“I needed treatment for my disease, and I’m so thankful to the animals they used to test the treatment,” she told the interviewer. “If I didn’t have that, I would have passed away.”
The show then continued with a series of comments from kids, obviously well-chosen but very revealing:
- “We have to do animal testing to save the lives of humans.”
- “It’s wrong. We aren’t giant rats.
- “Using animals [for testing] is heartless; they can’t speak up for themselves.”
- I think the benefits to the human race outweigh what the animals need.”
- “If we don’t use animals, how are we supposed to test drugs?”
- “These [researchers] are hurting animals. They abuse them until they die.”
Across the spectrum of opinion
It’s expected that young people will hold black-and-white views on the subject of animal research, as they do with many issues that adults understand are far more nuanced. But in my very unscientific sampling of friends, colleagues and family members, I encountered a very similar set of opinions to what these 10-year-olds were saying: Even well-educated adults tended to either support animal research with few reservations, or else they condemned it with virtually no exceptions.
That’s because the issue exists across a lengthy spectrum, with potentially life-saving experiments in surgery or pharmaceutical therapy generally given strong support, while squirting cosmetics into the eyes of rabbits to measure toxicity receiving widespread condemnation.
Even the Nick News show took several minutes to offer competing views from physicians as to whether computer modeling can replace animal testing to validate various medical therapies. Valid arguments were offered by both experts, and although I personally side with the idea that before any surgeon cuts me open, I want to be assured that he or she has practiced the procedure multiple times on dogs or cats or pigs.
People aren’t giant rats, and I don’t wish to be a human guinea pig when it comes to major surgery.
Although the show ended with the classic “We’ll have to leave it there” summation, Lyvia, the girl who was the beneficiary of animal research offered her own powerful conclusion.
“I needed treatment, or else I would have died,” she noted, “but I know that it’s a treatment, not a cure.”
In other words, her struggle to stay healthy will continue for many years to come.
As I suspect will the debate over using animals as research subjects.
To review the Nick News segment, log onto www.nick.com/videos/clip/nick-news-149-full-episode.html
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.