Friday, January 22, 2010

Animal Welfare versus Lab Animals

There was a thought-provoking article in The Scientist some time ago. It pointed out that over half of law schools in the United States now include animal law courses. Many of the same universities also have research programs that use the very animals protected by federal welfare laws.
Support for these animal law programs has come at least partially from contributions by the Bob Barker Endowment Fund for the Study of Animal Rights Law. This fund has provided $1 million gifts to Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Columbia, and other universities.
Under current law, animals remain property. The animal rights movement has been engaged for some time in trying to change that and have animal given the status of "personhood." This would have many, many serious implications well beyond the realm of research. After all, slavery was banned some ago, so you couldn't legally "own" another person. That may fit with the desired outcome of some animal rights organizations to do away with all companion animals, but it doesn't fit into my world.
Aristotle suggested a solution to this a long, long time ago. He saw three categories: things, animals, and persons. Persons had responsibilities to care for animals humanely. As you all know, there are few things treated better than a cherished family dog! Many of my friends have stated a sincere wish to reincarnate as one of my dogs because they envy their lifestyle.
So will law schools and medical schools on the same campus end up in conflict, or can we reach a reasonable level of "use" and "concern" regarding animals? After all, medical research in dogs can benefit both dogs and humans and medical research in humans can cross over and benefit dogs. We share so many of the same or related maladies that great things have been coming from the "one medicine" concept. This shouldn't really be the weighty topic it is made out to be.
Unnecessary research shouldn't be funded or done. Unnecessary duplication shouldn't be funded or done. In the best case, animals already suffering a disease should be used for research into the progression and treatment of the disease (rather than animals being given a disease on purpose) whenever possible. Computer models and analysis should be optimized to minimize the need for animal models. But animal research has a valid place in benefiting both animals and humans.

No comments:

Post a Comment