For many years, I have held what I like to think of as the good-hearted carnivore’s view toward our fellow members of the animal kingdom. It consists of great tenderness toward individual animals, combined with a certain ruthlessness about the larger purposes that other species may be called upon to serve. No creatures have ever received more love, attention, or general good treatment than the steer, chickens, pigeons, and goat I raised as a child—not to mention the usual cats, dogs, hamsters, and fish. In the back of my mind, I knew that a dark fate awaited my beloved Angus calf, but that did not keep me from brushing the tangles out of his long black hair or worrying when the flies got to him.
I never dreamed of hunting, and the sight of a four-inch perch flopping desperately on the riverbank put me off fishing for years. On Boy Scout trips we would lurk late into the night in the hope of glimpsing our friend the raccoon. En route to the Reptiles merit badge. I put up with an instructor who said that the way to deal with nonpoisonous snakes, when they were being captured for study, was to hold them by the tail and let them bite your hand until they wearied, a process that took several minutes the one time I saw it demonstrated.
When these labors of Assisi were completed, I would dig happily into a nice hamburger or a thick, juicy steak. I never ate my own animals, of course; within 4-H circles it was an acceptable deviation, a perfectly manly form of squeamishness, to wish to sell the animals you had raised rather than eat the flanks you had so often patted. But when someone else’s pet was on the plate, I had no such hesitation. For this, after all, was the way of the world. Walt Disney’s nature films offered proof to anyone who might doubt. There, on the living desert, snakes devoured baby birds, coyotes ate jackrabbits. Under the sea, starfish ate oysters, big fish ate little fish, sharks ate their wounded brethren. In the world at large, it seemed, any creature was perfectly willing to eat any other it could reach its jaws around, so why shouldn’t we?
Sometimes the natural processes were so cruel and horrible as to make animal husbandry seem positively beatific by comparison. The day I learned about evil was when I walked out to feed my flock of pigeons and discovered them, every one, murdered by a ferret that had not even bothered to dine. He had simply beheaded them, spattering blood over their brown and white feathers, and left them in the sawdust on the floor. This, I realized, demonstrated the nobility and the tragedy of man. Nobility, because unlike the ferret we ate what we killed. Tragedy, because unlike any other animal we could feel pity for the creatures on which we fed.
Given the widespread popularity of pets, the general revulsion against outright cruelty, and the relative scarcity of vegetarians, I have always assumed that most people feel the same way. But recently there have been signs that this carefully balanced philosophy will no longer do. It is not just the environmentalists who have been speaking up, with their warnings that the wild kingdom is in peril, but a new and more vociferous movement, asserting that all animals, even the most abundant and least charming of them, have been denied their rights to health and happiness by an inconsiderate human race.
Last year, for example, the New York Times reported that high school students in the area were sabotaging their biology labs; one fifteen-year-old girl from Westchester County rescued “the rat on the bad diet” from a classroom nutrition experiment and nursed it back to health at home. In Merion Station, Pennsylvania, students at the Akiba Hebrew Academy carefully returned amoebae and paramecia to their petri dish when one experiment was over, rather than flush them down the sink. “It didn’t matter to me that the life of these creatures was going down the drain,” said Dr. Leonard Krause, their teacher, “but it did to these kids. Their view of life is so much broader than mine. They don’t want life washed away, whether it’s a dog or an elephant or an amoeba. That to me is fantastic.”
Even in the wilds of Texas, where ranchers still nail dead coyotes and chicken hawks to their fence posts as a taunt to wild predators in general, times seem to have changed. The two small Texas towns of Noack and Lometa held their rattlesnake roundups this spring, as they have done every spring for years. Thousands of the creatures were captured, exhibited, beheaded, and fried. But this year, in addition to the participants, there was also a group of dissenters who made the indisputable point that the hunt was hard on the snakes. “There are a growing number of people,” one member of this group wrote in the Austin American-Statesman, “who recognize speciesism as the bigotry that it is. Mistreatment of any animal, human or nonhuman, is wrong.” A few weeks later, Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters, the country-music palace that had been second only to the Astrodome as an outlet for Lone Star Beer, cut off its Lone Star contract because the company persisted in sponsoring live armadillo races. “The only way to protect an armadillo,” said Eddie Wilson, the Armadillo’s manager, “is to leave it alone, rather than rounding them up and capturing them.”
