Wednesday Aug 17, 2022

testing animalia

I have a gripe with testing medications on non-humans. In those cases where it might remotely be useful, the animals are most like us. They’re the animals who think most like us. Those who say they aren’t conscious or sentient or sapient (they’re all of the above, it’s considered standard knowledge) are ignoring the fact that their similarity in exactly those ways is why they were chosen. The scientists who are researching on monkeys disagree with the common folk who support it, and on the most basic ethical level. After saying this in various ways for more than 15 years, I’m still waiting for a strong counterargument.

In other parts of the world, there’s a movement to give chimps the status of personhood, in terms of what’s allowable in terms of their treatment. A lot of people skoff at the idea, but it’s probably not as radical as most might think. The basic fundamental rights inherent to being a person are actually rather limited, in any legal sense. And it rests partly on the premise that some species might best belong in the Homo genus, on a biological basis. The past members of Homo don’t seem particularly bright, yet we recognize them as our own. Evolution is a funny thing. We didn’t suddenly become human in one generation, rising up from the non-concious monkeys. We are monkeys, we haven’t really changed enough biologically to fit elsewhere. Given the write environment, they even talk to us in our own language. I’d have a hard time doing that with someone of a different nationality, on intellectual grounds.

My fave movie (I, Robot), has an interesting scene that drives home the point. In it, a detective questions whether a sentient robot (Sonny) deserves personhood:

Detective Del Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a… canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?
Sonny: Can *you*?

For example, some monkeys can catch SIV, a virus that’s similar to HIV. Cats also can contract a similar virus named FIV. You’re never in any danger of catching either, because they can’t survive and reproduce and spread inside the human body. Yet were supposed to accept, as an unproven issue of faith that some the thing with stops SIV in apes will also stop HIV in humans. Nevermind that the two diseases have different sets of symptoms. It’s like saying I can be in the World Series because my brother hit a home run in a pick-up game last night. And then everyone begs: but the similarity exists. The burden of proof has never been met. in one hundred years of using the same techniques – long outdated – it was never conclusively proven to produce accurate results. So far we know chain-smoking 24/7 can cause cancer… if the soot is rubbed into the skin and never washed off. Show me a rabbit stepping outside for a smoke break. Because if the testing were conducted entirely within the human population, that’s the level of similarity required for useful results. We simply don’t do experiments like that, with such sweeping conclusions about the organism as a whole, in other scientific fields. Hell, even when drugs are tested on humans, the practical effect in a doctor’s prescription isn’t completely the same. The gold standard should be statistical analysis of a human population. The picky patient isn’t settling for anything less, today.

Laboratory testing is not actually wanted by the research companies. It’s expensive, and unreliable, and has negative political consequences. It’s no insulation against lawsuits for releasing harmful drugs, precisely because its inaccuracy is well-known and considered insufficient. However, it is legally required by the federal government. Those who disagree with the government touching your healthcare should take a step back to think about what they should really be saying wrt animal testing. It’s done for political reasons, to appease voters who don’t know better and have little relationship or understanding of how new drugs are created. A technique one hundred years old is unlikely to produce the fine-grained detail of the techniques designed to replace it. They pre-date pennicilin. By the way, those replacement techniques are used in every country with more advanced research than our own. Despite what politicians and well-meaning patriots say, the US is not at the forefront of drug research. We’re not even second. [document]. We provide a lot of money for it, but money is no substitute for skill. On the whole, they result in a much safer (to humans) set of drugs.


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