researchers. You must convince the pubic on the merits, using no human rights or Holocaust analogies, to be successful. Convince me.

      3. Dr. Goldman wrote: “You must convince the pubic on the merits, using no human rights or Holocaust analogies, to be successful. Convince me.” Your parameters for debate are unacceptable. Imagine saying, “Convince me that women should be allowed to vote, without comparing women to men.” Justice requires that similar individuals be treated similarly.

        Prof. Ringach, I have not used any scare tactics. Please point to one thing I have said that can be called a scare tactic. I’m not the one who said that millions and millions of people are going to die. Furthermore, to attribute the violent actions of a few extremists to an entire philosophy or group is wrong. It’s what causes the continued persecution and harrassment of Muslim Americans, even now, nearly a decade after 9/11.

        Prof. Ringach, I have also spent too much time debating this here with you. If I don’t agree with your view, it’s not because I need to take more classes or read more books. I used to agree with you because I used to be speciesist. I do not agree with utilitarianism or consequentialism.

        1. I never said you used scare tactics, but that animal rights extremists did. Evidence abounds.

          Just at UCLA:

          I am sorry, but I cannot continue a conversation with someone that equates the adoption of her children to that of pets, nor someone that vaccinates her children only because it is required by the adoption agency, as you seem to have implied.

          Yes, I know we disagree. Let’s leave it there…

      4. Prof. Ringach, I don’t expect you to respond, but I wanted to post a quick reply in case others are reading this, because this thread is continued from another page and because you have mischaracterized my statements.

        I believe that society has a responsibility to the human children in orphanages and in foster care all over the world. Just as we have a responsibility to cats and dogs in shelters to adopt instead of breed. Many reasonable people will adopt their cats and dogs from shelters, but seem to have a disconnect when it comes to human children in orphanges.

        I want to urge everyone, when it comes to adding children to your family, to at least consider adoption. These children need loving families.

        I did not “equate” the adoption of my children with the adoption of my pets. I’m calling for compassion for both unwanted humans and unwanted pets.

    3. Doris,

      You set up several false dichotomies.

      I made it clear in the debate with Francione and I will repeat here:

      I am not against but FOR the use of alternative methods when they are available (such as in-vitro and human-based studies).

      I am not against but FOR the continued development of alternatives when these are not available.

      I am not against but FOR the prevention of disease in any shape or form.

      But you seem to be thinking in too simplistic terms.

      It is not only education and poor choices alone, but also economic status, that drive many families to a deficient diet based on fast-food restaurants. Are you suggesting we ignore the need of obese children in these families because their parents made a “lifestyle” choice? Should we also ignore health problems that may arise in vegan children that lack of a balanced diet as well? Was that a lifestyle choice? Are you suggesting we ignore AIDS in the gay community because the epidemic was partly the result of “lifestyle choices”? Are you suggesting, as Prof. Francione did, that we should simply distribute more condoms and ignore the suffering of AIDS patients?

      You seem to adhere to the notion that diet is the source and cure of all illness. I only wish this was the case. True — a balanced diet and exercise are key to good health. But you cannot cure autism by eating a carrot. You cannot treat epilepsy by feeding a patient spinach. Nor you can cure Alzheimer’s with tomatoes. And meat is not the only source of all these illnesses.

      I agree there is a range of cognitive abilities from lower animals to humans. It is a huge range. And yes, there is a gap. This does not deny Darwinian evolutionary continuity (as claimed by animal activists), but merely says that humans stand now alone because, for some reason, our closest cousins did not make it. The tree of life is… a tree. If you take out some branches away you can end up with gaps in the leaves. There is a gap. Animals are physiologically similar to us, but cognitively there are morally relevant differences.

      The scientific work is based on our physiological similarities. But moral relevant qualities are not based on physiological traits but cognitive ones. Here, I believe humans stand apart. We will never know how it feels to be a bat (if you have read the paper), but there is much we can infer about the minds of other animals by cognitive science.

      1. Prof. Ringach, you misunderstood my view. I wrote ” especially for diseases that can be prevented through lifestyle changes,” which acknowledges that many diseases are not related to lifestyle.

        The sword cuts both ways. Are you suggesting that we condemn millions of people to contracting AIDS by spending resources on vivisection that could have gone to condom and needle distribution?

        You mention economic status. How about redirecting vivisection resources toward universal health care? Are you suggesting that millions of people without health care should suffer so that you and your colleagues can perform experiments on mice that may or may not result in useful information for humans?

