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Animal testing... 
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Post Animal testing...
Last week I was surfing the web and I came across a series of pages about animal testing. No, not IQ testing, but testing where electrodes are stuck into the brains of living monkeys and other animals so that their reactions to various stimuli can be monitored.

While I understand the importance of brain science and research, it still bothers me tremendously to think that throughout our University system there are thousands of caged animals being tortured to death. Anyone have any opinions on this? I'm curious what Damasio has experienced in regards to animal testing...and how he feels about it.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Sat Feb 14, 2004 10:37 am
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Post Re: Animal testing...
I've also been thinking about this a lot lately. I hear about a lot of studies in my classes where important findings have been made about the function of different areas of the human brain through non-human primate studies by either the single-cell recordings that Chris mentioned, or by actually cutting out parts of the brain to see how primates function under certain conditions without these parts.

Hearing about these studies really makes me feel sick to my stomach. But in many cases, we have made large advances in our understanding of the brain through these studies. I don't know how to weigh up the costs and benefits though - should we be torturing other animals to understand more about ourselves? Where do we draw the line?

Something else I read in Discover magazine recently, was about how many mice that are used in research are kept in deprived environments, and that many findings drawn from these studies (to do with cancer, dementia etc) may be invalid. A researcher kept little video cameras inside the mouse boxes at night to observe their behaviour. He found that a lot of mice actually exhibit psychotic behaviour - they show the types of behaviours that people with particular mental illnesses show, because they are getting no stimulation at all in their environment.This behaviour was not observed in mice that had a normal or enriched environment. So not only are we torturing these mice by not giving them reasonable living environents, but the end result is worthless. Very scary stuff.

On perhaps a brigher note, at least in terms of primate studies, we are getting more advanced at developing sensitive neuroimaging technology that are non-invasive (like fMRI and EEG/ERP etc). So hopefully we will get to the stage in the very near future where we can measure brain functioning in animals as precisely as we are now using invasive measures, without any need to harm them at all.

Nicole




Sat Feb 14, 2004 5:27 pm
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Post Re: Animal testing...
I am against animal testing. Some problems I have with animal testing are the torture (that Chris mentioned), and the conditions that lab animals are kept in (as Nicole mentioned). There is also the issue of what to do with lab animals once they cannot be used in experiments anymore. I believe that we should begin widening our circle of morality to those closest to us(the other apes) by passing laws to protect them from such morally reprehensible treatment. Some countries have already done this. In Next of Kin, Roger Fouts puts it quite simply, "Compassion does not and should not stop at the imagined barriers between species...The animal we experiment on today will surely be inside our moral universe tomorrow."




Mon Feb 16, 2004 5:58 pm
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Post Re: Animal testing...
Nicole

Quote:
Hearing about these studies really makes me feel sick to my stomach.
Me too. I'm such an animal lover that I really hate to hear of an animal being abused or neglected.

Quote:
...we have made large advances in our understanding of the brain through these studies. I don't know how to weigh up the costs and benefits though...
And there is the problem. We could debate this forever, but the real question is whether or not the benefits justify the horrors these poor animals experience at the hands of uncompassionate scientists and students.

Chris

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Tue Feb 17, 2004 12:47 pm
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Post Re: Animal testing...
Tara

I know this is an emotional subject for you. We've discussed your passion for primates many times in the BookTalk chat room, so even discussing the torment these beautiful animals endure is going to be difficult to you. And I think I'm right there with you.

Quote:
I believe that we should begin widening our circle of morality to those closest to us(the other apes) by passing laws to protect them from such morally reprehensible treatment.
I couldn't agree more, Tara. Here is how I feel about animal testing. While I respect all members of Kingdom Animalia, the ones at the top of the intelligence scale are the ones about which I am particularly sensitive. Some people would argue that there shouldn't be a difference between how we treat a chimp and a chipmunk, but I disagree and think Damasio would too.

I guess using the word "intelligence" isn't appropriate, but I'm at a loss for the right word. Perhaps sentience is the word I should be using. Who can argue that chimps aren't aware of their abuse, their status as captives, and the fact that they are in great danger? How the hell can a scientist take a saw and cup the top of a monkeys cranium off so that electrodes can be plugged into its brain? @#%$ this pisses me off.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Tue Feb 17, 2004 12:48 pm
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