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Animal Experiments

In response to:

Unkind to Animals from the April 13, 1989 issue

To the Editors:

In a recent exchange in your letters feature [Letters, NYR, April 13], Peter Singer defended the “animal rights” movement as follows: “It has been estimated that 250,000 children die each week around the world, and that one quarter of these deaths are by dehydration due to diarrhea. A simple treatment, already known and needing no animal experimentation, could prevent the deaths of these children.” [Emphases Singer’s.] I presume that in talking of “dehydration due to diarrhea,” Singer is alluding to cholera and other similar infectious diseases attributable in great part to contaminated water supplies. Your readers might be interested to know that Mr. Singer’s “simple treatment” (effective rehydration) is based on many years of animal experimentation.

Stephen Rothman
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
University of California, San Francisco

Peter Singer replies:

Rothman is correct in his assumption that I was talking about effective rehydration. I referred to it in order to make the point that if we are serious about saving human lives, then it should be a higher priority to put our medical resources into using the means we already have available than to continue to put so much of them into the enormous amount of animal experimentation now being funded. Most of this, it can safely be predicted, will not yield results that save lives. That point stands, whatever the origin of the rehydration treatment may be, because to apply the treatment now does not require further animal experimentation. So why is it not being as widely used as it should be? Certainly not because animal liberationists are campaigning against animal experimentation! Presumably the answer has something to do with the fact that actually getting out into poverty stricken villages is both less comfortable and less prestigious than experimenting in a laboratory.

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