        We have limited resources, so no matter where we choose to spend our health care dollars, some will be left out. Why choose the method that also kills millions of animals?

        You recognize that “we will never know how it feels to be a bat,” so how can you be so sure of our cognitive differences?

        Regardless of our cognitive differences or similarities, why do you believe cognitive abilities are relevant to rights? Nowhere in our society to we grant greater human rights to those with superior cognitive abilities. If we did, the masses would be scrambling to earn their PhD’s in order to have the right to vote, the right to a speedy trial, and the right to be free of unconstitutional search and seizure.

        It seems your argument is based on cognitive abilities because it gives you the result you want – that humans should be able to experiment on animals. Not because cognitive abilities are a suitable criteria for rights holding.

        1. We ought to have a balanced research portfolio. Medical research with animals is an important part of it. Mathematics is an important part of it… and so is physics… and so is classical music and literature. As for the rest of your questions, I simply do not have time to continue asnwering them. I’d recommend you take a good course on animal cogntion and ethics. I’d recommend you start with Angus Taylor’s “Animals & Ethics” it is a fair summary of the different views out there. It is somewhat surprising that animal rights activists do not really know this literature well. Most seem to have read only the cover of “Animal liberation” and nothing else… they do not even understand what utilitarism or consequentialism is really about.

  24. The failure to advance human society through medical advancement, would be a simultaneous failure to advance animal “society.” In the one-health paradigm, humans, animals and the environment are considered to be interdependent and biological advances in any, advance all three. Thus, not using our intelligence and all means available to us to learn, is the greatest immorality. We must avoid knowing we could have helped but didn’t.

    Rather than considering animal research subjects as victims, the more appropriate lens is that of hero. Unknown to themselves the mice, rabbits, rats and zebra fish of most basic research are heroes, as their sacrifice helps others. Opponents will argue that free will was not exercised so their heroism was not voluntary. This is true, yet every soldier or sailor who volunteers for military service does not do so expecting to find him or herself in situations where they must expend their lives to save others. That is not truly voluntary either. We make the best of the situations we find ourselves in. Appropriately conducted animal research is a heroic activity for subject and researcher alike.

  25. Everyone should read Robert Jay Lifton’s “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide.” It aptly describes the suppression, denial, or compartmentalization of emotion/feelings that typified Nazi doctors, and which pertains as well to those doing invasive animal work.

  26. This website should probably expand on its simplistic and inaccurate arguments before criticising others.

    To follow on from my previous comment, just because Darwin said something doesn’t mean it is
    a) true
    b) morally right

    1. I agree with Matt.

      But expert opinion must be taken into consideration when it comes to the science. Darwin’s point is that he knows the work is scientifically necessary. That is his opinion as an expert in life sciences.

      One the scientific issues, it seems to me we ought to weight the opinion of Darwin and 93% of the scientific community, rather than those of a handful of physicians working for PeTA.

      The first problem is that animal right activists will not even accept this scientific fact. This makes having a reasoned and honest discussion on the morality of research nearly impossible.

      1. The difficulty it seems to me is that there is a profound sloppiness to the use of the word “necessary” in both these claims. The equivocation means that many of these claims are simply true at the same time.

        Lots of people are playing junior moral philosopher and not doing it very well, some clearly do not have the ability to do it well, some just don’t care and are p.r. hacks for an industry, and some are overwhelmed by the moral indignation.

        1. I this this is true. Part of the debate is what exactly we mean be ‘necessary’.

          Many activists would like to say this means that we must prove the negative — that there is no other way we could have obtained the benefits we did without the use of animals in research. I think this is simply impossible to do. But this is not what we mean by the term… or what I mean. What I mean by the term is that substantial effort was put into trying to find alternatives and none were found. That we do not see any other way to obtain the information other than using invasive methods than, for ethical reasons, we only consider justified in animals. So the term is not strictly scientific, but also has a moral component to it. It is not that the techniques are limited to animals. Yes, we could grow tumors in humans as we do in mice. We just don’t think the former would be ethically permissible.

  27. PeTA’s tendency to compare everything with Holocaust really wonders me. Don’t they know Holocaust organizers were the most radical animal rights supporters for their time? For proof, look for “Animal rights” page on Wikipedia, then search for the word “Hitler”.

    Animal rights = human suffering!

