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 Post subject: I need help finding moral justification for a job
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:45 am 
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I recently transferred to a big boy school where I will have the opportunity to get an internship in a neuroscience research lab. This will likely include injecting rats and mice with various drugs, many of them psychotropic, and ultimately euthanizing them. This experience will help me on my path to a career in addiction research that I so desperately want. Here's the issue: I'm vegetarian. I'm actually pretty much vegan (in terms of my diet at least) but I eat only pasture-raised eggs and cheese.

I'm sure you can guess that doing this kind of work with animals would conflict with my ideologies. I'm looking for some sort of justification for this that I can really be happy with.

Some people will say that these animals are bred for the sole purpose of this research, and therefore it's difficult to insinuate a "loss of rights" for these creatures, because if we didn't need them for testing, they wouldn't exist in the first place. I know this is a huge leap I'm taking here but that same logic applies to slave owners who would force their slaves to reproduce. I'm not saying this research is the same thing as owning slaves and forcing them to bear children for you to take away from them, but the justification is similar, and it doesn't really satisfy me.

I know a lot of the medications I have used were tested on animals so that I could safely take them and I continue to take those drugs in spite of knowing that. I guess actually being at the forefront of the operation makes me uneasy, like a meat-eater going to a slaughterhouse.

WHAT AM I TO DOOOOOO

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 Post subject: Re: I need help finding moral justification for a job
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:03 am 
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I can understand your moral conflict, especially from your vision towards cattle/animals and not considering them food.

Maybe some comfort: also regulators in the world demand as little animal testing as possible. This kind of legislation is relatively new, but I believe it'll grow stronger as we cannot see animals as only 'usable goods'.
There are currently EU-regulations present or in preparation (I'm not sure about the status) which demand industry to SHARE test results instead of each company repeating the same test for skin irritation in relation to a substance. (ISO 10993 testing)
Rationales that certain earlier test results are also acceptable for similar drugs will become more acceptable (to regulators and society).

You can maybe 'accept' this as animal tests are the best choice (to humans) because there often still is no other option for testing:
- testing on humans: mostly too risky for a first test
- testing on cells / biological tissue: maybe not accurate enough to acquire good reliable results
- test simulation (software): I do not know of such

The research field you want to enter is very interesting, but has its side-effects. (Also moral dilemmas that certain drugs influence people's behaviour/mind; do we want to provide these drugs that 'cure' but also 'alter'?)

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 Post subject: Re: I need help finding moral justification for a job
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:40 am 
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Location: near Utrecht, Netherlands
Quote:
because if we didn't need them for testing, they wouldn't exist in the first place
This is what is called a mutual symbiosis. The rats provide us with life saving medical information, we provide the rats with shelter, food and the opportunity to reproduce.

Being a wild animal is not by any means easy or enjoyable. Living in the wild, animals are in a constant struggle to find enough food while avoiding being predated by some other animal. The odds of surviving childhood are against you and your mother will probably die while giving birth. When the weather is bad, you have to seek shelter under a tree or in a damp cave. I can't speak for the animals but it seems incredibly stressful. For a cow, it really isn't a bad proposition to be raised on a farm: you get enough food, are protected from predators, have proper shelter, get care when injured or sick. The only downside is that the end of the run you get slaughtered, but once you're dead, that's it.

But for me, the hardest part of the job would not be euthanizing the animals but injecting them with (untested) drugs. This somewhat takes away from the "they get an enjoyable life" argument. I think the most mayor argument for doing testing on animals is utilitarian: you're causing discomfort to a limited ("finite") number of animals but by doing so you can help an unlimited ("infinite" - or at least until the sun blows up) number of humans (and perhaps other animals) to a far better quality of life. It's clear that once you do the math, the total utility is positive since the infinite improvement in quality of life for humans outweighs the finite amount of discomfort caused to the rats initially used in testing. This is further amplified by the fact that rats have very small brains so they are probably far less sentient than we are.

Quote:
I know this is a huge leap I'm taking here but that same logic applies to slave owners who would force their slaves to reproduce.
It is without doubt that our moral values for humans are far greater than those for other animals. This is partly arbitrary (that's just the way it is) but it can be justified somewhat: the golden rule could never apply to animals as then we would have to build shelters and provide food and care for each one of them until they die of old age. Furthermore it is only natural: slavery and cannibalism are very uncommon in the animal kingdom. Finally you could make some argument on brain size but that's quite a minefield.

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 Post subject: Re: I need help finding moral justification for a job
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:12 am 
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I work in drug development within the pharmaceutical industry (also trained in neuroscience, as well as molecular biology), so I understand the moral dilema you are facing.

Personally, I (and I think most within the pharma industry) would rather avoid animal testing if at all possible, for several reasons:

1. It is exploitative and therefore morally questionable, but not necessarily wrong (see below).
2. It is expensive, though not as expensive (in terms of cost, rather than safety) as testing in real people/patients.
3. Results in animals often don't correlate with results in people/patients, especially as animal systems and models of disease are often different to those of humans.

So why do it?

Well, without animal testing, there are limited options:

1. Don't develop any new drugs, despite the acute need for them.
2. Test new drugs directly in humans, given that more than 95% of them will be toxic or ineffective unless the majority are first tested in animals. Would you volunteer given those odds? I guess nobody would, and the regulatory authorities would not even allow it, for our own safety, so the result defaults to option 1.
3. Test new drugs first in the test tube with all the clever systems and technologies we have developed (which we do anyway) and then go directly into humans. However the odds are really no better than option 2 above, so again the result defaults to option 1.

In short, there is no possible way to develop new drugs without first testing in animals, or putting many more humans at risk, so the moral choice is actually very simple, despite any gut emotional reaction to the idea of animal testing.

The only moral question is how much do we really need new drugs. And I think that question can only be answered by those suffering from the disease in question.

I wish we could develop a complete alternative to animal testing, as we would all prefer it, but the fact remains that we just haven't been able to replicate the astonishing complexity of the human body in the test tube. Animals are not ideal models either, but they do replicate some of this complexity and thus help to reduce the huge risk of putting a foreign chemical into a human system.

Finally, I would say this does not give a blanket excuse for animal testing. For example, I am completely against the development of new cosmetics by testing in animals, as if we really needed them, and I find the idea of vanity at the expense of another life abhorrent, even if it's 'just' an animal. Therefore, every individual animal tested and sacrificed should be an individual moral decision. If you are not specifically going to learn something new and more important to mankind than the life of the animal (and you should always ask this question), then the decision is also an easy one. Treat each animal life with respect, and you will sleep well. :wink:

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