Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving all!
Today was marked by a veritable flood of media attention on the continued UBC animal research debate. A diverse range of media groups including CBC News, the Vancouver Sun, and online sources presented opinions and stories on the ongoing request for UBC’s animal research data.
Why UBC has not responded with a clear and definite answer is beyond me. Science has benefited so much in the last 10 years thanks to the increase in and availability of open-source platforms. Indeed, many institutions are actively pursuing publication in open source media, due to the incredible increase in journal prices. So why the secrecy with animal experimentation?
It doesn’t help when some animal rights groups still present data from the 1950s and voraciously denounce “vivisection”. Which of course, is followed by scientists denouncing activists as “nutcases” or the like.
In reality, both sides need to move forward, if only for the betterment of animal welfare.
Yes, vivisection is bad. It describes a “live dissection”. But it doesn’t happen in modern research. When tissues are required that can’t be obtained by sampling, the animals are euthanized humanely and then necropsied (AFTER death) for their tissues. To continue to rail against the practice of “vivisection” does not help the cause of animal welfare. True, many groups will continue to use it because it evokes horrific images of cruelty – but do you want to change science for the better, or just inspire mistrust and promote ignorance? (Note: If examples of vivisection can indeed be found in modern research, please castrate the instigators, with my blessing. 😉
Yes, crazy car-bombing family-threatening activists are bad. But that doesn’t describe everyone. Most people just care about animal welfare. Sure there are nut jobs out there, but pick ANY cause and you will find that there are people who like to cause trouble who are drawn to “causes”. That doesn’t mean that the cause itself is bad.
Activists need to be shown that animals are, at the very least, being treated humanely and that animals are only used when absolutely necessary. They need to be able to understand modern scientific data and use examples from modern research to support their causes. I highly recommend some of the research which UBC’s Animal Welfare department has done. For example they have found that the most commonly used method of mouse euthanasia, CO2 asphixiation, may actually be more distressing to mice than originally thought. Disturbing, since it is so widely used.
Scientists need to better understand the ethical concerns raised by activists. They are valid concerns! It is disturbing that so few science majors take philosophy or ethics, because as we have seen in the past, science without morality is a dangerous thing.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the situation as it unfolds. Check back for updates!