    1. This is possibly the worst argument in the history of the internet.

      Whether Hitler and the Nazis did something or not is irrelevant to whether it is true, or ethically acceptable.

      If Hitler said grass is green and the sky is blue, would that make it false?!

      1. Animal rights protection is political activism, not just saying something. People saying sky is blue never used violent tactics to prove it – people saying sky is yellow did (rebellion in China in 184-204 a.c.). Violent ideology is more likely to be wrong, and Hitler used much violence against researchers.

        If animal research was completely unnecessary, why PeTA aren’t willing just do parallel medical research without animals to prove it? Torching labs and threatening scientists seems more interesting for them.

        Besides 91% researchers say animal research is necessary. With almost all the scientific community one one side, and PeTA+Hitler on the other…

      2. Yeah, I spoke to soon in comment above to the “taking ibuprofen is hypocritical” argument.

        You are right, this is in fact the dumbest argument in this thread.

  28. If any PeTA people go to the store for so much as an Ibuprofen, you’re being a hypocrite because that Ibuprofen, I can assure you, was tested on animals before being tested on humans and given FDA approval for sale to the rest of us.

    1. That is such an awful argument. Are you a hypocrite if you profit from the understanding of hypothermia that was developed by Nazi research on Jews?

      One might consistently hold that all harmful research on animals should stop now, and still utilize the benefits that have been made possible by the suffering of millions in the past.

  29. Folks don’t seem to understand they are talking about pragmatics NOT ethics. Killing or inflicting pain, for personal or societal gain, is simply not ethical, any more than pointing a gun at someone and taking their money is, even if you use the money for a good cause. Exploiting others may be instinctive, or practical, or even necessary for survival, but it is NOT ethical. Why is that such a difficult concept?
    I don’t claim to be an ethical person; there’s very little I do in my entire waking hours that I would call ‘ethical’ (sitting at this computer futilely debating, when I could be serving meals at a soup kitchen, is not ethical). Biomedical researchers simply need to climb off their pedestal and admit that they don’t operate out of ethics either, but out of the same utilitarianism that pervades us all.
    It is precisely because humans have moral status and concepts that we bear a special responsibility to apply them consistently across the board, not merely in our biased favor. As Isaac Bashevis Singer famously wrote, “…in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis.” Sorry that offends you; some truths are hard to bear.

    1. I believe that it was not Bashevis Singer that stated that, but one of his characters in a book.

      As Darwin said, stopping the research would be nothing short than a crime against humanity.

      Sorry if this offends you, but animal rights activists must accept that their request to stop the work will condemn millions of humans (and animals) to suffering and death.

  30. DVZ, you are missing the point, as Dario pointed out in an earlier post humans and non-human animals do not have an equal moral status

    There are a lot of reasons for this including relationships to other humans, current degree of sentience, potential for future development, sapience, self-awareness, ability to consider the future etc. All these point to a sliding scale of moral status, with monkeys no more equal to humans, than mice are equal to monkeys.

    I would hand over my pet dog for medical research before I would hand over anyones child…hell, before I’d even hand over Jerry Vlasak.

  31. @Emma: Your unbridled passion is noted. However it adds nothing to the discussion here, and is a wonderful example of how such unrestrained emotion and lack of respect for others leads to violent attitudes. That type of behavior is what fuels those who advocate Human on Human violence as a way of dealing with their own cognitive dissonance over others not sharing their viewpoints. You are truly an example of what is being discussed here, in that anger and violence is the answer to dealing with people who don’t agree with you. “Dr.” Vlasak and his supporters are starting to sound like the beginning of a neo-Nazi animal rights army. No doubt comments like “remove your heads” and suggesting that researchers be executed are just snippets of the violent and warped ideas being thought up to hurt and kill law abiding biomedical researchers.

    @DVZ: Your commentary also says more about who you are. The fact that you chose to approach your research like a Nazi does not represent the scientific community, nor our sentiments about animal research. It is important to note that all IRB approved protocols for research are approved by groups of scientists and members of the Lay community. The decision for or against use of animals are weighed heavily, with all other alternatives exhausted first. The fact that “no real good came of that research” is a statement about YOUR research, and the care (or lack thereof) YOU took when designing YOUR research protocols. The scientific community cannot be held responsible for your disrespect of the serious nature of our work.

