Animal research

When is a ban not a ban? – Speaking of research

March 24, 2022
Speaking of research

From the EU to individual countries to small municipalities in the US, there seems to be a new wave of fashionable legislative efforts. The general idea is a proposal to ban certain aspects of research or testing involving non-human animals. Prohibition may take the form of direct interference with research. Or, it may aim to eliminate animal research and testing by banning entities that breed animals for this purpose. Examples of the former include the failure of a referendum to ban animal testing in Switzerland. Examples of the latter include a number of research animal breeding bans that have been enacted in small US state municipalities.

What the proposals have in common is significant. In most, if not all, cases, proposed actions are effectively detached from significant immediate consequences for their audience.

Beagle playing with a toy. Image courtesy of Americans for Medical Progress. CC-by-4.0

Proposals to ban animal research and testing are rarely accompanied by a ban on accepting the results of scientific research and medical advances made through animal research and testing. Bans on the breeding of research animals in one municipality are rarely (if ever) accompanied by a ban on the citizens of municipalities benefiting from scientific knowledge and medical advances through the use of animals in other municipalities. In fact, in the case of “breeding bans”, there is often no accompanying text to prohibit the use of animals in research or testing in the same municipality. In other words, the research or testing can take place, but the animals must be bred and obtained from another location.

Perhaps even worse (at least from the point of view of hypocrisy), many legislative efforts actually seem to have little (or no) impact in terms of stopping or ending activity.

The lack of immediate or direct impact is especially true in countries and municipalities that have a low footprint in research and development investment and achievement. As noted earlier, such efforts often occur in areas where there are no companies or entities conducting research on animal breeding, animal research, or particular types of animal experimentation–the very entities that would be prohibited. In other cases, such efforts are occurring in countries or regions that have already experienced declines in particular types of research, or that already rely on outsourcing work. Rarely do politicians – or journalists, or members of the public – explicitly note that proposed actions will have few direct consequences. because their constituency will continue to benefit through the work, effort and support of the same activity in other municipalities or geographic regions.

In fact, each of these non-effects appears to be a central feature that makes legislative proposals palatable to politicians. Where no research institution, company or local business is likely to be adversely affected by the legislation, there is little apparent risk in approving the proposal. So why would politicians put their names behind legislation that has not direct impact?

Why do politicians propose and support these bans?

Because he it looks good. How many would oppose “research puppy mills” in the absence of any context or connection to the consequences for safe medicine and new treatments, for example? And how few will connect research animals to the scientific knowledge, medical advances, safe drugs and vaccines they benefit from? Some may realize that a local ban will have little immediate impact on the ongoing benefits that flow from animal research that occurs at universities, federal research facilities, private research facilities, and corporations around the world. whole world. How likely are they to raise this point or oppose a local ban?

Because international political groups work tirelessly to promote and reward legislative efforts in line with their overall aims and aims. Groups like PETA, Cruelty Free International, Humane Society of the US, Humane Society International, White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) are among those advancing, assisting, promoting and reward various political and legal attempts to interfere with the use of animals in research. These efforts are recognized from the level of national governments to small municipalities. Note, for example, WCWP’s “Waste Warrior Awards”, the Humane Society’s Scorecard and Legislative Fund, or PETA’s various awards and media events.

Because the bans appear simple and avoid complicated moral questions that go far beyond the use of animals in research and testing. The central moral question – whether humans should use other animals and for what purpose – is rarely put to a vote. The number of animals eaten by humans far exceeds the number of animals in research and testing, for example. Yet few politicians would propose a ban on eating meat or raising animals for food or fiber. This simple fact is notable.

First question to ask: What is the position of politicians and other stakeholders advocating for bans?

As we have written previously, the starting assumptions and fundamental questions are important. Do the politicians supporting the bans share the absolutist view of the groups pushing, applauding and rewarding these bills?

For example, do they believe that: “All animal uses, whether or not there are alternatives and regardless of the need, are treated equally. In other words, the use of a mouse in research aimed at new discoveries to treat childhood diseases is considered morally equivalent to the use of a cow to produce hamburgers, the use of a elephant in a circus or a mink for a fur coat. In this context, the emphasis often excludes consideration of the damage that would accumulate following the enactment of the animal rights agenda. For example, the harm caused to humans and other animals by forgoing research or intervening on behalf of animals. As a result, while the absolutist position is often portrayed as one that entails only benefits and no harm, this is a misrepresentation. (read in full here).

As we wrote before, science is truly global and without many borders. What this means is, as long as scientific knowledge and technology are shared, all can benefit from it even if they do not contribute or prohibit it within their borders. What individuals, municipalities, countries and regions could consider is following the model of Switzerland, where an initiative that called for a halt to all experiments on humans and animals included a ban on imports of new products developed using these methods. To be consistent, however, this should include a ban on the use of knowledge and findings from basic (or fundamental) animal studies that have served as the basis for new drugs, treatments and knowledge.

Again, the Swiss referendum failed to obtain the popular vote. The failure may reflect a concerted effort to promote the visibility of the consequences of such a vote on the Swiss public and the precedent it could set for Europe and the rest of the world. Similar efforts have been made for some of the bans introduced in the United States. In others, we have seen relatively little resistance to the passage of these bills. The passage of these bills, at the local level, has created dangerous precedents, which can then be followed at the federal level. But more importantly, they affect the potential of the United States to continue to be at the forefront of biomedical research and to provide cures for existing and emerging diseases that affect us all.