Humans are capable of incredible intellectual feats but sometimes they demonstrate distressingly short memories. So it is with the controversy swirling around the recent announcement by Covance Inc., a medical research firm, to open a facility in Chandler.
The animal-right activist group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has targeted Covance with a ferocious campaign based on an "undercover investigation" conducted at one of the company’s facilities in Virginia that turned up harsh treatment of some animals used in testing pharmaceuticals. Covance has denied it mistreats animals and has filed a fraud suit against PETA; the issue is far from being resolved.
Let us assume the worst, for the sake of argument, that some Covance employees needlessly inflicted pain and suffering on some of the animals in their custody. Indeed, there are uncaring and even sadistic pet owners who either heedlessly of intentionally inflict pain on helpless animals. The Humane Society has long conducted an education campaign against such abuse, and it is a worthy effort. In extreme cases the perpetrators should be held criminally accountable.
But PETA’s campaign against Covance goes far beyond that worthy objective. Indeed, PETA itself is extreme in its view that the use of animals in medical research is wrong. And its accompanying claim that computer modeling and other non-animal medical research methods are sufficient to satisfy the needs of science are naive at best and dangerously deceptive at worst.
At the very moment when Arizona is making its bid to become a major hub of biomedical research and development in the United States, PETA’s misguided crusade against Covance comes as an unwelcome sour note. If Chandler, which is poised to reap many of the benefits of the biomed boom, caves to the demands of this extremist group, the negative ripple effect could be devastating throughout the Valley and the state.
Animal abuse is a serious issue, and any credible evidence of abusive activities should be investigated by authorities. But ruling out essential testing of pharmaceuticals on animals on the belief that furry creatures have the same "rights" as human beings not only is goofy — it disregards eons of history.
We would not be here today if not for the warming skins of animals and the nutritional fare of roasted animal meat. In our contemporary affluence, we can afford to confine our apparel choices to plant and synthetic fabrics and survive on a nutritious vegetarian diet, but our distant ancestors had no such luxury. Their very survival depended on using animals for food and clothing.
It’s all the academic chic these days to denigrate humans to mere "primate" status — on a par with monkeys and cattle. Sorry, we don’t buy it. Humans are at the apex of creation. As such, we have a responsibility to treat other creature creations of God in a humane manner — ethically, if you will.
That does not mean sacrificing vitally important medical research that improves the human condition.