A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Paris Hilton and fur

Recently, it seems Paris Hilton was the recipient of some unwanted attention; namely, she was pelted (along with some guy wearing a Sgt. Pepper's style tunic) with flour by animal rights activists. I'll be the first to admit: anytime a "celebrity" of the likes of Paris gets pelted with baking particulate, I'm the first one to laugh. However, the episode did raise some ethical issues that always lurk somewhere in the minds of those who are in some way associated with biology/biological research. I agree that wearing fur as fashion is pretty sick and wrong. It seems like anytime an animal is sacrificed in order for somebody to look good, that just ain't right.

But I have worked in places that use animal subjects in experiments. As much as possible, I have tried to stay away from those areas where the experiments are taking place because, honestly, it disturbs me. I know that anesthesia is used, they don't feel a thing, etc. But it is still creepy.

The other side of the story (and there always is one) is this: beyond the bloodiness, these animals are being sacrificed in order to better treat burn vicitms, people who suffer brain injuries, smoke inhalation patients, and so on. Of course, that justification never trumps the immediate viceral reaction one (or at least I) feels when seeing rats with sutured skulls and sheep with extensive burns and wires sticking out of their skin.

So I end up in a middle ground: my gut says it's wrong (or at least disturbing) but my mind can justify the need for these experiments. I know I've heard plenty of doctors/professors spout something to the effect of, "Those card carrying PETA members sure get grateful real quick when their lives are saved from a treatment discovered because of animal testing." But sometimes, the images and (imagined) cries of pain just burn themselves into your brain; no amount of rationalization can cut that bitter taste in one's mouth.


Blogger BZ said...

I am glad that you have begun to examine your relationship with animals. I would highly recommend that you read Marjorie Spiegel (The Dreaded Comparrison: Human and Animal Slavery) –
I would love to hear you thoughts on the subject once you have done so.

"The only relevantrequirement which should be necessary to keep us from unnecessarily inflicting pain and suffering on someone is that individual’s ability to feel pain and to suffer. Similarly, the only qualification individuals should need to make it wrong for us to dominate their lives is that they possess life, that they are alive."

5:49 AM

Blogger Jefe said...

I will take up your recommendation. Of course, I would consider myself an animal lover (witness, to that effect, the fact that I own 1 dog, 3 cats, and 2 gerbils). In fact, some of the only times that I actually get emotional in movies, no matter how cheesy the movie may be, is when an animal suffers pain/dies. Surely, this is some sort of emoting on my part onto the animal; we can't help but assign human feelings to our furry friends.
That being said, I guess that since I have been close to, in one way or another, research science for all my life, I see the importance of animal 'testing.' Ideally, this testing should be painless. Of course, one can't but help thinking that pain, and/or suffering, must always be present. It is a conundrum that I wrestle with, though have largely attempted to ignore, at least by avoidance of direct contact with the act of 'testing.' I guess data are always more sterile than the act itself.

8:08 AM

Blogger neill said...

I read the first paragraph as describing Sgt. Slaughter at least three times.

6:06 PM


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