The Workers Liberty article about Animal Testing which I wrote about earlier today is well worth reading in full. The conclusion is excellent:
Put like this it is plain that the debate about animal rights is not like that about women's rights or black people's rights or civil rights, in which the oppressed sub|ects of history are demanding lustice and equality. It is an argument about how we as humans should behave. It is here that the biological discontinuity between humans and other animals becomes important. Our concern for how we treat other species springs out of our very humanness, as biologically and socially constructed creatures. We do not expect cats to debate the rights of mice. So the issue is not - or ought not to be - about animal rights at all, but about the duties that we have just because we are human.
as is his nailing earlier on of the logical inconsistency of the bunny-hugger arguments:
But those who argue for animal rights seem to want it both ways. On the one hand, they claim that animals are sentient and therefore, like humans, have certain rights. On the other they maintain that there are such great discontinuities between animals and humans that animal experiments can tell us nothing relevant to the human condition. This is frankly nonsense. The biological world is a continuum. The basic biochemical mechanisms by which we tick are very similar in most other organisms. If they weren't, even the food we eat would poison us. Many human diseases and disorders are found in other mammals - which is why we can learn how to treat them by research on animals.
I have known a number of people who have conducted experiments on animals, or who as students earned some extra money looking after them. So far as I can tell none of them and I suspect very few (I would like to say NO but I have no way to prove it) other researchers liked causing pain to animals and only did so when there was no alternative. Where possible they feed them, pamper them and don't cause them painand if they have to kill them for biopsy or whatever do so as humanely as possible. This is I think a fair compromise.
I heard on my UK trip people discussing this on Radio 4's any questions and any answers and not at all to my surprise I found that many of the animal rights lot were extremely weak on statistics and logic. Firstly the statistics: certainly it is true that not all medicines we use today have come from animal testing and certainly it is true that some drugs that were tested successfully on animals have turned out to have nasty side-effects in humans but there are some orders of magnitude that get lost in the numbers quoted. I'm not sure how many thousand drugs have been developed this century, but I would guess that well over 90% and probably over 99% of them have seen, as part of their development, testing in animals. (Almost) all cancer drugs have (for example) as have most heart drugs and painkillers. Further more I have no idea how many thousand promising compounds have been tested on animals and rejected from further (human) trials because the animal tests have shown clearly unacceptable side effects. In either case there are undoubteldy thousands of drugs which have not been tested on humans but would have been forced to have been tested on humans if we could not perform animal testing and many of them would have killed or seriously injured the humans they would have been tested on.
Then there is the logical issue hinted at in the previous sentence. The fact that animal testing does not identify unaccptable side-effects in a small percentage of cases and that a small percentage of drugs are developed with no animal testing does not mean that animal testing confers no benefits at all. The bunny-huggers effectively claim that all lives are equally valid and that we humans have no right to take the lives of animals in order to find ways to save the lives of humans. This fails the basic smell test because the bunny huggers are not attacking farms, slaughterhouses or abattoirs (with the exception of some anti-veal and anti-KFC protesting) which they surely ought to be doing if they felt that way and while it is hard to be sure one suspects that, as the Worker's Liberty writer says, the welfare of a chick grown for egg-laying or KFC is far worse than that of one used in most animal tests.
To go further, while we are possibly be dancing on a slope of relativism here but I think it is fair to say that most people would consider that the deaths - even potentially painful deaths - of dozens of animals to be preferable to the death of one human. Let us posit that drugs produced via animal testing have stopped 1 billion premature deaths (this is almost certainly an understatement given the efficacy of chemicals such as DDT in stopping Malaria), in order for animal testing to be unacceptable we would need to have tens of billions of animals killed before the exchange could be considered excessive. It is hard to get numbers but I would seriously doubt whether more than ten billion animals have been used for testing in the last century and I'm fairly sure that most of them have been animals like fruit-flies or flatworms and that the main vertebrate species used being mice or other rodents. Given the numbers of rodents killed by traps and poison, it seems hard to get too concerned about rodents in a laboratory. I think the UK's stringent requirement for cost-benefit analyses before animal testing can be carried out goes almost beyond the call of duty and that UK based bunny-huggers are chasing the wrong target. If they want to prevent animal suffering one suspects they would be better off protesting the culinary practises of the Chinese, Japanese or other Asians not to mention the evil French foie gras and veal producers as well as, arguably, every single Kosher or Halal abattoir and every battery hen farm in the world. The fact that they don't do this (much) indicates that either they understand that the public wouldn't stand for this kind of protest or that they hold the logically inconsistent view that animal death for medical research is somehow worse than animal death for nutrition.