Adrian R. Morrison, DVM, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Behavioral Neuroscience, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Adrian R. Morrison is a veterinarian and professor in the department of animal biology at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his writings on issues in the health field, he has written a number of articles on the ethics and proper use of animals in the advancement of medical knowledge. In 1991, he received the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Society for the Advancement of Science. He has served as director of the program for animal research issues at the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration and the National Institute of Mental Health. He also received a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Mental Health and the 2001 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Sleep Research Society. He has a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College, D.V.M. and M.S. from Cornell University and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Man’s relationship to animals has a central role in the story of civilization – past, present and future. It’s a relationship that continues to evolve. Domestication of animals was a two-way street, with both man and the animals benefiting. Throughout history, beasts have been loved, caressed, feared, starved, beaten, stuffed and ignored. During the 19th century, we evolved toward a modern view of animals. It was then that England passed the Cruelty to Animals Act – the first law giving animals some protections from cruel practices such as baiting bulls with dogs. It gave vivisection, the act of performing scientific experiments on live animals something of a pass because people could see the research was doing something for them.
In the 20th Century, we saw the animal rights/ animal liberation movement come into being. The dramatic shift in the population away from farms had the effect of reducing animal awareness to the relationship people had with their pets. In 1975, Peter Singer authored “Animal Liberation” which, among other things, drew philosophically from the liberation movements that pervaded society in the 1960’s. By 1983, it was obvious how radicalized the movement had become when Ingrid Newkirk, National Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) equated the lives of animals with humans when she said, “Six million Jews died in concentration camps but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.” Newkirk explained that animal liberationists do not separate out the human animal so there is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. In other words, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.
In the 1990’s, Michael W. Fox, a former vice president of the Humane Society of the United States took this logic a step farther, saying that the life of an ant and the life of his child should be given equal consideration. Joining this chorus was the Animal Liberation Front which suggested killing doctors involved with animal testing to save the lives of animals. From 1981 to 2005, there were 836 incidents of extremist action against biomedical research and associated industries that caused $200 million in damages and included arson, bombing, vandalism, demonstrations and boycotts.
This movement has led to legislation such as the law that bans sow farrowing crates in Florida and restrictions on how veal is produced elsewhere. Fast food companies have responded to this pressure by insisting on animal welfare standards among producers with whom they contract. Ordinances in several municipalities and the state of Rhode Island now mandate the use of the term “guardian” of a pet to replace “owner”, thus conferring certain, albeit unspecified rights to animals.
The animal welfare/rights groups are well-funded whereas the funding from the research and agricultural communities to respond to the challenge they pose is minor by comparison. Legal protections for those who work with animals for the betterment of society are weak. Efforts are currently underway to strengthen the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. Meanwhile, the philosophical debate goes on as to whether animals have rights. We are parents to the healthiest generation the world has ever seen – due in no small measure do to our ability to utilize animals in order to continue the medical and agricultural progress.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.