Moderator: Hello and welcome to X-Debate! Today, we have two special guests from very prestigious institutions: Jack McDoyle and Samantha Rupell, from The Jackson laboratories and Time Magazine, respectively. Welcome!
Samantha: Thanks for having us here today!
Moderator: Please, sit down! So some of you might wonder why these two authors are here today with us. In fact, they themselves might wonder why they are here, as well. The reason is that each one of them wrote an article on an issue that we should all be very interested in, and that’s very prominent and debated in science nowadays: animal testing. Could you briefly explain what your articles are about?
Jack: Sure. Humans and mice are surprisingly similar regarding genetics. In Jackson Laboratory we take advantage of that fact and we research these animals in order to develop treatments for cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many other human conditions. In “Why Mouse Genetics?”, I explain the benefits we have by experimenting with mice.
Moderator: That is very interesting! Samantha, you take a different stance in your article, if I’m not mistaken.
Samantha: Yes, that’s right. I believe differently. In 1957, as a part of the Sputnik 2 mission, the Russians launched, a dog, Laika into space, who became the first living being to be in space. The purpose of the experiment was to observe how outer space conditions affect a living creature. However, the result of the mission was the tragic death of the dog, within hours because of the increase in altitude. In “Animals: She-Hound of Heaven”, I wrote about the impact the event had on the society, the protests, the unethical implications and unfairness of the situation.
Moderator: I think that’s a very valid position as well! It seems like you have opposite views on this topic. Could you please explain why you chose a written article as the medium for your particular piece?
Jack: I believe that the work done by The Jackson Laboratory helps mankind sustain itself. I thought that I should state the benefits of experimenting on mice through an article because of the quantity of information I could include in that medium. I chose to post the article online, so that it may reach a wider audience than a poster, for example.
Moderator: It sure does, especially since it is in English. Why did your team choose to write an article, Samantha?
Samantha: In our case, we detected the impact Laika’s launch had in society. Thus, I decided to write an article which was a popular mode of communication, in order to reach a broader audience with detailed the emotions the world felt after the launch. The article coming from TIME gives us a credibility that impacts individuals. Also, I thought the medium was ideal since we wanted to cite different protestors.
Moderator: Both of you have a similar reason for choosing the medium. Can each one of you explain your thoughts on the morality of using animals for our benefit?
Jack: At Jackson, we see mice as a means of helping millions of humans all over the world. My article puts our lab’s belief into words. Mice are just the perfect instruments to advance medical technology, they are biologically extremely similar to humans. As I stated in my article, [QUOTE]: “We share between 95 and 98 percent of our genomes and get most of the same diseases, for many of the same genetic reasons. Therefore, the results of mouse experiments often correlate to human biology.”
Our similarity with mice makes mice perfect for testing. Because we share such a large percentage of our genomes, we can develop cures for diseases by studying mice and extrapolate those cures to humans. Imagine how many deadly human diseases we’ll be able to combat with the research we do on mice. Do you prefer to save the lives of a few mice, or save the life of somebody you love?
Samantha: You claim we’re so similar with mice – we share some 95 % of our DNA with them. If so, how can you cold heartedly test on them?
I believe the use of animals to benefit the human race is wicked. Laika’s launch to space, one of the first heavily publicized case of animal testing, disgusted the world. Picture a calm, gentle dog, completely unaware of her sealed fate, being sent into the satellite. The humans sending her know her trip is one way. They already know she must die. In their eyes, her death is just another necessity in order to progress the ‘all important’ science.
The way we act when it comes to our progress is disgusting.
As the League Against Cruel Sports, said [QUOTE],”the sickening stories of the inhuman cruelties of the Middle Ages fade into insignificance,”
When we step back and see the pain we put animals through, the torture methods of the Middle Ages seem mild. Animal testing is a barbaric practice.
Jack: Our intention is not to harm mice in any way. We are not trying to torture mice. The reason we use mice is very similar to why the Russians launched the dog. In your article, you quoted the Russian First Secretary, who explained that “[This was] done not for the sake of cruelty but for the benefit of humanity.”
The Russians saw no alternative than to send Laika with the purpose of achieving the goal of helping mankind progress. Similarly, our goal is not to abuse mice or put mice through pain, we simply see no alternative. Rather than focusing on a few “downsides”, we focus on the bigger picture – a picture that benefits humanity. And my article, clearly expresses that idea.
Samantha: Does this bigger picture involve the slaughter of thousands of animals, to satisfy our selfish goals?
Laika died in the first few hours of her launch. She died in vain for us, humans. Her death was unnecessary and unfortunate. It made humans question their ethics. After the launch, the German paper, Stuttgarter Zeitung, whom I quoted in my article, said “For a few days, black and white, democrats and communists, republicans and royalists in all countries, islands and continents have one feeling, one language, one direction . . . our feeling of compassion for this little living being twirling helplessly over our heads.”
