Today marks the beginning of World Week for Animals in Laboratories, an international week to recognize the countless animals still being used for scientific and medical research.
In addition to calling attention to the millions of animals who are subjected to experimentation each year, the week provides an important opportunity for animal advocates to reevaluate how we speak about the issue of animal experimentation to ensure that we are helping animals in the best way possible.
Why does this matter?
Individuals in the scientific community, with a vested interest in promoting animal experimentation, have recognized that public support for animal experimentation is at an all-time low. While this is terrific news for animal advocates, the animal research community is aware of this shift and is trying harder than ever to control the narrative about animal experimentation. They are beginning to advise their advocates on how to communicate their stance in support of animal experimentation more clearly, in an attempt to garner more public support.
For example, some have suggested that scientists avoid using language that can cause the public to envision negative images when discussing animal research. They advise against such terms as “animal experimentation” or animals being “used” in experiments, because things—not animals—get used. They don’t want researchers to talk about “the animal” or “it,” but rather to say “my animals,” to give the public the sense that animals are protected by their researchers. While the changes seem small, they have a big impact on public perception.
As advocates for animals, it is also important for us to choose our words carefully when speaking about animal issues. We need to speak about animal issues accurately, and in a way that can help animals the most.
This World Week for Animals, consider watching this TedX talk by Charu Chandrasekera of the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods. It nicely highlights issues with animal models and discusses efforts to develop non-animal models for human diseases. The video is a powerful educational tool that can help us all better advocate for animals and provides useful talking points in the conversation about animal research and alternatives.
Remembering the lives of research animals is the least we can do to honor them. The best thing we can do is to end the exploitation of animals in the name of science and bring their suffering to an end for good.
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