“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping things that creeps on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26 ESV
“Good people are good to their animals; the ‘good hearted’ bad people kick and abuse them.”
Proverbs 12:10 MSG
Sometimes when you are a writer, there comes a day when you pour yourself into a writing project; and when you are finished, you read through it hoping that the passion you feel comes across in the words you’ve crafted…. but you have to be honest with yourself…. what you’ve just put hours into creating is just utter crap. That is where this story is born…. in the ashes of one that came before it (but one you will never see). The problem is that I tried to articulate way too much in one small space, and what I was saying was heavy on emotion and light on facts. I am a person who feels things deeply, but I don’t believe everything I’m told. When I hear something or read something across my Facebook newsfeed that tugs at my heartstrings, my first thought is, “Is this actually true?” Then I find out. Though I’d read and cross-checked facts and knew what I’d written to be true, I’d not put any of the concrete information into the text, and the result was the exact type of sappy-sentiment that I find easy to doubt when I read it elsewhere….and since this is important to me, I knew I had to do something about it. I had to go “old-school-research-paper” style. I haven’t bothered with sources and footnotes in over a decade now, so it’s sort of a novelty.
I love animals….. I always have. As I write this, my beagle Ichabod is 11, and he’s been my constant companion and best friend since he was six weeks old. One day while he was still a teeny-tiny pup, I recall jabbering on about him to a co-worker; I couldn’t help myself…. to me, everything he did was sheer puppy-magic. I’m sure my co-worker meant well and all, (or perhaps he was trying to shut me up,) but as I gushed about my sweet baby beagle, he sort of flatlined the conversation by saying, “You know they primarily use beagles in lab testing, right? It’s sad.”
I made some sort of “Oh, no, I didn’t know that” type of response, and changed the subject. I didn’t want to think about it. That was the way I handled the unpleasant side of life while in my twenties…. if it felt as though the problem was too big, or that it would be impossible for me to make any sort of impact… I chose not to think about it. Though I made a conscious effort to learn as little about it as possible about animal testing, deep down, I never forgot what that guy said to me that day.
The years passed. I grew up. I changed. I began to see that ignoring things I believed to be wrong simply because they made me sad, or I couldn’t envision making an impact was both childish and selfish….not to mention soul-crushing. This inner-shift in me coincided with the dawn of the age of Facebook, and suddenly, the cold hard realities of life became harder to ignore. (If you’ve ever had your day ruined because you were innocently scrolling through your phone when, without warning, you find yourself looking at a photo of someone strangling a Pitbull or electrocuting puppies to make coats, you know what I mean.) It was inevitable that it would happen. One day as I scrolled I came across a suggested post for an organization called “The Beagle Freedom Project”. As I gazed at the photo of a hound dog, (not so different from my old hound dog snoring on the couch) next to the words, “I shouldn’t have to die for your laundry detergent”, I realized the age of denial had come to an end. It was time to learn what this was all about….. and what I could do about it.
Because I feel things so deeply, and have a soft spot for animals, researching this topic was extremely difficult. I began by looking into the suggested post organization, “The Beagle Freedom Project.” Though I quickly became overwhelmed by the plight of the lab animals, I gained an immense respect for the work done by the rescue; they were everywhere trying to make lasting changes… introducing legislation, educating the public, asking for the release of animals once companies are done testing on them (usually they are killed), and placing the rescues with fosters before finding forever homes for them, as well as promoting cruelty-free products.
After reading the facts, and considering my own pampered hound dogs, I couldn’t justify my mindless consumerism… How could I love and protect these dogs while thoughtlessly supporting companies that kept similar animals caged up; subjecting them to torturous experiments, clipping their vocal cords if they found their cries annoying, denying them fresh air, love, or even the dignity of a name (their ears are tattooed with numbers)…. all for the sake of making money.
Here some of you are probably thinking, “It’s not just about making money…. these experiments keep us safe.” But are they really? Would it surprise you to know that 106,000 people die every year from drugs tested safe on animals? 
I don’t pretend to be a scientist….but I like to believe that I have some common sense. As I was researching this project, one evening I felt sickened while looking at a photograph of a lab monkey…. the poor creature had the top of his skull removed and had wires attached to what was left. I decided I’d seen enough for one evening and went to talk to Steve. With that thought still fresh in my mind I said, “I don’t know how people can do that. How they can be so barbaric to animals…. then simply go home and go about their lives.”
“I guess it takes all kinds,” he began. Until he went on, I didn’t understand that he was disagreeing with me. “I guess they figure for all the good they do that it’s worth it.”