The launch united mankind briefly over our common feeling of compassion, over our humanity and over our morals. People from all over the world, regardless of race, political beliefs, stood together. We were together. We were horrified and felt nothing but pity for Laika, and shame that man had gone to such lengths, willing to sacrifice fellow creatures for man’s own benefit.
Jack: There is no question of ethics. We don’t really think we are making some sort of sacrifice by using mice. Mice are simply tools; they provide methods to ensure mankind’s existence on Earth. We see them as a resource.
In my article, I wrote, [QUOTE], “Mice are a cost-effective and efficient research tool. They are small, they reproduce quickly, and they are relatively easy to handle and transport.”
For us, mice are tools. They are just objects that have all the right features for us to experiment on. We believe that we are working for the greater good, and therefore there really is no conflict with our ethics in our experimentation.
Moderator: See what really amazes me is that even though your arguments are on completely different sides of the matter, you both argue about the exact same thing: the value of animal testing when it comes to human predominance. That is the prominent theme in both texts. Yes, you have extremely differentiated opinions on the matter, but you both argue about the same thing. By looking at these two texts together and by you looking each other’s, I think that we acquire a deeper understanding of the value of science that you both engage in. There will always be people who are against animal testing for human benefit and do not want to see animals being hurt. Ms. Rupell mention people calling it [QUOTE] “ …inhuman cruelties of the Middle Ages”. This refers to a comparison of the gruesome torture methods in the past to the experimentation that we are conducting today. Yet there are also always going to be others who will say that it is essential to the development of human prosperity in the future. Mr. McDoyle stated in his article that [QUOTE] “Mice can be genetically manipulated to mimic virtually any human disease or condition.” Meaning that we can use mice in a variety of ways by making them contract human diseases. By having these two sides colliding, the value of science is made real. It is brought into the real world where people have differentiated opinions on the matter and where we cannot for sure say that yes, this should exist, or no, it shouldn’t. There will always be a push or pull. This makes us see the negatives, as well as the positives of this value of science, which we would not be able to do with only one stance in place.
Many believe that science is there to help us, to make humanity more prosperous. Animal testing to ensure human predominance can, therefore, be described as a value of science. Naturally then, after hearing both sides of the discussion the question arises of whether it is worth compromising our ethical value of compassion through animal testing in lieu of our species supremacy?
Samantha: I think it shouldn’t be done. We are tainting our humanity by hurting these animals.
Jack: I completely disagree. The pros outweigh the cons, we should keep doing it to secure humanity’s survival.
Moderator: Now, as I stated before, the two very different opinions that you two have only promote the value of science of human prosperity. We would now like to invite our leading expert on the subject to answer this question.
Vishnu: We can all agree that animal testing has benefited the supremacy of our species. Yet ethics play a large role when it comes to the amount of animal testing that we use. At some points in our scientific careers, our different views of the ethical value of compassion either hinder or overly promote the use of animal testing in order to increase our species’ supremacy. This is due to the subjectivity of the compassion; it is highly different for each individual. Some might not feel any compassion towards animals, while others might say that they want to protect each animal’s life. Even though this value of science is so subjective, by looking at these two texts together, we can conclude that we all value animal testing on different levels, due to our differences in our compassion towards animals. Some scientists’ compassions outweigh the need for our species supremity, while others’ compassions aren’t as strong, thus leading to more animal testing. What I want to emphasize lastly is that whether for good or for bad we have used these creatures to humanity’s advantage. We have argued how good or bad it is, but we have still used animals in order to help ourselves, humans. We haven’t stopped doing that.
Moderator: I think what you, Dr. Vishnu, are hinting at, is that to more deeply understand this topic, we need to ask ourselves, what animals actually mean to us and what do we think of them. From my perspective, after viewing these two texts that describe two very different views on the matter, I can see that animals are no more than variables to us. We view and treat them as variables in a science experiment, whose goal is human development and predominance. Yes, that is a very bold statement, but I think that these two articles both support that same idea. Both show some degree of compassion towards animals, yet they still use them to conduct experiments. For example, Jack, you wrote that, I quote, “mice are a cost-effective research tool because they are easy to handle and transport”. From this, it is quite clear that mice and animals are viewed as things, or a variable in promoting human well-being. Samantha, in your article, you quoted a Vietnamese farmer saying, quote “Dogs are supposed to be eaten, not carted around through space.” Once again, animals are being portrayed as a variable in our quest for human supremacy and well-being. I think that that is what we can take away from today’s show; these two texts together show us how we truly view animals; a variable, or a tool for human development. Thank you for being with us tonight, and hope to see you next week!