Advertisements depicting an agonized raccoon, its foot caught in a steel leg-hold trap, have become a frequent sight in the newspapers, placed there by groups campaigning to have the traps outlawed. Zoo directors in many cities, who were just learning how to thwart vandals who stick tennis balls down the throats of hippopotamuses or slay baby rabbits in the children’s zoos, have suddenly been assailed by those who claim to love animals better than they. “Zoos should be phased out,” says Alice Herrington of a New York-based organization called Friends of Animals, Inc. “I don’t think man can justify this form of exploitation of animals.” Using dark images of the concentration camps, another of the animals’ rights groups, United Action for Animals, warns that zoos are the scene of sinister scientific experiments upon the captive herds.
Such traditional friends of the animal as the Humane Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) have lately come in for flank attacks from the more militant groups. The Humane Society is condemned for acquiescing in the system of laboratory experiments that kill millions of animals each year. Recently, for example, the society made the mistake of proposing a set of “Guiding Principles" for the use of animals in high school experiments. United Action for Animals, always quick on the trigger, responded with a blast: “What difference does it really make whether the student himself kills animals ‘humanely’ or whether he watches someone else do it? It’s the contempt for life—the killing itself—that is at issue.”
The SPCA has become a victim of numbers. Some 72,000 cats and dogs, the great majority of them unwanted, are born in this country every day. Some join wild animal packs—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other large cities are estimated to contain at least 100,000 wild dogs each—but most of them end up in animal shelters, where the city humane departments and the SPCA must finally put them to death. The society has tested a variety of machines to make the killings painless, but the more militant animal groups criticize it for doing this dirty job at all.
During the last session of Congress, sixty-three representatives cosponsored a bill offered by Edward Koch of Manhattan to create a Commission on Humane Treatment of Animals which would set standards for farms, laboratories, and fur trappers in the wild. “The subject of animal welfare gets more mail throughout the year than any other issuem” Koch said in introducing the bill. “Not only in my office, but in almost every congressional office in the country.” In May, Federal Judge Charles Richey threw the tuna industry into panic when he ruled that fishermen would have to abandon the modern equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel—tracking schools of tuna down by sonar, and then scooping them up in gigantic nets—because tens of thousands of porpoises were killed each year in the process. The fishing lobby appealed the decision, most naturalists rejoiced, but one contingent of hard-line vegetarians said that the “victory” was irrelevant, since the tuna were still being oppressed.
It is words like “oppressed” that provide the key to much of the new animals’ rights movement. Dignified old humane societies have been around for years, but today’s “animal liberation” forces have the same relation to them as the Black Panthers had to George Washington Carver. Indeed, with the waning of the competition, the animal cause is already a cinch winner of the Radical Chic award for 1976. No one cares about the Indians anymore; the whites of Westchester County are no longer trooping down to Harlem to paint front stoops on Saturday afternoon. Wonder of wonders, a trace of humor seems to have reappeared in relations between the sexes. But no such note of moderation is yet admissible to the canon of animal liberation. For the moment, the forces are in strident upswing, riding an undeniably powerful issue which they have encrusted with much no-compromise rhetoric. What Ralph Nader felt about the Corvair, what Susan Brownmiller felt about men rings out from passages like this about the enemies of animals:
This book is about the tyranny of human over nonhuman animals. This tyranny has caused and today is still causing an amount of pain and suffering that can only be compared to that which resulted from the centuries of tyranny by white humans over black humans. The struggle against this tyranny is a struggle as important as any of the moral and social issues that have been fought over in recent years.
