Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Liars, sadists, and English professors

As I was growing up my parents indulged my interest in animals. My shelves were filled with books on nature and science. I started my birding lifelist when I was in fifth grade. We subscribed to Time-Life’s Nature and Science Libraries, various nature magazines, and watched all the science specials on TV -- back in the days of three television channels. I grew up thinking of scientists as honorable people working in the most interesting careers imaginable. But I eventually quit thinking like a child.

And when I did, and finally turned my attention to the scientists using animals, I saw immediately that most of them – those working in the thousands of labs around the world – were torturing and killing animals for reasons that couldn’t be justified and that they tried to justify the suffering they caused with false appeals to past scientific advances, wild speculation about future cures, and a calculated effort to frighten people. What I saw, and see, is an industry filled with liars, sadists, and failed medical doctors.

It’s not just the vivisectors who are the villains; the industry supporting them is immense; its financial interests swamp any notion of concern for the animals; but that’s been noticed and written about many times.

A new thing I’ve come to understand is that the vivisectors’ support system isn’t limited only to politicians who use expanding “research” expenditures as evidence that they are concerned about their constituents’ health, or to the cage and equipment makers, the food suppliers, the scalpel makers, or even to the university schools and departments completely dependent on publishing ever more scientific reports on their vivisections, no, as responsible as all of those are, just as responsible are many of the rest of the universities’ staff members.

When a history professor, and English professor, a math teacher, a chemist, an engineer, a professor of education, and any one else who works at a university reads in the local paper about some heinous series of experiments, or some violation of the Animal Welfare Act, they have an obligation to find out the details of what is happening on their campus and not to swallow the institution-crafted pr pap that follows every unsavory revelation. They have an obligation to learn the facts, to get involved if they find a problem, to police their peers.

Academics working at an institution are, it seems to me, more responsible than are people outside the institution who read the same newspaper articles. Their silence helps provide a cover that outsiders likely view as evidence that there isn’t actually very much wrong. Except for only one or two exceptions, every staff member I’ve spoken to who also voices concern has had a reason that they can’t speak out and criticize their colleagues. Very convenient.

Those who remain silent, like the Germans who turned a blind eye, bear a responsibility for every atrocity occurring at their school.

1 comment:

Ana said...

Thanks for this post. I completely agree. People who support animal research cloak themselves in altruism. They are only researching on animals because they "put people first." That's a lie. They are putting their patents, royalties and tenure first.

Another tactic is to make opponents out to be traitors to your species. It's just like what the Republicans did to the Democrats in the US before going into Iraq. If you didn't support the war in Iraq, or president w, then you were a traitor to your country. Very effective means of trying to shut people up.