by Lia Laskaris
Animal Alliance / Environment Voters
News of this progress in California got me thinking back to my high school biology class and one of my greatest regrets.
The entire year hinged on the fetal pig dissection, which was not optional. Or so students were lead to believe. A number of students, myself included, objected to the dissection – me, on ethical grounds, my fellow classmates, on religious grounds. We were told we had to participate in order to complete the course.
It was a brief discussion and one which I wish I could go back in time to re-do.
There were alternatives available and it was within our rights to opt for the alternative over the actual fetal pig. As students, we were worried about receiving our credit for the course, so we acquiesced.
My fellow classmates who objected bowed their heads and said a prayer. I took a deep breath and apologized silently to the being who was killed for my ‘education’.
Since our teacher could not supervise everyone adequately, some students acted inappropriately. Pigs’ eyes were gouged out; testicles were removed and shoved down the pig’s throat – it was a sad day for the animals and for our educational system.
Not only are animals used in classrooms, but they are used in research labs across the country – and the number of animals used continues to rise. In 2000, 1.1 million live animals were exploited for research. That number rose – to 3.3 million in 2010. No data is kept if a lab, university or high school orders dead animals. Therefore, the total number of live and dead animals used in Canada is unknown.
Animals in Research
Canadian research facilities still “seize” lost and homeless pets from shelters for use in experimentation. In 2010 (the latest available figures), 11,790 lost and abandoned dogs and cats were used in labs across Canada. According to the statistics from the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), of the 4,438 cats used in experiments, 3,784 came from pounds, a staggering 85%. For the same year, 8,006 of the 10,381 dogs used – 77% – came from pounds. (www.ccac.ca)
Animal Alliance has worked with animal protection organizations across the country to stop the use of lost pets in research teaching and testing. Quebec and Ontario remain problematic provinces using the largest number of dogs and cats for experimental purposes than any other provinces in the country. Ontario used 4,331 dogs and cats, 29% of the total of dogs and cats used in experiments. Quebec used 6,022 dogs and cats or 40%. With Ontario and Quebec as the largest users of pet dogs and cats, we continue to work for province wide bans against the practice.
The CCAC boasts it is “the national organization responsible for setting and maintaining standards for the care and use of animals in science in Canada.” The official story is that in 1963 the taxpayer-funded Medical Research Council of Canada (MRC) asked the taxpayer-funded National Research Council (NRC) to establish a committee to investigate the care and use of experimental animals in Canada. Five years later, the NRC set up the CCAC. It became an ostensibly independent body in 1982.
The untold story is that the CCAC was actually set up not out of concern for animals, but out of concern for researchers and their funding. In the early 1960s, animal rights groups were exposing the appalling animal cruelty in Canada’s medical research institutions and animal testing facilities. Researchers needed to do “something”—anything—to convince the public, the press, politicians, and granting agencies that they were addressing the problem, and they desperately wanted to avoid government and independent scrutiny, and animal protection regulations. That “something” was the researcher-run, toothless, and secretive Canadian Council on Animal Care.
The CCAC sets voluntary, minimal animal use ethical standards, and inspects animal research, teaching, and testing facilities. Their website explains:
The Three Rs tenet (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) guides the ethical use of animals in science.
- Replacement refers to methods which avoid or replace the use of animals in an area where animals would otherwise have been used
- Reduction refers to any strategy that will result in fewer animals being used
- Refinement refers to the modification of husbandry or experimental procedures to minimize pain and distress
It seems reasonable to argue that if the CCAC were enforcing their Three Rs tenet, the number of animals exploited for research should be decreasing, not increasing. So we’ll continue watching the watchers.