These are the opening words of Animal Liberation, a book by an Australian philosopher named Peter Singer, which in the year since its publication has become both the clearest symptom and the most fully articulated manifesto of the animal movement. Along with providing a good deal of powerful exposé about mistreatment of animals in laboratories and on the farm, the book has two qualities that distinguish it, and the movement, from the animal-lovers of old. The first is a philosophy which is far more “radical” than simple tender-heartedness toward cats and dogs. Roughly speaking. Singer argues that men have no right to “discriminate” against animals (by killing them, using them in unnecessary experiments, dissecting them in labs, etc.) because nearly all of them can feel pain, and many are more intelligent than a retarded or comatose human being. We don’t kill a retarded child, Singer says; we don’t dissect people with brain damage—and therefore, to treat an animal any differently is to discriminate on “speciesist” grounds.
Second, the book demonstrates quite nicely how this year’s oppressed group is part of a great chain of being, stretching back to oppressed groups of years gone by.
The title of the book’s first chapter is more or less a call to battle for those who have fought the good fight before. “All Animals Are Equal, or why supporters of liberation for Blacks and Women should support Animal Liberation too.” Numerous other sections of the book are devoted to the hairsplitting work of defining a proper attitude toward animals—an effort so very reminiscent of the burning issues of the past. Should we invite a black family to dinner? Should we resist the draft? Should we take our tin cans to the recycling center? Should we eat a clam? “Those who want to be absolutely certain that they are not causing suffering will not eat mollusks either, but somewhere between a shrimp and an oyster seems as good a place to draw the line as any, and better than most.”
The ancestral source of tension between men and beasts—the fact that we eat them—is, of course, one of the issues in the animal renaissance; the question of becoming a vegetarian is often in the air. But the ancestral event, the slaughter itself, is not the focus of concern. The march toward technology, which has come so often at the expense of the peace of mind of men and animals alike, has, in at least a few places, taken some of the gore and terror out of putting beasts to death.
One of those places is the Iowa Beef Processors installation in Amarillo, Texas, the largest slaughterhouse in the world and one of the most modern. Three thousand cattle are trucked in each morning from farms and feedlots on the surrounding flatlands; by the end of the day. all of them are dead. In the slaughterhouses of old, there were two terrible moments of brutal, panicked struggle. The first was when the cattle smelled blood in the air and screamed and lurched in their desperate attempts to avoid the knocking box; the second, when the man with the poleax swung down on the broad skulls, sending blood spurting when he hit and crushing noses or eyes when he missed the dead-center target. Aficionados of bullfights might have liked it, for the animals went down fighting, but it revealed a little too clearly the violence on which our comforts were based.
At modern slaughterhouses, like the one in Amarillo, the desperate struggles have been replaced by an eerily tranquil march toward death. The difference arose from application of a central principle of animal locomotion. “Cattle hate to go around a corner,” says Glen Hoaglund, the engineer who designed the Iowa Beef facility, “but they’ll go around a curved surface with hardly any problem.” Iowa Beef has designed its plant to give the cows as many of these curves as possible; from the time they step off the truck until the moment they are stunned for the kill, the cattle follow a virtually continuous curving path, like the interior of the Guggenheim Museum. Cowboys lean on the sides of the chutes, electric cattle prods in their hands, but most of the cattle trudge on placidly.
In one day at the plant I heard almost none of the terrified bellows which used to rise continually from the older abattoirs. At the end of their trudge, the cattle were stunned by a young man whose long blond hair hung out below his hard hat and who wore a turquoise ornament at his neck. Using a “captive bolt” stunner-a metal cylinder the size of an elongated Coke can which drives a steel shaft the size of a cigarette into the animal’s brain—he rendered cattle unconscious at the rate of six or eight a minute, leaving a small round hole in the center of their foreheads. Seconds later, the unconscious animals were hoisted up by a hind leg, slit across the throat, and drained of their blood.
