The Washington Times - July 3, 2008, 01:24PM

From time to time, the religion beat morphs into the ethics beat. I was struck the other day by an article in our main competitor that said the military’s use of animals in experiments conducted at the Uniformed University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine in Bethesda is being blasted by a coalition of physicians and military officers.

Sitting in my files was a note from the National Anti-Vivesection Society (NAVS) listing several more schools in this area. I checked an updated list at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine site and learned more of the same thing is being done at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine up the road in Baltimore. There were 18 on a 2005 list I had on file; the current number of such schools is now eight in Maryland, Wisconsin, Oregon, Tennessee, Mississippi and Minnesota. One school I noticed had been removed was Georgetown University’s School of Medicine.


It used to be that almost every medical school would have a dog lab as components in basic science courses where students would traumatize and kill dogs, pigs, cats and other animals. Instead of such experimentation making a doctor kinder and more compassionate, they dull a doctor’s ethical senses, according to PCRM President Neal Barnard. His group also runs a point-counterpoint on its site arguing against common reasons for animal experimentation.

The issue brings up an interesting thought: By refraining from cruelty, one becomes less cruel. By participating in it, the deeds “rub off” as you will, on the perpetrator. I was reading a piece on animal ethics on BBC’s web site and the arguments for animal experimentation remind me of the arguments for torture: It’s for the good of a greater number of people; the person or animal being tormented deserves it or doesn’t have the same rights as other people - or pets, and so on.

More and more people are buying into the idea that it’s never morally acceptable to experiment on animals. Each year I get from NAVS a “guide to helping animals by shopping cruelty free.” The list of cruelty-free products and companies gets longer each year. Whole Foods does a brisk business in cruelty-free cosmetics which I’ve tried and liked, that is, until their mascara tubes hit $21 a piece! I’d be interested if peoples’ shrinking pocket books these days will affect the way we buy or do without pricey cruelty-free products from bath and baby products to cage-free eggs.

And look for animal law to become a growing field. At least 69 law schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern and the University of Michigan are offering animal law courses. Duke University has added an animal law clinic to its animal law course whereby students can work on real cases. Oddly, except for former Bush speech writer Matthew Scully’s 2003 book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy,” not much is being said by religious world about animal suffering and animal rights.

Scully’s point is that God very much cares about treatment of animals, as it directly affects how humans are treated. Believers might want to catch up with the culture on that one. And once one’s conscience is deadened by the easy murder of an animal, it’s natural to move up the ladder to humans. Read more here.

Believers might want to catch up with the popular culture on this one.  


— Julia Duin, assistant national editor/religion, The Washington Times