Animal Studies Bibliography

Johnson, David. 1990. Animal rights and human lives: Time for scientists to right the balance. Psychological Science 1(4): 213-214.

Scientists have always been concerned with animal welfare--balancing human needs for animal use with the animals' welfare. Not realizing that animal rights supporters have an entirely different agenda, scientists did nothing while the activists gained huge numbers and money and took over leadership of many traditionally animal welfare organizations. All scientists must come to understand the difference between these positions and start to reassert the old values. Animal welfare beliefs come from the Judeo-Christian concept of stewardship: humans have been given the earth (including plants and animals) to use, but have the responsibility to take care of it. Inherent in the concept of stewardship is the primacy of humans over other life forms. Animal welfare groups thus accept many uses of animals, including research, pet-keeping, and meat-eating, but seek to minimize animal's abuse and suffering, using, for example, shelters and neutering and vaccination programs. The animal rights movement, on the other hand, bases value on ability to sense and to feel pain, meaning that animals are equal to humans and that all of the above practices are therefore morally wrong. The goal of animal rights activists, therefore, is to end all human use of animals, and they have used extreme measures to try to stop their first target, animal research. These include legal changes to make research harder to pursue (both economically and bureaucratically), gaining public support through “grossly deceptive media campaigns” (213), civil disobedience, damaging research facilities, and threatening researchers' families and lives. Most Americans support the use of animals as pets, food, and research subjects. The animal rights movement gained such support despite these differences using two strategies. First, their media campaign won financial and emotional support from animal lovers by portraying animal research as unnecessarily repetitive, painful for animals, and not even applicable to humans. Second, they use this support as a “front of reasonableness” (214) to get lawmakers to accept their legislative proposals. Lawmakers now receive more letters about animal welfare than about any other single issue, many areas of research have dried up due to new regulations, and many scientists have become apologetic or have stopped research altogether. Now, legislators and scientist must return to “sane values” (214). Animal rights activists may claim their success by the animal lives they have saved, but this is misleading. Because research has been cut back, most of the animals that would have been used in research are simply not being born. Animals killed by pounds can no longer be used for research and therefore die pointlessly. Further, all the animal lovers' money supporting these efforts could have helped this problem had it been directed to traditional neutering programs and the like instead of to the animal rights organizations. We should instead consider the effect of animal rights by the human dead and human suffering caused by lack of research to solve their problems. Scientists must stop apologizing for valuing human lives over animal lives, and must explain to government how their research has been hobbled so that we can start to undo the problem.



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