By no one’s standards was this a pleasant scene; the very calmness of the doomed cattle was as redolent of the concentration camps as the older abattoirs were of primeval battles. And, as the cattle were dismantled, all their gleaming viscera and brains exposed, one could not help but marvel at the complexity and delicacy of these beings whose lives were being extinguished in such numbers. It was sobering, but it did not seem cruel.
Many of the older slaughterhouses still exist; about 20 percent of the cattle killed each year are killed in small, antiquated abattoirs, where the man with the poleax still does his work. Another 8 percent are slaughtered delicate issue-according to kosher laws, which require that the animal be conscious at the moment its throat is slit. In a kosher abattoir, live, terrified cattle are suspended by the hind leg, their hip joints often rupturing, and left to hang until killed. “Whenever you take an animal’s life, it’s a terrible thing.” said one of the officials at Iowa Beef. “You can’t feel very happy in any of these places. But this is sure better than a kosher slaughterhouse. To me, that is cruelty.”
Demand for kosher meat has soared recently—it has risen by more than 30 percent in the last five years, mainly because of a growing reputation among non-Jews as a high-quality item—but the new animal movement has spent little time on kosher slaughter. It has concentrated instead on what happens to the animals before they reach the abattoir. Their target is “factory farming,” the system of raising animals in extremely close confinement. In the United States, the poultry business represents factory farming in its most advanced state. Many chickens now spend their entire lives in indoor batteries, scores of thousands of them under one roof. Typically, five adult birds share less than 400 square inches of floor space—about the size of a newspaper’s front page. The chickens dislike this enough that they must be routinely “debeaked”; if their beaks are not removed, they will tear each other apart.
Somewhat more ghoulish is the factory farm approach to raising veal. Years ago, “veal” meant the flesh of calves, usually male dairy cattle, that were killed quite soon after birth. Having eaten no food but their mothers’ milk, the calves had flesh that was soft, pink, and pale. But the calves were small, and inefficient as sources of meat. To increase their yields, farmers began sustaining the calves in a condition of unnaturally prolonged infancy. Most veal calves are still slaughtered within a week of their birth, but the highest-quality meat comes from calves who are taken from their mothers and penned up in small cages, too short to allow them to turn around. There they are fed a diet full of everything except iron, which would turn their flesh a rich, hemoglobin-filled red.
“The anemic calf’s insatiable craving for iron,” Peter Singer says, “is one of the reasons why the producer is anxious to prevent it from turning around in its stall. Although calves, like pigs, normally prefer not to go near their own urine or manure, urine does contain some iron. The desire for iron is strong enough to overcome the natural repugnance, and the anemic calves will lick the slats that are impregnated with urine.”
Having grown accustomed, these last few years, to thinking of themselves as heroes in the war against starvation, agricultural scientists do not like horror stories such as these at all. At the more advanced institutions, they have responded as they did when heavy pesticide use fell from fashion several years ago. Go to any progressive agricultural college these days, and you will find the rising young researchers working not on new pesticides but on insect-resistant plants that will not need pesticides at all. Their counterparts in animal research also seem to have sensed that the tide is turning away from some of the more brutal forms of factory farming. “It should be easy to avoid making those calves anemic,” says Dudley Smith of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Texas A&M, one of several scientists to suggest that research could produce a dye that could turn normal, healthy flesh pale without affecting its texture or flavor.
But some of the other forms of factory farming remain a question of economic efficiency; the poultry industry estimates that battery-raised chickens, even when the losses from cannibalism and general ill health are taken into account, are about 20 percent cheaper to raise than those that roam free on the range. The animals’ rights forces also seem to recognize that factory farming is a question of economics, and propose to fight it on those grounds. “Unless we boycott meat,” Peter Singer says, “we are, each one of us, contributing to the continued existence, prosperity, and growth of factory farming and all the other cruel practices used in rearing animals for food.”
