Expectations and reality of the benefits of animal research

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A new research study published in ALTA underlines the stark gap between expectations and reality when it comes to animal research. The study surveyed members of the public, medical students and researchers, and found that overall their expectations of human health benefits, of animal welfare measures, and of methodological rigour vastly exceed the empirical reality of animal research (AR). For example, on the expectation of translation of AR to human health benefit, 86% of the members of the public surveyed thought “it was ‘often true’ that a treatment discovered through the use of AR leads to direct or indirect benefits for humans”, despite the reality that the actual translation rate is 0-5%.

The researchers note that “the general public and medical student expectations of the methodology and translation of AR are far higher than the empirical data show to have been achieved: there is a disconnect between these expectations and the empirical reality of AR”. This dramatic discrepancy presents an important opportunity for animal advocates. As the researchers say: “if the general public were better informed, then they would likely withdraw their conditional support for AR, or at least seriously re-consider such support.”

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QAD profiled in new online magazine Animal Liberation Currents

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“But thousands of animals still live out their lives in barren cages in the windowless basement of Botterell Hall, subject to horrific procedures in the name of science, deprived of all that makes life worthwhile, and hidden from public view by a high security apparatus.”

Animal Liberation Currents just released QAD’s profile on their website, highlighting the history of animal activism at Queen’s University and the current work Queen’s Animal Defence is doing.

Excerpt:

For 3 years, faculty and students have challenged vivisection at a major biomedical research institution in Ontario. Their struggles highlight the challenges in activism for animals on campus and the greater politics of animal research.

Read the entire piece here.

Horsing Around at Homecoming: The (Bigger) Problem of Animal Abuse

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Screenshots of the incident.

Over the Homecoming weekend, a Queen’s student was kicked to the ground by a Kingston police horse named Murney, after the student slapped Murney’s hip. A video that captured the incident has since gone viral, as major news networks picked up the story and generated significant public discussions.

However, missing from these discussions is an important issue underlying the physical assault of a police horse: a deep-seated disrespect that humanity as a whole has shown to the fellow animals with whom we share this world.

To make sense of this, we need to first consider the criminal charge the student faces for slapping the horse, which reveals disturbing inconsistencies in the way our laws protect different animals in Canada.

In July 2015, the Harper government amended the Criminal Code and enacted the Justice for Animals in Service Act (better known as “Quanto’s Law”), after an Edmonton police dog named Quanto was stabbed to death by a fleeing suspect in 2013. The aim of the law was to offer police, military and other service animals greater protection from violent attacks, above the lamentably low standard of protection provided by the broader animal cruelty laws. And Quanto’s penalties are rather hefty, anywhere between fines of up to $10,000, to a minimum of six months and maximum of five years in prison.

While Quanto’s Law was swiftly passed in a year, another proposed bill that also sought to improve protections for animals was not so well-received. Bill C-246 (Modernizing Animal Protections Act) was defeated in Parliament on October 5, 2016 at second reading.

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Talk: “Confronting carnivory: The ethics and politics of animals eating animals”

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Josh Milburn (Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal Ethics, Department of Philosophy, Queen’s University) will be presenting a talk on “Confronting carnivory: The ethics and politics of animals eating animals” at the Philosophy colloquium on Thursday, Nov. 3rd at 4:00 pm (Watson Hall, room 521).

Abstract:

Questions about the diets of nonhuman animals have been almost entirely absent from both animal ethics and the philosophy of food. Nonetheless, they raise a range of distinctive normative problems of both theoretical and practical significance. One of the most pressing issues concerns feeding meat to our companions, especially those, like cats, who are carnivorous. Companion diets – especially carnivore diets – must be analysed separately from human diets; indeed, depending on the arguments used to defend the consumption of animal products, even committed meat-eaters may have reasons to worry about feeding meat to companions. In this paper, I will first diagnose what I call the problem of carnivory and then canvass a range of possible solutions. Both the status quo and the possibility of somehow ending our relationships with carnivores are deeply undesirable, but the best alternative depends on whether carnivory is framed as a moral problem or a political problem. Guardians today, if unable to feed their companion a vegan diet, could scavenge meat or rely on the eggs of rescued chickens, and non- or plausibly-sentient animals could provide an ethically-justifiable source of meat. As societies, we can seek more permanent solutions through research, including research to develop vegan diets appropriate for particular carnivores and research to develop lab-grown meat.

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