When I was in the tenth grade, I had to do a research paper for my English class. I decided to do mine on animals in laboratory research. I have always identified with animals more than with people (I think it has something to do with having been raised by housecats, with my parents assisting), and I was fairly sure I was opposed to the practice of experimenting on animals…but at the same time my father had died of cancer and I truly would like to see scientific research on diseases such as cancer progress faster, rather than slower. It seemed a good thing for me to investigate, and I vowed to be objective.
I prowled through the literature on both sides of the fence. I read about the advances that have been made, that couldn’t have been made without animal research. I stumbled on enough pictures of factory farms to ensure that I would never eat another bite of non-free-range meat as long as I lived. I read about experiments that should never have been done…and I read about ones that even I had to concede were vital to our advancement as a species. I was doing o.k. in being non-biased, until I met and interviewed the head of animal research at UNC-Chapel Hill. After quite a few other questions, I finally came around to the one that bothered me most: How do you cope with the feeling that you are causing suffering to another living being, even if it is in the quest to ease suffering for others?
His answer was very simple: Oh, I don’t feel bad about it at all. They don’t feel pain like we do.