In the Balance – Kittens versus Knowledge

There is not a lot you can say about this that will change people’s minds. I am writing about animal testing in the United Kingdom and people have very fixed views on animal testing. In this case using kittens and cats to gain knowledge through research about “developmental eye disorders” that results in a condition called ‘lazy eye” in humans. Cats are not infrequently used in animal testing for the benefit of people because their anatomy is similar to ours. In this case the eye structure and development of sight is similar, apparently.

Are the lives of 31 kittens and cats worth a bit of knowledge that might help in the treatment of lazy eye? Five kittens had their eyes sewed shut for either 2 or 7 days and in another experiment 11 kittens were raised in total darkness for between 1-12 weeks.

As is commonplace in animal experiments the animals were ‘sacrificed’ after the testing. That is a euphemism for killed. Funny how scientists have their own language to ease the guilt. In the veterinary business veterinarians talk of ‘declawing‘ when they mean removal of the last joint of the toe and cat shelters talk of ‘euthanasia“, another word that is often a substitute for plain killing. It is all about denial and burying the guilt so it does not get in the way of the business.

Animal testing on kittens to research into human eye development

Animal testing on kittens to research into human eye development

As you can see from the scales I believe the lives of cats are more valuable (heavier on the scale) than a bit of potential knowledge that might help us. I have indicated that it is not morally right to subject kittens and cats to abusive experiments even if they are anesthetized.

I don’t believe the process is in balance morally. In animal experiments there is a moral trade off between deliberately abusing cats set against potential benefits to humans. It is a sort of moral balancing act.

The trouble for me is that the balancing presupposes that all animals are inferior to the human animal. I don’t happen to believe that and I think that belief is becoming out of date. People are gradually understanding that animals are smarter, feel more and communicate amongst themselves better than we once imagined.

Let’s treat them with more respect. If we want to improve our health let’s do it without experimenting on animals or if we must experiment we should do it on the human animal. That seems fair to me.

Associated page: Animal Testing for Cosmetics.

Original story in the Mail.

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In the Balance – Kittens versus Knowledge — 14 Comments

  1. Michael, I believe the euphemism which describes perhaps the most horrific of ‘sacrifices’ – as was used in this case in Cardiff – is the word ‘vivisection’. From what I have read about this particular story is that some of those kittens were not simply eithanised but shall we say ‘killed’ via vivisection. It’s truly disturbing to think about this. Of course ‘vivi’ stemming from the latin and in this case to mean ‘being alive’ during the ‘section’. They are of couzrse paralysed, and perhaps they can still feel what is happening, but they sure as hell can sense and see and hear it until the die during the process. As I read and understood it, they did this to measure the brains chemical reactions whilst adjusting the light on the kittens eyes.

    The people who do this in the name of science should be chucked in jail in my opinion. They used vivisection in the past a lot more, and for example, with monkeys/chimps, to create a vaccine for poleo. Poleo was a killer, and I suppose the scientists felt it a necessary evil to have to do this to save human’s lives. It did, and we no longer suffer the horrors of poleo. (or is it polio). Anyway, ‘lazy eye’ does not excuse torture more horrific than most people could imagine, in my opinion. It should be illegal. It’s just not right. Those doctors and scientists go home and sleep at night, somehow. I suppose they are driven by the idea of being part of some great discovery or something. How else could they be involved in such a thing if not for significant personal gain? I’m sorry for my theme of being typically anti, once again, but for me this is just too much. And worse is the fact that there are humans out there willing to do this. ‘Experts’ no less – who form the ‘untouchable’ academically isolated area of knowledge that forms part of modernity’s dangerous structure. Typically, experts do the ‘dirty work’ and we never see it. Thats what enables such horrors to continue. If we could see the chickens we ate, or the animals our eye drops were tested on, there would be a total collapse in the whole structure of the modern world. And to think we blindly (no pun intended) accept the words of these experts makes us no better really. We are forced into a position of having to question. I’m glad this particular incident, or incidents involving kittens was brought to light. It’s hard to trust an expert. Experts by definition must be desensitized to the nature of their actions, so that they can get on with the job of making the most amount of money possible for their employers. Sadly, there is somebody out there willing to ‘do the job’, whatever it may be.

