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.


  1. I started that Daniel fast in January, and well frankly stuck with it, I love the vegan live style, I feel very much more connected to God. I also brought a new Bible, The Message translation, and part of the fast was also to read it chronologically. Wonderful. But any way, back to the animal testing ….I can honestly say I have no idea. I had none Hodgkin’s lymphoma some 17 years ago and as a consequence was hit with mega strong chemo, and am a survivor , but I also know that every single chemical pumped into me was tested on animals. It’s such a difficult one, and I don’t want to be wishy washy about it but find I have to be, One thing I know for sure: it was God that totally healed me, He just also choose to do it via the doctors that’s all.

  2. I have no doubt that in the past many medical advances were made by animal experiments. However, now in this modern age we have such excellent substitutes that continuing to use animals is immoral. Replacements are being made in every area. For example, Dr. Emaud Aboud created a new replacement for using animals in surgery practice.

    Personally, I believe that many animals (mice, rabbits, snakes) are not enough like us to give meaningful results. There are plenty of horror stories of drugs like Thalidomide (?) that were tested on animals, deemed safe, only to realize later that they cause harm to humans. If an animal is so much like us that it would give meaningful results (gorillas, chimps) then they are TOO MUCH like us. (Does that make sense?)

    Also, I highly doubt that we as consumers can trust these corporate-funded labs to take care of the animals. Power and money are the two most corrupting forces after all.

    The most compassionate choice for all involved--patients, animals, lab workers--would be to strive to replace animals in every area of medical research. It can be done!

  3. Thanks so much for your thoughts on this, it's such a difficult topic. I'm still thinking about it...

    I'd never heard of the Daniel fast before, Zoe, and did some quick research after I read your comment - it's fascinating! I agree with you about feeling more connected to God (and to creation) by trying to think about this in terms of the spiritual as well as the physical (as someone said to me yesterday, we separate these elements far too often). My parents have become veggie recently, and my mum commented to me that she just feels 'differently' now when she looks at nature and everything. I think it has something to do with trying to live more peacefully.

    The choices we make about how we live can have a massive impact in so many ways. It's that difficult thing of trying to live out your faith!

    I'm thankful we're on this journey together (although I've yet to meet a fellow traveller who's suggested a good cheese substitute! I know, I know, it's only cheese...)

    God bless, I hope you both have a wonderful christmas.


  4. Many years ago while taking a year out from college I got a job at a space and cancer research facility. We injected a specific cancer strain into the leg of a rabbit. Within 3 weeks the leg was 3 times normal size and the rabbit could hardly move. This was done to keep a specific strain of cancer under constant study. Afterwards I was assigned the task of killing the poor animal. To this day I am sort of doing penance for these actions. I am opposed to all animal testing.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing that experience, Harry; I think it's really important to hear things from the point of view of someone actually faced with the situation, as opposed to just discussing it theoretically.


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