Animals are dying
A fun night out in a Parisian gay bar yesterday turned into an important and stark reminder about what goes on behind the doors of laboratories all over the world.
Sounds like a bit of a bizarre link, right?
Warning: this blog post does not contain graphic images but the content may still upset some people.
I was drinking beer and bopping my head along to the music when a man walked up to me and started speaking Spanish. After explaining in Spanish that my preferred language was English, we started a friendly enough conversation about Paris, London, Australia and a few other topics.
Of course the conversation moved around to work and he calmly informed me that he works in a medical research laboratory in Paris. His job was to kill the research animals once they were no longer needed.
My initial reaction was to excuse myself and walk away, but I don’t think I have ever had a conversation with a person who does this job and I felt it was a valuable opportunity to learn.
Our conversation led to some eye opening discoveries and a lot of sad reminders why activists work so hard to end animal research.
My bar buddy explained that his lab was constantly crossbreeding rodents to create the most genetically suitable specimens, resulting in the destruction of huge numbers of rats and mice that are deemed inferior. Yes, that’s right. They breed animals only to kill them as soon as they determine they are not what they want.
The rats and mice of this lab are used for testing medicines for epilepsy, brain diseases and eye conditions. He went on to say that he believes for every rat or mouse killed, one human is helped. I’m not sure where he is getting his information, but that sounds like the sort of propaganda peddled by pharmaceutical companies.
I asked him if he feels bad and he said no. He thinks it is completely OK to kill animals in the name of medicine. His job involves collecting unwanted animals from their holding containers, placing them in gassing chambers and killing them. He then freezes the bodies and when they have a sizeable number, they are moved to a crematorium for burning.
I pushed him again for an emotional response and he admitted that he says a prayer for the animals as they are gassed.
I was starting to feel very upset at this point of the conversation, but I wanted to get an understanding of the numbers of animals killed. He said the number was too big to say so I asked him about the week that had just passed.
On Wednesday, his lab killed three adult rats and five baby rats. On Friday he had to gas to death 67 rats and mice. That is 67 animals in one day. The lab worker told me the number is not unusual and when I expressed complete shock, he informed me his lab is just one of about 20 in Paris where animals are used for research and killed. He said that dogs, cats, rabbits, primates and others are in labs all over the city.
It is only when you start to look at individual laboratories that you can imagine the bigger picture. The number of animals killed in just one lab on one day is a sobering thought.
I then asked why so many were killed at the same time and he informed me it was because a trial had come to an end and the animals were no longer needed. He said he is called to collect animals for exterminating when a medicine hasn’t achieved desired results, when the animals get too ill, when they have too many rodents or when the animals aren’t carrying the desired genetic makeup.
I’m not sure what the ethical considerations are of publishing parts of this conversation as I did not tell the lab worker that I was going to write about our conversation on my blog. I obviously have decided to not name him although I did ask him the name of his lab but he would not tell me.
My motivation for this post is to reach readers and make them question what they know about the industry surrounding animal based research.
If you are interested in finding out more on this topic, you can click here to read PETA‘s page on why animal testing is bad science.
Click here to visit The Dr Hadwen Trust, an organisation working to promote alternatives to animal based medical research. They always need donations. Click here to jump straight to the page where the group explains what is wrong with using animals for biomedical experiments.
Anyway, I had an otherwise nice night in the bar. That is until another person started telling me that alcoholics and drug addicts should be sterilised to make society a better place. I’m sad to say I’m not joking.
Oh, Paris. I think I might just go buy a vegan burger and sit on Oscar Wilde’s grave.
Ah …. Paris. And I’m french.
To be a bit more sciency, I will top up with this medicinal chemist blogging about the animal experiences issues :
– unsuitable temperature for them so they get cancers
– shitty models on inflammatory diseases
– poor protocols
As a scientist, I can’t, really can’t approve my “colleagues” (i’m a chemist, which I’m luckily not involved with animals so far in any project..).
Thanks for this article that keep me away from france :3….
Oh I couldn’t imagine how I would have reacted in the same situation but you did the right thing trying to get some facts and thank you for sharing with us. I live in Paris and I didn’t know there were labs inside the city, they sure keep them well hidden.
I’m from mexico city, we are so far about animal rigths (medicine schools, industries) , even do the europe zone banned the animal testing, i cant imagine, well in fact i do some times, i have multiple sclerosis, and when i think about how the science it’s making research, i cant stop of thinking in rats and mice
I dont’t know, if i were in your situation, i guess, i,ll ask him stop talking , yeah, i guess i couldn’t hear the complete story, you’re so brave, how the people call it? Emotinal intelligence?
Thanks for share