    (An aside – I do not get email notifications as I used to before the change of server/domain, when I comment. For example, I am regularly opening the last story I commented on to see if there has been a reply because that would seem to be the only way to keep track of it.)

      • …..and anyway, quite apart from anything, I don’t necessarily believe one human life is, or should be more important than the life of one animal. Clearly the world would be better off without the human. We live too long and consume too much, and worst of all, some of us make babies. It’s a very controversial topic.

  2. I have been anti vivisection all my adult life and sorry to say that from what I hear conditions for lab animals haven’t improved much at all since I first joined the BUAV (British Union for the abolition of vivisection) 47 years ago
    Our Pet Welfare Act which all animal rights people are glad about, doesn’t give protection to lab animals too, yet a pet cat sitting purring on our lap is exactly the same species and feels the same pain and fear as a cat in a lab.
    Anyone causing a pet cat pain and being caught doing so can be prosecuted, yet scientists are allowed to cause cats pain and distress day after day until they die or are killed, in the name of science!
    Scientists justify using cats especially, in experiments like the sewing shut of kittens eyes and similar, because they say they are the most like a human brain, yet they turn around and say cats don’t feel pain as we do! They want it both ways. If their brains are like ours then their pain is like ours too!
    There is supposed to be protection against the abuse of lab animals but how many times do we read of the neglect or the cruelty of the people who are supposed to care for their welfare? Anyone working in a lab must have a heart of stone and be very unlikely to care if the animals suffer even more than the scientists experiments make them suffer.
    Sadly, to many people an animal’s life is considered lesser than a human’s life and certainly seeking fame and fortune is more important to scientists who get animals cheap and plentiful to torture behind closed doors in the name of science.
    How we weep and mourn at the funeral if a human dies, yet day after day countless lab animals die and their bodies are tossed away and most have died in vain in experiments repeated over and over for years and as in the case of cancer, still no cure has been found.
    The kittens eyes sewn shut was cruel and unnecessary, I saw a photo of the man responsible for it, he looked cold and defiant and that to me says it all about anyone who experiments on animals.
    As Marc said, how do they sleep at night?

  3. I can understand why animal activists have such an angry and destructive reputation. To be powerless over such things, in the so called ‘civilised’ world is nothing short of infuriating. Honestly, I start to think about bad things. Surely if this man who is responsible (who’s photo you have seen) got a few bricks through his window and some seriously scary hate mail, then he might stop and think about it a lot more seriously. I wouldn’t involve myself in such things, but it does look like the only choice left. These scientists and animal abusers are given the message that it is ok. All that is left is to take that into our own hands then. People who do such things SHOULD feel that they are risking their own freedom and lives by doing such things, otherwise they will just carry on I suppose. Maybe we could publicly name and shame them using the power of the internet. Let everybody know and do or not do what they want about it. This would be effective I am sure. If this man’s face was plastered all over Cardiff with details of his doings, then maybe he would not feel safe walking around his own hometown. That seems fair to me. And maybe the people he pays to do his work would no longer accept the job because they don’t want to risk being named either. There are alot of people out there who would be very angry towards these people if they just knew who they were.

    In conclusion I think animal activists need the power of the internet and computers. They need to be able to take out the entire university computer system until such acts are stopped, in this particular case. If that happened, it would make my day. Just like those people who took out Sony music websites and Goverment websites in the US when they were threatened with new and extreme unfair laws.

    Ruth, if you have been a member for 47 years, and it still happens right under out noses in our own country, this is appalling. How can we do something about it? I am stabbing in the dark here, but I really do think ‘we’ need a few savvy hackers to do the job ‘peacefully’ but powerfully and effectively. All these organisations rely on computers after all.

