Aristotle believed that there was a hierarchy of animals, with humans on top. Aristotle was also an asshole, believing that men had more value than women, and that “Hellenes” were more valuable than other races and permitting, amongst other things, slavery.
Descartes, a later philosopher, believed that animals were essentially insentient machines, without moral value. Also an asshole. This permitted all means of cruel exploitation, including live vivisection of animals for purposes of learning about their biology.
Animals and their human allies have always had a complicated relationship with philosophers. This only started to change in a MAJOR way with the wide reading of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. In that book, Singer brought to public attention the suffering of animals on factory farms and in labs. Building off the utilitarians of the past, he argued that all beings who can suffer deserve equal respect. To make the distinction between humans and non-humans is “speciesism,” an argument no more valid than sexism or racism.
In the modern era of animal rights, since the early 2000’s, an ‘effective altruism’ orientation has moved the animal rights movement toward addressing factory farming, particularly cruel confinement like gestation crates and battery cages. The argument for this prioritization was, essentially, that because nearly 10 billion animals suffer in factory farming in the United States every year, the sheer scale of benefit you can create with even minor shifts like increased cage size for chickens results in enormous total positive benefits for animals.
The anti-vivisection effort, which deals with approximately 100 million animals every year, can’t compete in terms of sheer animal numbers. So, since the publication of Animal Liberation in 1975, anti-vivisection has moved to a second-tier of focus for animal rights supporters. People still cared about this issue, but the vast majority of effort and money was flowing toward addressing the suffering of farmed animals.
Given that pendulum swing away from anti-vivisection over the last 20 years, I was so happy to attend the annual Animal Rights Conference in Washington DC last week, where there was a renewed focus on anti-vivisection as a priority. There seems to be a growing recognition in the animal protection movement that we are at an inflection point for animals stuck in labs.
The public increasingly cares about animals in labs. For the first time in modern history, more Americans oppose animal research than support it.
Anti-vivisection is a bi-partisan issue, with 90% of elected representatives having taken a stance against vivisection at one point in their careers.
The government is slowly shifting its resources and amending regulations to facilitate the adoption of alternative, non-animal technologies that will better help people and require the use of no animals at all. We will use the power of advocacy to move the government faster.
Private companies in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries are also pushing for adoption of alternative, animal friendly technologies. Not because they want to help animals, but because they want to help their bottom line. We’re happy to be their allies in this shift.
Grassroots advocates like you are raising awareness and bringing the fight against animal suffering to universities and private facilities profiting off of this cruelty. You can create a world where there are no longer animals in labs.
We can do even more. We must do more.
We’ve created an easy to use guide to help anyone who wants to join us in the journey of creating a brighter future for animals. Check out our free activist starter guide and sign up for our free webinar training series to learn how to become a more effective advocate for animals.
Let us work together to make sure no more animals in labs suffer in this cruel and unnecessary industry.