Discrimination against conscientious objectors to the use of animals for learning can start at college level. A person who refuses to dissect animals may get a bad grade in biology or become the laughingstock of his peers. The same thing can happen during graduate school, even in veterinary schools.
Here are some excerpts from the « Notice » of Antidote No. 22 (March 2010). The veterinarian Andrew Knight,1 an Australian veterinarian fighting against animal testing, has encountered some difficulties during his studies. He is interviewed by Antidote Europe.
In 1999, Andrew presented a case to the ethics committee of his university, listing their ethical alternatives to their invasive laboratory demonstration of animal physiology. These laboratories have subsequently been closed.
In 1998, his university (Murdoch University) introduced the pioneer measure of allowing conscientious objection to students in relation to animal experimentation or other areas of their curriculum. Despite this, the atmosphere was unpleasant in the university for students who dared to question the usefulness of sacrificing healthy animals for the purpose of the curriculum.
Andrew has sometimes been faced with significant penalties, including the possibility of failing the vet course because he did not want to kill healthy animals or use their body. He experienced hostility on the part of fellow students and administrative staff. Few students supported him in private but only a handful dared to do so openly.
Fortunately, a fellow student and himself established a new program in 2000 : instead of practicing surgical procedures on healthy animals before euthanizing them, they asked to attend therapeutic procedures on real animal patients, as is the case for training physicians.
They gained five times more surgical experience than their peers who were killing healthy animals in order to qualify! Other students and universities have come to emulate this program.
Hasn’t anybody heard of a scientist or a doctor who would have found a cure for cancer or AIDS? Why not give them the possibility to prove the results of their research? The budget required for the validation of their research would be insignificant compared with the huge sums invested in animal experimentation.
An anonymous scientist (who refuses to testify for fear of reprisals) had made a breakthrough in her research on HIV. She was warned not to go too fast because the return of the tritherapy had to be secured first.
Considering the cost of some treatments, it's reasonable to ask questions : an AIDS tritherapy costs about 15,000 euros per patient per year.2
The researcher who stands up against animal testing may be perceived as a traitor. He questions the work of his vivisectionist colleagues, harms the lucrative trade in animals and prevents the chemical industry to continue cheating. He can be given a smaller office and lose his credits. Fortunately, the scientific community against animal testing is creating a network, consolidates and enables honest researchers to continue their work.
There are choices to be made throughout one’s life. A researcher can actually put aside his good conscience and pursue the course of animal experimentation, but will he be happy at the end of his career?