Scientists reject PETA’s blithe disregard for human rights

September 7th 2022

Scientists, educators, and students are returning to school this month. Across university campuses, researchers welcome the next generation of scientists as they continue studies to advance knowledge and contribute to society by delivering new understanding of the universe. For some scientists and educators this means research to understand health and disease, with the goal of improving human and animal quality of life and confronting global challenges that affect us all. As the worldwide rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines have shown, having fast progress in the face of a worldwide health crisis depends on many decades of basic and applied science by many people in many laboratories across the world (see here, for example). It also depends on studies with nonhuman animals. That is unlikely to change. And for that reason, scientists and educators prioritize teaching and training students—the next generation. 

It is perhaps unsurprising that those opposed to animal research, regardless of the consequences for society, humans, other animals, and the environment also see the beginning of the school year as a moment to influence the future. Thus, for example, we see PETA predictably seizing the moment to host protests and recruitment events across college campuses. PETA is an absolutist group opposed to all use of animals by humans. They advertise an extreme belief that humans and other animals are the same. A fly is the same as a mouse. A mouse is the same as a dog, cat, monkey, human child or any human. PETA advertises that sexism, racism, anti-semitism, and all other forms of discrimination against humans are the same as treating other animals differentlly than humans. PETA equates drinking milk, eating cheese or hamburgers, and benefiting from animal research by taking a vaccine with enslavement of humans, rape of human women, and the Nazi holocaust.6-10 Scientists reject this false equivalence.

At Speaking of Research we encourage serious, deliberate, and fact-informed consideration of animal research, beginning with foundational ethical principles. We also stand opposed to conflating nonhuman animals with humans. This does not mean nonhuman animals’ well-being and care are ignored. In fact, nonhuman animal care is valued, integral, and enforced through our framework for ethical research and the standards, laws, and oversight governing animal care and use. We believe that equating speciesism with other forms of social injustice is harmful to individuals who are impacted by systemic, structural, and individual discrimination, hate, and violence. That statement and its signatories is below. We encourage you to:

  1. Read and think about whether you agree. If so, please sign on in the comments section.
  2. Consider how you can talk with others about why the concept of speciesism, when it is equated with racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination among human groups, is deeply problematic and antithetical to human rightssocial justice.
  3. Share with others. It is often tempting to believe that PETA and campaigns like SOS are trivial. They do, however, provide an opportunity for serious dialogue and teaching about how global society navigates ethical decision-making and how it is that we – as a society– address global problems. The COVID vaccines, for example, did not arise from nothing. It depended upon research with nonhuman animals and also on accepting that human and nonhuman animals are not the same. 

Originally posted November 19th 2021

SPEAKING OF RESEARCH STATEMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND SPECIESISM

The recent past has brought increasing attention to injustice and violation of human rights. Those include racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination based on misguided and exploitative notions of human hierarchies. Globally, basic human rights are recognized as an essential and core moral value that applies to every person. They are enshrined in, and ensured through, worldwide and national declarations, adoption of conventions, and passing of national laws. Further, the priority of human rights is recognized in international ethical codes that apply to medical and scientific research, including the Nuremberg Code1 and Declaration of Helsinki.2

Some individuals and groups opposed to the use of nonhuman animals by humans have seized this moment to amplify their own position. Under the banner of “speciesism” they argue for equivalence of humans and other animals in terms of moral consideration and rights. In turn, they argue that “speciesism” is equivalent to racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice that have led to horrific violations of human rights and to violence, bias, and discrimination against people and communities.3-10 The  language and concepts surrounding campaigns against speciesism are often adopted from efforts centered on ensuring human rights (e.g., “human supremacy” in parallel to “White supremacy”). Referring to a fundamental principle in human research ethics, these entities use the phrase (or slogan) “without their consent” to argue against human activities ranging from production of dairy milk to conducting medical and scientific research.5 

Photo credit: https://www.end-of-speciesism.org/en

Unfortunately, the speciesism perspective is often advanced without consideration of its impact on people and communities affected by systemic, structural, and individual discrimination, hate, and violence. To equate agricultural chickens with people murdered in the Holocaust,6 dairy cows with the rape of human women,7 and whales in aquariums or animals in agriculture with human enslavement8,9,10 is deeply harmful (see representative images and videos in the references below). Not only does it trivialize serious societal ills that continue to afflict communities, it perpetuates a false equivalency. Both are detrimental to the wellbeing of human and other animals. Such actions are also in fundamental conflict with a culture that takes seriously its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion of all people. And, as such, it requires that the community committed to ensuring human rights and inclusion not only seriously consider the harm inherent in this approach, but also speak out to strongly denounce such rhetoric and imagery.

