The “animal rights” movement has pulled off a deadly deception: promote a vicious, anti-human policy, while feigning benevolent, compassionate motives. The deception takes the form of opposing life-saving medical research–in the name of opposing cruelty to animals.

Consider PETA’s ongoing campaign against Covance, a company that conducts vital medical research on animals to fight diseases such as breast cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. PETA is staging an elaborate, heavily backed PR effort claiming that Covance engages in gratuitous and unnecessary torture of monkeys. The centerpiece of the campaign is a 5-minute video allegedly proving PETA’s accusations.

In fact, PETA’s effort is a classic smear campaign. Many of the “abuses” it documents–such as the use of restraints or delivering drugs through nasal tubes–are necessary to effectively administer drugs to animals. And the few examples of seemingly inappropriate behavior they find, such as the bizarre taunting of monkeys by a few Covance employees, are treated as pervasive industry practice–even though it took a PETA operative (operating illegally within Covance) over 10 months to cull a mere handful of such instances.

No sane person seeks to inflict needless pain on animals. Such practices, where they exist, should be condemned. But anyone concerned for human life must unequivocally endorse the rightness of using animals in medical research.

Animal research is absolutely necessary for the development of life-saving drugs, medical procedures, and biotech treatments. According to Nobel Laureate Joseph Murray, M.D.: “Animal experimentation has been essential to the development of all cardiac surgery, transplantation surgery, joint replacements, and all vaccinations.” Explains former American Medical Association president Daniel Johnson, M.D.: “Animal research–followed by human clinical study–is absolutely necessary to find the causes and cures for so many deadly threats, from AIDS to cancer.”

Millions of humans would suffer and die unnecessarily if animal testing were prohibited. But this is exactly what PETA and other “animal rights” organization seek. They believe that all animal research should be banned, including research conducted as humanely as possible (the declared and scrupulously practiced policy of most animal researchers).

The founder of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, has declared unequivocally that animal research is “immoral even if it’s essential” and that “Even painless research is fascism, supremacism.” When questioned what her movement’s stance would be if animal tests produced a cure for AIDS, Newkirk responded: “We’d be against it.” Chris DeRose, founder of the group Last Chance for Animals, writes: “If the death of one rat cured all diseases, it wouldn’t make any difference to me.”

The goal of the “animal rights” movement is not to stop sadistic animal torturers; it is to sacrifice human well-being for the sake of animals. This goal is inherent in the very notion of “animal rights.” According to PETA, the basic principle of “animal rights” is: “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment”–they “deserve consideration of their own best interests regardless of whether they are useful to humans.” This is in exact contradiction to the requirements of human survival and progress, which demand that we kill animals when they endanger us, eat them when we need food, run tests on them to fight disease. To ascribe rights to animals is to contradict the purpose and justification of rights: the protection of human interests. Rights are moral principles governing the interactions of rational, productive beings, who prosper not in a world of eat or be eaten, but a world of voluntary, mutually beneficial cooperation and trade.

The death and destruction that would result from any serious attempt to pretend that animals have rights would be catastrophic–for humans–a prospect the movement’s most consistent members embrace. Newkirk calls human beings “the biggest blight on the face of the earth.” Freeman Wicklund of Compassionate Action for Animals declares: “We need a drastic decrease in human population if we ever hope to create a just and equitable world for animals.”

The central issue in the “animal rights” debate is not whether it is acceptable to torture animals, but whether it is proper to use them for human benefit. The “animal rights” movement’s emphasis on the senseless torture of animals–in the rare cases where it actually exists–is a red herring. It is a way of promoting opposition to life-saving animal research companies, and sympathy for themselves–so as to further their evil agenda of subjugating human beings to animals. They must not be allowed to get away with such dishonesty. What is needed is a principled, intellectual defense of the absolute right of animal experimentation, against the deadly notion of “animal rights.” Anything less is cruelty to humans.

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Alex Epstein

Alex Epstein is a philosopher who applies big-picture, humanistic thinking to industrial and environmental controversies. He founded Center for Industrial Progress (CIP), a for-profit think tank and communications consulting firm focused on energy and environmental issues, in 2011 to offer a positive, pro-human alternative to the Green movement. He is the author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

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