There have been many battles in the years since. Fur-bearing animals, as well as wandering dogs and other unintended victims, suffer horribly in steel-jawed leg-hold traps. Dogs and cats crowd our animal shelters in desperate need of loving homes, while unscrupulous breeders flood pet stores with dogs from backyard puppy mills. Dogfighting and cockfighting are startlingly common, as we saw this summer in the case of Michael Vick. (Pacelle 2)
Of the many different arguments in the animal rights debate, the issues of animal experimentation and factory farming are some of the most important. Animal rights activists have forever been passionate about ending the use of animals in scientific experimentation, while scientists are just recently starting to counter these arguments. Likewise, proponents of animal rights protest large scale farming, but these farmers are under economic pressure to maximize the efficiency of their farms.
Finding a solution to these problems is very difficult. Animal rights activists argue that the inhumane treatment of animals is morally and ethically wrong, and therefore use in experimentation should be completely eradicated. “They [animals] are different from us, but in a good way. They deserve not only our appreciation, but also our respect (Pacelle 1).” Many animal rights promoters inquire as to whether or not animal testing really does provide information about human health, since different species can react so differently to medicines. They insist that alternative methods such as stem cells, tissue samples, or computer models be used. Other less passionate supporters simply want to eliminate the use of animals in testing such items as cosmetics or household products.
As with any social movement, a certain percentage of the group will religiously take on the extreme viewpoints. These people have been known to throw blood on restaurant owners or medical research representatives, graffiti their houses, and make harassing phone calls to scientists or patients. In one such instance, Jeff Getty, an AIDS patient, had received immune cells from a baboon to help him fight the disease. Getty later received harassing phone calls while he was recovering. Some time afterward, “with a group of nine other AIDS patients, Getty sat down in the middle of a driveway and blocked traffic outside an animal-rights rally in Washington. Whatever PETA says, he proclaims, ‘is all lies and nonsense (Gorman).’”
The dispute over animal testing used to be between animal rights advocates and scientists, but recently more people have started to join the side of medicine and research. This statement does not mean that scientists do not respect animals. In fact, most scientists would agree that animal suffering is an awful crime, but they will not sacrifice the advancement of medical learning for the sake of animals. Colin Blakemore, the Chief Executive of the British Medical Research Council, says, “I think it is very important to hang on to one strong moral principle, which is that there is a clear distinction between our responsibilities to our own species and our responsibilities to other species (Stangroom 130).” Most people, even adversaries of this type of medical research, would agree that humans have an obligation to protect other human lives, even at the expense of other species. Of course, some animal rights activists say that animal testing does not save lives or lead to medical advances, but all scientific research argues the contrary. Animal experimentation is the most effective means of testing medicine, and the alternatives just simply do not give the same certainty as using a living, breathing individual.
Every drug, every form of advanced surgery, nearly every antibiotic, nearly every vaccine – the development of all of them has at some stage involved animal testing. What more evidence is there? By law, every drug has to be tested on animals before it can be used on humans; you cannot get a prescription for a drug which has been developed in the last 100 years which hasn’t been tested on animals. So when you ask for examples, just about everything is an example: every painkiller, every treatment for heart disease, kidney disease and cancer; chemotherapy; radiotherapy; surgical techniques; bypass surgery; open heart surgery – you name it, animals were involved in the research. (Stangroom 128)
In addition to debates over animal experimentation, animal rights activists argue that factory farms and large scale CAFO’s are cruel to animals. “Large CAFOs — those with more than 1,000 ‘animal units’ (1,000 beef cattle, 700 mature dairy cattle, or 2,500 hogs larger than 55 pounds) — represent only 10 percent of all factory farms but control half or more of the total animal inventory in some sectors (Weeks).” This high concentration of farm animals just intensifies the anger of animal rights advocates. Furthermore, the high numbers of animals produce increased amounts of waste, which can contaminate the water supply of surrounding communities. Also, farmers give livestock all varieties of antibiotics and steroids in order to fatten them up and reduce disease. Unfortunately, this process can cause the antibiotics to become less effective in humans, through the food supply. (Weeks)
The only valid argument that large factory farm owners can make is that they help Americans from an economic standpoint. Americans eat more than any other nation, and CAFO’s provide consistent products at affordable prices. Without these large scale farming operations, America’s supply of meat, eggs, and dairy products would decrease, and prices would increase. Farmers must maximize the number of animals, and the yield per animal, in order to keep their prices low and meet the nation’s demands. Nonetheless, at some point, a line must be drawn. In fact, some progress is being made to help reduce farm animal suffering. “In 2000 McDonald’s required its egg suppliers to double the living space for each caged hen to a minimum of 72 square inches. At the time, McDonald’s – which purchases some 2 billion eggs annually – also said it would no longer buy eggs from farmers who debeak chickens (Egendorf 81).
We're even seeing the first stirrings of reform in the abusive treatment of the 10 billion animals a year on factory farms. Voters and lawmakers in Arizona, Florida, and Oregon have outlawed confining farm animals in crates so small that they cannot turn around, and Californians will have the chance to do the same in the November 2008 elections. The ballot initiative has the potential to relieve the suffering of 20 million animals in California raised for food (Pacelle 2).
In today’s society, animal testing and factory farming are necessary for our survival. Testing drugs and medical procedures helps to ensure that they are safe for human use. Currently, animal testing is the most efficient method to perform these tests. On the other hand, animal testing is not necessary for the experimentation of cosmetics or household products because these items do not save human lives. In these cases, alternatives to animal testing such as stem cells, tissue samples, or computer models should be used whenever appropriate.
In addition to animal testing, factory farming is necessary to supply the nation with enough meat and animal food products. The limited farmland and increased demand for food in this nation has required farmers to maximize the efficiency of their farms. This means confining lots of animals in small spaces, although the treatment of these animals needs not be so hostile. There are ways to decrease the sufferings of farm animals without affecting the output of these farms, including, “1) Provide either prompt veterinary care or euthanasia to all downer cows and pigs, 2) kill every male layer chick using a gas other than carbon dioxide, 3) improve standards for stunning poultry and livestock at slaughterhouses, 4) ban farrowing and gestation crates for breeder sows, and 5) provide a local anesthetic to calves and piglets prior to castration,” (Marcus 55). In some states, legislations have been made to enforce these issues, but not enough progress has been made as is necessary. Concerns about the safety of the environment and surrounding communities must be met. In the case of factory farming and large scale CAFO’s, every effort should be made as is possible to increase the safety and humanity of all farming operations, without starving the nation of animal food products.
“Animal Rights.” FACTS.com. 6 December 2007
Egendorf, Laura K. ed. Food. New York: Thomson Gale, 2006
“Factory Farms.” FACTS.com. 17 November 2007
Gorman, Christine. “What’s it worth to Find a Cure.” Time.com. Jul. 1997. 6 December 2007
Marcus, Erik. Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money. Boston: Brio Press, 2005.
Pacelle, Wayne. “His Fine Feathered Friends, and Ours.” Newsweek.com. Nov. 2007.
6 December 2007
Stangroom, Jeremy, ed. What Scientists Think. New York: Routledge, 2005
“Update: Animal Testing.” FACTS.com. 17 November 2007
Weeks, Jennifer. “Factory Farms.” CQ Researcher 17.2 (2007): EBSCOhost. Cooper Lib., Clemson University. 5 December 2007