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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Animal Research Forum

Speaker discusses moral dilemma of animal research testing at UW forum

Dario L. Ringach, a professor of neurobiology at the University of California Los Angeles, discussed the moral dilemma of animal testing as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Forum on Animal Research Ethics Thursday.

Ringach supports the use of nonhuman animals in biomedical research, and believes in fostering open conversations about the ethics of testing on animals.

His research concentrates on visual neurophysiology, and he has received research grants from the National Eye Institute as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an organization that works to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military.

Ringach presented a range of outlooks on the issue, from a Cartesian viewpoint that suggests animals feel no emotional and physical pain, to the animal rights view, which argues animals have the same moral status as humans.

He argued both these views are incorrect and that most people, including himself, believe in “animal welfarism,” which falls somewhere in the middle.

In order to challenge the animal rights view, he presented a series of scenarios. In “the burning house scenario” he asked attendees whether they would save a mouse or a child if a house was on fire. He stated that if someone strictly followed the animal rights theory, they would not save either, or flip a coin to decide which one to save. In reality, he argued this person would most likely save the child, discrediting the validity of the animal rights view.

In response to UCLA protester claims suggesting scientists do not support alternatives to animal research, Ringach defended the researchers in his field.

“This is just silly,” Ringach said. “Of course we support alternatives. You know how we can tell? We are the ones who develop them. Not PETA, not the humane society. Scientists are the ones developing alternatives.”

UW-Madison junior Jake Perlson said he thought the speech was relatable, given his work in research labs on campus.

“Dr. Ringach gave a very thoughtful and balanced assessment of the ethics of experimentation in scientific research,” Perlson said. “He successfully, but respectfully revealed the hypocrisy in an absolute ‘animal rights or bust’ approach to scientific research.”

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