Saturday, 14 January 2012

Criticizing Politely

After taking a ‘vacation’ from my PhD work to essentially put down ideas for blog posts, book reviews, book subjects, letters to editors etc., I have accumulated many unfinished pieces of work, so for now, I would like to share an opinion piece about an article that features a subject controversial and dear to my heart. 

As a vegetarian and graduate student working with mice for my research projects, I applaud and discount certain statements in Andrew Rowan’s “Avoiding Animal Testing” article featured in The Scientist magazine.  It was a difficult decision for me to agree to spend years of my life working toward a PhD, where most of my experiments would centralize around close interactions with mice. I came to the understanding of the bigger picture. I do not think it is necessary for testing or research of toxicology to be done with animals for cosmetic purposes- the world does not need another brand or type of dish soap/mascara/ hair conditioner/facial scrub etc. Research for new therapies that treat and/or prevent debilitating diseases require the use of animals. This simply comes down to our society’s value of human life and ethics over those of animals. There is unfortunately no alternative to researching new therapies for human disease than the use of animals unless we begin testing on humans or another synthesized living system. Rowan is right to highlight the potential for less animals to be used for toxicology testing- this is positive for researchers in terms of cost and of course, for the animals themselves. However, the angle from which this article is written seems to jade the positive research (ex. Improved cell culture systems) that it is trying to highlight. I think the purpose of this article is being misconstrued by Rowan’s loose use of facts and conclusive statements about the future of animal testing. Perhaps as researchers reading a piece of work ‘from someone on the other side’ of the relentless animal testing debate (Rowan is President and CEO of the Humane Society International and CSO of the Humane Society of the United States), we should embrace possibilities for improvement in our field and not act hastily in defense against them.

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