Animal Rights, Science and Vivisection

animal-rights-science-and-vivisection-aboglioAna María Aboglio
Traducido por Elizabeth Aldam.
Revisión: Ana María Aboglio.

When considering non human animals as ends in themselves and respecting them as sentient beings, we include them in the circle of our whole moral consideration. Nowadays, any defense on their behalf must forcibly enlighten those ethical spaces to transform the current paradigm that accepts their use as objects, be this marked by an obsolete cartesianism or under a recognition of sentience of minimalistic reach, adjusted to the continuity of human domination.

I will start from the base that there is no doubt that non human animals should stop being used –whatever their use may be due– to ethical reasons. Neither there is doubt that other animals will not acquire intrinsic value by means of health issues when ingesting them, their intensive farming for consumption or the extrapolation of data from a tortured individual in a laboratory to a human turning out disastrous to a high or low degree.

Therefore: it is possible for an animal defender to abstain from taking a stance for or against animal testing from a scientific point of view. In such case, even when considering it necessary or useful in some cases he agrees to condemn it. He can, if so wishing, to leave the matter at that. But other defenders continue the topic adding new paragraphs when participating in the position of antivivisection, rejecting the use of animals because of ethical and scientific reasons. In both cases these animal defenders are against the use of animals as objects –and thus as objects of testing. As this is the only environment in which those who use non human animals declare the necessity to do it, “much against their feelings”, in the first case animal defenders are cornered and made to choose between their own child and their dog. Besides the fact this emotional argument may be ethically refutable, the truth is that with the animal model applied to human medicine the thing will be about his own child as much his dog, of the children and the dogs of others and of the individual himself. The same will happen when testing on other animals substances of all kinds, many of which are classified as toxic, causing illness and death.

Since testing has always been carried out on animals, the fact some medical discoveries come from these procedures does not mean they could not have been obtained through other methods. Therefore, this does not qualify as evidence of the supposed benefits obtained from animal testing. What is true is that both the animal model and the testing of substances on non humans have brought –and still do– harmful consequences to humans. And also, being stuck in this error results in the distraction of the necessary resources to get a change of scientific paradigm, giving up the current one at present including the “laboratory” animal.

Besides, it is such a profitable industry as any other, supported by great interests that subsidy it with the academic plate of vivisectionists, laboratory technicians trained in handling any kind of live testing facilities, medical organizations and schools, state owned agencies, veterinaries that “look after” the welfare of the animals used, the producers of animals, be these natural or genetically modified to be used in testing, cage and balanced food industries, etc.

The vivisectionist team and its reporting group have installed in the public mind the idea that “they operate with all care and will the smallest number of animals possible”. This is done, let us not forget it, because “it is essential to mankind”. Therefore, such procedures could only be questioned by the mentally challenged and those with suicidal tendencies, who fail to understand that the animals used are not mutilated, made sick and murdered but subjected to control procedures, induced to determined symptoms and put to sleep. It is done in the name of mankind so it will be a good deed to help vivisectors. Then we shall have the claiming for even more funds and welfare norms “so as not to harm more animals than necessary”. The three «Rs» created by them (Reduction, Refinement and Replacement) are supported by those who consider the “need” to go on testing on non human animals. Moreover, “food animals” industries applaud these procedures so as to optimize the profit they get from the production of edible bodies.

In «Experimentation on animals, scientific anti vivisection. Introduction” I resumed the central aspects of one topic, those who were developed more deeply in Veganism Practice of Justice and Equality.

In the present article, I will focus on another important aspect, the one linking science with power and the building of knowledge.

The declarations of vivisectionists are similar to those of scientists who shield themselves behind the neutrality of science to state that techno scientific knowledge develops next to praxis. Historical context would not taint it. The scientific method approaching animal testing performed “in the benefit of mankind” would thus represent the only way of asserting a truth the result of which stands not solely as the only feasible one but as neutral knowledge where the subject finds objective reality without having participated in the making of the questions that led him to such result. The idea of progress sustains this disguise of neutrality and takes over the control of knowledge… and also of its practical application. This latter is especially observed when we stop to see who finances medical investigation and what his objectives are. Thing is, scientific knowledge is a component of scientific enterprise and therefore not a synonym of knowledge. But it is not only the economic, political and social interests the ones who make up the scheme but also the power games determining the production of a certain type of knowledge, which are not alien to the discourse of the circulating truth.

