Saturday 31 July 2021

Prominent feline geneticist wants more animal testing on cats

NEWS AND COMMENT: I think that this is a troubling story. We are told by the New York Post that a prominent feline geneticist, Leslie Lyons of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the University of Missouri, wants more animal testing on cats because they have shared characteristics to humans in their DNA's "dark matter".

Prominent feline geneticist wants more animal testing on cats
Prominent feline geneticist wants more animal testing on cats. Photo: in public domain.

DNA dark matter refers to an estimated 95% of our DNA which is nearly identical to all other animals. The experts had thought that it wasn't important to study it because it contains superfluous genetic information but recent studies have indicated that it holds important factors in our development.

And Leslie Lyons says that cats are predisposed to certain genetic diseases which is related to dysfunctional genetic dark matter. As humans also inherit diseases it may help to do animal tests on cats to help understand how medicine can remove this predisposition to genetic diseases.

One reason she suggests that cats should be used more in animal testing is that monkeys can be expensive whereas cats are cheaper. She says that cats' "affordability and docile nature" make them an ideal lab animal.

I think I'll stop there and say that I disagree very strongly with her, not because she's selecting out domestic cats as lab animals to be messed around with causing suffering and distress, but because she obviously supports animal testing. She appears to be saying that cats are more expendable than monkeys because they are cheaper.

She is valuing animals not by their intrinsic value but by the monetary value. This almost hints at the possibility that she has forgotten that cats are sentient beings.

A veterinarian and someone associated with veterinary surgery, I believe, should not be promoting animal testing. Perhaps I'm being too idealistic but all veterinarians should be criticising animal testing. This is because they should all be supporting animal welfare of the highest quality. Animal testing undermines animal welfare. It supports human welfare at the expense of animals.

There is a strong case nowadays to do away with animal testing entirely because we have pretty well reached the stage where scientists can replicate animal testing without using animals. No matter how strongly you feel about supporting animal testing you can never remove from that thought process the hard fact that it is immoral. It is unethical and arguably it goes against the veterinarian's oath.

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