Last month, Psychology Today included a piece on Animal Emotions written by Dr. Mark Bekoff, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Dr. Bekoff, who has a long-standing interest in the cognitive, moral and emotional lives of animals, was contacted by a middle school student who asked two simple, but important, questions: “Do we really need more science to know animals have emotions and that they suffer?” and “Will we really learn anything that tells us it’s ok to treat them with less respect and compassion—don’t we really know enough right now?”
These questions highlight a concern shared by all of us: we already know that animals are sentient beings that should be treated with respect and compassion. So what obstacles are standing in the way of animals getting the humane treatment that they deserve?
One main challenge, Bekoff describes, is the “knowledge translation gap”—the fact that humans have a tremendous pool of knowledge on animal cognition and emotion but are not using that information to change their attitudes and practices. As a result, animals continue to be harmed in the laboratory and beyond. Some scholars have questioned whether humans are capable of grasping just how smart other animals really are and whether we recognize the true extent of animal emotion.
One example of the knowledge translation gap is the exclusion of animals from the Animal Welfare Act. The omission of mice, rats, birds and other animals from coverage by the only Federal law in the U.S. that regulates the treatment of laboratory animals is outrageous, particularly as these animals comprise the vast majority of animals used in research, and are in dire need of this protection.
Amending the Animal Welfare Act to expand its coverage to protect mice, rats and birds would be a worthwhile step. Of course, a much more significant change would be to end the use of animals in research altogether, which is at the core of NAVS’ mission.
Some of our opponents have criticized these ideas as “anti-science.” But what is really anti-science is ignoring the evidence that animals are sentient beings and continuing to subject them to painful experiments. We also cannot continue to ignore that the use of animals as stand-ins for humans gives rise to misleading results because of the intrinsic differences between humans and other species.
Just because humans have historically relied on animal experiments does not mean we need to continue to do so. Please help NAVS support the development of more human-relevant, non-animal based methodologies that can reduce and replace the use of animals in science by making a donation today.
Source: Bekoff, M. “Will More Science Show It’s Really OK to Harm Animals?” Psychology Today, June 20, 2018.