    The argument about putting the lives of animals before humans, or vice versa is exactly that, an argument. What is a definite: no one has the right to impose anger or violence on another out of mere fact that they don’t agree with you believe. It is also important to note that the scientific community uses both humans and animals to do research. Animals assist with pre-clinical trial work, and humans are part of clinical trials. I would argue that this essentially counteracts the claims of “Dr.” Vlasak and PeTA because the majority of clinical trial participants are white middle to upper class men and women. You can’t argue that biomedical researchers are Nazi’s, if they are experimenting on the Nazi’s. This silly argument that science is designed to prolong human longevity has to stop. If DVZ or Emma believed that, they would not take antibiotics, nor would they go to doctors or hospitals when they were ill. They would accept the claims of their argument, that if they succumb to disease, it is nature’s way of stopping them from “ruining the planet”, and simply allow themselves to take the risk of surviving sickness without treatment. Unfortunately, any medical interventions they may use to help themselves, essentially makes them the Nazi’s of PeTA’s argument, since they are allowing one standard when dealing with themselves, and another when dealing with others.

    To make light of tragedies such as the Holocaust for publicity and shock value represents poor taste and judgment. Even worse is “Dr.” Vlasak’s unabashed attempt to ride the publicity wave and slip in his messages of hatred and violence.

    1. Just to clarify: an IRB governs the ethical use of humans for research. An IACUC governs the ethical use of animals for research. IRB = Institutional Review Board, IACUC = Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

    2. Ronald my comment does not say remove their actual heads it just means that if people took their heads out of their little comfort zone and actually looked around they may realize what this human race has done to this beautiful planet.

  32. question for xander: if I think I may be able to save the lives of 20,000 children if I can just do an experiment on your child (which might involve some pain or discomfort, and at the end of which I must sacrifice your child to dissect his/her brain and a few other organs), then may I please have your child… for the good of mankind?

    1. I think a fairer question is: if you could save the lives of 20,000 children by allowing an experiment on yourself (which might involve some pain or discomfort, and at the end, death and dissection)… would you do it?

      Like many people – animal researchers and otherwise – it’s hard to see how the answer to this is inarguably “no”. On the other hand, I think the issue is much more murky when we propose questions that involve making the decision about this for other people (children, etc.)… but if it comes down to making the decision for myself, it’s hard to ignore the fact that I would be inclined to seriously consider it.

  33. @Jerry Vlasak. Why are you arguing that medical progress resulting from animal research benefits only white males? That simply isn’t true. It benefits men, women, children, as well as other animals. Consider vaccines or heart transplants, among any number of other advances that depended on animal research.

    Your own position is arrogant, claiming that you and others who agree with you should be granted the right to deny others one major avenue for medical and scientific advances that can benefit many people.

  34. I wonder how many people that so passionately defend animals at the expense of humans would not even be here if their parents had been stricken down with polio or untreatable diabetes, and how many of them, when faced with a cancer diagnosis, will stoically face a painful death rather than take lifesaving treatments that were developed from biomedical research with animals.

    Putting the lives of mice above humans – or stating that physicians should “alleviate pain/suffering” rather than cure disease, shows a shocking disregard for the value of human life.

  35. My, what a hateful bunch. I’d respond with why I think you’re both wrong, but what’s the point? I won’t change your mind. You won’t change mine. I did notice Jerry’s oh-so-subtle remark that researchers should be executed. And here I thought he didn’t condone violence. Silly me.

  36. The Nazi doctors did what they did (at the behest of scientists, by the way) because they sincerely believed they were acting in the best interests of mankind and medical progress (whereas a lot of current-day biomedical research has a significant profit-motive component). The exploitation of those who are less powerful (but capable of experiencing pain and suffering), for the sheer benefit of the exploiters, is always immoral by any imaginable, objective standard. It is you who are applying a black-and-white view by separating humans off for one consideration and all other animals for another (as if Darwinian evolution never occurred; God just created two distinct moral types, huhh?).
    The emphasis in our medical system on increasing human longevity for its own sake is completely wrong-headed (and dangerous), and risks bankrupting us and the planet we inhabit — it is ignorant and self-centered beyond bellef — the primary purpose of medicine ought be to alleviate pain/suffering; something we already have the ability to do, but is often shrugged off by medical professionals.
    I spent over a half-dozen years in animal-based research in a couple of different fields, and yes, in my approach to animals, I acted AND THOUGHT like a Nazi during those years — indeed, it was the ONLY way I could get through it. (But the worse part of it is, that no real good came of that research, because like most such research, it was so weakly-constructed and poorly-thought-out.)

