Right Turn: Animals, ethics and Orwell

Author: Stacey Johnson, 07/08/16

pig-979970_960_720Much has been said on the topic of using animals for medical/scientific research. There are excellent and compelling arguments for and against the issue and my plan is to avoid taking a stand here. (You may be tempted to call me chicken, but that would be a really bad pun!)

As polarizing as this topic may be, an article published in NCBI on the use of animals in scientific research says opinion polling shows that a high proportion of people – from 84% to 90% between 1999 and 2005 – “is ready to accept the use of animals in medical research if the research is for serious medical purposes, suffering is minimized and/or alternatives are fully considered.”

A recent Newsy item about growing organs inside pigs to be used for human transplants has left me wondering how the public feels about this development. Could we be edging one step closer toward realizing the dystopian world captured in George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

In Animal Farm, the pigs identify humans as “enemies” and stage a rebellion to take over the farm. At some point, they decree that “all animals are equal,” but as the story progresses – a satire of Stalin and the USSR – that statement changes to “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Eventually, the pigs start to walk upright, wear clothes and carry whips like their former human masters. In time, the other animals can no longer distinguish between the pigs and the humans they abhor.

The cell biologist quoted in the Newsy report talked of human DNA mixing with pig DNA and creating an animal with a consciousness like a human. I’ll let you draw your own parallels.

In the preface to Animal Farm, Orwell said the episode described below was the inspiration for his farm setting:

“…I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

This is exactly the theme of the TV show Zoo. (And just to pique your curiosity, there’s even a “master cell” story line.) What happens when animals become aware of their strength and band together to take over the planet? Maybe we should leave those pigs alone.

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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