UBC Animal Research – pt. 2

Refer below to pt.1 or this rant won’t make sense. (Do I ever?)


So I was slightly dreading the tour.

Obviously I wouldn’t miss such an opportunity for the world, but similar to visiting a poultry operation last year I knew it wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience for me so to speak.

On the one hand, I was pleased to see animals housed together with room to move around and at least SEE the outdoors (though I wouldn’t say their runs were very large. Maybe 6 by 4 feet ish for the pigs and bunnies.) The sheep got to be outside on the grass and the monkeys had a tree to climb.

Compared to many research facilities this is no nightmare.

Compared to how animals are housed in meat production this was paradise.

I mean lets be honest, I’d rather have my back broken for trauma research (they always use pain mitigation) and get to move around and play with pen mates than be stuck in a gestation crate giving birth for my allowed lifespan and NEVER being able to turn around let alone see the sky.

But but but. Does that mean I support animal research?

Not a fucking chance.


You know me better than that.

Hell, I wouldn’t care if these animals were frolicking on a golden pasture until they reached their “humane end point” (and yes ALL animals are euthenized at the end of the experiment.) I just do not agree that animal testing is EVER justified.

And here’s where the utilitarians diverge from the abolitionists. The Peter Singers vs the Tom Regans.

Utilitarian philosophy argues that the utility gained from the research (i.e. the benefit it will provide for many humans and/or animals) justifies the detriment to the individual. One for all.

But honey. I’m not a utilitarian.

I don’t think we can decide on behalf of another being how it is going to spend its time on earth. (Okay I already see the fatal flaws in this argument. What if we’re making a decision that will improve its welfare blah blah blah. Let’s stay on track. We’re talking about animal testing here.)

And you ask. What if I had parkinsons? Would I refuse a treatment because it had been tested on animals?

Certainly not. But that doesn’t mean I think further research should be conducted this way.

And knowing absolutely nothing about medicinal research, I will argue that it can be done. The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (ranked #1 in the US) opened the Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing in 1981 and has had many acheivements including the development of vitro methods now widely used.

Sure, we don’t have alternative methods for everything. BUT MAYBE WE SHOULD BE TRYING TO THINK SOME UP. I bet 40 million could go a long way y’know?

Also. All this effort to look at squirrel fetuses and not enough time making the thinker think about why we need to know in the first place. Human curiousity is boundless, but where do we draw the line? This is an animal’s whole life we’re talking about. Just so we can know a little more about them?



aaaaand I’m done.


UBC Animal Research – pt. 1

So last week I had the opportunity to tour the UBC Animal Care Centre.Now, before you get excited warm fuzzies about baby raccoons in cribs or whatever comes to mind, I should note that “Animal Care” is really more of a euphemism. Located at the Centre for Comparative Medicine, tucked away in the South of campus, the facility is where the majority of animal testing takes place on campus.

The centre was built in 2012 for $40 M and specializes in larger species. There are about 75 animals currently in the facility not including 50 or so small rodents (i.e. mice, rats). The facility is also an emergency alternative to the general hospital during a disaster since the surgical equipment can also be used for humans.

During my visit I saw: white rabbits (for genetics research if I remember…?), pigs (for trauma simulations to do with helicoptor crashes- i.e. they would put the pigs in a simulator and break their backs), rhesus macaque monkeys (for parkinsons research), sheep, an alpaca (not for testing- leftover from when the facility wasn’t enclosed and the sheep needed protection), some crazy birds from the himalayas (researching their flight abilities in low oxygen environments), wild caught pregnant squirrels (researching how the fetus survives with little oxygen.)

Thats obviously a very crude depiction and of course my memory is incomplete but that’s what I recall.

UBC is currently the first university in Canada to release statistics about their use of animals. Transparency is not required for university institutions but information was released last year largely due to ongoing pressure from groups such as Stop UBC Animal Research. In 2011 UBC used 225,043 animals in research and claim the number is decreasing. For more info: http://www.animalresearch.ubc.ca/about-landing.html

Animal welfare was something discussed a lot during the tour and it is clear that efforts were taken when designing the facility to go above basic requirements. For example, all animals except for small rodents have outdoor access. Animals are always housed in groups rather than singley. SOME enrichment is provided, i.e. substrate such as hay or wood chips rather than bare concrete floor, maybe a ball or two. The monkeys had a climbing tree.

There are full time veterinarians at the facility not involved in the research whose job it is to observe the welfare/health of the animals and ensure they do not go past their “humane end point.” The humane end point is a predetermined point at which the animal MUST be euthenized. I.e. if a parkinsons monkey can no longer feed and take care of itself etc. Humane end points are decided upon when the researcher is applying for approval to do the project.

Researchers wanting to conduct research on animals must submit an Animal Care Protocol to the UBC Animal Care Comittee which is made up of various researchers, vets, UBC staff, students and two members of the public (often affiliated in some way.) http://www.ors.ubc.ca/ors/animal-protocol

I’ll leave it at that for now and save my rant for the next post. 🙂