Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tentatively Agreeing With PETA in Their Argument With Wash U

The RFT reported on an argument between PETA and Washington University over the fact that Wash U is one of the few schools that still uses live cats and ferrets for their training with incubation tubes. The argument seems to be over whether the use of live animals is important for this training, with both sides offering different opinions, but I have some reasons for thinking PETA is probably right on this. Namely, I'm very skeptical that the American Heart Association would specifically state that they don't "endorse" the procedure and many other schools would choose not to use it if they really thought that it was a crucial component of training. The dominant mindset in much of society is that it's OK to use most non-human animals merely as a means to our ends, so it seems to me very unlikely that these other institutions would be willing to put their reputation at risk by doing something that impaired their training and potentially harmed babies.

Doing animal experimentation that benefits human health and well-being is a tricky ethical question,in my opinion, but using animals for training in a way that doesn't even improve human life is definitely a mistake.


  1. Another question you might ask: If you have a child requiring intubation, and were given a choice of doctors, both performing their first professional intubation (there is always a first time), one who trained only on a plastic dummy, and one who trained first on a dummy, but then received experience on a living creature, which would you choose?

    PETA says it is a dangerous procedure with a high incidence of injury. WashU says it has a 20 year track record of no injuries.

  2. Sure John, but of course that's a question that all of the other schools asked themselves, and yet they decided that the experience with a living creature was not crucial. Dr. Kennedy claimed that he did a study 3 years ago that proved the procedure "increased confidence": why hasn't it been subjected to peer review and published yet? And even if his study is rigorous enough to be published, it doesn't show that actual performance is improved.