All this sounds fine, but even in their headiest moments animal partisans must realize that the fight cannot make much difference. Singer does couch his argument in terms of economic impact, but the only certain effect is on personal purity—whether we will “contribute to the continued existence" of the evil factory farms. The “we” to whom this plea is addressed are roughly the same “we" who boycotted lettuce and grapes—conceivably enough people to make a dent in the market, certainly not enough to close down the meat industry. No more than Luddites could turn back the Industrial Revolution will Peter Singer make all of us into vegetarians. With greater or lesser degrees of confinement, with more or less cruelty in the kill, farms and abattoirs will be with us forever. In time, the passion of the Luddites gave way to that of reformers who tried to reduce the brutality of factory life, and this in the long run may be the contribution Animal Liberation makes to the beasts we continue to consume.
But it is not in the farm or the slaughterhouse that the fiercest battles over animals’ rights are really being waged. They are being fought instead in medical and scientific laboratories, where more than 200,000 animals lose their lives every day. During the course of one year, some 80 million animals under experimentation are dissected, observed, electroshocked, and killed in American laboratories: 50 million mice and rats, 20 million frogs, two million birds, half a million each of hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits, 200,000 dogs and turtles, and hundreds of thousands of cats, pigs, snakes, monkeys, and animals of other descriptions. To militants like Eleanor Seiling, these “death sciences" are an offense that cannot be allowed to continue.
Sixteen years ago, Miss Seiling, then a secretary for a securities firm, walked into a pet store in Manhattan and saw a tank of goldfish that were being eaten alive by fungus. “I told the store owner about it, and he wouldn’t do anything at all.
I couldn’t get any action out of the Humane Society either. That was really the thing that started me off, made me think something more had to be done.” In 1967. she quit her job and, using her own savings and the funds of her friends, established United Action for Animals. Nearly ten years later, the group has become the Nader’s Raiders of the animals’ rights world, feared by all they deal with, and armed with facts for battle.
The UAA’s world is one which teems with enemies—its representatives describe at length the “experimental animal establishment,”spiritual brother to the military-industrial complex, whose barons grow rich on the profits of death—but one of its real obstacles is the good press that the healing sciences have won. At the mere mention of medical experimentation, most thoughts turn to dedicated doctors working late in their labs, perhaps testing insulin on dogs who seem to understand the nobility of their sacrifice, or studying cancer in white mice so as to cure it in man. The only people who might object to such goings-on are the dotty old antivivisectionists.
In presenting a vastly different picture of laboratory work, the UAA has made use not only of considerable hyperbole but of a Great Truth about scientific life and a brilliant propaganda technique. The great truth, which shows some insight into organizational life, is that many experiments are performed for the same reason many graduate dissertations are written—not because anyone really wants the answers, but because grants have been awarded and research contracts let; there are appointments. promotions, advanced degrees at stake. The mechanics of the profession require that scientists experiment, and there is nothing to impede their use or misuse of the experimental animals.
Miss Seiling and her associates support their claim through the UAA’s great propaganda technique-poring through scientific journals to find the experimenters’ own descriptions of what they did to animals in the lab, and what they learned as a consequence. In one of its reports, the UAA provides a list, stretching back for nearly a century, of obviously painful and apparently repetitious experiments on death by overheating. In 1973, the pamphlet says,
the US government paid Israeli experimenters to run dogs to a temperature of 113 and death on a treadmill to show that heatstroke victims should be cooled. . . . Back in 1881, researchers electric shocked and convulsed dogs to a temperature of 113 and death to show that overheated bodies should be cooled. Even Claude Bernard, the world’s most famous animal experimenter, produced heat deaths in animals back in 1876.
Here is a description of one of the earlier heat experiments, conducted in 1880:
Animals exposed to natural heat in box with glass lid placed on brick pavement in hot sun.
