The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics has issued an important report that calls for the “de-normalisation of animal experimentation.” The report is backed by numerous scientists, scholars, theologians and writers, such as Coetzee.
You can view the report here.
According to the report:
The deliberate and routine abuse of innocent, sentient animals involving harm, pain, suffering, stressful confinement, manipulation, trade, and death should be unthinkable. Yet animal experimentation is just that: the ‘normalisation of the unthinkable’.
It is estimated that 115.3 million animals are used in experiments worldwide per annum. In terms of harm, pain, suffering, and death, this constitutes one of the major moral issues of our time.
‘The moral arguments in favour of animal testing really don’t hold water’ says Professor Andrew Linzey, co-editor of the report and a theologian at Oxford University. ‘We have looked at the central arguments in official reports and found them wanting. If any of them were morally valid, they would also justify experiments on human beings.’
To those who argue that animal experimentation saves human lives I point to the following:
Overall, in the US, 92 per cent of drugs that pass preclinical tests, mostly animal tests, fail to make it to the market because they are proven to be ineffective and/or unsafe in people
1. Stressed animals yield poor data. The unnatural laboratory environments and procedures cause animals substantial stress. Their distress causes changes in their physiology (Garner, J. P., 2005) that affect research data in very unpredictable ways.
2. Animals do not naturally develop most human diseases. The inability to recreate human diseases accurately in other animals is a fundamental flaw in the use of animal experiments.
3. Animals are not miniature humans. Despite attempts to genetically alter animals to mimic human physiology or use closer genetic species such as NHPs, physiological and genetic differences that are unalterable and inherent to species diversity remain an insurmountable obstacle to using animals to predict human outcomes.
I’m not suggesting that tests on animals have not saved human lives. But the price we as a society pay is too steep. We now know too much about how animals suffer to look the other way. And we also have the technologies today to avoid animal testing entirely — using computer models, lab-grown tissues, and so forth. Note that L’Oreal already “farms” fake skin for testing cosmetics with plans to created plans to use 3D printed skin.
I believe that if most people understood not only how ineffective animal testing is but also how it delays, often by years, drugs coming to the market — they might be eager to bypass animal testing entirely.
Animal rights is one of the major social issues of our time — yet one that still exists on the periphery of society. However, this is changing.
Animals can’t speak up for themselves. That’s why writers are so very important.
Writers have an opportunity and responsibility to push our society forward in how we view and relate to animals. I’m happy to see Coetzee lending his name — and his writing — the cause.
Author of the novels The Tourist Trail and Where Oceans Hide Their Dead. Co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and editor of Writing for Animals (also now a writing program).