    1. DVZ, What fraction of research do you think is aimed at “increasing human longevity for its own sake”? Would that include treatments for kids? Vaccines? Regenerative medicine aimed at providing new organs for those suffering from congenital disease or trauma?

    2. Please enlightness us. What menas we have for alleviating the suffering of kids with brain tumors?, people with autism?, mother with uternine cancer?
      I wasnt aware that all those diseases can be already cured,

      1. Lucy, a scientist is clearly discussing ongoing research, for example.

        The development of STX209, a drug which has had promising results in a Phase II trial in improving the social interactions and behavior of autistic children.

        Research involving animals has helped to identify the causes of infiltration by gliomblastoma Multiforme (a common brain tumour) cells, one of the major obsticles to curing such cancers.

        leading to the development of new treatments such as APG101 which is now in Phase II trials.

        DVZ ” It is you who are applying a black-and-white view by separating humans off for one consideration and all other animals for another ”

        I’ve never actually met a scientist who does animal research who takes the black-and-white-view you suggest, we recognize that humans and non-humans do not have equal moral worth but we also recognize that there are gradations within that, with some non-human species having greater moral worth than others, it is not simply a binary division.

  37. What and who gives humans the right to kill another living creature!!! Who the hell do you people think you are?!?! How dare you presume that humans are more important than animals. Humans and there stinking greed is what has caused the plant to be in the mess it is now and animals have to suffer because of it.

    To say that PETA is blind is an absolute joke, people like you are the reason i’m ashamed to be part of the human race!! Do us all favour and remove your head from up your own ass and use your eyes to take a good hard look at what your precious human race has created and then you may realize that in actual fact human disease is actually mother nature’s way of trying to protect her own environment before we kill it!!!

    1. Question: You’re in a sinking boat with a stranger’s child, your dog and a parakeet. You have the chance to save one, who would you save?

      1. And there you have it: Emma joins Dr. Vlasak in the human-hating, rather than animal-loving, club.

    2. Emma, are you arguing that all prevention and treatment derived from animal research in order to address human and animal disease and injury should be abandoned so that nature can take its course? If so, who gives you the right to make that kind of decision for others?

      1. Yes I am, what gives us the right to test on animals? You ask me what right I have to make that decision, I’m asking what right humans have to take away an animals rights in order that they might survive.

      2. Animals have to rights so there is none to take away.
        Rights do not come from nature, they are created. The only “right” nature gives animals are the “right” to try to survive. That’s it. There’s no right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, nada, none. Humans created rights as humans are the only animal on the planet able to enter a moral contract to accept those rights. Humans are the only animal to rise above the laws of nature and you would send us crashing back down into it and even worse, people like you would give us fewer rights to survive as we wouldn’t be able to use the advantage of our intelligence to do so. What gives you the right to take away one of our greatest survival tactics: the ability to cure disease and other illness using science?

    3. Maybe if you first learn to write and spell correctly, and obviously if you learn some reading comprehension, then maybe it will be consider slighly interesting to waste time arguing with such an ignoramus as you.

      1. Ahh dear Lucy what must it be like to be as perfect as you with no spelling and grammar mistakes oh wait hang on in your later posts there are spelling mistakes and your grammar is no better then mine!! Clearly you have no argument or point to make or you would have at least tried!

    4. If PeTA is not a joke, riddle me this batman: If we are no longer to be farming animals for their meat, what the heck are we supposed to be feeding our dogs and cats? Are we supposed to wait for Mrs O’Leary down the street to kick off and grind her up for Fido?

      1. Cats and Dogs can live on a purely vegan diet so long as cats are given the right supplements.

      2. Cat’s are obligate carnivores. It would be pretty cruel to force a cat to subsit on suppliments and plants.

      3. There is no evidence it is safe and many of the diets available contain nutritional deficiencies. Animals and humans evolved to derive nutrition primarily from food not pills. Hence the term suplimets, it’s not supposed to make up the bulk of a diet or providing the primary means of getting nutrients. Really, you could just get a rabbit rather than allow a cat to go blind.

      4. Poncho, as I said, *if* the diet is balanced, then they are not going to suffer.

        I’m not claiming that all cat vegan diets are nutritionally adequate, but it seems some are reasonable enough.

        How we evolved is a fallacious appeal to nature.

