Can (should) we discuss animal welfare (NOT "rights") at all?

Mon Jul 12 10:26:00 EST 1993

> Message-Id: <9307100258.AA22147 at>
> To: bioforum at
> From: mhollowa at (Michael Holloway)

(Stuff deleated) 

> Remember: simply ignoring these people has been what 
> has allowed them to make such great strides.

I agree completely.

>In article <9307091235.AA00720 at> SCHLOSSER at writes:
>>Just because we don't agree with the ulitmate objectives or methods of
>>animal rights organizations (AR), does not mean that the issues they raise
>>should not be discussed.  Where better to do so?  Just because we hold
>>this discussion, doesn't mean that we support AR or destruction of
>>peoples work.  
>You hold "this discussion" using their definitions, their 
>scenarios and with the acceptance of their postulates.  
>Therefore, you are accomplishing nothing but making their case 
>for them.

If I did so, it was inadvertantly, not being familiar with AR
literature, though I am well aware of their objectives.  I disagree
about the accomplishments - see later.

>>Yes, "rights" are something given by
>>people to other people - and we can also give them to animals.  How
>>much should we give?  Your tone seems to advocate none at all -
>>whatever we do is justified.  I'm not so sure about this. 
>You might as well start shoveling your money out to PETA, if 
>you haven't been already.  The above clearly shows that you've 
>been effectively suckered into equating "animal rights" with 
>animal welfare.  

In general, I'd say that the difference between the term "rights"
and the term "welfare" is semantic.  Now AR groups have
taken "rights" to be their banner, and those opposed to them who have
concerns about animal use have taken "welfare", so my use of the
term "rights" becomes construed as supportive of AR.  O.K. replace
every appearance of the word "rights" in my discussion with the
word "welfare".  By the way, you may recall a previous e-mail from
me in which I pleaded that no one in this group support PETA, etc,
financially or in any other "active" way.  I know the difference
between what AR calls "rights" and what others call "welfare", sorry
if my sloppiness with the PC terminology gave a different impression.

>>How can we
>>confront AR if we don't have a consensus among those involved in research.
>>In that sense, I think that this discussion is quite helpful.
>The consensus HAS been reached.  *ALL* professional 
>organizations that *ANY* researcher in *ANY* field of 
>biomedical research that you might be associated with has a 
>policy opposed to "animal rights".  Right beside that, they 
>display their policy promoting animal welfare, for the benefit 
>of the people who have been terminally confused by the "animal 
>rights" rhetoric.  

Agreed that consensus has been reached to oppose AR.  Where I don't
think that consensus has been reached is in determining, given 
consideration of animal welfare, what research is justified?
Given the animal welfare policy, how is it to be implemented and 
interpreted?  Is the policy appropriate?  Should it be changed?

>Following your reasoning then, and being sure to 
>use the language promulgated by PETA and their ilk,  you must 
>be a cruel vivisectionist.

I don't see how any of my statements support this statement.
I really do apologize if some of my previous statements where advesarial.
I do regret having to use animals in research (i.e., I'm sorry that
there aren't alternatives), though I feel strongly that the research 
is justified by consideration of *human* welfare.  I'm sure that many 
members of PETA would consider me a cruel vivisectionist.  

What I would like to see, setting the issue of "animal rights"
activism aside (but NOT forgetting about it or ignoring it) is
a real discussion of how far animal *welfare* should go.  Is this
not a legitimate topic for discussion?  There is a possibilty
that in the future, I may be asked to sit on an Animal Care and
Use Committee (ACUC) whose purpose it is to decide which proposed
experiments should be carried forward and which should not.  There
are guidlines for making such decisions, but a certain amount of
subjective weighting must also take place.  I have found some of the
discussion here helpful in my own thinking on the subject.  Why should 
we consider animal welfare at all?  Why even have a policy on animal 
welfare?  Only because it is dictated by law and/or politics?  (Should
the policy then be interpreted in only the least restrictive sense?)
Only because we get better results from experiments with animals that 
are in good health?  Should we fight to have ALL restrictions on animal 
research removed?  Or would we want to keep some in place, even if all 
of the "animal rights" groups disappeared tomorrow?

Is there any level at which we can discuss the subject of animal
use, and any potential limitations on it, that will not be supportive
of AR?  Or should we simply not go through any self-examination on
this subject?  Maybe we wouldn't even ask these questions if it
weren't for AR, so any discussion is 'playing into their hands', but
I think that letting them stop us from having a reasonable discussion
is also playing into their hands.

>From: Howard Kaplan <hkaplan%UDCVAX.BITNET at>
>Message-Id: <0096F47D.C1FD7120.14916 at UDCVAX.BITNET>
>One of the problems that scientists have is that hey insist on acting rational-
>ly and expect that everyone else is doing likewise.  One see this in arguments
>with animal "rights" insisters, confrontations with anti-choice demonstrators
>and in presentations to congressional committees.  Once having accepted that
>one is dealing with a rational human being, you are playing in their ballpark
>under their ground rules and have, no matter how vociferously you insist other-
>wise, been co-opted by the other side.

Even if we recognize that we are dealing with irrational people, how do
we deal with them?  By behaving irrationally ourselves?  I know that 
AR extremists are irrational, but I think that a lot of people who happen
to support AR are not irrational themselves - are open to reason (their
real concern is with "welfare" as opposed to "rights") and can potentially
be talked out of continuing their support of AR.  If we have
programs to explain to grade-schoolers the benefits of animal research,
is this not a use of reason to combat AR?  I wouldn't even attempt to
debate with an AR extremist because nothing would be accomplished.  I
would try to speak reasonably with non-scientists who are not extreme
in their views and are open to reason.  If a discussion in this forum
can help to give one a well thought-out argument for non-extreme 
individuals (who hold political power of some sort - even just the
power of the vote) then I think that something positive is accomplshed.
How do I explain to my neighbor, or their children (who eat meat, and so,
aren't completely opposed to animal use, but are concerned about this as 
*moral* issue) why animal research should be done?  How do we determine
when proposed experiments do not meet our policy on animal welfare?  (I
don't mean this in a bureaucratic sense.)

Paul S.
just my opinion
time to duck and cover
apologies to all who tire of this subject, but it is important

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