My little brother Luke studies Bioinformatics at UMIST. This is a little heard of scientific field which aims to model living organisms using computers, so in part it aims to replace or supplement drugs testing on animals. I think this is a good area to study: theoretically, you should be able to get better results from computers.
However, there will always need to be testing on living non-human animals. Computers are open to human error because they are programmed by humans. Animal testing ha been, and remains, the best way to test drugs, especially in the latter stages of testing. Thus, this type of experimenting needs to continue if we are to be sure that the drugs of the future are perfectly safe.
This is not to say I do not have sympathy for the animals involved. Here we enter an ethical and philosophical minefield: first, do these beasts feel pain, or object to what is being done to them? They can’t communicate with us, so how do we know? We could try to handle this in terms of brain size and functionality,, but then we would need to set a cut-off point between feeling and unfeeling, which would essentially be arbitrary. Humans, the varied lot we are, have a range of cognitive capacities: those described as having PMLD are no less human than I am, and I would hope we would all puke if anyone suggested using such people in experiments. The case has been made elsewhere that animals have the abilities of human babies, and thus should be awarded the rights of such.
We have no way of knowing the capacities of animals for certain, and given that the safety of our medicines is at stake, I think such tests should continue. We have no choice but to lay aside our ethical concerns for the time being. I am certainly against the campaigners currently terrorising laboratories which use non-human animals: they are hugely misguided, and let emotion stand in the way of logic. Scientists today issued a declaration that they would use alternative means where possible, but the protestors, it seems, still aren’t happy. Do they want all of medical science to halt? If they had their way, I’d have died at or shortly after childbirth, for I needed drugs once tested on animals.
Moreover, their means are deplorable. They behave like terrorists. They stole the body of a dead woman, just because of her connection to a farm which bred guinea pigs for laboratories. What is silly here is the guinea pig would not exist in it’s modern form were it not for this purpose? Where, perchance, is their natural habitat?
These people are ruled by misguided sentimentality rather than logic, and frankly I doubt most of them understand the science involved.
How totally stupid.