Rabbit. Body temp. 109.5 F: Jumps, and “kicks hind legs with great fury,” has convulsive attacks. 112 F, lies on side slobbering. Temp. 120 F, lies on side gasping and squealing weakly. 114.5° F. dead.
Pigeon. Temp, inside brick box 130°. Pigeon placed inside in direct contact with hot brick. 20 minutes later pigeon unable to stand, semi-conscious, and in convulsion. Temp. 120: Dead. Experimenter said that “his thermometer did not register higher than 120°” and that his hand “could hardly bear the heat of the pigeon’s flesh.”
Cat. Temp, inside box 130° F. Cat placed inside. Struggled “violently and savagely.” Animal conscious, growing weaker. After a five minute convulsion, cat was plunged into cold water. Body opened, “Heart found to be still beating and distended with blood. . . .”
Rabbits and Cats. Heads fitted with double “bonnet” of india rubber or pig bladder. Brains heated by running hot water through bonnet:
Rabbit. Water temp 140 F. scalp puffy and swollen. Rapid breathing, violent struggles. Semi-conscious, but eyes sensitive to touch. Water temp. 180“ F. convulsion, death. Skull opened, thermometer plunged into brain. Brain temp. 117° F. . . .
Kitten. Water temp, to head 170 F. Semi-conscious, eye pupils strongly contracted. General convulsion, beginning in jaw muscles. During convulsion, thermometer plunged into brain. Brain temp. 107.5 F.
“Oddly enough,”the UAA concludes, after listing similar experiments, with similar findings, through every decade of this century, “the real maker of our Federal science policy is a man long dead. The idol of today’s federal subsidy recipients, whose political pressure determines the size of the subsidy, is Claude Bernard, who lived from 1813 to 1878. … Bernard is remembered and revered especially for his advice to his students, ‘Why think when you can experiment?’”
The UAA is easily the shrillest voice in a generally immoderate field. It has no time for halfway solutions and regularly goes hunting for congressmen such as Edward Koch or Richard Ottinger (both Democrats of New York) who make “compromise" efforts on the animals’ behalf. “They’re dedicated, almost fanatically, to getting rid of pain at any cost,” says one congressional assistant who, having dealt with the UAA before, is not eager to be identified for the record. “We tend to feel that if there’s no alternative to experimenting with animals, and if a certain experiment will help human welfare, then it should go ahead. But the UAA won’t put up with that for a minute.”Nonetheless, the statistics in the UAA’s reports are generally acknowledged to be accurate; the arguments are about where necessity ends and excess begins. They do make at least a prima facie case that something is amiss in the lab. Some of them list painful experiments which yield rather obvious results. In the spring of 1971, researchers at Princeton starved 265 rats to death, and discovered that “under conditions of fatal thirst and starvation, young rats 2 to 3 weeks old are nearly ten times as active in spontaneous movement as normal adults given food and water.” In the fall of 1972, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke removed portions of the cerebral cortex from nine shrews and then tested their ability to learn. He discovered that all of the animals with injured brains were “retarded" compared to the normal animals, and “the animal with the most retarded performance had the largest lesion, and the animal with the least retarded performance had the smallest lesion.”
Cats have had their testicles crushed, to establish that this is as painful for them as it is for humans. Monkeys are driven into states of psychotic depression and despair; female monkeys are impregnated on a “rape rack” at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Center in Madison, after which they turn on their offspring with a vengeance. The researcher who conducted this experiment said that one of the mothers’ “favorite tricks was to crush the infant’s skull with their teeth.” “A really sickening behavior pattern,” he added, “was that of smashing the infant’s face to the floor and rubbing it back and forth.” But at the end of a related study, he said: “Buoyed by these results, we have continued to search for techniques to produce depression in monkeys. [It is] essential to realize that the findings of such work hold implication for human depression only at the level of analogy.”
