Animal rights law courses may threaten the use of animals in medical research.
Over half of US law schools now have animal law courses, including
many in universities with medical and research programs that utilize
animals protected by federal welfare laws. Courses that promote
standards for humane animal care and welfare are unlikely to provoke
conflict, but programs championing animal rights or 'liberation' set
up adversarial potential on campuses and pose a serious risk to the
future of animal research. The use of the law instead of violence and
threats, however, should be acknowledged as a forward step.
The future may see an attempt to recognize Aristotle's three
categories: things, animals, and persons. Animals may not ultimately
enjoy the rights of persons, but the law may become increasingly
specific about our obligation to care for them. If, on the other hand,
'personhood' for animals is achieved, this status is likely to be in
conflict with animal research.
Failure to address developments in the education of law students is
likely to have a long-ranging impact on the ability to develop new
treatments needed for human and animal well-being.
P. Michael Conn is Director of Research Advocacy at Oregon Health and
Sciences University and Oregon National Primate Research Center.