Monday, March 21, 2011

Crimes Against Nature … Specifically Monkeys

I’m referring to a recent report about the Oregon National Primate Research Center’s experiments with obese monkeys.  Basically, they have created couch-potato obese monkeys on which to test various products and procedures designed to fight obesity in humans.

Now, I am not categorically against using animals for research purposes.   There are instances where the issue is important enough and there is no other possible research tool.  While the rising rate of obesity in our culture is certainly an important issue, there is no excuse for subjecting these monkeys to the horrible life that they lead.  These monkeys are kept in individual cages for “months or years,” compared with other monkeys at the facility that have more zoo-like living conditions.

Before continuing, however, let me first address a basic issue concerning animal rights.  As has been proven in study after study, and as should be quite apparent to anyone who observes animals closely … be they dogs, monkeys, chickens, or whatever … animals are feeling, sentient beings. 

The typical rationale for using monkeys and other animals for research is that while sharing many physiological and psychological traits with humans, thus making them ideal for research purposes, they are of a “lower order” and thus can be used for research.   They are animals, after all, not humans.

The arrogance of such a view while not surprising for a people who until recently viewed people of color or “primitives” as lower orders of humans is nevertheless abominable. In this view of the universe, man … as the premiere thinking being … has both the power and the right to subject all other creatures and forms of nature to his will.  But human beings are also animals, and in a far more basic sense than most humans would care to acknowledge.

But back to the case in point … research concerning obesity.  There is no mystery as to why the obesity rate is so much higher now than it has been in the past.   How much any particular activity … be it eating fatty or sugary junk food or sitting for hours before the television and computer … impacts obesity may not be known, but the constellation of factors certainly is. 

Likewise, the answer to the obesity problem is just as clear.  People in our culture need to change their diet and their habits.  They need to eat healthy and exercise more.   It’s as simple as that.   Granted it may not be simple to get people to do those things, but that’s because of the messages constantly being sent by our culture and its marketing apparatus. I’m sure that if there were a profit motive, the marketing gurus could certainly come up with an effective ad campaign that would turn these bad habits around.

But instead of upsetting the course of our culture … a kudo by the way to Michelle Obama for taking on this cultural phenomenon in the right way … Americans as usual are looking for the “easy” way … a pill they can take, or a procedure they can have done.  Federal funding for this research should stop.

Human beings need to understand that while they may be at the top of the animal food chain … that is as long as they aren’t put in a cage with a lion or similar animal … that we all … humans, animals, plants, and minerals … share this planet and have an appropriate place in its ecosystem. 

Man, with his intelligence and power, is the only actor that has the ability to destroy the planet’s ecosystem and thus ultimately himself.  It is thus critically important, not just because of the climate change issue but for a host of reasons, for man to learn his place in the larger scheme of things and act accordingly.