BOOKS: The Animal Research Controversy

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1995:

The Animal Research Controversy
Protest, Process and Public Policy. An Analysis of Strategic Issues,
by Andrew N. Rowan and Franklin M. Loew, with Joan C. Weer.
Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy (200 Westboro Road,
North Grafton, MA 01536), 1995. 210 pages, quality paperback, $30.00.
A decade after publishing the most
reliable resume of the vivisection issue to that
point, Of Mice, Models, & Men ( 1 9 8 4 ) ,
Andrew Rowan et al have done it again. The
Animal Research Controversy presents and
evaluates every significant fact and factual
claim made by either side––and like Of Mice,
Models, & Men, won’t please any of the
noisier partisans, as Rowan once more
demolishes popular fallacy.

“The current debate over the use of
animals in research may be intense but it is
largely unproductive,” Rowan concludes.
“The assumptions that both sets of protago-
nists have about each other are generally false
and obstruct constructive discussion. While
there are always likely to be intense feelings
about animal research, it is not necessary to
assume that progress toward a broad public
consensus is impossible. Some progress has
already occurred, although more by accident
than design. Formal mechanisms should be
established where the free and open discus-
sion of the issues that concern both sides is
initiated and encouraged between both sets of
Say what?
One obstacle to communication,
Rowan finds, is confusion on all parts as to
who stands for what. For instance, he
observes, there are at least four different con-
ceptions of animal rights. “In common par-
lance, it is clear that the public uses the claim
that animals have ‘rights’ simply to mean that
humans have some duty to consider animal
welfare.” In political discussion, however,
“a campaign for animal ‘rights’ may mean as
little as a campaign for better regulation of
animal research to reduce animal pain.
Conversely, it may also include a call for the
total abolition of all uses of animals.”
non-animal research techniques have all
played a significant role in the advance of
biological knowledge, and that removal of
one of these three elements is likely to slow
down the advance of biological knowledge.”
The Animal Research Controversy
includes extensive supporting documentation,
including profiles of the leading organizations
Philosophically, “The debate over animal
rights has now become a confusing mix of
misunderstood concepts and caricatured argu-
ments.” Finally, “In the legal area, animals
may be considered to have some ‘rights’ that
are protected by law…However, for the most
part animals are considered property,” whose
owners’ property rights are also protected.
Rowan finds similar confusion in
the uses and definitions of the word “alterna-
tives.” In the absence of a common language,
discussions are often at cross-purposes even
without deliberate attempts to obfuscate,
over-simplify, and otherwise win points in
the battle for public opinion, at the expense
of negotiated resolution to points of conflict.
Yet Rowan is optimistic. “Although
it may appear from a quick survey of media
stories that the debate over animal research is
hopelessly polarized,” he writes, “there are
many scientists and interested members of the
public who occupy what philosopher
Strrachan Donnelly has called the ‘troubled
middle.’ They accept (with more or less
reluctance) the need for animal research, but
they also acknowledge and worry about the
moral challenges raised by the practice. This
silent majority could be mobilized to partici-
pate in and support a constructive dialogue,
leading to reasonable and effective public pol-
icy initiatives that would allow progress
toward the elimination of animal pain and dis-
tress in research, without placing unreason-
able barriers in the quest for greater biological
and medical understanding.”
As a precursor, “Scientific organi-
zations should formally accept that the use of
animals in research entails some costs in ani-
mal death and distress and should specifically
support efforts to minimize those costs. At
the same time, animal protection groups
should recognize that clinical, animal, and
on either side of the debate, tables of finan-
cial data taken from the abstracts published
each December in ANIMAL PEOPLE, and
other tables outlining succinctly the many
other facts, figures, and sequences of events
that one must understand to gain an accurate
perspective on biomedical research.
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