      5. Humans and other animals evolved to derive nutrition best from food, not pills….which is why nutritional supplements are big fat scams in my opinion. I don’t see what exactly is fallacious about that.

        For someone who claims to care about animals, you seem awfully ready to roll the dice when it comes to their health.

      6. We can get many nutrients from food we didn’t evolve eating. There’s no fundamental reason why we, or animals, can’t get nutrients from pills, though there are of course questions about design in order to prevent destruction in the stomach and to ensure adequate absorption in the gut.

      7. What exactly do people eat now that they did not evolve to eat? I said what is BEST for the animal. Forceing a healthy cat to derive it’s primary nutrition from suppliments is not what is best for it. Cats evolved to derive nutrition from meat. Unlike dogs, they haven’t changed much from their wild ancestors. A vegan diet for any obligate carnivore, be it a domestic house cat or a lion is cruel and unhealthy. If a vegan can’t deal with that then they shouldn’t own one.

  38. Ringach and his ilk use EXACTLY the same arguments that were used to justify unethical experiments on humans, EXACTLY the same arguments used to justify the enslavement of African humans, EXACTLY the same arguments used to oppress others throughout history. “They do not look like us, therefore their rights to live free of enslavement, suffering and premature death do not count. After all, any benefit these “others” might provide to the almighty white male sector far outweighs their own interests.”

    In the not-too-distant future, these sadistic vivisectionists will be looked upon in EXACTLY the same way as we now view those like Sigmund Rascher, a German SS doctor whose deadly experiments on humans were judged inhumane and criminal during the Nuremberg Trials, resulting in his execution April 26, 1945.

    1. As clearly argued, these metaphors can only hold water if you believe that a mouse is equally morally relevant as a human (whether they be a member of a repressed ethnic and/or religious enclave, or not). If you actually believe in empirical scientific facts regarding animal and human cognition, you realize that there are enormous differences that are the underpinnings of the differences in the moral relevancy of animals and humans. Once again, the fact that animals lack the same moral status as humans does not mean that we are less than obligated to be responsible for their welfare, but they do mean that their use in scientific research on disease is – at least to a substantial extent – responsible and justifiable.

      Let us remember that Dr. Vlasak is ill-equipped to criticize anyone for behavior that reasoning based upon discrimination. Indeed, it was only last year that he made arguably racist comments ( that compared Africans to mosquitos and stated that if we provide food to starving people in Somalia “all they do is reproduce”. Fortunately, his misanthropic, hate-mongering views are not shared by those that believe that giving food to the hungry means they remain healthy, learn, grow up to help others and contribute positively to the world in a manner he seems to have lost touch with.

      I think that Dr. Vlasak’s statements that the value of a mouse is the same as that of an African American says more about his feelings about the people than about the mice.

      1. Not a word on my statements against your arrogant, anthropocentric argument for white male supremacy that allows you to decide who deserves moral status in the world. Your inability to address the issue speaks volumes.

      2. @JV: The arguments in support of our position are here for all to read. Your point of view is nothing but simple-minded and untenable.

        Indeed, your willful ignorance of any point of view any other than your own is the only thing that trumps your moral blindness (though, of course, they are mechanistically related).

      3. PTfS, if you are going to use a blog entry of mine to conveniently bash a poster, I suggest you read my other entries. You speciesist reduction of other animals to practically nothing while claiming to care for their welfare is not professional or ethical or responsible- it’s cruel and it ignores the basic ethics of- well- anything responsible.

        Your assertion that the psychological differences between humans and other animals make it defensible to torture them is ridiculous at best. Scientists can write cruelty in a nice little package of words and people respect and do not question them. It’s part of the reason I left the field of psych research and won’t go back.

        While I called Vlasak out on things in the past being problematic, I’m now gonna agree with him that your convenient tokenizing of the struggle against racism to support your own patriarchy, speciesism, ableism, and other things is plain disgusting.

        Humans and other animals do not deserve to be nonconsensually tested on or harmed. Period. Animal testing is cruel. Period. That’s leaving the scientific problems out of it. But, many science proponents seem to believe that science should be devoid of ethics (if you can get results, cruelty comes second in importance) thus your responses and the existence of this site does not surprise me.

        Hey Dario, I’m not even going to address you because every time I smash your arguments against animal lib to bits, you leave and pretend nothing ever happened. You’re a lost cause.

