Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dario Ringach Talks to UW Vivisectors

Dario Ringach's talk was sort of interesting. It was very well attended, but judging from the people I recognized and the various greetings I heard as people were coming in, it appeared to me that the overwhelming majority of the attendees were vivisectors. This makes sense because as a group they are worried by the continuing drumbeat of criticism leveled at them and the evidence that the animal rights movement isn't going away. To them, Ringach's willingness to speak in public must seem to be a ray of hope, a balm to their chronic worry, an exception to the near uniform cowardice they see among themselves and their peers.

You can view a portion of the talk here. Unfortunately, the videographer experienced some technical glitches, so all the Q&A (including him attacking me) isn't here. Alas.

I'll share a few of my impressions.

One thing that might seem surprising to readers is the simple fact that I sort of liked him. This has been a fairly common experience for me; most of the vivisectors I've met have seemed like people I wouldn't mind visiting with over a beer.

I suspect that many people are surprised by the fact that very few people are wholly one thing or another. We are patchwork quilts. There is good and bad in most of us, and from work by psychologists like Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo it is matter-of-factly clear that nearly all of us are capable of doing horribly evil things.

It is hard to reconcile the atrocities they committed with the happy faces in this image of Auschwitz staff enjoying a sunny day. But facts are facts.



Back to Ringach's talk. He started out with an image that looked something like this:



He then asked, by a show of hands as he defined each "extreme," where people stood. No one raised their hand to indicate that they believed that animals are mere machines, and I don't think many if anyone raised their hand to say that they agreed with the animal rights view as defined by him, which was that all animals should have rights identical to those claimed by humans. He argued that if you don't hold that view then you can't really be an animal rightist, and must, like "everyone" in the audience, actually be an animal welfarist, like him. (That makes me chuckle.)

For the record: I don't think dogs ought to have the right to drive, but I can't imagine that giving them the right to vote could make the political scene any more discouraging.

Giving Ringach the benefit of some doubt and assuming he wasn't knowingly misleading his audience, maybe he actually believes that someone who thinks animals are mere things or at least could be treated as mere things would identify themselves in public.

Given the long dark history of atrocity in human culture, it is likely that a significant percentage of people don't give much thought to the feelings of others or care at all about their suffering. It seems reasonable to me that the animal labs must appear to be somewhat safe havens for such people. I suspect that the percentage of sociopaths and quasi-sociopaths is much higher in the animal labs than in the general population. It is the nature of sociopaths to try and blend in. Asking for a show of hands from all of those who don't believe in, care about, or give any thought to the potential subjective experiences of animals is like asking the audience how many of them have children chained in their basements.

I don't think Ringach knows what consensus means.

Giving Ringach the benefit of some doubt and assuming he wasn't knowingly misleading his audience, I have to assume that he has a somewhat limited reading comprehension level.

He claimed that there is a scientific consensus that "Animal research is essential to the advancement of biomedical science." As proof, he pointed repeatedly this graph and, if I understood him correctly, said it was from a Zogby poll:



But it's actually from a poll conducted by the journal Nature. He said that the respondent's weren't "just animal researchers," but were also geologists and other scientists.

That's a bit misleading. The graph above is better understood when looked at side by side with another graph from the same article:



What a shock that the majority (but not all?) of those who experiment on animals "strongly agree" that it is necessary. And exactly who were and what did the 29.7% who say they don't experiment on animals actually do? Maybe some of them were "lab animal" veterinarians or were in some other way involved.

Towards the end of his talk, during the Q&A, he singled me out by name and told the audience that I was there to threaten them; he told them that I was there to tell them to stop hurting animals or else I would hurt them. I don't think he's read much of what I've written, and if he has, he certainly doesn't understand or at least believe what I've said.

All in all, it was a pretty typical example of the university vivisectors engaging in an exercise much different than that which they had promised to do. No one who attended learned even one thing about the use and treatment of animals in the university labs. Not one image was shown by them, not one study described. When asked about things that he was uncomfortable answering, Ringach said, "But that's not what I do." That fine point didn't seem to matter too much when it came to asking the audience whether they would save a child or a mouse from a burning building. How stupid. If I could grab the mouse, I'd stick her in my pocket and then grab the kid. Dario would apparently leave everyone but the child behind.

Check out these impressions of his presentation by another blogger:

Dario Ringach… Wrong, Wrong, Speciesist

Dario Ringach… Wrong Again on Animal Research

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