When I talk about animal welfare issues, I often feel I am running the risk that I will be accused of being more concerned about (non-human) animals than about humans. This is doubly so when I talk about the use of animals in experimentation.
It was therefore irritating, although not totally surprising, that the “Hands Off Our Ovaries” group recently put out a media release saying “Senator Bartlett is more concerned about the welfare of animals than about the welfare of Australian women” purely on the basis of my amendment to prevent the use of animal eggs in human cloning – conveniently ignoring the specific statements I made in moving the amendment.
However, I actually found this quite reassuring in one respect, as this patently false statement confirmed my suspiscion that the concerns this group expressed about the cloning/stem cell legislation were mainly polemical and prone to exaggeration and hyperbole. Of course, a selective or absolutist approach about the use of animals in research is not solely the province of this group.
A more encouraging angle can be seen in a recent piece in the New York Times, which shows that even in this fraught area there is more potential for overlap than might first appear.
Dogs have long been used for medical research, usually to the dismay of animal-rights activists. But now pet owners are enrolling their dogs in medical trials meant to benefit humans and animals alike. And some animal advocates are applauding the development.
Most of the trials, often sponsored by drug companies or medical device makers, involve pets with cancer — a leading natural cause of death in older dogs — in which the animals receive groundbreaking drugs or other treatments that are eventually meant for people.
Treating dogs gives researchers an idea of whether and how the treatment will work in people, while at the same time possibly helping the pets.
“It can help in reshaping the image of animals in science, from being considered tools to being considered patients,” said Martin Stephens, the vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society of the United States.