Friday, 31 July 2009

Animal Testing...What Would Jesus Do?

I’ve been a vegan for about half a year now, and I must say, I’ve really settled into it! I can’t believe how enjoyable I’m finding it, food wise, and how much healthier I feel.

I also feel pretty sorted with where I stand on most issues, and am on top of things with regards to vegan cosmetics, household products, and food, and am lot happier about how I relate to God’s creation.

However, the one issue that still troubles me, particularly as a Christian, is that of animal experimentation. It’s something that I’ve thought about so much, and yet I’m still grappling with the complexities of the ethical dilemmas involved. For me, the debate isn’t about who are more important, human beings or animals, but is rather focused on the question of whether or not we even have the right to make that decision.

It’s such a difficult topic, and the more I delve into the literature and research surrounding it the more confused I become. Animal Rights advocates argue that animal research is often rendered completely useless by the vast genetic differences between human beings and other animals, and that often laboratories conduct cruel and unnecessary experiments to prove the obvious (experiments which are, of course, heavily funded). Conversely, charities such as Cancer Research UK claim that ‘Many life-saving medical advances in previous decades would have been impossible without this type of research. In cancer research, the involvement of animals has led to huge progress in our understanding of the disease, and the development of effective anti-cancer treatments.’ (This was the response I received after emailing my concerns as a supporter of the charity.)

In theory, I don’t think that we have the right to inflict intense and prolonged suffering on animals for our own gain. However, if this research genuinely has and does save lives – or, on a more personal level, has the capability to save the life of someone I love – the waters become an awful lot muddier. But then, I would probably do a lot of horrible things to save someone I loved, but that wouldn’t justify my actions or make them in some way morally sound.

In the UK, especially, there are lots of regulations in place that claim to guarantee that all animal testing adheres to strict animal welfare laws, and that animal testing can only be done if scientists prove that every other avenue has been investigated first. Perhaps, for vegans and animal lovers, it’s easier just to take a stand totally against animal testing rather than to constantly follow updates in law and regulations; trusting huge corporate institutions to act ethically is obviously something most people struggle with, but the more politically and ‘ethically aware’ person even more so.

I’m still thinking this one through. I guess compassion is always the answer, but in this case I’m not sure what that means practically in an area of life that seems like a moral minefield.
We are called to be instruments of peace, to stand up against injustice, and to defend those who cannot defend themselves. We are called to bring God’s kingdom to earth, acting with love and mercy.

What is the Christ-like thing to do in response to animal research in the field of medicine?

Answers on a postcard/in my blog’s comments box please…

Vegan Christian love to you all.

Sharing thoughts on peace, love, and vegan cupcakes!