Animal Experiments Are Not Neccesary

People often say something like the following:

“We know that animal experimentation is harmful to the animals who die, and that’s a pity. But it’s sadly necessary to find cures for serious diseases and thus save human lives.”

I’m not a scientist, I have nothing to say about the science of this. But, in general, if someone says to you “I don’t like doing X, but it’s sadly necessary to acheive Y”, we would make some assumptions. For example, we would assume that the person saying this had already done absolutely everything else they could to acheive Y, and was only after that coming to method X. We would assume that method X was a last resort.

Now in this example, that means supposing that the government and businesses are doing absolutely everything they can to save human lives. It means supposing that there is no other use of the resources spent on animal experimentation that would have a similar effect on saving human lives. This is conspicuously false.

Things that resources could be used for that would save human lives:

-subsidising sanitation and clean water across the world;

-making medicines available across the world;

-employing and training more medical staff, both for physical and mental illnesses;

-improving the environments people live in to make them less disease-causing;

-ensuring that everyone on earth has food;

-ensuring that everyone on earth has shelter;

-granting refugee status to everyone from a country where their life was substantially at risk;

-redistributing wealth in general to reduce crime and raise life expectancy.

Etc. Does the government or private business do these things? No. There are a few token gestures but they are drops in the proverbial ocean.

On the other hand, things that large amounts of resources ARE being spent on even in this same sector that clearly make no contribution to saving human lives:

-advertising new drugs, marketing them, lobbying the government to buy them or promote them, etc.

-making new drugs for lifestyle problems like erectile dysfunction;

-preventing existing drugs being accessed by poor individuals or poor countries;


It would seem that the forces saying this are in fact not remotely concerned with saving people’s lives. And yet then they turn around and say “out of all the methods available to us for saving lives, we have decided that this particular one, which on the downside is grossly immoral but on the upside requires no big social changes, nor interfering with anyone’s profits, must be supported.”

That is bullshit. Animal experimentation to create new drugs is not backed because it saves lives. It is backed because it is a method of saving lives that fits neatly with how society is set up and provides its backers with profits and increased power (in the sense that knowledge is power – new knowlegde and new treatments make the government more able to do things, whereas better use of existing treatments doesn’t).

It is backed not because people believe that human lives are worth sacrificing animal lives. It is backed because people believe comfort and profit are worth sacrificing animal lives.

4 Responses to “Animal Experiments Are Not Neccesary”

  1. Cold Spoon Says:

    Doing X to achieve Y which gives the result Z, with X being animal experimentation, Y finding new cures, Z saving human lives. You spend all the article on Z, discussing ways other than Y to save human lives. But animal experimentation lies outside that, it is currently the best option to get to Y. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like X. But it really is currently the only way to achieve Y. I agree with your article, that we should be trying to do Z. Y is a way to do this, along with all the other things you have listed. And X is currently how we do this.

    Not related to this post, but saw it somewhere on your blog anyway, you equate a mongoose to a human (baby?). The big difference between the two? Potential. The mongoose has the potential to, well, live its life in the same way it always has. The baby could become a great politician and unite the world, find a way to efficiently harvest the sun’s energy and solve the energy crisis, or discover a way to feed the world. The mongoose and the baby are, in this way, definitely not equivalent.

  2. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    If you want to carve things up into three letters X Y and Z, fair enough, but the point is it’s only Z (saving lives) which is really important. Doing Y (medical research) in abstraction from Z isn’t a moral justification for anything. So as long as there are other ways to acheive Z, justifications for animal experiments based on the need for Y don’t wash with me.

    Put it like this: there are lots of ways to acheive Y that we don’t do. We could make post-mortem organ donation and experimentation at least opt-out, and probably compulsory. We don’t (I think we should). We also supposedly don’t non-consensual experiments on humans. I say supposedly because at least one high-profile case was found to be ongoing in the 1970s, so it’s hard to be sure of anything. But anyway, supposedly that method is just not acceptable. We don’t even ask if it would be ‘worth it’ in terms of saving more lives than it costs. We accept that respect for beings with rights limits the methods we can use to get medical progress, full stop end of story. Then we turn around and say that medical progress is so vital that we just can’t possibly put limits of the methods used.

    Yes, the difference between a mongoose and a baby is potential. But what if the baby never lived up to that potential? What if it had a serious mental deficiency that meant that whatever differentiating criterion between humans and animals we pick, that baby never meets it. We still see the baby as having the same basic rights. We certainly don’t think the baby has no rights if we somehow find out it definitely won’t be a spectacular high acheiver and do the things you describe (at least I hope not). The potential is not crucial. I just sometimes mention babies rather than ‘babies with a mental problem that causes them to never meet whatever standard you want to use’, because it’s easier and because I know very little actual info about different sorts of mental problems.

  3. John Cain Says:

    This is obviously a month-old post, and I was just browsing around here after coming over from Vegans Against PETA, so bear with me. I don’t agree with you here, but I have to say that I appreciate you framing your argument this way rather the way PETA does, which is by lying. Namely, they say computer models are just as good as animals, which is not true (in a nutshell: a computer model is only as good as the data we input into it. Since we don’t know everything about animal biology, a computer model is necessarily limited). It’s refreshing to see an intellectually honest anti-experimentation take for once, rather than PETA’s bullshit.

  4. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Good to hear. These issues often get quite tangled.

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