A veterinarian confronts the ethics of animal experimentation.

Until recently, animal experimentation in the United States stood virtually unchallenged. It was considered an essential tool in fighting disease. Few questioned its legitimacy; it sparked little controversy in the annals of medical ethics.

Today, however, the animal research laboratory is under increasing attack as a place of senseless cruelty, largely due to the efforts of the expanding animal rights movement. This movement, involving an estimated two million people worldwide, is gaining clout and credibility, with lobbies in Washington and support from some leading ethicists. And Christians—theologically liberal to conservative—are included among those who have taken up the animal rights banner.

As a Christian researcher, my training and experience has centered on the use of laboratory animals. When I was a young veterinary student, I was initiated into animal experimentation through practice surgery. My exposure later increased as I entered the military veterinary corps. There I experimented on animals—at times killing them—to better understand human and animal diseases. Since then I have earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and now teach in the veterinary school of a large midwestern university. My work focuses on the study of bacteria, but I still do some experiments using animals.

Watching the animal rights movement expand its impact and influence, I realized my lab was not safe from criticism. I felt a natural inclination to protect my territory. Yet, as a Christian, I knew I had to grapple with the ethical issues sparked by the movement. How should I, or any Christian, make sense out of this recent addition to the rights crusade?

A Potpourri Of Religious Views

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