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Entry #8: The line between Science and Cruelty

Posted 01-24-2010 at 06:53 PM by BeanMarine
Updated 01-24-2010 at 07:02 PM by BeanMarine
What is the line between science and animal cruelty? And if it exists, where does the pursuit of a cure eventually turn into a mad-man's pleasure? How many animals must die to justify the safety of a product?

I have never been a vigilant Animals' Rights Activist or a strong believer in their liberation. I don't spend the extra 10 seconds to check if a product was tested on animals before purchasing it. But I have had pets, and I have loved them as I love my family. I believe that animal's have a consciousness, and when they are trapped in laboratory cages, injected with inflammatory substances, etc. I believe that they are also capable of feeling fear.

This isn't a post complaining about animal testing or an argument seeking out intelligent life in animals--it's more of a thought process, a search for where my limits and boundaries are.

Just recently, I was invited to be part of a Standford Research Team conducting experiments on rats to test the efficacy of a new type of inhaled-anesthesia. The theory is that the gas-form of the painkiller will act faster than its injected counterpart, and thus be more useful in emergency situations.

For those of you who don't know--and I'm guessing that's most of you, since I don't know many of you personally--I am an aspiring doctor, and one of the requirements to apply to medical school is Research Experience. The fact that I was given the opportunity to work in Stanford of all places is UNBELIEVABLE. I am extremely thankful to whatever God is out there for giving me this chance at improving my uncompetitive resume.

But as much as I would love to take on the job, there is an unsettling factor overshadowing all the glitz and glaz.

The lab goes through nearly 100 or more rats a day. In order to test the effectiveness of the inhaled form, the rats are subject to various types of pain and observed for their reaction. Obviously if the rats feel pain, then the painkiller isn't working well enough. The rats are placed in UV tanks to help the onset of cancer, injected with inflammatory substances, electrocuted and burned--this is all I know of so far from my first encounter with one of the lab coordinators.

Afterwards, they face the rat-guillotine, where they are beheaded and then dissected for further examination.

I'm told that you eventually grow used to the routine, and I'm sure that I can. But... I don't know if I really want to. Isn't part of being human the ability to feel remorse? What does it mean when I can kill another organism without hesitation? Have I somehow become less human?

On one side, this will complete my resume and further equip me with laboratory experience. If the research carries through as planned, we may be able to provide a quick painkiller to those who can afford it. On the other hand, I fear that I will become like what many people think scientists are: cold-hearted with nothing warming their souls but the glossy pages of their science textbook.

I've put a lot of thought into applying for the position. My sister thinks I'm weak for hesitating on accepting such a rare invitation, my boyfriend sighs and rolls his eyes when I explain to him my situation, and my parents have always hated rats (they think all rats are ridden with diseases)... so there's no comfort there. In all honesty, ANY research is good enough research to put on your resume, but getting a research position in Stanford would be amazing (not to mention I get paid for being a lowly lab assistant). General research and Stanford research will both allow me to qualify to medical school, but one is obviously better than the other.

I have a feeling that I'm leaning more towards accepting the position. Like all humans, I suffer from speciesism and favor those of my own kind. I am willing to kill hundreds of rats to get my foot into medical school and achieve my dream of becoming a doctor. Does this make me a bad person? Does it chip away at what makes me human?

Then again, is killing a rat any different from stomping on a spider or flicking away a fly? It's really hard to tell where the line lies.

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  1. Torikakae's Avatar
    You're not really alone in this. But this is also why I hate humanity in general. This may be a biased answer but bear with me for a bit.

    Though it is really a sad thing that this is going on in front of you, have you ever spared a thought on how many lives were taken for you to live? How many animals have died for you to have your meal everyday? Most likely the answer is never, or hardly ever. That's because the slaughter takes place beyond your sight. You never see animals getting killed, but you see the dead remains in your plate. You can say that you don't like that animals are getting this sort of treatment, but in reality as long as you don't see the process that irks your heart, you don't give a second thought in benefiting from the act.

    And this is humanity, we are anthropocentric people. We do things for our benefit and justify them with out beliefs. Remorse is an initial feeling, meaning it's natural, it's how we're suppose to feel. But exposing yourself to it every single day, your defense mechanism would kick in, preventing you from suffering depression and instead suppress that initial feeling in a cage of apathy. It happens everyday. Cops and soldiers do it, and seeing others around you do it on an everyday basis speeds up the process.
    Posted 01-24-2010 at 08:44 PM by Torikakae Torikakae is offline
  2. Torikakae's Avatar
    (message too long)

    So what does that mean for your humanity? Does it make you less human? Like I said before you'll get a biased answer from me, but no. It won't make you less human given how humans are anyway. We don't spare a thought about others, much less other living organisms, outside our close kin and friends. This is natural I believe. Animals in the wild do it, protect and care for only those inside the herd/pack/pride/etc... unless they benefit from those others. But if you have a human-superiority mindset, that means humans are no different from the animals they experiment on. And who knows, if you remove human testing laws and punishments against them, most of those experiments will use humans as test subjects.

    I won't advice you on your application plans (biased here~). I don't really know your situation that well. If going through it is what you want, then I am in no position to say otherwise. Refusing the deal won't lessen the animal testing anyway. But if it truly stings your heart, then try to change some of what hurts you if you can.

    There is no real line. The line exists in your heart. The question is, would you respond when it's pulled?

    Not related, but I'm a vegetarian, I don't support fur nor leather products, and I don't squish spiders (mosquitoes and flies I do, but it's because they carry a multitude of diseases).
    Posted 01-24-2010 at 08:46 PM by Torikakae Torikakae is offline
  3. BeanMarine's Avatar
    You're spot on about this, Tori. I recently took an Animal Rights class. I've learned a lot about the meat industry and how the animals are treated. However, when it really comes down to it... I'm still eating that chicken that had its beak snipped off--still eating that pig that gnaws on its cage out of insanity. But as long as I don't see what happens, the events don't really pertain to me.

    So I suppose the unsettling feeling from this research position comes from killing the rats directly, rather than having it done behind my back. Regardless of whether or not I submit my application, the rats will continue to die. I'm giving it a few more days of thought, but I think I have it settled. I'll apply, and the best I can do is be grateful for the rats that are helping the scientists come up with this inhaled painkiller :\
    Posted 01-24-2010 at 10:20 PM by BeanMarine BeanMarine is offline
  4. Torikakae's Avatar
    On a personal note, I don't like the nature of the research. Not only will inhaling anesthesia most likely numb the lung muscles first (as it's technically one of the first organs in contact) or that in emergency situations, get in the way of oxygen absorption that would most likely lead to suffocation, but humanity spoils itself too much. It's a small gain. Normal anesthesia itself acts pretty quickly so any inhaled anesthesia, if so ever it is faster, would yield minimal benefits, like a few minutes or even just a couple of seconds. Are people too weak that they can't handle a few moments of physical pain? Or just too spoiled that they would do anything to not feel any pain at all? That's just...pathetic really. There's too much useless medicine being made, or rather, too commercialized.

    "Progress is when people don't die from old diseases, they die from new ones." - a quote I always keep in mind.

    Sorry, ranting~
    Posted 01-25-2010 at 04:52 AM by Torikakae Torikakae is offline
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