Man Or Mouse?

 Posted by on 2 March 2006 at 5:40 pm  Uncategorized
Mar 022006

It’s nice to see someone take the right side in the debate on use of animals in medical experimentation, and to also correctly identify the central philosophical issue. It’s not a perfect article, but given the state of the culture, it’s pretty good. Some excerpts:

I’m on the side of medical science and that entails animal experiments

…The medical arguments for animal research are well established; in short, if you have ever taken a painkiller or an antibiotic you have benefited from it, and if we ever hope to see cures for cancer, HIV/Aids or other serious diseases we will need more of it. But as opposition to animal experiments continues to rise in the face of these facts, it is obviously more than a matter of evidence. It is an issue of belief.

Do we endorse a human-centred morality, or accept the ethic that puts animal welfare first? Will we fight for the advance of medical science, or are we willing to abandon its gains? These questions and more are raised by attitudes to animal research, revealing divisions that often cut across the old political lines.

There is too much focus on a few animal rights extremists. The misanthropic “four legs good, two legs bad” prejudices that motivate them go far deeper and higher in society today. Never mind barbarians at the gate; Oxford University has within its hallowed halls a “professor of ethics, theology and animal welfare” who writes prayers for the souls of research animals, and preaches that we should bear our ills rather than inflict “Christ-like suffering” on laboratory animals. Feel their pain, and throw out the paracetamol.

Many in authority do recognise the importance of animal research, of course. Yet too often they are shy about speaking up, allowing its opponents to dominate debate. It is time to stick some human heads above parapets. Speaking of which, there is an old military version of the question “whose side are you on?”, where a sentinel asks a stranger “Qui vive?” — derived from a French phrase for “whom do you wish to live?” or “long live who?” So, Qui vive? — man, or mouse?

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