By Martin Rowe
The advertisement looks straightforward enough.
An adorable beagle stares out at you. His or her mouth is open, pink
obtruding, and the tail points up at a perky angle. The beagle is the
image of health, and seems to confirm what the accompanying texts
is this dogs friendly disposition. So whats this
advertisement for? Animal adoption? Rescue work? Companion animal lovers?
If you said yes to any of the above, you would be wrong. The advertisement
comes from Marshall Farms, suppliers of the superior model of
dog for animal laboratories, and it is only one of many bizarre disconnects
found in Lab Animal, the magazine which claims to offer information,
ideas, methods and materials for the animal research professional.
I should come out and say now that I am an anti-vivisectionist, and I
was given a subscription to Lab Animal by an unknown donor who
clearly felt that it would be useful ammunition to skewer the opposition with.
Having looked at three issues and read many articles from them, I have
to admit to being quietly impressed by what this magazine does,
and intrigued by the messages it sends out about our relationship toward
animals in general, and animals in our care in particular.
The first thing that struck me about Lab Animal is that you rarely
if ever see an animal actually being used in the experiments it was
acquired for. The advertisement for the Marshall Beagle is not alone:
there are pictures of cute dogs and cats, a perky black-footed ferret,
inquisitive rats and mice, and in one ad virtually the entire animal
The same goes for the equipment. All is shiny and new, with rarely any
animals actually inside the cages or on the necropsy tables, ventilated
rack systems, inhalation anesthesia systems or transit kits so gushingly
The second impression is the insistence the magazine has on animal well-being.
In one issue, for instance, (October 1998) the editoriallooking
at careers in this burgeoning medical arenatalks of one essential
constant: a dedication to quality animal care and concern for animal well-being
and the two (female) editors quote Dr. Tom Wolfle on what type of person
succeeds in this field: Good people with a passion to achieve, good
interpersonal skills, and kindness in their hearts for animals.
Dr. Wolfle, a veterinarian, interviews seven people whove made it.
Surprisingly, he himself never mentions his love of animals as a reason
he became a scientistand only one of the profilees lists most
importantly, a love of animals as the need for doing his or her
job well. More common constants would appear to be management skills,
knowledge of relevant regulations, ambition, a well-developed sense of
humor, and lots of tolerance.
Clearly the magazine for all the businesses who make money from
the exploitation of animals in laboratories (the magazine is almost 60
percent advertising), Lab Animal is upbeat and concerned to put
a positive, welfarist spin on its use of animals. Dr. Wolfle himself
recognizes many would support the desire to replace animals with nonanimal
systems and suggests that the dialogue between animal
protectionists and scientists and animal care personnel is
an important part of animal research and contributes to the strength
of the enterprise and to the publics understanding and support. This
emphasis on communication, on a positive, upbeat message I fancy is part
and parcel of selling animal research to a squeamish public.
All of this is perhaps unsurprising: no magazine which provides the resources
for the gruesome things inflicted upon sciences unwilling subjects
would dare show what its smiling, clean and hygenic humans, animals and
equipment are actually involved in. Nevertheless, Lab Animal fills
me with uneaseone more insidious and disturbing than even it perhaps
imagined. By so ostentatiously playing on my concern for animals and
natural attraction I (along with most other human beings) have toward
cute looking creatures, not only is Lab Animal effectively saying, Dont worry. The animals are in good hands. We love them;
it is also saying, The same impulses you have to care for animals
exist in those who are going to hurt and kill them on your behalf. Not
only are we as good as you, but you are as bad
as us. I have no doubt that the people who are involved in these
projects are good peopleconcerned, in their own perhaps
blinkered way, as we all are, with balancing ones need to get on
in the world with ones need to be a good person, that
difficult, rare phenomenon. But in the perversion and inversion of concerns
about animal welfare, in the flattening out of the good in
the happy, hygenic world of Lab Animal, I cannot help but feel
that something wicked this way comes.