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Are rat experiments unethical?

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I like animals. But then again, I like fetuses too. That doesn't stop me from thinking it's okay to use fetal stem cells to help people live better lives. So I was intrigued by this article, initially because who wouldn't read an article about "Cyborg rats," but then was intrigued by the end of the story, where animal rights advocates are outraged about the experiments taking place on lab rats.

"This type of research raises enormous ethical concerns, let alone the poor animals whose lives are wasted on dubious and ego-driven experiments," says Jan Creamer, CEO of the UK-based National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Circus hammer photo
via Shutterstock
Now, I've seen lab rats.  And I've seen them killed.  It ain't pretty.  Basically, the most efficient method I was shown (and I just couldn't bring myself to do it) was to take the rat by the tail, swing it behind you, like you would one of those oversized hammers at the circus, and you bring the rat's head crashing down on the counter in front of you, instantly killing it.  It was seriously gross.  Then again, I couldn't handle cutting the heads and tails, and yanking the wings, off of several hundred stunned huge black flies in my bio class in college - it too, was disgusting - in order to collect their mitochondria (the drawn-and-quartered flies would start to move around in the petri dish, or sometimes in your hand, like someone who had crossed King Henry one too many times, it was horrible).  I finally had to have my hunk of a lab partner finish the flies for me.

My point: Is that inhumane too, ripping body parts off of living flies?

I'm a big animal lover.  But I never know what to make of animal rights activists.  A lot of times when I read their stuff my PC meter goes off far more than it does for other progressive activists.  Is it because I care somehow less about their cause, or is it because they do a worse job of promoting their cause?

And even if it's cruel to mess around with the brains of lab rats, is a rat's life, or suffering, really equally to that of a person with Parkinson's?

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