Orac has a post about what he calls “animal rights extremists”. I don’t call them that; they’re terrorists, and they’re trying to terrorize scientists who work with animals.
They are vile.
They are also stupid.
Because of my interest in ferrets and other mustelids, I have actually read about how those beautiful little carnivores live. For one thing, they live by eating other animals. They are obligate carnivores; they have no choice but to eat other animals. Usually they kill them first, but not always. Carnivores are not known for their deep concern for the suffering of their prey, and they may start eating once they’ve got their prey under control, even if it’s not quite dead yet.
(In another context I read about someone who saw a live toad being swallowed rear-end-first by a snake. They kindly tried to rescue the toad and got … well … about half a toad, the rest having been dissolved already. Nature is not kind.)
Getting back to the mustelids, their lives aren’t exactly great either. Weasels and stoats are little animals preyed upon by larger predators, both mammals and birds. There’s a reason why a ferret taken outside will immediately sprint for the nearest cover: millions of years of evolution tell her that death comes from above.
Of course, it doesn’t always come from above. Weasel skulls are usually found to have been infested by worms that start in the nasal sinuses and chew away the bones. Does that sound like a pleasant experience? They get the worms from the voles which are the mainstay of their diet.
Voles and other rodents may have population explosions on occasion, and these tend to be followed by similar population explosions of carnivores such as weasels and stoats. Of course, the rodents get eaten and then most or even all of the carnivores in the area starve. The book that I read memorably described the last starving carnivores desperately hunting down the last of the prey.
Given the natural course of their lives in the wild, would these little animals — rodents and mustelids alike — really choose living that way over living in a warm, comfortable cage with food and water and no predators, even if they occasionally got stuck with needles or ate things that made them sick? Even if in the end they were sacrificed for autopsy? After all, in that case they are swiftly and mercifully killed, rather than being torn apart or eaten alive by a predator.
Animal rights terrorists don’t know much about nature if they think laboratory animals are suffering compared to their wild brethren.
You may say that you would rather die on your feet than live on your knees, but you are a human being who can think far beyond your next meal. These animals cannot do that. A full belly, a warm nest …
I admit that I would not be comfortable experimenting on animals, but then I would not be comfortable killing an animal for meat. I enjoy the benefits that come from other people doing these things, and I will not condemn the people who do them, so long as they are humane about it.