    2. It seems unlikely that the figures of Pasteur, Harvey, Sabin, and other medical heroes will be viewed as those of German SS doctors in the future.

      It is more likely that you and your ilk will be remembered as nothing more than leaders of a hate group.

      You will be remembered as an animal supremacist who placed the lives of mice ahead of AIDS and cancer patients.

      You will be remembered as a racist physician that managed to get through medical school without a modicum understanding of where the knowledge in the textbooks came from.

      Or, more likely, you will not be remembered at all.

      1. Well said Jimmy, in the future our descendents will look back and wonder at the motivation of people like Jerry Vlasak who were in a position to do much good by healing the sick, but instead devoted their lives to campaigns of harassment, lies and violence against the scientists and doctors who are working to make this world a better place.

        Pasteur, Harvey and Sabin, and many, many other animal researchers, will be remembered and honoured long after Vlasak has stopped being even a footnote in history.

    3. As I wrote previously, most moral philosophers do not consider the interest of a mouse in life relevantly similar to those of normal humans in life (this includes Peter Singer, Tom Regan, DeGrazia, Ortega y Gasset and many others):

      PeTA does not have a well articulated ethical position nor is considering the consequences of their actions.

      “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” is hardly an ethical argument; it is nothing more than a cute slogan. The fact is that there is no formal ethical position anywhere in PeTA’s web-site to be found. If anyone can find one I will be happy to comment on their ethical position.

      Let us agree that the vast majority of people would not consider the moral status of a mouse equivalent to that of a normal human.

      It is difficult to find someone that will jump in front of a car to save a mouse, but many will risk their lives to save another human.

      It is difficult to find someone that will jump into a lake to save the life of a drowning mouse, but many will feel compelled to do it if they saw a child.

      It is difficult to find someone that will reject vaccines for their children or their dogs, or chemotherapy for their mothers, and so on… all of which were developed by scientists working with animals.

      In this planet, humans are the only full moral agents, able to recognize the interests of other parties and act accordingly. We can and should ask what is the moral status of animals. But it is clear that moral status exist only in the eyes of human beings. Animals are amoral. Animals cannot engage in the social contract upon which rights are based. Animal cannot have rights. The zebra cannot bring a claim to the lion that attacked her. Similarly, you cannot bring a claim to a dog that attacked your child.

      Thus, when it comes to our relationship with animals there is only one question that makes sense, and only one: How is that we should treat them?

      As a consequence, speciesism is falsely modeled after other forms of discrimination where the rights of full moral agents is being violated.

      1. ‘Cmon. You know that that slogan is being taken out of context.

        “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife.”

        Do you hold the claim that Newkirk makes false? Do rats and pigs not value their lives and fight the knife? Do they not suffer pain and loneliness just like a boy does?

        1. “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife.”

          Is even worse that the shortened version… as implicitly is the assertion that they all value his or her life equally. Again, not even something Peter Singer would agree with. Even though in their web-site they say they base their position on Singer’s ideas.

      2. Really? They don’t all value their life? They don’t all value their life equally? Some animals value their lives less than others? How would we ever reach that conclusion? Can you persuade animals to sacrifice their life for your interests? Clearly some human beings value their lives less than others, but I can’t think of any behavior that would signal to us that a rat discounts her or his life.

        I think you are unable to separate your projection of your valuing of the animal’s life (like racists you discount the interests on the basis of your prejudice) from the animals valuing of its own life. Or perhaps you have some “science” to demonstrate that Newkirk’s claim is false.

        I think Paola Cavalieri has offered a good response to Singer’s view in Practical Ethics–animals value their continued life instrumentally, but not for its own sake. You do understand that “basing” a view on someone’s view does not entail accepting everything that person says right?

        “as implicitly is the assertion that they all value his or her life equally”

        I think you might read the sentence more carefully, since it doesn’t say that. It asserts the claims

        a) Each animal (at least mammals from rats to humans) value their own life and will fight to live.

        b) When it comes to the capacity to and actuality of suffering all sentient beings are sentient beings (and therefore equal).

        You project your speciest judgments about the relevant importance of the rat’s suffering and the boy’s suffering, on the basic facts of biology and zoology. Newkirk would, I take it, argue that there is nothing in the biology that supports your prejudices.

        1. Yes, I think all living beings do not have the same interest in life. I doubt a worm, a mouse or a dog, have the same interest in life than a human. It is a position based on our knowledge of animal cognition, on the ability of living beings to represent beliefs and desires, and to act according to them (so-called mental state theory of well-being). So there is plenty in the biology to justify this view. On what science do you base your judgement that all living beings value their life equally?

