The controversy surrounding animal testing has recently become a major international news story with the European Union, India, and Israel banning  animal testing for cosmetics and the revelation that China has quietly been requiring cosmetic tests that poison, burn, and blind animals even though superior methods not requiring animal testing are now available.

The debate in the U.S. is even more heated since legislation has just been introduced in the House that would ban testing cosmetics  on animals.  While the focus of these international discussions has been primarily on consumer products like shampoo, soap, and makeup, where there seems to be a consensus that animal testing is unjust. Such dialouges raise questions about the ethics and necessity of using animals in other spheres like scientific and medical research. Is it ever morally acceptable to subject animals to experiments, and what are the alternatives?

Justin Goodman,  Director of Laboratory Investigation at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has spent the last decade working to expose and end the abuse of animals in experiments. He got his start when he was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and discovered that there was a laboratory on campus where monkeys were being subjected to invasive brain experiments. The experiments—similar to those currently being conducted on monkeys at UR—included drilling holes into the heads of the primates, injecting their brains with acid, bolting various devices to their heads, and implanting electrodes in their brains and stainless steel coils into their eyeballs.

In addition to organizing events to educate students and the community about the experiments, using the Freedom of Information Act, Goodman uncovered over 20 Animal Welfare Act violations that lead to the University being fined $5,000 and the return of $65,000 worth of federal grant money.  As a result of the campaign, the lab in question was shut down.   At PETA, Goodman now leads a team of researchers, scientists, and attorneys that successfully work to end the use of animals in experiments, drug and chemical tests, and medical training courses around the world.

Goodman, PETA, and a growing proportion of the public—more than 40 percent of all adults and more than half of college-aged adults, according to a 2013 Gallup poll—now oppose medical testing on animals.  Goodman believes that poisoning, mutilating, crippling, and otherwise harming animals in experiments for any reason is unethical because they are intelligent individuals just like us who feel pain and pleasure, have likes and dislikes, and care about one another, and it is unjustifiable to harm them in experiments just because they look different and are weaker than humans.

Not only do many people feel that experimenting on animals is morally wrong, but research increasingly shows that tests on animals do not translate to humans.  The FDA itself reports that 9 out of 10 experimental drugs that work in animals fail in human trials.

Through undercover investigations, protests, legal petitions, collaborations with experts, scientific research, lobbying, corporate outreach, and media campaigns, Goodman’s work at PETA aims to end the use of animals in experiments and promote the use of research methods that leave animals out of the equation and have been proven to be more effective.  PETA also funds and promotes the development and implementation of non-animal research methods like systems using human cells and tissues, sophisticated computer models, and lifelike human patient simulators.  PETA’s work with universities, government agencies, and private companies has replaced the use of millions of animals in experiments with non-animal methods that are humane, cheaper, faster, and actually applicable to humans.

Justin Goodman and other animal rights advocates believe that ending experimentation on animals is not only the right thing to do for animals but will improve research to help humans, too. For more information on the ethics of animal experiments and alternatives to animal testing come listen to Justin Goodman’s lecture in Gowen Room in Wilson Commons on March 27th at 4:30pm.

Arnold is a member of

the class of 2016 

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