Most animal rights activists deny the many benefits–both scientific and medical–that we derive from doing animal research. This position is empirically untenable. Case in point: The recent experiment in which scientists created a beating heart from adult stem cells–which I blogged about the other day.
That experiment also vividly illustrates the importance of animal research. From a story about the experiment in the Associated Press:
[Dr. Doris] Taylor [the scientist who performed the experiment] said in a telephone interview that her team began by trying to determine if it were possible to transplant rat heart cells. They took the hearts from eight newborn rats and removed all the cells. Left behind was a gelatin-like matrix shaped like a heart and containing conduits where the blood vessels had been.
Scientists then injected cells back into this scaffold–muscle cells and endothelial cells, which line blood vessels. The muscle cells covered the matrix walls and lined up together, while the endothelial cells found their way inside to coat the blood vessels, she said. Then the hearts were stimulated electrically. “By two days, we saw tiny, microscopic contractions, and by seven to eight days, there were contractions large enough to see with the naked eye,” she said.
This could not be done without killing the newborn rats–unless, I suppose, researchers instead one newborn or disabled humans. Thus, we can see that animal research does provide tremendous benefit. Some animal rights advocates, like Gary Francione, will acknowledge this. Their point is that even with the benefit, we shouldn’t do it. That is a moral argument with which I disagree, but it is based in integrity.
But to say animal research provides no value is dishonest. And that, alas, is where most animal rights advocates–such as Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine–rest their factually untenable case.