Larry D. Farrell farrlarr at isu.edu
Wed Nov 14 00:03:02 EST 2001

Judy, I am not saying that those procedures were desirable or even necessary, simply
that they *were* done regularly in years past in standard teaching labs.  I agree that
there really was little point in the animal suffering since most people who took part in
those lab exercises did not end up in careers where such things were necessary.
However, it should be noted that much of the progress in medicine, understanding of
infectious disease processes, etc., came as a result of experiments very like those.
What is the value of wounding dogs, pigs or goats with high powered rifles?  It may be
extremely valuable if one has just been shot with such a weapon on the battlefield and
the surgeon knows how to deal with such a wound because of previous experience on
animals.  Is it fair?  I guess it all depends on the relative value that one puts on a
human life and an animal life.

Again, I don't condone the sorts of lab exercises that were often done in the past with
little regard for overt animal suffering or for the necessity of such exercises being
done by students who probably had little or no professional need for such experience.
However, I still believe that many of us gained a greater sense of understanding of
injury/death and the suffering attendant to things we did and it wouldn't hurt if much
of the current population realized the possible consequences of their actions, instead
of being led to believe that the person just beaten or shot simply gets up in the next
scene and walks away.

I think I actually have a recent experience that bears on this whole issue.  I was
invited to address an Advanced Biology class at a local high school during a time when
they were working on a project to design an optimal bioterrorism weapon. After showing
them a number of pictures of infected persons, including a couple of infants with
aggressive smallpox, one of the female students made an anguished comment about how
awful it was that anyone would actually consider releasing such an agent upon the
public.  However, what really upset her was the fact that she had been planning to use
smallpox in her bioterrorism scenario.  Not quite the same thing, but it still bears on
understanding of consequences and realizing the responsibility one has for one's

JEDilworth wrote:

> But what was really the point of all that animal suffering?  You don't
> need to put Cryptococcus into mice to get it to grow or prove a point
> that it's neurotoxic.  I would have believed it, if I were a student,
> without the animal sacrifice.  I don't even want to know what you were
> poking at mouse eyes for - and the rabbit stuff is really disgusting
> (sorry Larry - I guess I'd never make it as a researcher).  One of my
> fellow techs keeps rabbits in her basement as pets, and she'd probably
> pass out if I ever related that story to her.
> Cryptococcus grows very nicely on Sabouraud's Dex agar.  I have seen it
> twice in spinal fluid specimens.  I don't know the patient outcomes.
> Judy Dilworth, M.T. (ASCP)
> Microbiology sans animal sacrifice
> Larry Farrell wrote:
> <gross torture snipped>
> > Sorry, didn't mean to make anyone sick, but those were standard procedures in "the
> > old days."  Those procedures are still used but certainly not in the vast majority
> > of teaching labs.

Larry D. Farrell, Ph.D.
Professor of Microbiology
Idaho State University

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