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Animal Research

University of Utah agrees to stop using shelter animals for experimentation.

Good job PETA! I’m often critical of PETA’s “stupid human tricks” that trivialize animal rights using nearly naked women or celebrities in many of their campaigns. It’s good to give them some credit where it’s due – and it’s good that the University of Utah is at least modifying some of its animal experimentation procedures (via The Peta Files):

“According to The Salt Lake Tribune, some U experiments have “completely halted” now that faculty members can no longer exploit animal shelters as a cheap and easy source of test subjects. The inability to obtain animals from shelters may have also helped prompt the U and the Primary Children’s Medical Center to end the use of cats for intubation training (which PETA had also vigorously protested) and to switch to infant-patient simulators.” 

http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2011/03/09/victory-at-the-u-reaps-bigger-gains.aspx?c=pfs#comments 

An abolitionist approach to animal research legislation?

Over on Care 2, I’ve managed to get myself entangled with a number of interim welfare AR types, who are trying to dissect my defense of an abolitionist perspective and advocacy. This bears some fuller comment:

just to be clear, if a bill were on the ballot to end research on primates, you would vote against it, not just because it wouldn’t be enforced, but because it would cause people to stop advocating for an end to all animal research. even if primates are seemingly more aware of their suffering.

This seems to rest on the implication that as an abolitionist I’m calling for magical, instantaneous worldwide change. That, of course, isn’t the case.

It’s not that incrementalism as a strategy is bad, per se. It’s that the incrementalism we’ve got so far isn’t actually doing anything to a) abolish any particular animal use or b) actually regulate that use in any meaningful way. Half (and quarter- and sixteenth-) measures that only ever change conditions for research animals, without in any significant way bettering their treatment really aren’t a way forward.

Of course, the implied claim here is simply incorrect: we’re nowhere near any legislation to ban the use of any particular species in research outright.

It’s tricky to address hypotheticals, because they’re often largely unrelated to reality.

Now then: if there was a bill that prohibited ALL primate research, without exception, without making allowances for primates used in other states, or in other countries etc. etc. etc. — if we could get a law that actually abolished primate research at the federal level that wasn’t ridden with loopholes that rendered that “ban” largely meaningless, I could support that bill.

The problem is that we’re incredibly unlikely to pass that bill, or anything LIKE that bill. Tiny tiny incremental steps toward “abolishing” primate research aren’t actually going anywhere. We’ll pass a bit – a very SMALL bit – of regulation here or there, which the vivisection industry will immediately lobby against and we’ll end up one step forward, two steps back.

It’s not that I’m against legislating abolition in theory: it’s that we haven’t actually ever legislated abolition in practice. If we get around to legislating something that is actually abolishing a particular animal use I think that would be supportable.

Now then: the other side of that is the inherent speciesist contradiction that we’d be saying, essentially, that the lives of apes matter more than the lives of (for example) mice.

We should be clear on this fundamental point: the message is *still* that no use of animals us ultimately justifiable. But if we could take an interim step that actually abolished a particular animal use, that would be a form of incrementalism I could get behind.

I just think it’s unlikely that we’ll do it. Given that the balance of power is very heavily weighted in favor of the industry – whether that’s animal agriculture, vivisection, whatever – that’s where the lobbying dollars are.

This makes throwing too much of our effort behind any particular legislative agenda right now something of a fool’s errand. Unless the prevailing attitude in the culture changes significantly, and legislators end up paying a higher political cost for supporting the industry (rather than benefitting from the industry, as they do now), I don’t see these types of legislative efforts being anywhere close to successful in the near term.

It’s something we should consider as a longer-term strategy though.
We’re just not there yet, in the culture, unfortunately.