        2. “You seem to expect a lot out of your dialogue partners while not expecting much of yourself–both logically and ethically.”

          A lot? All I expect is civility… Is that too much to ask?

      3. I would take the evidence to be primarily behavioral. If animals behave in strongly aversive ways and we know that the underlying capacity for fear and anxiety and pain exist, then we should infer that they value their own life on the basis of their behavior to protect it.

        I think a baby clearly has less interest in continuing her or his own life than most dogs and cats. Nonetheless I think that all animals equally value their own life.

        You still seem to have difficulty reading the sentence. All that it asserts is that each animal values its own life.

        This is the claim (For all x, if x is an animal in set y (rat, dog, boy) then x values its own life and fights the knife).

        You want to read this sentence as the claim (For all x, if x is an animal in set y (rat, dog, boy) then x places the same value on its own life and fights the knife).

        It’s clear from the conjunction I think that your reading is a mis-reading.

        Now, I suspect that Newkirk (who is not always very precise) would accept your conflation of the two claims, though as you point out Singer would not.

        Civility requires more than not protesting in front of someone’s house, it also requires not straw-manning your dialogue partners.

        1. A worm will certainly respond to noxious stimuli. In fact, a single-cell organism will chemotax away noxious environments, such as those being too hot, high levels of pH, too much or little light… and so on. Will you then conclude bacteria or a worm value life the same way as a human does?

          Surely babies have less interest in life than a full adult human, but they are protected by special relations to full moral agents.

          The PeTA sentence implicitely says that the rat, the dog and the boy value their own life equally. It doesn’t say “they all value life in their own way” or anything like that. I think my interpretation of the statement is what was truly intended.

          I never intend to straw-man my critics. I am perfectly Ok with people correcting my interpretation of their positions. As you point out, statements are often so vague that it is unclear what is being said. For example, your statement about cognition above can be validly taken to infer that a single-cell organism values life. I disagree. I am not setting this up as a straw-man, but I am setting this up as a scenario that will help move the discussion forward by sharpening our statements.

          Now, if you think that home protests is the only thing I am complaining about regarding civility you have not been reading the news…

      4. Prof. Ringach wrote, “Now, if you think that home protests is the only thing I am complaining about regarding civility you have not been reading the news…” and “please, there is only one group here using scare-tacticts and it is not the scientists.”

        Please stop attributing the actions of a few extremists to an entire group. It has nothing to do with the issue, it spreads hate, and it’s not fair to Muslims, to pro-life activists or animal rights activists.

      5. You know that the argument for ascribing suffering to non-human animals is a mutli-faceted one that relies on the convergence of several reasons for making it likely that these animals suffer and that make it less likely that worms and many insects suffer (though now we seem to have good reason to believe that many fish suffer as well).

        As I said–fairly obviously I think– “If animals behave in strongly aversive ways and we know that the underlying capacity for fear and anxiety and pain exist, then we should infer that they value their own life on the basis of their behavior to protect it. ”

        You are not really sharpening my point but distracting from your misreading of the PeTA quote, while suggesting that I asserted that aversive behavior might be a sufficient condition of sentience, when I asserted that it would be a evidence of sentience when we have reason to believe that relevant capacities (of awareness etc) are present.

        If you don’t intend to straw-man then perhaps more intellectual temperance would help avoid the pattern of straw-manning at SR. :)

    4. PeTA “rescues” animals by taking them from shelters, vets and owners who think they are being found a good home and euthanizing them in the back of a van then tossing their carcasses into dustbins. They take in about $32m annually and spend none of it on a shelter to find animals loving homes….though they do have a crematorium. They are hypocrites of the highest order.

    5. Dr. Vlasak, I know that you protested against employees of shelters euthanizing animals. How do you feel about PeTA euthanizing 90% of the animals they take in because sheltering them would not be “cost effective” ?

      1. Good point, I’m surprised that nobody has raised it already.

        If Goodman really believes that “They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. Their lives matter to them and should matter to us too.” how does he justify PeTA’s euthanasia policy?

        It would be like child services taking orphaned or neglected children and killing the majority rather than finding foster homes or people who can adopt them.

        I really hope Justin Goodman never goes into childcare, and he dares to compare animal research to Nazi experimentation!

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