Tuesday, December 13, 2005

copied from slashdot without permission

As is, I firmly believe, my moral right to do:

The myth of the poor mouse
(Score:3, Insightful)
by SimianOverlord (727643) Alter Relationship on Tuesday December 13, @08:33AM (#14245772)
(http://fullyqualifiedurl.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday November 22, @07:39AM)
Mice and Rats in research are supposed to be pitied, by the usual pathetic ways that humans impart everything around them with the feelings or emotions which we possess. Actually, you should look at some facts.

FACT: Mice in the wild live about a year, in the most stressful, difficult and inhumane conditions you wouldn't like to imagine. Should they be unfortunate to gain access to one of the animal rights protestors habitat, middle class suburbia, the self same protestor, full of indignation at experimental killing, will of course call in someone to rid them of their little problem, or condemn them to freeze to death in wooded areas with humane capture traps. In the lab, mus musculus live on average about 2 years in controlled, warm conditions with regular feeding and exercise.

FACT: Rats in the wild live about 2 years max, again in stressful, disease ridden cramped conditions. In the lab, Rats can survive double that, again in nicely ordered, well controlled and comfortable conditions.

So don't bring up that ignorant rubbish about how animal experiments somehow harm rats and mice: unlike Joe Public taking potshots at rats and mice in his backyard, everything WE do is sanctioned, pored over and refined each and every step of the way to minimise suffering. Hell, our animals are no use for experimentation if they're unhappy or agitated: they get difficult to handle. We go to see them and handle them a couple of weeks before expts even start to get them used to our presence, smell, voices etc.

Rats and mice are far better treated in our labs than in the wild or in your homes, and they are also better treated than the conveyor belt of cattle fattened and slaughtered for your own diet. I get angered by the hypocrisy of people opposed to experimentation while conveniently overlooking the animal suffering inherent in large scale production of meat in all the developed world, with cattle stunned with bolt guns wandering into saws. It's so much easier to criticise someone else than look at your won behaviour, isn't it?

This is a very compelling argument. The terrain gets tricky so quickly, though. The implicit moral argument here is: If you could ask the mice for consent, and they had accurate knowledge of the options, they would choose to live in the lab rather than in the wild.

I think this is at least very close to the truth. Laboratories are just one of the places in the world to live-- at times wonderful, at times terrible, just like anywhere.

But since we are manipulating the entire existence of each mouse-- its genes, its diseases, its cures, its food, its challenges-- it's very difficult to really fix a frame on who is being imagined to give consent. If laboratory mice had to give consent in some particular way, we would write their genes so that they'd do whatever it was.

We're leaving the realm where these questions make normal reasonable moral sense in terms of "individuals" and "naturalness" and so forth. We use cloned strains of animals to run the exact same program over & over in different circumstances-- hacking out a momentary bit of code from the ongoing soup and prolonging it. It's difficult to stretch any moral understandings across this discontinuity.



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