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The War Between Animal Research and Animal Protection

by Deborah Rudacille

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-374-25420-6
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

An examination of the hostilities surrounding the use of animals in research.

Rudacille (Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing) brings an insider's experience to the debate, which she begins with the story of Frankenstein—emblematic of early-19th-century discomfort with the hubris of science. She goes on to outline the history of the antivivisectionist and animal rights' movements (as well as the splits within their ranks) as they developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. The author suggests that a longer tradition of distrust and suspicion of science may explain why England has spawned particularly aggressive animal liberation groups (ready to destroy laboratories—not to mention the scientists themselves), and why Europeans are so opposed to genetically engineered animals and foods. But those issues come later. Her course surveys the history of animal and human testing that includes Victorian exploitations of animals (and women), the American sterilization laws, the Nazi abuses, the testing of the Salk vaccine on institutionalized retarded children, and so on, down to the implications of mapping the human genome. In one of the most interesting chapters, she cites Foucault's writings "on the increasingly stringent and coercive definitions of normalcy . . . developed in Western culture," with all that that portends. Paradoxically, the very forces dictating social norms create a sense of self, of the individual who is subject to the power of bio- and other politics. In the end, the quest of science to control nature has given rise to an anxiety that the very acts of control that science exhibits are destroying the natural world. The hope lies in a reconciliation of science with its enemies, which Rudacille discusses as "partial transformations." The tension remains, but some actions such as the three R's—which a number of animal protection groups endorse—point to an evolving cooperation rather than polarization.

An absorbing analysis of issues that will dominate 21st-century biomedical science as technology steams full-speed ahead, leaving major moral issues in its wake.