A modest animal research proposal

Once again, I open the paper to a story about animal rights activists and their ongoing campaign against animal experimentation. More accurately, I read about two protests: the banner hang at the Washington Monument as part of a nationwide rally and the second banner hang this year at the University.
It seems to me that the time has come to propose a solution that will undoubtedly bring a swift end to the entire issue with the added benefit of increasing the human life span and significantly accelerating the advancement of scientific knowledge.
The core dilemma of animal experimentation lies in its almost-complete failure to alleviate the major health crises of our time. In fact, experts agree that the increase in the human life span over the last 50 years is due largely to improved sanitation and access to clean water rather than modern medicine.
Activists are concerned with the tens of millions of animals bred and killed each year, plus the hundreds of millions of tax dollars expended to fund animal research. And rightly so, because when it is compared to the amount of suffering caused, the total desensitization of our medical professionals and the sheer cost, it seems vivisection has let the human race down miserably.
But it is certainly not the concept of vivisection that is flawed; merely our inept execution of that concept. The fatal mistake early scientists made was in choosing the wrong test subject. And it was indeed fatal, as recent news admits the possibility that HIV was spread to humans during the early polio vaccine experiments using primates. The inherent differences in biological makeup between humans and other animal species make the test results reliable in only 5 percent to 25 percent of the experiments.
Therefore, I put forth the notion that we should be conducting vivisection on human beings.
The idea is not novel, just taboo. In fact, George Bernard Shaw suggested it nearly a century ago. He wrote, “Once grant the ethics of vivisectionists, and you not only sanction the experiment on the human subject, but make it the first duty of the vivisector. If a guinea pig can be sacrificed for the sake of the very little that can be learnt from it, shall not a man be sacrificed for the sake of the great deal that can be learnt from him?” Now the time has come to bring this idea to fruition.
Implementing this substitution of humans for laboratory animals will be, in varying instances, both simple and intricate. For example, in developing countries, one need only expand the type of factory compound that supplies Wal-Mart with designer label clothing and McDonald’s with “Happy Meal” toys. In some of these unmarked installations, workers are paid a minuscule hourly wage and live on-premises, never permitted to leave. Switching the product from jeans to babies would be relatively straightforward. Such breeding facilities could supply on-site labs with an endless supply of children of any age and the entire operation could remain anonymous.
Human rights groups will no doubt claim that it is immoral and unjust to experiment on people. Of course, such facilities in poorer countries could remain anonymous and therefore unscathed by that type of campaign. Here in the United States, conditions are bound to be more complicated. Undoubtedly, we will be able to stock vast housing developments with people whose sole ambition is to live in a nice house with a wide-screen cable TV and a permanently stocked refrigerator, for which they will be more than happy to deliver one child per year.
Unfortunately, the law prohibits us from using children obtained in such ways for experimental purposes. To circumvent this complication, following the example of the federal government, I suggest: Redefine the term “human.” Seemingly ludicrous, this idea has a historical precedent. Since the inception of the Animal Welfare Act, the USDA has used a definition of “animal” that excludes birds, mice and rats. These creatures are regarded as laboratory tools and therefore are accorded absolutely no protections in regard to shelter, feeding or proper care.
Although any dictionary or layman would rebuke this “legal” definition, it stands. In the interest of helping the millions of diseased voters, Congress could surely pass a similar law allowing children obtained through prior agreement with the parents to be classified as “nonhumans” and thus laboratory property, devoid of any “human” rights.
It is important to recognize that it has been less than 150 years since some humans were regarded as property in this country, so there is relatively little back-pedaling to do in terms of legal process and social conscience. Once this minor legality is overcome, there is little else in the way of regulation regarding human testing, since all products are eventually tested on people under the current system. Pharmaceutical companies will be able to avoid the relatively high percentage of new drugs that are recalled, having caused side effects in humans, which were not predicted in the animal laboratories.
Of course this plan is likely to meet opposition from many corners. Vivisection industry lobbyists, such as Americans for Medical Progress, will continue their campaigns of misinformation to assure the public that current vivisection models are in fact working, despite that fact that we have spent 20 years being “within reach” of a cancer cure. It would be difficult to define that much futile research as medical progress.
The real goal of that type of propaganda is to encourage the continued funneling of money into the bank accounts of the breeders and the equipment manufacturers behind the scientific facade. In the case of the University’s public relations exercise after the Animal Liberation Front raid in April, the objective was to keep the grant money rolling in.
The benefits of such a program are clear to anyone who seriously contemplates the issue. The animal rights protesters, the most vocal vivisection opponents, will be placated, and science can proceed at a more appropriate speed, no longer having to substitute substandard animals in place of the intended recipients humans of the technique or product being developed.
The millions of the newly classified “nonhumans” that researchers will utilize in the coming years to answer all of their questions about the human race will have been sacrificed for the good of the remaining 6 billion humans. Developing countries, in which there is a population explosion, can create a valuable trade in the export of their surplus population, and thus, quality of life worldwide will increase.
Economic progress built on the backs of those unable to complain — that’s the American Way.
— Brian Maher is a theater technician and a resident of South Minneapolis. He welcomes comments to [email protected]