  4. Animal rights activists have been sent to prison for targeting vivisectionists or their property or freeing animals from labs and I think (I’m sure Michael will know) that there is now a law to protect them, I think they call it terrorism now. If anyone threatened that cold hearted man they would be arrested! I once wrote to one doing something particularly nasty and pointless asking how he slept at night, I had my email account taken away as he reported me. We are powerless to stop vivisection as they have the government behind them and until animal life is valued properly they will go on using them.Take cancer research UK, they get millions in donations and always advertising for more, where does it all go? Yet Dr Hadwen Trust non animal research get very little and not much publicity either. I don’t think we know the half of what’s going on in labs either and most people don’t want to know as ‘what the eye doesn’t see’ …… The human race are very selfish and I’m ashamed to be part of it but all we can do is our best to educate others even if they don’t want to know. I first found out so much from a dear old lady, the secretary of the local BUAV, who fought for many years to end vivisection but died no further foward, she always said to me she hoped it would stop in my lifetime if not hers, sadly I don’t think it will. I don’t believe in violence as it achieves nothing at all but I can well understand those animal lovers who are driven to it.

    • Gosh Ruth, that is more than just a tad frightening. I really do think some ‘hacking’ power could be put to good use. I’m sure most people would be horrified if they knew about what was happening. Therefore a ‘hacker’ type scare would get nicely into the news along with the info as to why it was happening. Violence is totally counterproductive in most cases, yes, agreed. But there is something to be said for being able to holding a bunch of data for ransom. Since as you say, any small voice of anti will be taken as agression anyway, that really means they will throw all the stops even if we tell them what we think. Or in your case, be reported and have your email taken down. And we live in a ‘civilised’ country where such oppression supposedly is a thing of the past.

      I wish I could hack my way into anything. Hackers can be quite surgical about it too I’m sure. They can make a mess of one persons bank account and credit cards without harming anyone else. I say do it then. Or does somebody have a better idea? Is there an official, legal route for this which is worth the wait? That’s not a rhetorical question, I honestly don’t know if I am overdoing it with my computer attack ideas.

  5. To Two Civilized & Respectable Folks

    Hi, Ruthie and Marc —

    They suffer, and have a right not to suffer? Animal rights? Whutcha talkin’ about? Yer tetched, is that it?

    Plug into ‘A Hunter’s Response to an Email from an Anti-Hunter – Page Two,’ and take a gander at paragraph 3. It’s guaranteed to boost your morale to miraculous heights.

    • You’ve already called us ‘folks’ in the first line. I don’t need to read it, thanks. You sound like George Bush. Why don’t you ‘take a gander’ at your closet full of ‘firearms’ and get off on that instead of trying to get us to read whatever it is you folks get off on.

  6. I wouldn’t even know how or where to begin hacking and I don’t understand how they do it at all and even if I did I wouldn’t try it as I’ve always been and always will be, a law abiding citizen.
    I sometimes ask myself why because it seems that criminals get away with most of their crimes as they are so clever about it, but I know I’d never sleep at night if I broke any law.
    I won’t be reading that thanks anyway Sylvia as it just makes me feel angry and helpless when cruel people try to justify their cruelty. In the far distant future, people (if the human race still exists, which I sometime doubt) will look back upon the way animals are used and abused and be horrified at the barbarity.
    BTW I don’t know what tetched is? it’s a new one to me.
    All I can do is as I do, which is trying to educate people as to what is happening, facebook is good for spreading the word about cruel firms, lots of us like minded people on there make contact and try to educate others and when someone posts ‘I didn’t know they did THAT, I will never use ANYTHING tested on animals again and I’ll be telling my friends’ Well that makes the heartache of caring so much about all living creatures, worthwhile.

    • I don’t break the law either. It’s this sort of thing that makes me daydream about it though. When the US government came out with that ‘SOPA’ law that threatened everything from our privacy to peoples livelihoods, I believe they were stopped mostly due to some group of anonymous hackers. It was very impressive and just about everyone felt good about what they had done. It was most effective indeed.

      I suppose all I am saying is I’d be real glad to hear about something similar happening in the context of animal welfare.

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