Unsure what good could come from a monkey with part of it’s head removed, but not wanting to be closed-minded, I invited him to go on. But he didn’t really have a point…. just assuming that since it was a common practice that there must be a good reason he said, “They do learn stuff that helps us.”
“So you believe that what is safe for them is safe for us?” I asked.
“Yeah, there must be a reason they do it.”
“OK,” I began. “We’ve seen what Ichabod gets up to in the backyard…. so I’m assuming that it is safe for a beagle to eat dog poop. From what you are saying, that means you believe it must be safe for us as well…. would you like to do a little ‘human testing’ on that theory?”
This was a low blow, and I knew it. Steve has a vivid imagination and a sensitive gag reflex. He stared at me, betrayal shining in his eyes and said, “On taco night? How could you?” But I’d made my point. I include this story not to make my husband sound bad… or to make myself sound like a know-it-all, (though to be honest, I believe I would have been fabulous if I’d done debate team in high school) but I mention it in order to clarify something: Steve is a smart guy…. but when we don’t use our intelligence to investigate troubling realities…. those realities remain troubling… and unchanged.
I think my admission to my dog poop argument confirms what I said earlier…. I’m not a scientist. But I can read (and sort of understand) science written by those much smarter than me. When I began delving into this world, I was mostly concerned with the consumer-products side of animal testing. I was surprised to learn that even in relation to medical research, animal testing is largely antiquated and irrelevant. Here are a few credible arguments I’ve found against the necessity of animal testing:
“While the public supports the idea of animal testing because they believe it necessary to find cures for human diseases, about two thirds or higher of all animal research has little or nothing to do with curing human diseases or advancing human medicine. The majority of animal testing is done on cosmetics and household cleaners for the purpose of protecting corporations from liability.
Even research that purports to advance human treatment of diseases has been shown to be irrelevant to human health. Animals behave differently than humans, so much of the results end up being inaccurate, inconclusive, or unreliable. The Food & Drug Administration recently reported that of all the drugs that tested safe and effective in animal testing, 92 percent are found to be either unsafe or ineffective in humans.” 
“The public often consider it [self-evident] that animal research has contributed to the treatment of human disease, yet little evidence is available to support this view… Despite the lack of systematic evidence for its effectiveness, basic animal research in the United Kingdom receives much more funding than clinical research.” 
As I’ve said, I am an emotional person, and now that I’ve presented some hard facts, I’m going to hit the ‘heart’ side of animal testing. I was especially moved by Barney’s story found on the Beagle Freedom Project’s website:
I’m sad to say that Barney didn’t make it. After a lifetime of being used and discarded by people, he made it to his forever home; a home filled with love…. but sadly, the ‘forever’ didn’t last very long.
Looking into animal testing has raised so many questions for me concerning our ‘legitimate’ economy. I’ve come to question everything from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear and even the toys my son plays with…. but those are stories for another day. I will add, however, that I’ve come to the conclusion that we ‘look the other way’ a lot when it comes to morals and money, but at what ultimate cost?
I’ve had well-meaning Christians tell me to my face that they didn’t think this animal stuff was all that important…. that there were other things to be more concerned about. In a way they are right… there are many things wrong in our society, and it’s not just limited to the way we exploit animals. But I disagree in that I DO believe that God cares about the plight of these animals. He’s made it clear through His word that we people are responsible for the animals he so lovingly created, and we are meant to treat them with kindness. Further, He’s put it on my heart to speak up for them, and to live what I believe. (Next I plan to write about my journey towards cruelty-free living. Our household is not totally cruelty-free yet, but we are in process. I would like to throw special shout outs here to my husband Steve, for converting without complaint to recycled toilet paper, and my sister Amanda who was with me on two separate hot and sweaty days when my cruelty-free deodorant failed me completely.)
The way we treat animals matters. As I come to the close (for now) I ask that you watch this video. As you watch this, ask yourself…. “Is there anything that I buy…. make-up, cleaning products… anything that is worth this price?”
If you answered “Yes,” then I have another question. Do you honestly believe that a company who is willing to do this in order to make money is all that concerned with your health and safety, and that of your family?
“…many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.”
When Rowling spoke of imagining our way into….. and therefore sympathizing with…..the suffering of others, she was speaking of human suffering…. but her words are quite apt here as well. Whatever we may turn out to be…. let’s not be as those she so wisely warns us about.
- Pandora Pound, Shah Ebrahim, Peter Sandercock, Michael B Bracken, Ian Roberts; “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?” British Medical Journal, 2004; 328:514-517, http://www.bmj.com/content/328/7438/514