Vivisection or Death: Part I, The Claims
This is essay number one in a five part series examining the position that experiments on animals are necessary for life-saving breakthroughs; that without vivisection, humans would die.
I have often argued that animal-based researchers and their representatives (paid and unpaid) sell animal-based research to society based on the myth that animals can predict human response to drugs and disease. Vivisection activists echo this when they loudly proclaim that without animal experiments, humans will continue to die from diseases like AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. When challenged to explain all the failures in finding cures, treatments, and vaccines, the vivisection activist will use the fallacy of bait and switch (also known as the Fallacy of Equivocation) and say that basic research is slow and does not claim to be predictive (as opposed to the research that claims to be predictive that they were just talking about) and hence society should not hold basic researchers to such high standards. Regardless of what research with animals is called, they say in an attempt to side step their obvious mendacity, the choice comes down to certain death for you and yours unless you agree to fund experiments on animals. They say there are no other options. It is your dog or your child (or some other guy’s dog/mouse/cat/monkey or your child). The following are examples of this tactic.
The following is from the article US RESEARCHERS DEFEND ANIMAL TESTING:
US researchers defended animal testing, telling a small group at one of the biggest science conferences in the United States that not doing animal research would be unethical and cost human lives . . . "To not do animal testing would mean that we would not be able to bring treatments and interventions and cures in a timely way. And what that means is people would die," Stuart Zola of Emory University, which is home to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, told AFP after the symposium. (Emphasis added.)
From the article Testing on animals leads to important medical breakthroughs: “ . . . as long as the only alternative is to test on human beings, animal testing will be necessary for scientific advancement and human well-being.” (Emphasis added.) The article continues:
The Foundation for Biomedical Research declares in its research policy statement, “practically every present-day protocol for the prevention, treatment, cure and control of disease, pain and suffering is based on knowledge attained through research with lab animals” . . . Please understand that I am not saying traits unique to humans give us license to freely torture animals and pillage the earth. There is a difference between suffering for the sake of cruelty and suffering as a consequence of medical research. Science, by its very nature, is constantly evolving and improving its practices, techniques and knowledge of our world. Perhaps one day we will see an end to animal testing, replaced completely by sophisticated computer simulations and test tubes. Until then, mice will have to suffice.
Peter Mansell writes in the article Tough choices in Foundation for Biomedical Research billboard campaign:
An organisation that argues for the essential role of humane animal research in advancing medical science is presenting the public with a stark choice in an advertising campaign rolled out across five US cities. As part of the Foundation for Biomedical Research’s (FBR) multi-million dollar ResearchSaves campaign, which encourages public support for medical and scientific research using animal models, billboards in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore present a diptych with an image of a young child on one side and a white rat on the other. The accompanying caption is “Who would you rather see live?” According to FBR president Frankie Trull, the billboards “ask people to consider an important ethical dilemma we face as a society: would you rather do away with animal research or have the new medical cures, treatments and therapies for which so many people desperately wait?”. (Emphasis added.)
In the April 6th, 2011, Willamette Week article Do You Give a Rat's A*#? Nathan Gilles writes:
The billboards from the pro-animal research group show a smiling child next to a lab rat and asks, “Who would you rather see live?” Part of its ResearchSaves campaign, FBR designed the billboards to increase public support for research that scientists say requires animals.
Jim Newman from Oregon Health Science University commented on the article: “When [PETA's spokesman Ms. Guillermo] says there are alternatives to health research in animals - it's hogwash.”
Ringach brought up the burning house scenario that would be revisited numerous times during the debate. If a house were burning down, and you had a chance to save either a human baby or a mouse, but not both, which would you choose? Ringach stated that Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Gary Francione would all agree with saving the human baby. At the live debate, Francione responded, "Depends," but Ringach quoted one of Francione's writings in which Francione stated that he would save a human over a dog: "I better understand what is at stake for the human than I do for the dog. But this is a matter of my own cognitive limitation and how it plays out in these extreme circumstances."
If a human needed a heart valve, and killing a pig to transplant that pig's heart valve into the human would save the human's life, most people would agree with killing the pig. However, if the choice were killing a person in order to transplant that person's heart valve into another person, most of us would disagree.
Rigach [sic] also argued that vivisection is necessary, citing a poll in which 92% of scientists believed that animal research is essential to the advancement of biomedical science. Billions have been saved by animal research, and if we stop it, it would be a crime against humanity because millions and millions of people will die. (Emphasis added.)
Dr Dario Ringach in Research is a lifeboat scenario equates animal-based research to the ethical dilemma of being forced to throw one individual from a lifeboat because it is sinking. Who would you choose? He states:
Given your choices above, I’d argue that medical research is such a lifeboat scenario and where such hard choices must be made. If you would choose a human over a mouse, why wouldn’t you support the use of mice to save say... cancer patients? http://www.opposingviews.com/comments/research-is-a-lifeboat-scenario
Dr Ringach also states: ". . . researchers view very concrete situations as being comparable to the burning house scenario, such as porcine heart-valve replacement surgery, the polio epidemic or the AIDS epidemic in Africa."
Clearly, the vivisection activist community presents animal experimentation to society in the form of your dog or your child. (For more examples of this see Basic science using animals and Argument From Authority. Part II.) Therefore these claims should be verified if we are to take their arguments seriously. In Part II, I will address the validity of these claims.