Petitions are normally presented to those in power, so today’s news – Tony Blair signs Pro-Test petition – implies that rather than being a man of the people, the Prime Minister feels fairly impotent on the subject of animal testing. It also illustrates how dominant traditional religious values remain. The ideas of the pro-vivisection lobby are informed by creationism, which holds that other animals are god given resources for us to do with as we will.
‘Ethical’ is not a word much used by Pro-Test. Pro-Test prefers to paint its opponents as extremists, rather than debate the ethical treatment of other animals and help the search for truth. That truth should withstand robust scrutiny, be free of contradiction and hold firm whatever point in history we apply it to. But pro-vivisectionists refuse to engage.
Creationism fills a void. To be pro-vivisection is to ignore science and follow a form of common sense (a body of knowledge gained by osmosis), that is inevitably informed by the dominate ideology of our times. That ideology is inevitably informed by our most dominant religions – the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – which favour clumsy attempts to reconcile creationsim with science.
A world view informed by creationism holds that other animals are so very different from us that we may treat them as commodities: this is Pro-Test’s ethical basis. It explains why so many people don’t think of themselves as animals; they were created on a different day. Yet that animal experiments can yield results that can be applied to humans, is evidence that we are all animals, created as part of the same evolutionary process.
If you accept that evolution is a robust scientific theory, supported by evidence that has informed many scientific advances (especially in the field of medicine), you are faced with a dilemma. That dilemma is that other animals are not so unlike us, that some are more like us than others and that they are capable of suffering much as we are. That knowledge creates an obligation to treat those other animals much like we would wish to be treated ourselves.
All this is not to say that supporters of Pro-Test or its founder, Laurie Pycroft, are creationists. (That would be silly, although even clerics worry about Blair’s creationist leanings.) And the idea of Pro-Test being informed by creationism is counter-intuitive. It might be easier to attack Pro-Test’s dodgy science or to get personal and point out that Laurie Pycroft sounds like a borderline autistic. (He’s a boy who likes to shoot lampshades with an airgun, spends sixteen hours a day ranting online fuelled by caffeine and who had to give up school because he can’t cope with the company of children his own age.) But that would be wrong.