The first great onset of the use of non humans in testing arose when Scientific Revolution took the first steps in a project that would join science with power to benefit the emerging European entrepreneur. Non humans must proceeded to be seen as lacking intelligence, conscience and/or enough sentience: the machine like quality of soulless bodies is functional to their commercial exploitation and in general to any economic intent.

Sir Francis Bacon understood science had to start off from a materialistic interpretation of Nature. He forecasted the birth of a «blessed race of heroes and supermen» he would create to master Nature. Bacon, whose complicity with the king´s arbitrariness to keep his privileged political situation took him to trial where he was unanimously pronounced guilty of corruption and heavily punished, didn’t see the revered Mother Nature in the natural order of things but instead as a female to be tamed by means of authority and appropriation. He legitimized a mechanical scheme of it, a set of pieces handled from the outside without an internal principle to start it that would be the grounding for a scientific, patriarchal and domineering revolution. This conception of knowledge is new in the history of mankind. It distinguishes itself by being strongly experimental, with an absolutely utilitary background.

This science, together with its partner Medicine, economy and modern state were founded over the ashes of mass murder, a witch hunt, an orgy of violence against women whose sensuality and contact with plants and animals was evident.

Modernity welcomed the empiric scientific method whose link with the mentioned witch hunt was clearly proven by Carolyn Merchant. Destruction of the integrity of the female body and the body of Nature. Defined therefore as external, differentiated and independent from humans, nature would be progressively demystified and the order of Reason would be imposed over it. The modern scientific method presents an experimentation characterized by being: 1) Exploratory: will look for new explanations to questions already known and explained, opening the way to new languages, such as that of mathematics to unfold the …of the conquering Reason; 2) Controller: creates instruments of observation that initiate the technology science symbiosis; 3) Explorer: discovers what is hidden. Nature is objective and Reason becomes a subject of knowledge.

Animals did not get to laboratories because that would result in an absolutely needed knowledge to save human lives.

Science stating so nowadays evolved historically at the service of a philosophical and socioeconomic model that complemented each other to carry out the process of subjugation of nature in which only matter to be manipulated and parts to be reduced are perceived. An only way of knowledge requiring instruments of violence to reach “the truth” was then decreed. Under an appearance of neutrality, modern science drew over Nature a map for the extraction of wealth. The reductive vision will turn Nature into a major source for the obtaining of profit, far from ecological postulates and after a progress that it was supposed would free humans from all ailments.

Within this ideology «camouflaged as science» as said by E. Morin, and of a commerce disguised as Medicine, vivisectionist science made public opinion believe that animal testing was necessary, a must. It is not the purpose of this article to walk the historical fact that consolidated this. But it is important to remember it was born hand in hand with “men of science” who could be producers of truth because they had legitimated themselves as official spokesmen of Reason, the only one capable to expropriate Nature. Spokesmen who use a mechanistic explanatory model, experimental method and a mathematical language. Disease is an ailment against which modern medicine must fight a war. The main weapon is the remedy to defeat the enemy. Bacteria and viruses are at the head of the list of culprits. But there are thousands of bacteria and known viruses and thousands more not known yet. Just a few are pathogenic and it would seem that if they are our main enemies, if they harmful in themselves regardless of the environment in which they act and the territory in which they dwell will we will have few chances of winning.

Due to all mentioned we must not forget each time a vivisectionist speaks, it is bearing himself a series of epistemological statements and also statements of other nature, rooted in his historical heritage and of a psycho social context and when he speaks he takes for granted a determined code of comprehension of disease including a noticeable advance. What a scientist says is an exact translation of reality. The one questioning the dogma is a heretic. The most updated exponent of the “advancements” achieved using animals goes through the hazardous expeditions along the transfigured territories of biotechnology. Sometimes integrating the worst of both worlds, such as the «creation» of genetically modified goats to produce vaccines in their milk.

As long as we go on inhaling the environment toxics launched in the market due to proving «safe» in animal tests and we illusion ourselves with the idea that the forced normalization of certain parameters is a synonym of health we increase our condition as «patients»: suffering, ailing, much like the tortured beings we carry to laboratories. To use them in such manner does not free humans from pain. It extends that pain among the beings we have enslaved.


[1] Luz, Madel, Natural, Social, Racional. Lugar Editorial, 1997.

Ana María Aboglio
Traducido por Elizabeth Aldam.
Revisión: Ana María Aboglio.
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