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Exploitation of animals by science for testing newly-invented drugs has been the topic of debates all over the world, especially in Europe and the United States. Mankind’s apparent granting, during the past decades, of some form of rights to animals only resulted in raising new questions to old problems, creating a great divide among our political leaders and among the scientists themselves. Apes in particular, being the genetically-closest animal to man, have recently been the cause of debates among the moralists of our society.
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In the United States alone, over 60,000 laboratory experiments are being done on primates yearly. While in Europe, despite the successful banning of experimentation on the great apes like gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans, 10,000 experiments yearly are still being done on marmosets and macaques, which Britain has the most with over 4,000 (McKie, 2008). With these staggering numbers of experiments done in the name of Medicine, it is not surprising for some scientists to have differing opinions.
Among those who are for the total prevention of experimentation on primates, inhumane system and cruelty have been the main concern, especially with the case of the primates, easily one of the most intelligent creatures on our planet. In a report by Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, or Frame, they stated that the excruciatingly painful procedure and the condition of a lifetime of medical operations make it unethical to pursue such studies for the sake of human illness (McKie, 2008). Two past incidents are being cited by Nicky Gordon, of Dr. Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, as examples of the need to put a stop to these types of experiments. One of which is the case with animal tests for cosmetics. Earlier allegations by some that no other alternatives exist other animal testing on cosmetics were proven false. After the implementation of its banning, the scientists were quick to find alternative means. Banning on the use of primates would result in the same conclusion, they attest (McKie, 2008). Another is the repeated laboratory findings that despite of malaria vaccines being tested successfully in primates, it has not resulted in humans’ developing immunity for the virus, thus putting all the exhaustive studies to waste.
An Oxford neuroscientist, Tipu Aziz, is one of those in favor of the continued experimentation on primates. He explains that it was through this method that he learned of the correct way of driving electrodes into the brains of his patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, resulting in immediate relief for the patients (McKie, 2008). He further states that banning would force him to stop further and ongoing studies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, motor neuron diseases, cardiovascular arrest, and many others (McKie, 2008).
Professor Roger Morris, of King’s College London, seconds Aziz. He explains that the few experiments being done on primates are for the alleviation of human suffering. He cites as an example Parkinson’s disease, where sacrificing a few thousand primates would greatly benefit hundreds of thousands of people suffering from this as well as their families (McKie, 2008). But perhaps their most authoritative ally is the European Commission itself. In its official response regarding this subject as reported by McKie, it stated that,
“Primate Research is unavoidable in developing treatments for auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, infections such as HIV or SARS, and neurological illness such as Alzheimer’s” (2008).
Making a Stand
With the facts presented, along with a number of expert opinions clearly stated, the final decision seems to become a choice between preserving the animal rights of primates and reassuring the continuity of medical and clinical researches in finding a cure to mankind’s lingering illnesses and often very much fatal forms of viruses.
The choice is quite easy to make. Common psychological assumption which states that, the lowest ranking or the most demented human being is still worth much more morally than the smartest animal, would fit perfectly.
Comparison holds true between an infant and a trained dog; or an insane man to a bobcat; or a former heavy weight champion suffering from Parkinson’s to a youthful, muscle-bound gorilla, and so forth.
We are witnesses even in religious tenets of this truth. Nowhere in all the Bibles of world religions will we find God, Jehovah, Allah, or even Zeus, allowing mankind to be martyrs of illnesses in place of animals.
Perhaps what the social moralists of our time have been wanting is for the primate’s sufferings to be stopped, or lessened at the very least. If by amending a law that assures consistent growth of the primates’ population is the cause of all the commotion, then perhaps it is best to amend one. If by using ample dosages of anesthesia would be diminish the pain of both the primate being examined on the lab table and the humans clamoring for a change in the system, then it might be best to let them both have their way. After all, it is for the betterment of both species.
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