We urge members of the research community to sign below (in the comments) to support the statement. Please also consider sharing with others in your community. 

Jeremy Bailoo, PhD
Allyson Bennett, PhD
Sangy Panicker, PhD
Nancy Dess, PhD
Amanda Dettmer, PhD
Doris Doudet, PhD
Juan Dominguez, PhD
Kevin Freeman, PhD
Reggie Gazes, PhD
Agnes Lacreuse, PhD
Christopher Petkov, PhD
James Rowlett, PhD
Tania Roth, PhD
Juan Carlos Marvizon, PhD
Marcello Rosa, PhD
Justin Varholick, PhD
Renée Hartig, PhD
John Dennis
Paula Clifford, MLA, RLATG, CVT
Breanna N. Harris, PhD
Luis Rivera
James A Carr, PhD
Katherine West, MS
Kirby Deater-Deckard
Rose Szabady
Christopher Harshaw, PhD
Christine Prater, PhD
Rebecca Ready
Christopher Del Negro
Joshua Willms, MD/PhD Candidate
Troy Hallman
Dennis Eckmeier
Elisa A. Hurley, PhD
Gerald Downes
Sarah Pallas
Xiaobo Liu, PhD Candidate
Olga Ponomareva, PhD
Mariana Pereira
Robyn Durand
Jim Newman
Peter J. Pierre, PhD
Carlos De Cabo De A Vega
Elspeth McLachlan
Karine Fenelon
Paul Katz
Elena Vazey
Carol Shively, PhD
Kevin Elliott
Yannis Dalezios
Heather N Richardson
Joe Bergman
John Capitanio, PhD
Julia Chester, PhD
Kari Hoffman
Ken Gordon
Jennifer Klahn
Michael Oberdorfer, PhD
Richard Carson
George F Michel, PhD
Federico Sanabria, PhD
J Bruce Overmier, PhD
Stephanie Groman
Chris Medina
Janet D. Stemwedel, PhD
Eliza Bliss-Moreau, PhD
Sally Huskinson, PhD
Alexander Baxter
Christine Lattin, PhD
Dave Clark
Karen Bales, PhD
Igor Ponomarev, PhD
Dan Haisenleder, PhD
Amrika Deonarine, PhD
Pablo Artigas, PhD
Rob Macleod, PhD
Jean Laurens, PhD
Mark Krause, PhD
David Jentsch, PhD
Donna Clemons, DVM, MS, DCLAM
Lauren Highfill, PhD
Amy Arnsten, PhD
Pamela Hunt, PhD
Karen Hollis, PhD
Will Whitham, PhD
Rob Blesh
Taylor Bennett, DVM, PhD
Wendy Lynch, PhD
Michael Beran, PhD
Jonathon Crystal, PhD
Aaron Blaisdell, PhD

References

1Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law. No. 10″, Vol. 2, pp. 181-182. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949

2World Medical Association. (‎2001)‎. World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki. Ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects.. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 79 (‎4)‎, 373 – 374. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/268312

3End of Speciecism (retrieved 11/4/2021). https://www.end-of-speciesism.org/en/

4PETA (retrieved 11/4/2021). Students launch nationwide push to end human supremacy. https://www.peta.org/media/news-releases/photos-students-launch-nationwide-push-to-end-human-supremacy/

5PETA (retreived 11/4/2021). Without consent. https://withoutconsent.peta.org/

6CNN (2003). Group blasts PETA ‘Holocaust’ project: The Anti-Defamation League has denounced a campaign by an animal rights group that compares slaughtering animals to the murder of 6 million Jews in World War II. http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Northeast/02/28/peta.holocaust/?s_campaign=arguable:newsletter

7 PETA (2016). Women Explain What Rape Feels Like for Animals in the Food Industry. Youtube.

8Zelman, J. (2012). PETA’s SeaWorld Slavery Case Dismissed By Judge. Huffington Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/peta-seaworld-slavery-_n_1265014

9Mock, B. (2014). How not to celebrate MLK Day: PETA compares animal cruelty to slavery (again). Grist.https://grist.org/article/how-not-to-celebrate-mlk-day-peta-compares-animal-cruelty-to-slavery-again/

10PETA Kids (retrieved 11/4/2021). What Do Slavery and Animals in Captivity Have in Common? https://www.petakids.com/videos/slavery-captivity/

2 thoughts on “Scientists reject PETA’s blithe disregard for human rights

  1. Recent studies show that the more individuals hold speciesist views, the more they also hold racist views. See in particular this study or other works of Gordon Hodson: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/per.2069 Or this study of Lucius Caviola which shows that the more one has a speculative position, the more one is also likely to have a racist, sexist and homophobic position: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29517258/ To make sure that society and individuals really take into account the interests of animals would thus allow in the consequences to also help the humans.

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