• Sumo

Not every article can be a happy one. When talking about the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, the inevitability is that something uncomfortable will crop up in conversation, leading to a topic that may make people uncomfortable, angry, or just downright distressed. Today may be one of those articles since I want to ask a tricky question: Where do you draw the line for laboratory testing? I’ll define the question a bit more before opening it up for comments, but let’s get to talking, shall we?

One of the sad truths of the scientific world is that tests are being done around the clock to find ways of curing diseases, increase longevity, and overall improve the quality of life of all living things. In order to do this, animals, typically rats, are being used to further the progress of science. Typically, scientists will form a theory as to either something that can be helpful/harmful, something that can cure disease, or something that can answer questions we previously couldn’t, ultimately leading to a greater understanding of the world. Then they need to test out their theory and usually they’ll turn to rats for this.

The reason rats are so commonly used falls into a few different categories. One of the most obvious reason is that rats are quite plentiful to the point of being considered pests (disposable). Also, rats are very easy to be trained to do a number of tasks. But most importantly, depending on how you’re looking at the issue, rats share quite a lot in terms of human psychology, as well as some basic biology, so they function as a good analog for humans in many cases.

But in comes the uncomfortable fact: As a result of some laboratory tests, rats can and have died. It goes hand-in-hand with testing previously untested drugs and procedures on them as sometimes scientists learn that their new drug can reduce the spread of male pattern baldness whereas other times a drug that’s meant to prevent heart attacks actually causes them. Science is not a spotless, clear-cut world. It involves risk be taken, but again, the question is where the line must be drawn.

Now, I’m not going to give my opinion one way or the other here. I’d rather leave it entirely up to the issue to sway you. On the one hand, we have countless medicines, treatments, and general knowledge developed as a result of these tests. On the other hand, countless rats and other animals have given their lives on tests and experiments, some of which have worked and some of which have not.

Granted, not all lab tests are harmful. As previously stated, some experiments are more social in nature, so scientists may be searching to see how rats handle a situation where a group are put together and routinely given cheese, then one day given the choice between cheese and strawberries, thus giving insight into the ways social interactions can be interrupted by a change of the food. Is this an acceptable form of animal experimentation, or does it have the same basic problem as the others, that of animals being forced to do something against their will?

The biggest thing to ask is where the specific line needs to be drawn. Is the problem only with experiments that are inherently “cruel,” by which I mean experiments that will guarantee physical harm? Or is it still wrong to cage animals for any reason whatsoever? This is the tricky part, especially for someone who’s a vegan and doesn’t want any part of a lifestyle that includes animals suffering, and can definitely make it difficult to find medicine that wasn’t originally tested on animals at some point in human history.

With this comes an equally troublesome question: If we cannot test on animals, who can we test on? Humans are the default answer there, but the weight of one human life due to an experiment with negative results compared to one rat life really gets the pot stirred. We can’t just say that animals shouldn’t be used for scientific tests if we can’t also determine where the distinction between humans and animals is concerned, which is something everyone should know. How do you feel about there that line is? Your feelings need to be clearly thought out, otherwise your overall worldview will be skewed.

Even more uncomfortably, can you handle a world where science essentially stops? Without animal testing, humans aren’t likely going to take their place, and even if they do, fewer risks will be taken. Advancement will either halt entirely or slow down to barely a crawl, and this again needs to be something you’re okay with occurring. There’s so much tied in to one simple question that is can start to warp your opinion the longer you think about it.

And so we’re at the end of the article and it’s time for me to open things up to full discussion. Where do you draw the line for laboratory testing? And how does what you believe extend further? Leave a comment and let’s get talking about this. I truly am curious to hear your opinion!