Many other animals are sacrificed in a process more immediately relevant to man—the large-scale testing of cosmetics and drugs. Before each new drug is approved for prescription, it must be tested for side effects on generation after generation of laboratory animals. When a toxic chemical, such as a pesticide, is being screened for licensing, its “Lethal Dose 50” must be established—the level at which it will kill half the experimental animals, leaving the rest very sick indeed. When a new cosmetic is prepared for the market, it must first be painted onto the eyes of laboratory rabbits, their legs pinioned and their eyelids clipped open, to see what effect it has there.
There is a factional division within the animal liberation forces on this point. Some, like Peter Singer, say that the answer is to stop developing new products that require animal tests. We should eschew such frivolities as new cosmetics, he says, and, “make do without new nonessential drugs.” Not surprisingly, this proposal has brought a response from the scientific community. Last spring, Steven Weisbroth, the head of the Laboratory Animal Resources Division of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, wrote in the New York Times that
… the majority of animals used in a research context in this country are used … to gain information about the effects on humans of materials, procedures, agents, and chemicals by first exposing them to animals. It is a form of consumer protection that as a society we are determined to support.
We have two choices, according to Singer: return to the Stone Age and do without these products, or accept the thalidomides and other toxic consequences of inadequately investigated products. I believe any sane person would prefer to accept the necessity for animal investigations to protect human health.
(The animal forces are always delighted to hear about thalidomide, because it is a point for their side. Far from revealing the risk of birth defects, thalidomide tests on animals showed it to be safe; the hazards appeared only after humans started using the drug. “Not only is the laboratory torture cruel,” says Eleanor Seiling, “but often the results can’t be extrapolated to humans.”)
Other factions in the animals’ rights movement, led by the UAA, have emphasized a different solution to the laboratory problem—not abandoning the experiments, but using a different sort of experimental subject. The UAA has collected an enormous literature on alternate methods of experimentation, making another prima facie case that the toll of rats and dogs might easily be reduced.
Over the last ten years, the scientific journals have reported increasingly frequent tests upon “tissue cultures"—cells from the human (or animal) liver, brain, skin, or other organs which have been removed during biopsies or surgery and kept alive in vitro. Experimenters have managed to addict these cultures to narcotics, instead of addicting live monkeys. They have used the cultures to test the side effects of drugs, the damage done by radiation, and the mechanics of metabolism. Frozen eyes from eye banks have been used for tests of irritating chemicals, like those now performed on live rabbits. Many other methods, according to United Action for Animals, need only a little attention before they, too, will be ready for use. As one of the UAA pamphlets says, in rather typical prose, “NON-ANIMAL USING RESEARCH METHODS [are] waiting to be used as soon as our government can be persuaded to direct research funds into THESE HUMANE ALTERNATIVES instead of the CONTINUED TORTURE OF LIVE ANIMALS.”
If these “humane alternatives” do work, then time, money, and legislation may reduce the wear and tear on laboratory animals. (UAA wants stipulations in federal research grants that the alternate methods will be used wherever possible.) But even then human judgment will have its place. If Benting and Best had felt, early in the century, that the only way to develop insulin was to deprive dogs of their pancreases, we would not have wanted a United Action for Animals breathing down their necks. Of the many specialized crannies where research continues today, it is hard for outsiders to say which will prove similarly beneficial fifty years from now.
So the animals’ fate will rest, to a large extent, with tomorrow’s scientists; certainly today’s hardly blink before using frogs and mice. Several medical school administrators told me that more and more of their students are grumbling about dissections. Why, they ask, should one hundred students observe the circulation in one hundred dogs, when a film of one dog would educate them all? And students who, when in high school, spare the lives of amoebae may, twenty years from now, take more pains with their guinea pigs. A new day may be coming for the beasts of field, farm, and lab—if this year’s radical issue does not fade as quickly as its predecessors.