Response to "All for not: Animal testing" by The Bell of Seven Hells

The Bell of Seven Hells sent me a cranky email in response to my review of her essay saying that she doesn't want criticism (Incidentally, since one of the since this one of the purposes of this site is to allow writers to receive feedback on their writing it is unreasonable to expect people to know that you don't want feedback unless you say so specifically in your summary, and even if you did so receiving criticism is a risk you run by posting things in public. Not everyone will like what you have to say, or the way you say it and they have a right to tell you so). Since she stated that she would refuse to read any response I sent to her message via email, I thought I might write one and post it here, because what the heck, I'm bored and I feel like procrastinating about what I'm actually supposed to be doing right now.

The Bell of Seven Hells (henceforth referred to as TBSH)wrote that she is opposed to all animal testing. I replied in my review that while I am also opposed to animal testing for cosmetic purposes, I am tentatively in favour of it for the purposes of medical testing. While cosmetics are unnecessary, medical research can help save human lives, which personally I consider to be more valuable than the life of say, a rabbit. This belief is widespread and ingrained in pretty much every legal system, with murder being considered a far more serious offence than illegally killing someone's cat. If a particular piece of research might help save human lives, or make human's lives more bearable by reducing someone's pain, then I believe it would be wrong to refrain from doing that research for fear of hurting an animal.

Human trials of various drugs and procedures do occur, but they are done on willing human test subjects (see for example w w w. clinicaltrials .gov). Friends of mine have been recruited and paid to take part in low risk drug trials. Riskier trials are sometimes agreed to by the terminally ill, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain if the procedure works. As long as informed consent is given I see nothing wrong with trials like these. However, human trials aren't always possible because sometimes no-one is willing to undertake painful and risky procedures in the name of science.

TBSH's 'solution' to this problem is to have testing on unwilling human subjects, specifically prison inmates. She does not mention this in her essay, maybe because she only just thought it would hurt her animal rights cause by making her seem like a bit of a fanatic. TBSH argued that this would be a good thing to do because it would benefit taxpayers. This is not much of an argument in itself, since all kinds of cruelty could be justified the same way. It would also be cheaper for taxpayers if we didn't feed prisoners, or for that matter, didn't bother keeping anyone prisoner in the first place but simply had anyone who was accused of a crime executed without trial, but there's a reason why we don't do that sort of thing. The cost of the justice system is balanced against, you know, JUSTICE. TBSH also suggested that forced medical tests were an appropriate punishment for child rapists. I'm sure some grieving parents would agree with you, but there's a reason why we don't allow grieving families to decide on criminals' sentences.

Personally I believe that performing medical tests on any unwilling human subject is always morally wrong. It makes no difference who that person is or what they may have done. A lot of questions arise from the author's suggestion. Which crimes would merit such punishment? Is the possibility of killing or maiming wrongfully convicted innocent people a concern? Then there is the small matter that this would be a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which outlaws torture. The act of performing medical tests on an unwilling human subject would be a crime like those perpetrated by NAZI scientists during the Second World War. It's something that just can't be condoned in civilized society.

TBSH would probably argue that testing on unwilling animals is also morally wrong. It all comes down to whether you believe that humans are more important than animals. Personally, I believe that we are. All creatures are biased towards their own species, and we are no exception. I might not like all humans, but I do believe there is something special about us that isn't shared by any other animal. As to what that something is, I'm not sure exactly. It's more than just intelligence. While a chimpanzee might be more intelligent than a newborn baby, I would rather see the chimp suffer than the baby. Since this belief is very common, and is upheld by the law all over the world, the burden of proof would seem to be on animal rights activists who claim otherwise. The question I'd like to ask TBSH and anyone else who believes what she does is that if they were given a choice between their own lives and that of a fluffy baby seal, would they die for the seal? I suppose some people would, and hey, that's their choice, but I don't think that justifies forcing someone else to die instead of an animal.

For now, I can't see the sort of thing SBSH envisioned ever being considered an acceptable practice in a democracy with a free press. At the moment, and hopefully forever, medical testing is limited to testing on animals and on willing human subjects. Now I really must get back to work…

Edit: It occurred to me belatedly that TBSH's title "All for Not" was probably meant to be "All for Naught", which explains why she said she thought it was "more professinil" (sic) when I asked whether it was meant to be "All for Nothing". That was just puzzling me. Yep, still bored. *Goes to tidy sock drawer*