US: Animal research helps animals too

Last month, the FBI released a wanted poster on America's first domestic terrorist. Daniel Andreas San Diego, shown here, an animal rights extremist, is being sought for alleged arson attacks on biotechnology companies in California. The FBI is offering a bounty of up to $250,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Kansas is not California, a statement most Kansans are proud to assert. Membership in extreme animal rights organisations in Kansas is very low and most Kansans are at most only two or three relatives away from someone who works in an animal industry, from ranchers to meat processing to rodeo to pharmaceutical testing near Kansas City.

Our county fairs remain a highlight of Kansas rural life and raising rabbits, pigs or a bucket calf are all part of rural Kansas life. For the most part, we still know where our hamburgers come from.

That is why our few animal rights protesters are often from out-of-state. But times are changing. Kansas has shifted from a rural to non-rural majority. My high school biology teacher colleagues tell me that more of our youngsters are being enticed to join the animal rights ranks. Students' field experiences with animals are shrinking and schools cannot make this up with field trips.

This also reveals a paradox about science. When we make progress in science, we often eliminate the experience base that gave us the drive to make that progress. When we suffered from contaminated water, we supported chlorine and ozone water treatment. The new generation has always had reliably clean water, and some want to end water treatment.

Our children had dental cavities so we fluoridated the water and dramatically reduced tooth decay; many in our new generation without cavities now see no reason to fluoridate the water. Teachers can teach such abstract facts but these classroom methods do not rise to the importance of widespread water-borne illness or rampant cavities and false teeth.

Ask an older Kansas rancher about screwworm. This was a gruesome and costly infection of cattle by a fly and it cost the Kansas beef industry millions annually, and caused much animal suffering.

The screwworm fly laid eggs in open wounds, from barbed wire cuts to the umbilical cord on new calves, as well as on wild animals. Because the fly maggots grew in wounds on deer as well as cattle, wound treatment and dips for just farm animals were unable to control the infection.

The most successful insect control ever conducted was the eradication of the screwworm fly from North America. Scientists raised huge numbers of the flies, sterilised them, and released them into the wild in a gradual sweep across America, from Florida across to Texas.

This sterile release system, unlike pesticides, drove the pest to local extinction by constantly bombarding both farm and wilderness areas with sterile flies to the point where a fertile fly could no longer find a fertile mate.

The key to the process was knowing when there were no more fertile flies laying eggs. Only then could they move the battlefront forward. And this fly only came to open living wounds, not to dead meat.

Therefore, it was necessary to use sentinel sheep with open wounds to detect if there were any wild flies left. No other system would work. North America and Mexico have now been free from this pest for two farming generations.

Today, there is still no replacement for animal testing that can mimic the complexity of real living systems. The scientific committee advising the European Commission confirmed last month that there are no valid scientific reasons to support a discontinuation of primates or other animals in the development and testing of new drugs.

The committee concluded that, based on today's scientific evidence, the use of non-human primates such as chimpanzees and baboons in basic and applied biomedical research should be continued.

A report published in University World News last month noted that the commission's scientific committee on health and environmental risks found no valid scientific reasons to support a discontinuation of the use of primates in research or in the development and testing of new drugs. But the committee added that this position "should be regularly reviewed in the light of validated alternatives that are constantly being developed".

The committee, which reports to the commissions health and consumer protection directorate general, said intelligent animals were "urgently needed" for the development of strategies against emerging human pathogens using vaccination and treatment with antibiotics.

The committee made a number of recommendations including support for better research strategies, such as development of non-invasive methods that could be used in human volunteer studies, and the development of new in vitro and in silico technologies.

It also argued for the use of other non-primate species such as mini-pigs or genetically modified rodents to replace non-human primates and is opposed to the use of wild primates for experiments, for scientific and animal welfare reasons.

We know that we have to suffer the small pain of a vaccination to avoid the much larger suffering of serious infectious diseases. In the same manner, a small number of sentinel sheep endured surface wounds in order to wipe out the screwworm fly. As a direct result, they saved massive suffering and deaths in both domestic cattle and wild deer in the 40 years since.

What animal rights extremists "just don't get" is that the biggest benefactors of agricultural and biomedical research with animals, are the animals themselves.

*John Richard Schrock is a professor of biology and director of biology education at the Emporia State University in Kansas.

What you don't get is that non-humans, as sentient beings like us, have a moral right not to be treated as a resource for any purpose, whether humans or other animals might benefit, just as humans have a moral right not to be used merely as a resource for the benefit of others.

Any distinction between human and non-human animals that you try to put forth as justification for their non-consenting use is arbitrary. As sentient beings with the ability to feel pain and suffer, and with an interest in their continued existence (sentience is merely a means to this end, ultimately), non-humans have a moral right to not be caused pain or suffering and to not be deprived of their lives merely because it benefits someone else. As individuals, their interests cannot be traded away when it suits others to do so.



As new scientists pave their way into research, they bring compassion and caring for all living species with them. I predict there will be new, less expensive and more humane ways of research coming to the front.



Thousands of beautiful animals have had to suffer, even die for the sake of humans wanting to look, feel better and make work easier for them... and even to wear the animals coats. All this is not necessary. I only use water and a little baking soda and I am fine. I have no smelly body odor because I eat the basic simple food, potato, broccholi, carrot , bread, seed, nuits and fruit, plus caring for and loving animals. I have never been sick for the last 20 years and that is because I am caring for others and not myself.

Doreen Rosanen